While many people use camping trips and trekking to disconnect, these activities increasingly rely on digital devices. If you can’t recharge, you face getting stranded, losing emergency communications, and hiking in the dark. And without charged batteries, there'll be no video footage to record the disaster.
Savvy campers and hikers use portable solar panels for camping to end the dead battery nightmare. I’ve studied and compared a heap of portable solar panel options and there’s surely a perfect solar panel solution for your style of adventuring. I’ve selected the 10 best portable solar panels for camping and reviewed them below.
My Review Process
I’ve written about domestic solar systems for the last 8 years and used them for even longer. Over time, I’ve picked up a wealth of great solar insights. Better still, all my camping companions are now using solar systems as well. This has enabled me to compare the functionality and performance of a variety of portable solar setups.
Above all, I look for solar panels with high efficiency and output. These features are the most important. Durability and simplicity of operation run a close second. Portability is critical as well but just how important is determined by your mode of transport. Whatever solar panel you select, my key tip is to never skimp on quality.
This is a plug-and-play briefcase-style solar panel kit. It’s ideal for charging 12-volt batteries that run demanding devices such as a large portable fridge.
The Renogy 200 is a high performer at an accessible price that will suit all types of camping. I especially recommend this unit for campers who are less technically savvy – It’s just so easy to use.
It’s very stable when deployed, and packs nicely into a weatherproof canvas bag. The supplied 20A waterproof charge controller provides reliable, easy-to-understand performance data. This helps you to maximise the panel’s performance.
The long extension lead is a brilliant inclusion and a feature that’s often overlooked by other brands. Those plugging into existing solar systems will require adaptors, but the supplied alligator clips will be ideal for most.
The Genncity Solar Panel provides high-capacity charging at a bargain price point. Ideal for all types of camping, the single 200-watt panel can be mounted on a vehicle or placed on the ground. You can charge 12-volt vehicle batteries, and run everything from fridges to phones. The monocrystalline panel will deliver reliable energy in all sorts of weather.
The 20A charge controller has an easy-to-read LCD and dual USB outputs. Supplied with an Anderson Plug and MC4 connector, it’s plug-and-play for most setups. Trailer, RV and caravan users will especially appreciate the Anderson connection.
Constructed of sturdy aluminium and tempered glass, the system weighs only 7.5kg and takes up little space with dimensions of 82 x 71 x3 cm.
The AIMTOM 60-watt Portable Solar Charger is my top pick for hikers and campers travelling light. At 1.35 kilos and 29 x 16 x 6 cm folded, it’s hardly a load to carry and slips easily into a backpack. With an efficiency of 22.2% and an output of 60 watts, the charge is fast and reliable.
You can charge 2 devices at once, and the 10-in-1 connector kit is great for laptops, cameras, power banks, phones, and GPS devices. This is a brilliant compact solar panel for camping and it’s very durable and weatherproof.
The BigBlue is a great compact solar charger for hikers. It has an excellent peak efficiency rating of 24% and is ideal for charging phones, cameras and power banks. Sporting three 5V USB ports, you can charge 3 devices at once. Onboard smart charge technology recognises the optimum charging needs of each device.
It slides easily into a backpack and weighs only 580 g. The 50cm USB cable is a convenient length, making charging on the move easy. Simply clip it to your backpack and charge as you trek.
The Nature Power 440 Watt is an efficient monocrystalline solar system. It includes four 110-watt solar panels, a 750W inverter and a 30A charge controller.
The system charges 12-volt battery packs of all types, running power-intensive equipment. This is a brilliant kit for extended remote adventures and RV trips.
Redarc is a top-tier vehicle electric accessories manufacturer. I use their systems in my 4WD and they’re outstanding.
The Redarc 200W Monocrystalline Folding Solar Panel system is ultralight, ultrathin, and unglazed to endure tough conditions. It will suit more advanced solar campers, especially 4WDrivers with multiple 12-volt battery set-ups.
The system is portable and ground-based. While pricey, this folding solar unit delivers high performance in the toughest conditions.
I’m a big fan of the Renogy high-efficient solar panels. They’re available in outputs of 80W, 100W, 175W, and 200 watts, and come supplied with a junction box waterproof rated to IP65.
These panels will suit campers wanting a customised solar system, either mounted on a camper trailer, RV, caravan, or ground-based. They’re ideal for systems with minimal battery demands and complex multi-12-volt battery systems.
The build quality is very impressive. These panels are capable of handling strong winds, high snow loads, and dealing with corrosive coastal environments.
While mounting and fitting up is up to you, pre-drilled holes aid the process. Renogy supplies a great range of components to help you achieve the custom design you seek.
Often when we camp for a weekend we park the car and don’t turn it over again. However, we still use interior lights and the sound system and charge devices from the car’s USB ports. This can drain your cranking battery to a point where you can’t start your vehicle.
