The Best Portable Solar Panels of 2022

Use a portable solar panel to gather energy from the sun to charge your devices and camping equipment.

By Timothy Dale | Updated Mar 18, 2022 7:33 PM

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The Best Portable Solar Panels

Photo: amazon.com

A personal solar panel lets you enjoy the freedom of the great outdoors without worrying about your camping gear or your devices running out of juice. When setting up a portable solar power panel, angle it toward the sun to absorb its energy. Connect a battery to hold the stored energy or, for quick charging, connect your device directly to the solar panel.

When choosing between the best portable solar panels, consider your power requirements, size and weight restrictions, and several other factors. This list of top products will help you find the best portable solar panel for your next outing.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Renogy 200-Watt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar
  2. BEST BUDGET: Nekteck 21W Solar Charger Waterproof Portable
  3. BEST WITH CONTROLLER: DOKIO 110w 18v Portable Foldable Solar Panel Kit
  4. BEST FLEXIBLE: Renogy Flexible Solar Panel 12 Volt Monocrystalline
  5. BEST MONOCRYSTALLINE: Goal Zero Boulder 200 Solar Panel Briefcase
  6. BEST POLYCRYSTALLINE: Newpowa 100 Watts Polycrystalline Solar Panel
  7. BEST THIN-FILM: Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel for Explorer
Best Portable Solar Panel

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Portable Solar Panels 

Portable solar panels can be classified into three types based on the material used to make their cells, including monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film, whether you use them as camping solar panels or as everyday on-the-go device chargers.

Monocrystalline 

Constructed with silicon wafers cut from a single silicon crystal, monocrystalline solar panels rank best in both energy production and efficiency. The purity of the solar cell increases the ability of the solar panel to absorb energy from the sun, allowing the monocrystalline solar panels to output a high amount of electrical energy.

This type of portable solar panel is easy to recognize because the solar cells are black and thicker than thin-film products. The silicon wafers are typically assembled into rows and columns to form a rectangle. These high-quality panels cost more than either polycrystalline or thin-film.

Polycrystalline 

On polycrystalline panels, the solar cells are blue, not black, because the silicon wafers used to make the solar chargers and solar panels are composed of silicon crystal fragments that have been melted together and not made from a single silicon crystal. This manufacturing process reduces the price so they’re less expensive, but it also lowers the energy output. However, polycrystalline solar panels are still more efficient than thin-film solar panels.

Thin-Film 

Thin-film portable solar panels, which are made with a variety of materials, including cadmium telluride (CdTe), amorphous silicon (a-Si), and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), typically incorporate conducting layers made of glass, ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), or aluminum or steel. Thin-film portable solar panels are the least efficient type of the three, but they’re generally more affordable than both polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Solar Panel 

Whether you are looking for a portable solar panel for the RV or a smaller solar panel for a backpacking kit, learn about the various products’ features and specifications to make certain it’s the best portable solar panel for your purposes.

Size and Weight 

Size can actually refer to both the physical size and the size of the power output, but here, the focus is on the physical size and weight.

A solar panel’s size can be limited by its intended purpose. For instance, hiking with a 36-by-24-inch solar panel in the backpack might be difficult, but this size of solar panel is an excellent option for an RV. Choose a solar panel that’s large enough to gather the required energy, but small enough that it’s not a burden. A lightweight portable solar panel could weigh as little as 1 pound, while a heavy-duty portable solar panel can exceed 60 pounds.

Efficiency Rating

The efficiency rating is typically dictated by the type of portable solar panel.

  • Monocrystalline portable solar panels have the highest efficiency rating because they use a single piece of pure silicon crystal. Their efficiency ratings can exceed 20 percent.
  • Polycrystalline portable solar panels, with an efficiency rating ranging from 15 to 17 percent, are close to monocrystalline in efficiency, but they fall just short because of the impurities in the silicon wafers used to make the solar cells.
  • Thin-film portable solar panels vary in efficiency among products because they’re made with a variety of different materials. However, they typically have an energy efficiency rating of just 11 percent.

Higher efficiency is always better, but these products also cost more than low-efficiency solar panels.

Power Output 

Because of the differences in materials used to make the solar cells and the number of solar cells in a panel, power output also depends on the type of solar panel.

  • Monocrystalline portable solar panels are the best choice for power output. Some monocrystalline solar panels have power capacities that exceed 400 watts (W).
  • Polycrystalline portable solar panels and monocrystalline solar panels come in standardized sizes, including 60, 72, and 96 solar cell variants, and often hit a maximum of 200 watts.
  • Thin-film portable solar panels vary between products, but thin-cell solar panels rarely have power capacities of 100 watts or more.

Device Charging

Also determine goals for the charger; those who want to charge their devices directly should determine if a product has the outputs that allow for a direct connection. Many portable solar panels are designed to connect only to a battery. Other products connect with an RV battery or a car battery to provide power to the vehicle and its accessories.

While a boat or an RV may have built-in power outlets, when the engine isn’t running, the alternator isn’t recharging the battery. Connecting it to a portable solar panel can provide the power necessary to charge devices without draining the battery.

