9+ Best Portable Solar Panels and Solar Chargers for Camping (2019)

There’s never been a better time to add a lightweight, powerful, and efficient portable solar charger to your camping setup.

Today, I’m going to walk you through all the different options. I break down the main types of solar panels and discuss the most important features to consider. I also recommend my favorite portable solar power devices for tent camping, backpacking, RVing, and more.

Here’s what you need to know to find the best portable solar panel for camping in 2019.

Index

  1. Benefits
  2. Buying Advice
  3. How to Choose
  4. Best Solar Panels & Chargers
  5. Other Portable Power Devices

* Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best portable power for camping if you’re interested in a portable power station to pair with your solar setup.


Portable Solar Power for Camping Benefits

Camping Solar Panels set up along side a tent.

What are the benefits of portable solar panels and solar chargers for camping?

Although there are dozens of benefits, a few of the most important to consider include:

  • Charge Devices – Reliably charge all your devices, including smartphones, camping lanterns, portable power stations, and more.
  • Communication – Keep your smartphone charged up for use in emergency situations while camping.
  • Eco-Friendly – Portable solar panels are much more environmentally friendly than gasoline generators for camping.
  • Safe & Quiet – Unlike generators, portable solar power is quiet and safe. There is no noise, no hazardous fumes, and no moving parts.
  • Affordable – Not only is the initial cost of the best solar chargers affordable, but using them is very cheap. You don’t even have you plug them in for electricity. All you do is rely on the power of the sun to keep your devices charged.

Keep these portable solar power benefits in mind while looking for the best solar panels, chargers, and other devices for camping.


Portable Solar Power Buying Advice

Portable Solar panels for camping set up along the beach charging a phone.

Before you buy a portable solar panel for camping, it’s important to first address the following points:

  • Your Devices – What types of devices do you hope to charge with solar power? Tablets and smartphones have much different power requirements than mini fridges, air conditioners, winter tent heaters, and other large appliances.
  • Power Output – The higher the number of watts, the more electricity the solar panel is capable of generating. Most portable models generate anywhere from 5 watts up to 40 watts. Power output correlates directly with the type and number of devices you wish to charge.
  • Number of Users – More users typically means more devices to charge. A larger solar charger with a higher power output is ideal for multiple people that plan to use the same solar setup while camping.
  • Style of Camping – Camping, backpacking, and boondocking all require different types of portable solar power. A small, lightweight charger is ideal for backpacking while a robust, more powerful system is best for RV boondocking.
  • Camping Location – Solar power for camping is ideal in wide-open locations, yet most panels don’t work as well in shade, such as dense woodland. Make sure your devices will get enough sun by considering your preferred camping terrain before making a purchase. 
  • Mode of Travel – Solar chargers are most effective when left in one place. They are less effective when you’re moving. If you plan to charge a device while backpacking, canoeing and kayaking, or cycling, look for a model built for on-the-go charging.

Your answers to these questions will help you assess and prioritize your needs so that you select the best camping solar panel for your needs and preferences.


How to Choose the Best Solar Panel or Solar Charger for Camping

Portable Solar Panel set up next to a backpack on a mountain camping trip.

Now that you have a better idea of what you’re looking for, here are a few of the most important portable solar panel features to look at during the buying process.

  • Rigid or Flexible – A foldable solar panel is the best option for most backpackers and campers as it allows you to quickly fold it down for storage or transport. A rigid model is best suited for use with RVs and camper vans.
  • Output Capacity – Power output is measured in watts. Match the output capacity of your solar charger with the devices you’ll use. Generally, you need at least 5 watts to charge a smartphone, although more watts does increase charging speed and also enables you to charge larger devices. 
  • Surface Area – Small solar panels are lightweight and compact but typically have a slower charging speed. Larger solar panels, on the other hand, are able to collect more sunlight for faster charging. Foldable solar panels enable you to collect a lot of sunlight but fold down for compact transport and storage. 
  • Size & Weight – The best backpacking solar panels are lightweight and compact. Most fold down while not in use for further space savings. Alternatively, many RV and car campers choose larger solar power systems with built-in batteries to provide multiple device charging.
  • Storage Type – Most backpacking solar chargers do not have built-in batteries. Instead, they simply use the converted energy to immediately charge your devices. If you prefer a model that stores converted energy, look for one with a built-in battery pack. You can also buy a portable power station to act as a separate battery. 
  • Durability – Your solar power source should be rugged and durable to stand up to the rigors of regular outdoor use. However, some ultralight backpackers prefer to sacrifice some durability in favor of additional weight savings.
  • Features – Some portable solar chargers come with a single charging port while others come with multiple to charge several devices at once. Other features include hooks for hanging or daisy chaining compatibility to link several portable solar panels together.

