Top Solar Panels for Camping, Basecamping, and Outdoor Adventures
Electronics are a part of the adventurer’s quiver of tools more than ever before. Thanks to efficiency advances and cost decreases in solar cells, portable solar chargers are finally proving to be a viable means of providing electricity outdoors. A backcountry user might carry a smartphone, GoPros, headlamp, tablet, camera, headphones, and PLB or GPS devices. A family on an extended weekend trip will likely bring multiple smartphones, tablets, speakers, laptops, electric lanterns, and more. Rafters, climbers, bikepackers, and mountain bikers on a weekend mission might haul out even more high-powered lights and GoPros, radios, and other electronic equipment.
By harnessing the energy of the sun, anyone can charge their legion of devices rather than carrying physical batteries or draining the battery in their vehicle or camper. From portable solar chargers that can accommodate multiple devices during a family camping trip, to power banks that hold the biggest charge, to lightweight options for backcountry users that weigh under a pound, we reviewed top models to find the best portable solar chargers for most outdoor uses. Plus, we’ve got tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your portable solar panels, power banks and chargers.
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The Best Portable Solar Chargers
We had three clones to evaluate, all of which performed similarly well, so it was hard to determine which of those to award. However, one did surpass the others, as various sites have mentioned. We also considered different use cases in making our final judgments. As such, some of our winners are in unique categories.
Overall Winner: Big Blue 28W USB Solar Charger
Weight: 1 pound, 5 ounces
Solar Cell Output Capacity: 10 watts
Power Output to Device: USB, 5V up to 2A (28W max)
Integrated battery: No
Ports: 2, 2.4 Amp USB-A Ports
What we liked: simple, lightweight, provides more power than similar models, can charge multiple small devices, includes anmeter
What we didn’t like:
We concur with many review sites and consumer reviews that the 1 pound, 5 ounce Big Blue 28W USB Solar Charger was the best for most outdoor use. It’s a simple, lightweight, and powerful solar power charger that seems to provide a little more power than its competition. It will also provide enough power in direct sunlight to charge multiple small devices for one or two people.
The Big Blue unit we tested also included an ammeter, which displays the amount of electrical current the solar panel is generating, setting it apart from the competition. That allowed us to see that the device was working and how much energy it was producing.
COMPARE OF THE BIG BLUE SOLAR CHARGER
Other than that, we found that it was remarkably, if not eerily, similar to two other top-rated solar chargers we evaluated. All three (the Anker 21 Watt PowerPort Solar charger, the Nekteck 28 Watt solar charger, and the BigBlue 28W USB Solar Charger) use the same basic design with two USB-ports and a light to indicate that they’re getting a charge; the Big Blue’s light indicator is the ammeter.
The solar cells in these foldable units are encased in PET polymer and surrounded by polyester canvas. Each offers moderate IPX4 water resistance — although you don’t really want to use these devices in the rain anyhow. They’re so similar they even use the same solar cells — SunPower’s Maxeon solar cells — which are among the most efficient commercially available solar cells and can convert up to 25 percent of the sun’s energy.
Each of these solar chargers had metal grommets in the casing, which allows you to attach them to a rock, backpack, tent, or camp chair. Each has a pouch where you can store the devices being charged and cords for charging your devices. None had kickstands or means to orient them to the sun properly, so you’ll have to get a little more creative, like propping them up on a rock, attaching them to your tent, or attaching them to your backpack to orient them properly to get the most power out of them in camp.
The Big Blue did better than the competition in tests, producing just under 950 milliamp-hours (mAh) of energy in an hour. In relatively similar conditions, the Anker produced 733 mAh, and the Nekteck produced 834 mAh. Without a dedicated test facility and control environment, it is hard to offer a complete scientific evaluation of the differences between these three since clouds could have obscured the sun for part of the testing periods.
In our experience, the Big Blue (or other similar solar panels) will integrate best into your outdoor lifestyle with the help of an external battery, like the Anker. The solar panel charges the battery, and then the battery provides a steady charge to reliably and safely charge your phone. See our section below on batteries for more details.
The Big Blue offered the highest power output among these three, and its cost is essentially the same as the Nekteck, so The Big Blue edged out the Nekteck as the best solar charger. It’s easy to use, well-priced, and offers enough portable power to charge a backup battery. Best yet, it is rugged enough to last for years.
Interested in backpacking gear? See our Backpacking section for our most popular stories.
The Best Solar Charger for Basecamping: Goal Zero Nomad 50
Weight: 6 pounds
Solar Cell Output Capacity: 50 watts
Power Output to Device: USB: 5V up to 2.4A (12W max)/8mm: 14-22V, up to 3.5A (50W Max)
Integrated battery: Goal Zero Sherpa 100 AC sold separetely
Ports: 1 2.4 Amp USB-A Port, 1, 3.3 Amp Solar Port in 8mm, 1, 3.3 Amp Solar Port out 8mm
What we liked: can be linked with other solar panels for even greater charging, kickstands to properly orient to sun, can almost fully charge 2 laptops
What we didn’t like: size and weight make best suited for camping, not backpacking
The Goal Zero Nomad 50 is a larger solar charger that also wins our award for Best Solar Charger for Car Camping and Best Solar Charger for Basecamping and our Best Upgrade Solar Charger award. At 50 watts, it’s the biggest and heaviest solar charger we tried. But if we were doing a couple of weeks in a high mountain cirque with fellow adventurers and we wanted to cut battery weight while keeping our electronics charged, this is the charger we’d choose.