Battery Integration 

Adding a battery to a portable solar panel ensures stored energy is available even when the sun has gone down. However, only specific portable solar panels can connect to a battery. Some products are designed to connect directly to devices through USB ports, while other solar panels are made for charging vehicle batteries specifically.

To connect a portable solar panel to a vehicle battery, attach the positive wire from the solar panel to the positive battery terminal and attach the negative wire to the negative terminal—the same configuration used to connect a solar panel to a portable battery. However, a charge controller may be necessary to prevent the solar panel from overloading the battery and causing a reverse flow of energy from the battery to the solar panel.

Our Top Picks

Product efficiency and overall value, with an emphasis on the important considerations mentioned above, are the main criteria for assembling this list of some of the best portable solar panels available.

Best Overall

The Best Portable Solar Panels Option: Renogy 200-Watt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar
Photo: homedepot.com

The 200 watt Renogy portable solar panel can provide the high amount of energy necessary to operate an RV or a boat’s accessories and charging ports. It also has a built-in charge controller with a bold LCD display for reviewing operating information. The charge controller automatically stops the flow of energy from the solar panel to the battery when the battery has reached its storage capacity, which prevents overcharging and reduces the risk of fire.

This monocrystalline portable solar panel has a foldable design and a handle to carry it like a briefcase. With an adjustable, corrosion-resistant aluminum stand that folds out from the back of the solar panel, it can be set to different angles to best absorb the sun’s rays.

Product Specs

  • Power Capacity: 200 watts
  • Type: Monocrystalline
  • Weight: 36 pounds

Pros

  • Built-in folding stand
  • Digital-charge controller
  • High monocrystalline efficiency
  • Overcharging protection

Cons

  • Heavy panel isn’t suitable for hiking or climbing

Best Budget

The Best Portable Solar Panel Option: Nekteck USB Solar Panel, 21W Solar Charger
Photo: amazon.com

This Nekteck portable solar panel allows users to connect up to two USB devices at once, including both Apple and Samsung products. Folding solar panels like this Nekteck product are easy to store and offer competitive efficiency. The solar panel’s built-in microchip detects the electronic devices plugged into its USB ports, providing specific power outputs based on each device. However, this product probably can’t charge a larger battery or a vehicle.

The monocrystalline portable solar panel folds out into three panels, with a fourth side that acts as a base. It’s made with a lightweight but durable canvas material that weighs just over a pound, and it can fold up to fit in a backpack. The solar panel has an efficiency rating of 21 to 24 percent.

Product Specs

  • Power Capacity: 21 watts
  • Type: Monocrystalline
  • Weight: 1.13 pounds

Pros

  • High efficiency rating
  • Foldable for compact storage
  • Lightweight design is easy to carry

Cons

  • Low power capacity

Best with Controller

The Best Portable Solar Panel Option: Dokio 100W 18V Portable Foldable Solar Panel Kit
Photo: amazon.com

This Dokio monocrystalline portable solar power system can be connected via the five included DC adapters or the charge controller. The controller moderates the flow of energy into 12 volt batteries, such as those in cars or RVs, to prevent overcharging and reduce the risk of fire. It also includes two USB ports to charge USB devices.

Weighing just 6 pounds, the Dokio can be folded in half for easy carrying with its two built-in carrying handles. It has a 110 watt power output, and it features a waterproof fabric backing.

Product Specs

  • Power Capacity: 110 watts
  • Type: Monocrystalline
  • Weight: 5.9 pounds

Pros

  • Lightweight design for low-effort portability
  • Digital-charge controller
  • Built-in carrying handle
  • Waterproof fabric backing

Cons

  • Vulnerable to blowing away in moderate wind

Best Flexible

The Best Portable Solar Panel Option: Renogy 50 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Photo: amazon.com

The flexible material on this Renogy portable solar panel is just 0.08 inch thick, and it weighs only 2.87 pounds, allowing it to be carried or folded. It’s designed for use with 12-volt batteries.

The monocrystalline portable solar panel outputs 50 watts of power, and it’s made with six metal reinforced holes to mount the panel so it doesn’t blow away. However, this portable solar panel has been tested to withstand winds of up to 140 miles per hour and snow loads of up to 112.8 pounds per square foot (PSF).

Product Specs

  • Power Capacity: 50 watts
  • Type: Monocrystalline
  • Weight: less than 3 pounds

Pros

  • Reinforced mounting holes
  • Thin, lightweight design
  • Can hold up to 113 pounds of snow per square foot

Cons

  • Low power capacity

Best Monocrystalline

The Best Portable Solar Panels Option: Goal Zero Boulder 200 Solar Panel Briefcase
Photo: rei.com

The Goal Zero Boulder portable solar panel, with a power output of 200 watts, comes in a convenient fold-up design to fit in a briefcase. However, it weighs about 46 pounds, so the Goal Zero Boulder solar panel may not be the best option for hiking.

Instead, this portable solar panel can charge portable batteries and power stations for an entire RV or a boat. It’s built with monocrystalline silicon wafers pressed between strong tempered glass, and its water-resistant aluminum frame includes a built-in adjustable kickstand to angle it toward the sun.