Keep these important factors/features in mind while evaluating the best portable solar panel and solar charger reviews below.


Best Portable Solar Panels and Chargers Reviews

The buying advice above will help you narrow down your options – but there are still dozens of models to choose from.

To make your search for the best solar power system for camping even easier, I’ve reviewed and selected my favorite portable solar panels and portable solar chargers for camping, backpacking, RVing, and more.

Here are the best solar panels and the best solar chargers for camping in 2019.

1. BigBlue 28W

Big Blue Portable Camping Solar Panel.

The BigBlue 28W is chief among the best value portable solar chargers for camping.

For a very reasonable price, you’ll get a foldable solar panel that’s durable, reliable, and offers one of the fastest charging speeds out of the devices we tested.

It boasts 28 watts and a large surface area for a quick charge. Exclusive SmartIC Technology detects the type of device you’re charging to deliver the fastest charging speed possible. Not only that, but two USB outlets enable you to charge two devices at once.

Durability is also at the forefront of this BigBlue solar charger’s design. High-quality, waterproof materials prevent damages from the bumps and bruises of camping. Thanks to its weather resistance, it’s a good choice for camping in the rain.

The downside to this durability is a little too much bulk and extra weight. At nearly 24 ounces, this solar charger isn’t the best option for backpacking.

What We Like:

  • Great Value
  • Rugged Construction
  • 28-Watt Output Capacity
  • Waterproof
  • Two USB Outlets

What We Don’t Like:

  • Heavy at 23.5 Ounces
  • Bulky (Even When Folded)

Buy the BigBlue 28W Here.

2. X-Dragon 40W

X-Dragon Portable Solar Panel

The X-Dragon 40W is one of the best laptop-compatible solar chargers for camping on the market today.

Right from the get-go, however, it’s necessary to point out that this is one of the largest portable models we reviewed. Not only is it heavy, but it’s cumbersome and bulky as well.

But this large size does have its benefits. The X-Dragon 40W is among the most powerful portable solar chargers available thanks to its large panel surface area and 40-watt output capacity. It’s powerful enough to maintain performance even in partial sun and clouds.

In addition to smartphones and similarly small devices, this solar panel charger is specifically designed to charge laptops. For the most effective and reliable laptop charging, you must pair the X-Dragon with a compatible portable power bank. Charge this battery with the solar panel and then your laptop with the battery.

Overall, this solar power charger is too cumbersome, bulky, and heavy for most campers (don’t even think about it, backpackers). It’s best for basecamps, off-grid living, van campers, survival preppers, and the like. 

What We Like:

  • Powerful
  • Laptop Compatible
  • Dual-Port Outlet
  • Water-Resistant Construction
  • Works in Cloudy Weather

What We Don’t Like:

  • Heavy and Bulky
  • Needs Separate Battery for Laptops

Buy the X-Dragon 40W Here.

3. Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus

Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Camping Solar Panel

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus is one of the best ultralight solar chargers for backpacking, period.

It weighs in at just 12.8 ounces total. A compact, foldable design complements this lightweight construction. Fold open for a larger solar surface area or fold closed to stash in your pack.

A weatherproof outer layer helps the Nomad 7 Plus excel in lackluster conditions. Designed to shed rain and snow, you can even use this portable solar charger while camping in the winter.

As the name implies, this Goal Zero portable solar panel boasts an output capacity of 7 watts, more than enough to efficiently charge smaller devices like smartphones, GPS units, and headlamps. Do note that there is no built-in battery pack to store a charge for later.

Additional highlights include the built-in LED indicator that displays current solar strength, an included kickstand to achieve an optimal charging angle (and provide a shady place for your charging devices), and easy compatibility with many other Goal Zero portable power devices. 

