The best solar panels for camping are now incredibly affordable.
You can easily find a quality solar charger for recharging smartphones for under $50.
Or, you can go all out and spend several hundred on a top-of-the-line setup that pairs portable solar panels with a portable power station.
Today, I’m going to break down all the different options.
We’ll start with my top recommendations for both solar chargers and solar panels in 2021 before moving onto a basic rundown of what makes these solar power devices tick.
Best Portable Solar Panels and Solar Chargers for Camping in 2021
We’ve done the legwork for you by reviewing dozens of the top solar panels and solar chargers over the past couple years.
Here are our top picks for 2021.
1. BigBlue 28W
Type: Solar Charger
The BigBlue 28W is our favorite solar charger for camping in 2021.
Not only is it affordably priced, but it’s durable, reliable, and has one of the fastest charging speeds of any solar charger.
The BigBlue 28W boasts 28 watts plus a large surface area for a quick charge. It features SmartIC Technology to detect exactly which type of device you’re using to deliver the fastest charge possible. Two USB outlets let you charge two devices at once.
This BigBlue camping solar charger is known for its durability. It’s made from high-quality, waterproof materials to prevent damages. It’s our favorite solar charger for camping in the rain.
This device’s only downside is its weight. It’s not huge by any means, but at 24 ounces, it’s a little too hefty for most backpackers.
2. X-Dragon 40W
Type: Solar Charger
The X-Dragon 40W is a fantastic solar charger for those planning to charge laptops while camping.
Because it’s so powerful, it’s quite large. It’s pretty dang heavy and also quite bulky, which makes it best for car camping only.
The large size does have its benefits in terms of performance. The 40 watt output capacity and large surface area make the X-Dragon ideal for charging smartphones, laptops, and more.
As a solar charger, the X-Dragon doesn’t have a built-in battery. For best results, we recommend pairing it with a portable power bank or power station. This allows you to recharge your devices at night.
We definitely recommend this camping solar charger for car campers, vandwellers, and the like – but we recommend backpackers steer clear of it.
3. Goal Zero Nomad 10
Type: Solar Charger
The Goal Zero Nomad 10 is our favorite ultralight solar charger for backpacking.
It weighs in at just 1 lb 1.6 oz 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 10 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 10 watts, more than enough to efficiently charge smaller devices like smartphones, GPS units, and headlamps.
Additional highlights include the built-in LED indicator that displays current solar strength and an included kickstand to achieve an optimal charging angle (and provide a shady place for your charging devices).
4. Goal Zero Boulder 100
Type: Solar Panel
The Goal Zero Boulder 100 is my favorite portable solar panel for charging portable power stations.
As the largest device on our list, this solar panel is best for car camping only…
In fact, the Boulder 100 is a top choice for solar for RVs, camper vans, and other vehicle dwellers that want a portable power setup.
Unlike a solar charger, this portable solar panel can’t charge devices directly. Instead, you must use it to charge a portable battery pack or portable power station (like our top-ranked Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 500), which you then charge your devices from.
As the name implies, the Boulder 100 boasts 100 watts total output. It provides 7000mA power output to your device.
Because the Boulder 100 is quite large, Goal Zero offers a foldable model – the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Solar Panel Briefcase.
5. Renogy 15,000maH
Type: Solar Power Bank
The Renogy 15,000maH is a unique addition to our list in 2021.
Yes, it’s a solar charger – but it also has a built-in battery bank. None of our other top-ranked solar chargers have this feature.
We love this device’s small size, streamlined design, surprisingly good charging performance, and low price.
Honestly, we rank this Renogy solar charger on top as our number one solar charger for backpacking.
That said, it’s not really the best choice for car camping. Most campers probably prefer something a little more robust when weight/size isn’t a major issue.
Because it’s so small, this Renogy solar power bank is ideal for charging smartphones and other small devices. It’s just not powerful enough to charge anything much larger.
6. Nekteck 21W
Type: Solar Charger
The Nekteck 21W is a great solar charger for those on a tight budget.
It has a high-efficiency design that boasts 21 watts total plus a power conversion rate of between 21% and 24%.
The device 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 has flexible yet sturdy panels coupled with rugged canvas for a one-two punch of strength and robustness.
Although the Nekteck 21W isn’t the lightest option available at 18 ounces, it 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.
7. Anker 21W
Type: Solar Charger
The Anker 21W has a solid reputation as a great solar charger for camping.
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 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?
Benefits of Using a Portable Solar Charger for Camping
Here are the top benefits of using a portable solar panel or solar charger for camping and backpacking.
- 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.
Camping Solar Power Buying Advice
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.
- Trip Duration – A portable solar charger without a battery pack works for short backpacking trips but a higher watt model with a portable power station does wonders for longer camping trips.
- 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
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.
Pair Your Solar Panel With a Portable Power Station
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.
Need More 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 in the comments below.
I’m happy to help answer your questions and point you in the right direction!