The ALLPOWERS 18V 12V 7.5W Solar Trickle Charger feeds power to your car battery through the lighter socket or directly to the battery. This solar feed compensates for small amounts of battery discharge.
This is a great device that may prevent you from getting stranded and it’s well worth keeping one in the car.
This is an efficient, affordable and high-quality solar panel from Dokio. Supplied with a user-friendly solar controller, cables and connectors, the solar system is plug-and-play.
Ideal for minimalist campers, this 100-watt panel suits those using a 12-volt battery to run a small portable fridge and charge small electronic devices such as phones.
At only 2.5 kg, the system is very lightweight and easy to manage. A monocrystalline panel ensures better performance in poor weather.
The ATEM Power is lightweight, robust, compact, and highly portable. On top of this, it can deliver up to 24% efficiency with its A-grade monocrystalline panels.
This is the sort of solar panel I’d leave in the car permanently. It’s brilliant for day use, short camps, emergency charging and more.
It’s capable of charging all types of 12-volt batteries and would handle the demands of a smaller fridge.
This is a go-anywhere solar kit at a great price and would suit the spontaneous campers who frequently do day trips and overnighters.
How To Choose The Best Portable Solar Panels
Portable Solar Panel Prices
Small solar panels for hikers start from as little as $40 with quality models reaching as much as $300. The $100 to $250 range is popular with many trekkers.
Larger 160 to 300-watt models are popular with vehicle campers. Prices range from $130 to $700 or more.
Types Of Solar Panels
The most common camping solar panels include briefcase-style foldable solar panels and foldable solar blankets. Flexible solar panels and standard glass/aluminium solar panels are also very popular.
Compact flexible (thin film) solar panels are well suited for hiking because they slip inside a backpack. Large thin film solar panels, especially ultrathin panel styles, suit campers seeking strong output as well as storage and weight efficiencies.
Briefcase-style solar panel kits are the most user-friendly, and suitable for the widest range of camping types and power demands.
Traditional single solar panels are the most versatile. They can be mounted permanently on vehicles, or set up to sit on the ground. Multiple panels can be strung together to cover high power demands.
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline vs. Thin Film Solar Cells
There are three basic types of solar cells: monocrystalline silicon-based cells, polycrystalline silicon-based cells, and thin film cells.
Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single crystal of silicon. They are the most efficient solar cells and usually make the highest performing solar panels - especially in poor solar conditions.
Monocrystalline panels are my preferred solar panel option for camping. However, they’re usually the most expensive.
Polycrystalline solar cells are cheaper than monocrystalline cells, but they’re also less efficient, needing direct sunlight for peak performance.
Thin film solar cells are the least efficient, although they can still be very effective in sunny conditions. The benefit of thin film solar panels is that they’re flexible and lightweight. Thin film solar panels are used for solar blankets and compact wallet-style solar panels.
Compact solar panels can be as small as a mobile phone or wallet. They’re ideal for hikers and backpackers charging phones and power banks.
200-watt fold-out models are popular with touring campers and commonly open up to around 90 x 6.5cm. Collapsing to half the size for transport, they’re compact and easy to manage.
Popular power outputs start at around 7 watts for charging phones and power banks. Good camping models start at around 160 watts.
200 and 300-watt models are very popular as they cover heavy power demands. Larger multi-panel set-ups will exceed outputs of 400 watts and are common in big RVs.
Solar Panel Efficiency
Panel efficiency refers to a solar panel's capacity to convert sun rays to power. Look for figures of 19% to 22% efficiency. However, compact hiking models will often have efficiencies lower than this.
Compact backpacking solar panels weigh as little as 500 grams. Popular fold-out 200-watt twin panel systems weigh between 7 and 17kg.
Impact of the Sun and Weather
Solar panel output is weather dependent. Heat, clouds and shade reduce output. Quality monocrystalline panels are the most efficient when weather conditions are less than optimal.
The simplicity and efficiency of the Renogy 200 Watt Foldable solar panel system make it ideal for so many Aussie campers. For hiking, my preference is the AIMTOM because it’s fast and efficient. Special mentions go to the 100-watt Dokio and the battery-saving Allpowers Trickle Charger.
Compact solar panels between 7 and 60 watts are popular with hikers. They’re great for charging phones, power banks, Go-Pros, and tablets.
For those vehicle camping, power demands are often higher. Popular solar panel sizes for this type of camping range between 160 and 400 watts.
Yes, camping solar panels work brilliantly. Performance is dependent on environmental factors such as how sunny or hot is, so expect variable outputs.
Solar panels can last 25 years under normal conditions and usage. Extreme environments and hard use can reduce performance longevity.
First, establish the electrical devices you’ll use and the battery types that will power them. Consider your mode of transport, camping style, environment, and camping duration. This will determine the panel size and power output you need.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.