Did you know that roughly 78.4 million people go camping on an annual basis? Camping is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the United States, only growing more and more popular as the years go on.
Solar energy has also become significantly more affordable as a way to power our gear. Rather than bringing out propane tanks and expensive battery packs, you can bring solar panels camping with you next time you’re outdoors!
Read on for a quick guide on solar panel camping and everything you need to make your green vacation as comfortable as possible.
What Is Portable Solar Camping?
The vast majority of solar panels you use for camping are portable. The exception is vehicles like campers or RVs that have solar panels installed on top.
Even though these are technically portable, it’s highly unlikely you’ll remove them from your RV and set them up at your campsite. Here are some of the many portable options you can find.
Portable Solar Panel Kit with Battery and Inverter
Many larger solar panel kits will come with a battery and inverter. These larger kits power much more than your average solar panel and can provide power to your entire campsite.
Expect these to run a much higher price and to provide significantly more than the average camper might need.
Camping Solar Panel and Battery Kit
Many solar panels generate power and directly use it on a connected gadget. They may charge a phone or laptop or power a smaller cooler or other electronic devices. Unfortunately, that makes it difficult to use them if you need power later.
We suggest using a camping solar panel and battery kit to remedy this. These solar banks can help to store energy as its generated rather than immediately use it. As a result, you’ll have charged battery packs later on to power whatever you need.
Solar banks are indispensable on long-distance trips or extended camping trips. Make sure that you’re bringing something you can charge so that your solar panels can give you energy even when the sun isn’t available.
What Kind of Solar Panel Do I Need for Camping?
There are plenty of different kinds of solar panels with varying levels of effectiveness. Many of them also have specific use cases that make them better in one situation and worse in others. Read on for some of the best options in portable solar panels for camping.
Tent Camping Solar Panels
If you’re camping in a tent, your energy needs are much lower than needing to power an entire camper. It’s especially low-energy if you’re alone, giving you a handful of luxury gadgets that you’ll want to charge.
You might want to focus on a more portable, low-power solar panel. Foldable solar panels that can rest out in the sun will store enough energy to charge your phone and other small gadgets.
The more gadgets you have, the more energy you’ll need, so prepare ahead of time.
These solar panels are also typically cheap and incapable of powering larger devices. Something small enough to charge your small gadgets and flashlights is all you’ll need.
You wouldn’t want to bring a larger, more “capable” charger that provides more than you need, as you might find yourself bogged down by the larger panels.
Best Camping Solar Panels
Depending on your needs, the best camping solar panel may change. One of the stronger options is the Anker 21W 2-port USB solar panel. Anker is a highly reputable brand in gadgets, and this solar panel is one of the most popular camping solar panels available.
However, its intended use is to charge tablets and cell phones, so don’t expect it to power your whole campsite.
Another fantastic option is the X-DRAGON Portable Solar Charger. Boasting 40 watts, this portable power station can power much larger devices than the Anker 21-watt. In trade, it’s larger than many other models and may not fit a more minimalist camping style.
Acopower 120w Portable Camping Solar Panel
Another specific solar panel to highlight is the Acopower 120w Portable Camping Solar Panel. Compared to many other smaller solar panels, the Acopower 120w is extremely capable.
The three 40w panels work as a trifold with enough efficiency to power even motorhomes and boats.
The high-performance monocrystalline cells help to increase power efficiency by up to 25%. It’s also surprisingly lightweight at only 3.5 pounds. Adjustable stands help to make this a customizable and powerful option.
How Do You Install Solar Panels on a Camper?
Past these smaller models, how can you install solar panels on your camper completely?
The process depends on your camper itself. Mount these solar panels securely to the roof as close to the power supply as possible. Each camper – and solar panel – will have different directions to install. If in doubt, consider having a professional install them for you.
How Do You Use Solar Panels While Camping?
It depends on how you’ve employed your solar panels! If you’ve installed them atop your camper, you can get power directly from the camper itself. If you’re using smaller panels, you might use them to simply plug your phone or battery pack into to help it charge.
Can a Solar Panel Run a Camping Fridge?
Most solar panels generate enough wattage and amperage to power a small refrigerator. Larger panels can power larger appliances, so always purchase accordingly to ensure that your electronics are compatible.
What should I look for when buying a portable solar panel?
One of the first things you should check is the size and weight of a portable solar panel. Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a portable solar panel for camping.
- Ordering a solar panel only to realize it’s twice as heavy and three times as large as you’d like can make it unusable. Do your best to make sure that you’re prioritizing portability so that you can camp with ease.