Product Specs

  • Power Capacity: 200 watts
  • Type: Monocrystalline
  • Weight: 46 pounds

Pros

  • Built-in folding stand and handles
  • Water-resistant frame
  • High monocrystalline efficiency

Cons

  • Heavy panel isn’t suitable for hiking or climbing

Best Polycrystalline

Newpowa 100 Watts 12 Volts Polycrystalline Solar
Photo: amazon.com

This 100-watt portable polycrystalline solar panel by Newpowa comes equipped with a rugged heavy-duty frame that is made to withstand powerful wind and heavy snow. It has predrilled holes for easy mounting, making it ideal for the top of an RV, a camper, or even a boat. The polycrystalline panel weighs just 15.5 pounds, so users won’t struggle to carry or set up this portable solar panel.

The polycrystalline portable solar panel has an IP rating of IP65, meaning that it’s resistant to both water and dust, though the solar panel should not be fully submerged. Additionally, it doesn’t have a kickstand or any other way to set it up for freestanding use, so you will need to mount the panel before it can be effectively used.

Product Specs

  • Power Capacity: 100 watts
  • Type: Polycrystalline
  • Weight: 15.5 pounds

Pros

  • Water- and dust-resistant rating of IP65
  • Corrosion-resistant aluminum frame
  • Heavy-duty design resists wind and snow

Cons

  • Does not come with a kickstand for freestanding use

Best Thin-Film

The Best Portable Solar Panels Option: Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel for Explorer
Photo: amazon.com

This thin-film Jackery portable solar panel has durable ETFE-laminated paneling and comes with a power cable to charge portable batteries and power stations. It also has an extension cord with an adapter that includes a USB-C port and a USB-A port to charge two small devices at the same time. The cords are in a small carrying bag on the back of the solar panel.

This portable solar panel has a foldable design with built-in rubber handles. It’s light enough for long hikes, and it can be set up on any surface with the built-in adjustable kickstand.

Product Specs

  • Power Capacity: 60 watts
  • Type: Thin-film
  • Weight: 6.6 pounds

Pros

  • IP65 water and dust resistant
  • Foldable, lightweight design for easy portability
  • Adjustable kickstand for optimal positioning

Cons

  • Low power capacity

Our Verdict

The impressive Renogy monocrystalline solar panel is the ideal option for providing renewable energy to the entire family on your next camping trip. If you prefer a lightweight product that’s easier to carry, then the affordable Nekteck USB solar panel is a great choice.

How We Chose the Best Portable Solar Panels

Selecting the top portable solar panels currently available on the market was possible through extensive research into each product, including an inspection of the various product specifications, like power capacity, weight, panel type, and versatility.

Portable solar panels are used in a wide range of situations, whether users are sitting in the backyard at home or climbing up the side of a cliff, so it was necessary to identify products that could be used in a variety of circumstances without impacting the efficiency of the panel. If the weight was too high, then a user could carry the panel only for a short period of time, limiting portability. However, products that were too light needed to be mounted or otherwise secured to prevent them from blowing away.

The type of panel was another factor that was key to choosing top-of-the-line products. Monocrystalline solar panels were preferred over both polycrystalline and thin-film products due to the increased efficiency and power capacity. However, some polycrystalline and thin-film products were selected in order to provide a range of options.

FAQs 

Portable solar panels, solar chargers, and solar power banks are essential to enjoying an extended trip, but it can be difficult to choose a specific product. Take a look below for more information to help you decide on the best portable solar panel for your needs.

Q: Are portable solar panels effective? 

The best portable solar panels for RV trips are effective tools for generating electricity with little more than clear access to the sun. A charge controller can also be used to help control the flow of energy from the solar panel to the battery backup. If you are worried about the solar panel being able to collect enough energy throughout the day, opt for one of the highest watt solar panel options to ensure that you aren’t missing out on available solar energy.

Q: Is a solar blanket different from a portable solar panel?

Solar blankets and portable solar panels have the same function, but solar blankets are less fragile and more flexible than solar panels because they don’t rely on solid panels and rigid frames for stability.

However, solar blankets are more expensive and less effective than solar panels at absorbing the energy from the sun because the loose flexibility of the material limits the position choices to flat or angled areas.

Q: Can portable solar panels hold a charge?

Even the best portable solar panels are not typically designed to store the collected energy. You will need to connect the solar panel to a power station, a generator, a battery backup, or directly to the device you want to charge to ensure that any collected solar energy can be stored and used. Make sure the solar panels are also compatible with the selected power storage option; otherwise, you may invest in a product like the Goal Zero Nomad, which is a set of solar panels with no battery storage device that has a narrow range of compatibility limited mostly to Goal Zero power stations, leaving you with no way to store the collected energy.

Q: What portable solar panel size should I buy?

Determine the typical electrical output you need from a portable solar panel for items like a weather radio, lights, and mobile devices. Then choose a product that can generate enough energy from direct sunlight to power your devices. Keep in mind that a foldable solar panel may be a better option if you need to conserve space.

Q: How long do portable solar panels last? 

If properly cared for, the best portable solar panels for camping can last a long time. The average lifespan of a portable solar panel kit before its energy output begins to decline is between 25 to 30 years.