Likewise, if we’re powering all the devices a family needs on a week-long camping trip and they don’t want to drain a car or RV battery, we’d turn to the Goal Zero as our solar charger of choice. Similarly, it’s a good choice for road tripping or overlanding off-grid. It could also be used to work a remote aid station during an ultramarathon or adventure race.
COMPARE OF THE GOAL ZERO NOMAD 50
The Goal Zero is an obvious choice for camping and basecamping for other reasons as well. It’s the only solar charger we evaluated that can be linked to other solar panels and the only one that can be attached in a series to provide even greater charging power to a battery power bank.
With solar cells covered in a polymer and the whole unit encased in a durable polyester, the Nomad is like the larger sibling of the three clones (Big Blue, Anker, and Nektek).
Instead of two cells per foldable solar panel, each of its four panels has 12 cells. It has one USB connector that can provide up to 12 watts of charging power, but it also has a Goal Zero solar port connector that allows it to provide up to 50 watts of charging power or connect to other Goal Zero panels. Like the BioLite solar charger, the Nomad also has kickstands to help ensure it’s properly oriented to the sun.
All of those extra features and solar cells add weight and size. Unlike the clones, the Nomad 50 would take up a significant portion of a backpack. Folded up, it’s almost a foot wide and nearly 1 foot and a half tall. That’s roughly the size of an average male’s torso, and it weighs 6 pounds, 14 ounces. Even if it were attached to the front of Frankenstein’s backpack, it would likely drag on the ground like an oddly stiff cape.
But once unfurled and set up in camp, it can provide enough energy to power a laptop and charge a significantly larger battery than the smaller chargers can power. When combined with a Goal Zero’s Sherpa 100AC power bank, it can charge in 6 or fewer hours in good sun. That 94.7 watt/hour battery includes an inverter allowing it to charge AC devices, like those that plug into a wall outlet. It can almost fully charge two 13” MacBook Pros on a single charge, and since it can deliver at higher wattages and voltages, it can provide higher charging speeds.
Interested in camping gear? See our Camping section for our most popular stories.
The Best Solar Charger with Integrated Battery: BioLite SolarPanel 10
Weight: 1 pound, 3.4 ounces
Solar Cell Output Capacity: 10 W
Battery Storage Capacity (mAH): 3,200 milliamp hours
Power Output to Device: 10 W via USB charge out
Integrated battery: Yes, Battery Storage Capacity (mAH): 3,200 milliamp hours
Ports: 1 Micro USB in 1 2.4 Amp USB-A out
What we liked: includes integrated battery that works as power bank, can pre-charge included powerbank, easy to align with sun to get the most efficient charge, designed to reduce overheating (that impacts efficiency)
What we didn’t like: would be more useful if it were 21W and had storage 10,000 mAH
Though the BioLite SolarPanel 10 is the smallest solar charger we tested at just 10 watts, it’s the most fully featured and the only solar charger we tested that came with an integrated battery that works as a power bank. The 3,200 mAh battery is slightly larger than the iPhone 11’s 3100 mAh battery and could provide an iPhone with a full charge. You can also charge the integrated battery power bank via micro-USB. So users can pre-charge it for adventures so they can charge devices at camp even if the sun’s obscured or down when they get there. Indeed, starting every adventure with fully charged devices and auxiliary batteries is key to getting the most out of your electronic charging system in the backcountry.
COMPARE OF THE BIOLITE SOLARPANEL 10
The SolarPanel 10 also has a radically different design than every other portable panel we tested and most others available. All of its solar cells are encased in a ruggedized, dimpled plastic. BioLite says its solar panel design helps dissipate excess heat, which can cause a solar panel to produce less power than it otherwise would.
Like the other small solar chargers we evaluated, the corners feature holes allowing users to attach them to a backpack or tent. But its analog Optimal Sun System, consisting of an analog sundial, as well as its rotating kickstand, play an important part in making sure you get the most from the charger at any given time.
By aligning the shadow of the dot in the middle of the window, you ensure that the device sends as much solar power to connected devices and the battery as possible. The kickstand clicks into place throughout its rotation, making it easy to adjust the pitch of the portable solar panel to get the optimal placement at any given time.
While we found all these features very useful, we found that when first deploying the solar panel, it didn’t want to stay open until after it warmed in the sun a bit. Also, if its ability to absorb sunlight was larger — even in the 21 watt range — and its energy storage capacity was larger, even around 10,000 mAh, it could have been the Overall Winner.