- You should look at the watts that a solar panel generates. If it doesn’t generate enough to power the gadgets you need, it might prove useless for your camping.
- Check the equipment you intend to power with the solar panel to ensure that your camping solar panel is adequate for your needs.
- Finally, look at the efficiency and durability of the product. You might want to check customer reviews to see what other campers have reported on the device. If it can’t withstand the elements, it’s not something you should bring to your campsite.
Nothing’s worse than having your primary source of power sputter out over a bit of moisture when you need something reliable while camping outdoors.
What type of solar panel is best for camping?
The best type of solar panel for camping depends on your needs. Generally, you should focus on getting something rugged and portable that can fit in with your camping site without inconveniencing you.
Foldable solar panels are great for portability and reliability. You can often unfold them somewhere with direct sunlight and quickly move them as the sunlight shifts throughout the day. However, many of these won’t provide the power you need.
Some solar panels are installed on a camper or RV. These are generally much more powerful and sometimes difficult to remove. You can use these to power your entire camper, which can then power the rest of your campsite via outlets.
How much solar power do I need for camping?
Answering this question is a bit tougher than you might think. There are countless factors, including the size of your campsite, your solar panel, and everything you’ll be using.
Take stock of how many people and devices you’ll power at your campsite to know how much solar power you require.
What wattage solar panel do I need for camping?
The wattage depends entirely on your needs, but you shouldn’t expect to need more than 20 to 25 watts.
Panels in this range are capable of charging your phone, tablet, smaller energy banks, and even some laptops. They can also often power things like electric lamps and rechargeable flashlights.
However, you still need to look at your power needs. If you’re charging a whole camper or providing energy for several people, you might want to grab something that can generate more than 25 watts.
How many amps do I need for camping?
As with wattage, solar panel amperage depends on your needs. Smaller campsites with low power needs can make do with two to four amps.
If you’re using a larger campsite or powering several gadgets, you may want to go to 20 or 30. Depending on what you’ve brought, that should provide power to your luxuries like a fridge or small microwave.
What size solar do I need for camping?
You don’t need to purchase too large of a solar panel! If you’re putting panels on top of a camper or RV, then you can get whatever size your RV can fit. Check the specifics of your vehicle – and your budget – to see what you can equip your vehicle with.
You shouldn’t have anything much larger than a couple of square feet or so for tent camping. Keeping your solar panels small can help keep your camp minimalist and relaxing. If you drag out massive solar panels and electricity generators, you may as well have not gone camping at all!
The saying “size doesn’t mean everything” is much more accurate when it comes to solar panels for camping. Smaller, more efficient solar panels might generate higher watts than something larger and cheaper.
Construction is everything, so look into the reviews and specs of your chosen solar panel to make sure you’re getting something worth having.
What do I need for solar power for camping?
Many solar panels come with everything you need to charge gadgets. Most will have a USB port for you to charge devices on or a larger outlet to power larger gadgets. In most cases, this is all you’ll need to bring power from the sun to your campsite.
Past this, all you’ll need to bring is a charging cord or, if necessary, a power bank to hold the generated electricity for later. If you’re using more complicated gadgetry, the essential equipment may become more extensive.
Is solar power good for camping?
Powering your campsite with solar panels is an easy, inexpensive, environmentally-friendly decision. The next time you go camping, let the sun keep your devices powered instead of relying on noisy generators or sitting in the dark.
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Solar Camping FAQ
With everything said, there are still plenty of questions that linger. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about camping with solar panels.
Are flexible solar panels any good?
Flexible solar panels are great for camping, but they can pose a few issues. For one thing, they tend to favor flexibility over power generation or solar efficiency. Because of this, they can sometimes prove inadequate for more significant power needs.
These flexible solar panels are fantastic for smaller gadgets, such as charging a phone or battery pack. You shouldn’t expect to power your entire campsite off a single pair of flexible solar panels.
Do you need an inverter for solar panels when camping?
Many solar panels will already have these built-in, especially lower-power ones that generate less electricity. However, if it isn’t already built-in, the answer is yes – an inverter is crucial to the safe operation of your solar panel.
Are foldable solar panels worth it?
Most of the available options for camping solar panels are foldable models. It’s tricky to create a solar panel powerful enough to power a campsite and not have it fold, as this would make it exceptionally difficult to transport.
Many foldable solar panels provide a substantial amount of power, such as the Acopower 120w product mentioned above. These products are capable of powering your campsite and more. Foldable solar panels aren’t only worth it – they’re indispensable to your camping trip.