The 4 best solar panels for camping
Solar panels are a convenient way to charge your essential tech while you're exploring the great outdoors. The best solar panels for camping have multiple ports and are the right size to suit your particular needs, whether you’re a backpacker or car camper.
The size of a solar panel is important for two reasons: It determines how quickly it can charge and how portable it is. Larger solar panels have more surface area, so they charge quickly and work better under cloud cover, but smaller solar panels can still work well if you don’t mind waiting longer for a full charge. If you plan to go on a long day hike, you’ll want to look for a smaller solar panel that can clip onto your bag.
It’s not only the solar panel size that will impact the speed of charging, but also the power output. Solar panels have wattage output ratings, and the higher the rating, the more electricity can be generated. Smaller solar panels will have around 5 watts, but larger ones can range up to 60 watts and higher. For reference, the average wall-connected phone charger delivers around 5 watts of power.
Finally, consider what extras you want. If you plan to use your solar panel for lights, you’ll need one that comes with a power station, so you can use it long after the sun sets. Some solar panels also come with multiple standard USB-A ports, while others have USB-C and DC ports. Solar panels with built-in flashlights are a must-have for emergency situations, and ones with kickstand designs can get more direct sunlight for quicker charging.
With that in mind, read on for four highly rated solar panels for camping that will keep you powered up.
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1. The compact solar panel
- Ports: 2 USB-A
- Power: 5 watts
Easily charge your devices while you're on the move with this portable solar panel, which has two convenient USB ports. Versatile and compact, it also has a built-in power-bank, so you can keep using it long after the sun sets. Although this solar panel is small, measuring just 6.1 by 3.35 inches when folded up, it can charge an iPhone 8 up to nine times on a single charge, and it can fully charge the average phone in only one hour. A must-have for emergencies, it has a built-in flashlight with three modes. This solar panel also has a cover that's waterproof, according to the brand, so you won't have to worry about it if you get stuck in a storm. At 1.18 pounds, this is the lightest option on this list, and it comes with a micro-USB cord, too.
One reviewer wrote: “I bought this for a camping trip in July. I charged it at home before we left. While camping I charged my iPhone fully twice. When we got back from camping I put it in the closet. Well last night we lost power at home and my phone was almost dead. I thought hmm I wonder if this may work. I couldn’t believe it!!! It fully charged my [iPhone] and still had some to go.”
- Available colors: 3
2. The mid-sized solar panel
- Ports: 3 USB-A
- Power: 28 watts
If you need more power but you still want portability, this mid-sized solar panel is the perfect choice. The four panels are highly efficient and can convert up to 23.5% of solar power into energy in good conditions, which can then be distributed to your devices via three USB ports and an attached micro-USB cord, which is compatible with select Apple and Android devices. Because this solar panel does not have a power bank, it can only charge devices while in the sun, but the reinforced holes make it easy to attach to your bag for charging on the move. It also has a cover to help protect it from water and dust and has an IPX4 water-resistance rating.
Fully extended, this solar panel measures 33.1 by 11.1 inches, and when you're ready to pack up at the end of the day, you can fold it up to its compact size of just 11.1 by 6.3 inches. It's also very lightweight at just 1.29 pounds.
One reviewer wrote: “This worked better than I expected. My phone has a crappy battery and I recently went hiking in Zion National Park. We spend the entire day without power and at the end of it I had a well charged phone. It works best in good lighting of course. Overcast and shadows ruin it's power output [...] My phone charges surprisingly fast. Even when a second phone is attached. I was able to take all the photos I wanted with no issues! [...] I consider this a great buy!”
3. The large solar panel
- Ports: 1 USB-A, 1 USB-C
- Power: 60 watts
Bring serious solar power to your campsite with this large solar panel, which measures over 4 feet long and 1 foot wide when fully extended. The three panels can convert up to 23% of solar power into energy, and they can be angled to get more direct sunlight with the convenient kickstand. A powerful device, it can charge an iPhone 11 Pro to 50% in just 30 minutes. And, even though it does not come with a power bank, it can be easily attached to one thanks to the multiple included connectors. Although this solar panel is large, it can fold down to just 14.6 by 14.8 inches. It comes with a carrying handle, so it's easy to bring with you wherever you go, though at 7 pounds, it's also the heaviest option on this list.
One reviewer wrote: “[...] Extremely easy to use this solar panel with the Paxcess Power station with included power cables, but can also be used to directly charge phones/tablets/etc directly via USB cables. Was able to charge the Paxcess Power Station to 100% in a few hours of full sunlight. Solar panel is light and easily folds up for transport. Great combination for camping or emergency power needs.”
4. The solar panel with a power station and lights
- Ports: 1 USB-A, 3 DC
- Power: 18 watts
This three-in-one solar panel set is a great choice for anyone who's idea of camping is a bit closer to glamping. It includes a power bank that can be charged at home or with the 18-watt solar panel, as well as three plug-in lights that can be hung around your campsite with the included S-hooks. The power bank can be fully charged with the solar panel in just five hours if the sun conditions are good, and it also has a built-in light, which can run for 64 hours straight. While this set is not as compact as the others on this list, the power bank weighs only 2.1 pounds and has a convenient handle, so it's not too hard to carry with you. The exact dimensions of the panel itself are not listed, but the whole kit weighs just under 6 pounds.
One reviewer wrote: “I was shocked to find the solar panel actually drew significant wattage from the sun, even on a less than perfectly clear day. It easily recharged the battery and quickly. Impressive for the price! The lights work great and are usefull in switch and brightness available. THis is a fantastic tool for camping or outdoor activities where electricity may not be available. It would be better if the device were waterproof (seemingly obvious for outdoor use). But, if you are carefull with placement and not using in damp/rainy conditions... should be O.K.”
- Available options: 3