What We Like:

  • Lightweight
  • Quick Charging Time
  • Built-In LED Indicator
  • Rugged Construction
  • Built-In


What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Only Charges One Device at a Time

Buy the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus now.

4. Goal Zero Boulder 100

Go Zero Boulder 100 Portable Solar Panel

The Goal Zero Boulder 100 is powerful and robust – but do know it is also heavy and bulky.

Because of this extra size and weight (it’s one of the largest models on this list), this Goal Zero solar panel is best only for camping. It’s way too bulky for backpacking. It’s most ideal for RVs, camper vans, backcountry basecamps, and the like.

There are a few different ways to use the Boulder 100 in the field. Keep it portable and prop up with the built-in kickstand for the optimum charging angle. Or, install it permanently onto your vehicle roof or backcountry dwelling with Goal Zero Solar Panel Mounting Brackets (sold separately).

The extra size does pay off in terms of overall performance. This is one of the most powerful portable solar panels we’ve used. It boasts over 100 watts total output. It will quickly charge up a portable power station, power a mini fridge or other small appliances, or charge multiple smartphones at the same time.

The downsides to this Goal Zero solar panel are slim. Aside from the extra weight and bulk, the only real negative is price. The Boulder 100 is expensive – much more expensive than other similarly powerful models.

What We Like:

  • 100 Watts
  • Durable Construction
  • Compatible with Goal Zero Yeti Power Stations
  • Built-In Kickstand
  • Easy to Use

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy and Bulky

Buy the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Here.

5. Renogy 15,000maH

Renogy Portable Camping Solar Panel

The Renogy 15,000maH has a lot going for it.

Unlike most other portable solar panels on this list, this solar power bank blends a rechargeable battery pack with a built-in 2-watt solar charger.

Highlights include its small size, streamlined design, surprisingly good charging performance, and low price. At under $30 list price, you get a whole lot of bang for your buck.

As our choice for the best solar battery pack for camping, the Renogy 15,000maH excels in terms of charging power. The solar panel itself is slightly larger than the panels on other solar battery packs. This noticeably improves charging speed. Two USB ports allow you to recharge two devices at once.

Although it does perform better than other solar battery packs, don’t rely on this as your sole power source if all your camping power comes from solar. It’s better used as a backup to charge small devices like smartphones.

What We Like:

  • Affordable
  • Small & Lightweight
  • Durable Construction
  • 2 USB Outlets
  • Good Charging Speed

What We Don’t Like:

  • Use Only as Backup
  • Don’t Rely on as Prime Solar Source

Buy the Renogy 15,000maH here.

6. Nekteck 21W

Nekteck Portable Solar Power

The Nekteck 21W is an efficient solar-powered portable charger for those on a budget.

Most notable is its high-efficiency design that boasts 21 watts total plus a power conversion rate of between 21% and 24%. It utilizes a built-in smart IC chip for fast-charging technology that helps the panel identify individual devices to improve charging speeds.

This Nekteck solar charger is also notable for its durability. It boasts flexible yet sturdy panels coupled with rugged canvas for a one-two punch of strength and robustness. Add water resistance to that and you can safely use it in damp conditions.

Although it’s not the lightest option available at 18 ounces, this model does fold up small and compact making it a decent option for backpacking. The folded down size is approximately 6.3 inches by 11.1 inches by 1.06 inches.

Downsides are few and far between. Other than its slightly heavy weight, we’d like to point out that this charger doesn’t have a built-in battery (although that’s par for the course as far as camping solar panels go).

What We Like:

  • Efficient
  • Fast-Charging Technology
  • Dual USB Outlets
  • Water-Resistant
  • Ultra-Compact Folded Size

What We Don’t Like:

  • No Built-In Battery
  • Heavier than Other Ultralight Models

Buy the Nekteck 21W here.

7. Anker 21W

Anker Portable Camping Solar Panel

The Anker 21W is another one of our top-rated solar panels for camping.

Its chief benefit is its lightweight construction. At just 13.2 ounces, it’s an excellent lightweight solar charger for backpacking and camping alike.

In addition to its light weight and compact size, this Anker solar charger is notable for its quick and powerful charging. Thanks to its large 21-watt panels it charges very quickly, even in partially cloudy conditions. It can even charge multiple devices at once.

