Whether you’re a hardcore always-on-the-road camper or more of a once-in-a-while glamping enthusiast, you need a power source to go on these adventures. Camping solar panels are a smart, efficient, cost-effective, and sophisticated choice.
With so many types of camping solar panels available on the market, it can be difficult to pick the best one for your specific use case. If you’re trying to select one with little knowledge about using solar panels while camping, you have an even more difficult task.
Fret not, because with this guide, we’ll bring you up-to-date on everything you need to consider when buying a solar panel for camping.
Let’s brush up on the basics first.
How Does a Camping Solar Panel Work?
Camping solar panels work similarly to residential solar panels. Their panels absorb sunlight and convert it into electric current, which can be used for powering electrical devices. And like traditional panels, these require inverters to convert energy and batteries to store it for later use.
Simultaneously, camping solar panels are very different from residential solar panels. Solar panels for camping are lightweight and compact. They are designed to be more durable and portable.
Benefits of Using Solar Panels for Camping
Solar panels for campers can efficiently address the needs of those who like to spend time in nature while still enjoying some luxuries of modern life. They’re also meant to resolve troubles campers might face when using traditional generators as power sources.
Here are some benefits of camping solar panels that make them the best power source for camping:
One of the best advantages of using solar panels for camping is the noiseless operation.
If you’ve been on camping trips before, you may be well aware of how much noise traditional generators can make. Those loud machines certainly disturb the peace that nature is supposed to bring.
Camping solar panels combined with a portable power station allow you to walk away from the hustle and bustle of the city and create a serene ambiance while remaining connected to your electronic devices.
They’re Lightweight and Portable
Another huge benefit of camping solar panels is their lightweight build and portability. Campers can easily bring their solar panels anywhere, regardless of whether they’re driving in an RV or hiking with just a backpack.
There is no need to worry about complicated wiring and cables or setup and pack up.
There is no reason to use traditional generators, which run on fossil fuel, to power your electronics at camp when there’s a healthier alternative.
Camping solar panels utilize solar energy, a renewable resource. Not only is solar power relatively safer for the environment, but it also doesn’t drain the earth’s resources. This will help you preserve the beautiful campsites you enjoy.
Consider These Factors When Buying a Solar Panel for Camping
Portable Solar Panels
Portable solar panels do not require permanent installation, which makes them the ideal solution for campers, especially backpackers.
They are lightweight, so they’re easy to carry. Their compact design means they can be stored anywhere. Setting up these panels and packing them away takes only a few minutes.
Flexible Solar Panels
These are the best panels for campers with curved RV roofs and irregular mounting surfaces. They are just as light and compact as portable solar panels. The only major difference is the power output is relatively lower.
You can go for a permanent installation OR a temporary hanging installation.
Rigid Solar Panels
These are the most similar to residential solar panels. They need permanent installation and can be quite heavy, too. As their name suggests, these panels are not flexible—ideal for mounting on top of RVs, campers, or vans.
The main benefit they provide is continuous harnessing of the sun’s energy, even when you’re on the road.
2. Power Output
Power output determines how many devices a solar panel can power. Those with low outputs (between 10W and 30W) are enough to charge smartphones and small devices on a quick backpacking adventure. But you’ll need more between 110W and 400W for large RV appliances during long camping trips.
It’s important to consider your power consumption habits, such as how many appliances you’ll be using each day. More devices used more frequently will require more power, while moderate users will do fine with around 200W.
3. Size and Weight
When it comes to size and weight, the decision is a lot simpler. Portability is crucial for the best solar panels for campers and backpackers. Rigid setups are best for those with RVs.
Portable solar panels can fold down easily, while rigid and heavy ones sit on top of vehicles as permanent installations.
4. Camping Styles and Duration
If you only take short camping trips and don’t go to very remote places, a portable camping solar panel will suit your needs. They’re easy to maintain for once-a-year campers, backpackers, and tent campers.
But those taking frequent or long camping trips in their RVs might want something more durable that requires no setup and provides a high power output.
Depending on your camping habits, you may also need battery banks and chargers to continuously convert solar energy into usable power. This can be done with the help of a portable power station or an RV system.
So what equipment should you choose?
If you’re camping with an RV, you can go for a portable power station. These have internal inverters and batteries, which allow them to undertake storage and energy conversion. Unlike gas generators, they’re noiseless, safe, light, and portable.
5. Cost and Warranty
While a higher price doesn’t promise good quality or valuable features, a lower price most likely guarantees a shorter lifespan.
Camping solar panels differ significantly in price. If you’re not sure how to navigate this, look at the offered warranty. Reliable manufacturers will cover a long period because they are confident that their panels are made with quality materials.
Even then, read the terms carefully and compare the offerings of your top picks.
Depending on the pricing and build, you can expect coverage for several years. Weigh your options based on your budget and long-term considerations.
Solar panel efficiency can be described as the conversion rate from sunlight to electric power.
Most portable panels have 15%-20% efficiency ratings, but we suggest going for a higher rating of at least 22%. Simply put, a solar panel with a high efficiency rating will generate more energy with the same amount of sunlight than a less efficient setup.
Factors like weather, accessories, and temperature may impact efficiency.
Camping solar panels generate significantly less power on cloudy or rainy days. But those with higher efficiency ratings can still power devices in such conditions—enough for your basic needs.
Using incompatible and poor-quality solar accessories will affect the performance of your camping solar panels. However, we understand that finding compatible products for complex setups can be challenging.
A simple solution is getting product bundles like solar generators, which include solar panels, portable power stations, and all the necessary cables and accessories.
Output efficiency will also be hugely impacted by the temperature. The ideal range for optimum efficiency is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celcius) in temperate climates.
Most people mistakenly think higher temperatures and scorching heat will result in more solar energy; unfortunately, that’s not true. Higher temperatures mean a slightly lower output.
The sturdier the material, the better. Look for a build that is weather-resistant and durable.
You will find options like monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar cells. Of these, monocrystalline are the most durable and have the highest efficiency ratings. Polycrystalline cells are more affordable but are less efficient. Thin-film cells are the lightest and most flexible, but they don’t last long and need a lot of sunlight and time to generate a similar amount of power.
What Type of Solar Panels Are Best for Camping?
Foldable solar panels are excellent for camping. They’re light and compact and can be installed anywhere. But make sure you look for a folding solar panel with a high power output.
What Wattage Solar Panels Do You Need for Camping?
The amount of wattage your camping solar panels need depends on your energy consumption and the number of devices you bring on your trip. If you’re only powering small devices like lights and smartphones, a 100W panel will be enough. If you’re powering larger appliances, look for panels with outputs at 400W or higher.
Knowing what to look for will give you the best investment that guarantees a relaxed, worry-free camping experience. Use this guide to further enhance your knowledge of solar panels for camping and find the right one for your unique camping experience.