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The 7 Best Portable Solar Panels of 2021

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Whether you’re planning a road trip, sailing adventure, beach getaway, or camping trip, keeping electronics charged up in remote areas can be challenging. Solar energy is an excellent, eco-friendly option for staying powered up on the go, but traditional panels are bulky and designed to stay fixed in one place. However, a large number of portable solar panels are now available that are lightweight, powerful, and built to withstand the elements. They’re also compact enough that you can keep them stored away for use in the event of an emergency power outage.

We’ve sorted through a variety of products to find the best portable solar panels.

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Renogy 100-Watt Monocrystalline Panel (view at Amazon) that’s an easy choice for RVs, boats, van travel, or a day at the beach. For something a little more affordable, the Dokio Portable Monocrystalline Controller (view at Amazon) is an attractive lightweight alternative. If you’re just looking for a solar panel to keep a phone or camera charged up, go with SunJack 15 Watt Foldable ETFE Solar Panel (view at Amazon).

What to Look for When Buying a Portable Solar Panel

Power Output

When buying a panel, consider what you’ll be charging to calculate what size panel you’ll need. Smaller devices like phones will do just fine on the 15-watt panel, while larger devices like coolers will need a larger panel (and usually a battery to store that energy). The wattage refers to the DC maximum output during optimal conditions, but keep in mind cloud cover can prevent it from achieving maximum output. 


Since you probably plan on taking the panel with you while traveling (or at least moving it around the yard), you’ll want something that’s sturdy, weather-resistant, and compact enough that it can be easily stored and transported. Keep in mind the type of travel you’ll be doing: if you’re hiking and carrying your gear on your back, the lighter the panel the better. Heavy duty latches, rust-resistant materials, protected glass, and reinforced parts are important to the panel’s longevity. 

Size and Weight

Depending on how you’re traveling and the storage space you have available when not in use, the size and weight of your solar panel are an important factor. Many of the panels can fold into easy to carry cases – but you may require something even smaller if space is limited. Although panels with nylon exteriors may be lighter, they may not be as durable as ones with a metal frame. 


How do you use portable solar panels?

Portable solar panels can be used to recharge devices directly, or to charge batteries or solar generators. Some panels can be connected directly to phones or small devices for charging when the sun is out (panels must be angled toward the sun), however, direct sun charging can be inconsistent. It’s best to use a solar panel to capture energy and store it in some kind of battery (like a solar controller, battery pack, or charge station), and then connect devices to that – particularly with stronger panels. 

How long to portable solar panels last?

A quality, permanent, fixed solar panel should continue producing a solid energy output for 25 to 30 years, but it’s a good idea to check if the panel includes a warranty. We’ve seen first hand our fair share of cheaper panels that quit working after a couple years that did not include a warranty. 

Many portable solar panels are made of more lightweight materials and aren’t likely to last that long. They run the risk of becoming damaged during transport or after prolonged use outside, so it’s best to purchase a durable panel that can withstand the hazards of travel. 

Are portable solar panels waterproof?

Most portable solar panels are water or weather resistant – meaning they should not be submerged underwater but can be left outside in light rain. However, that doesn’t mean that every portable panel should be left outside permanently. Check with the manufacturer to ensure the panel will meet your needs.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Amber Nolan has been using solar power in her houseboat for several years. When traveling, she personally owns the Jackery solar panel.

Read More: The 7 Best Portable Solar Panels of 2021

2021-08-09 13:16:48

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