As a cherry on the cake, the Anker 21W is durable and robust. Despite its featherlight construction, you can bang it around with minimal worry. It’s waterproof too. Oh, and did we mention that it comes with an 18-month warranty?

Sound too good to be true? Well, it gets even better when you consider that this portable solar panel charger is also affordable. It’s a great value option that’s lightweight and powerful. It comes with few, if any, negatives.

What We Like:

  • Lightweight
  • Small and Compact
  • Fast-Charging Technology
  • Charge Two Devices at Once
  • 18-Month Warranty

What We Don’t Like:

  • Built-In Pocket Too Small
  • Only Compatible with Certain Power Banks

Buy the Anker 21W here.

8. Voltaic Systems Arc 20W

Voltaic Systems Arc 20 Watt Rapid Portable Solar Charger

The Voltaic Systems Arc 20W is expensive – but it’s also one of the most powerful 20-watt portable solar chargers for camping.

In fact, it’s designed from the ground up to charge laptops and other electronic devices with large batteries. (It also works well for small devices like smartphones). It even comes with an external 24,000maH battery for even more charging efficiency.

Durability is another key benefit. This is one of the most robust portable solar chargers available. Not only that, but it features a thoughtful overall design. The old version was complicated to use while the most recent versions is far more intuitive.

One notable disadvantage is charging straight from the panel. It’s much better to first charge the external battery and then use this to charge your devices rather than to rely directly upon the panel. That said, the external battery does a great job at charging laptop batteries or even multiple smartphones at once.

The high price tag will steer many people away from the Arc 20W. Unless you specifically want a solar charger to charge your laptop, you’re probably better off with a more affordable model.  

What We Like:

  • Durable Construction
  • Made for Charging Laptops
  • Intuitive Design
  • Multiple Charging Ports
  • Comes with External Battery Pack

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Slow Charging from Panel


Buy the Voltaic Systems Arc 20W now.

9. Windy Nation 400W Kit

Windy Nation RV Solar Panel and Solar Charger

For the best solar panel for RVs, look no further than the Windy Nation 400W Solar Kit.

Designed from the ground up with RVs, camper vans, and boats in mind, this all-in-one RV solar power system has everything you need to wire your RV or trailer for solar power.

That said, this solar power kit also works well for more permanent uses, such as on a camping cabin or similar off-the-grid dwelling. Unlike all the other products on this list, it’s not exactly “portable” per se as its best used as a permanent solar power system on a vehicle or dwelling.

Not only is it incredibly durable, but it also charges the included external batteries quickly. Depending on the exact package you buy, you’ll get everything you need to set up solar power for your RV (including panels, a charge controller, batteries, mounting hardware, power cables, and more).

Of course, this Windy Nation solar power kit has limited uses. It won’t work for normal campers (and certainly not backpackers), but it is an excellent option for RVs, camper vans, and other vehicles.

What We Like:

  • Complete Kit
  • Durable Construction
  • Comes 4 100-Watt Solar Panels
  • Relatively Easy to Install
  • Excellent Warranties

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy and Bulky (Only for “Permanent” Use)

Buy the Windy Nation 400W Kit here.


Other Portable Power Devices

Camping Trailer wired for solar power

Your solar panels and/or solar charger are just one component of an effective portable solar power system for camping.

Although a solar charger is beneficial for backpacking on its own, most tent campers and RV campers would do well to pair their solar panels with a portable battery.

A portable battery pack for camping enables you to store the energy your solar panels capture from the sun. You are then able to use these solar power batteries to run your devices at night and in inclement weather.

First, make sure that the portable battery power bank you select is compatible with your solar panels or solar charger. Next, look for a model with your preferred style of outlets, such as AC Power, 12V DC (car charger), and USB. 

As a big fan of Goal Zero portable power devices, two of my favorite portable power stations for camping are the Goal Zero Yeti 150 and Goal Zero Yeti 400. A few other models are available, including the robust Goal Zero Yeti 3000 for those that require a whole lot of storage capacity.


We’re Here to Help

Since first adding portable power to my camping gear list, you’ll be hard-pressed to find me without a portable solar panel or portable solar charger while camping or backpacking.

If you’re still not sure which device is right for you, then please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. I’m happy to help answer your questions and point you in the right direction.

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