Both the Anker portable charger and Nekteck portable charger fell a little short of the Big Blue, our overall winner (see review above). Either offer a great value, but we think the Big Blue has the most to offer for the money.
Anker 21 Watt PowerPort Solar Charger
Weight: 14.7 ounces
Solar Cell Output Capacity: 21W
Power Output to Device: 21W to device via USB
Integrated battery: No
Ports: 2, 2.4 Amp USB-A Ports
The now discontinued Anker 21 Watt PowerPort Solar Charger may no longer be available, but we think it’s worth putting on your radar for a few reasons. First, it’s a near-clone of the Big Blue (see review above), our overall winner, so it’s a good example of the similarities between solar panels on the market. Second, it is still widely available on sites such as ebay for folks interested in buying a used solar panel.
One difference is that it was slightly smaller and lighter (15 ounces) than the Big Blue. The Anker produced a little less power in a given time in similar conditions, as expected. Its charging pouch also had a hook-and-loop closure rather than a zippered closure like the other clones. It didn’t include an ammeter. Ultimately, even when the Anker was available, we found the Big Blue to be a better choice given the amount of power it generated.
Nekteck 28 Watt Solar Charger
Weight: 1.44 pounds
Solar Cell Output Capacity: 28W
Power Output to Device: 28W via USB
Integrated battery: No
Ports: 2, 2.4 Amp USB-A Ports
Without the branding, from the outside, the Nekteck 28 Watt solar charger is essentially indistinguishable from the Big Blue. our overall winner (see review above). The specs are similar. Opened up, and without the ammeter, they look essentially identical, too.
However, in the end, it didn’t perform quite as well as the Big Blue — even though it uses the same solar cells and design. In relatively similar conditions, the Anker produced 733 mAh, and the Nekteck produced 834 mAh. It also has a claimed weight of 1 pound, 7 ounces — two ounces heavier than the Big Blue.
Understanding solar chargers
There’s a lot to understand about solar power chargers, but at their heart, a small solar panel consists of several photovoltaic cells grouped together to absorb some of the sun’s energy and convert it into an electric charge that you can use to charge electronics.
Modern, commercially available solar cells can harness nearly 25 percent of the sun’s energy that hits them into electricity. You’ll find this in the most efficient foldable chargers. When these cells are combined together into small solar panels, the solar cells can provide enough energy to recharge the batteries in USB devices and they can weigh under a pound, making them a lightweight option for backcountry adventures across the world.
Why choose a solar generator over other choices?
A portable solar charger is a lightweight and more compact means of electricity generation compared with other means of mobile energy generation. This is advantageous when on the trail and in remote locations because carrying multiple batteries and other means of electricity generation quickly becomes cumbersome as you add more energy storage to your pack. After all, no one wants to carry a gas generator — and gas — on their backs into the woods to provide power for all of their electronic devices. And while we’ve seen some portable wind and micro-hydro turbine generators, like the WaterLily Turbine. they’re also cumbersome, if not heavy. Solar panels are among eco-friendly gear swaps to reduce your environmental impact. especially if your base camp would otherwise run on a gas generator.
Solar chargers, combined with a power bank or backup battery pack — particularly those that can accommodate through charging (i.e., charging itself while charging devices) — are the best, lightest way to charge your electronic equipment.
While most adventurers are looking primarily for a portable phone charger, solar chargers can power:
- cameras and camera batteries
- GPS hiking and backpacking watches
- GoPros and other vlogging or podcasting equipment
- two-way satellite messengers and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)
- GPS units
- bluetooth speakers
- wireless headphones
- mountain bike lights
- sonar devices
Anytime you’re out for multiple days or weeks in the backcountry, you’ll likely have electronics that need charging. Solar panels work for camping, boating, climbing, bikepacking, mountaineering, and other activities.
Most mobile solar charging units have at least one USB port, making it easy to charge most devices and batteries people take into the wild. Still, many smaller solar chargers will struggle to provide enough power to charge multiple devices simultaneously.
Yes, Watson, Watts matter (or why watts matter)
The most important thing about a solar panel charger is its wattage. The more watts, the more sunlight the solar panel can absorb and the more electricity it can generate. If you only need to power your own devices and don’t plan on using them continually while on the trail, you may only need to charge them once every few days or even once a week. In that case, a smaller unit like the BioLite SolarPanel 10 with an integrated battery pack is an excellent choice, but the 10 watt foldable solar panel only has one USB port and wouldn’t be powerful enough to charge a family’s devices on a five-day trip.
On the other hand, our Best for Camping winner, the 50 Watt Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel. along with the Sherpa 100 AC battery. could handle the needs of a family on a week-long trip or a group of mountaineers exploring a range out for an extended period. The Goal Zero system is significantly larger, heavier, and much more expensive. But this system with this power bank battery has an AC plug and is the only one we considered that charges devices such as large laptops.
We don’t normally advocate getting rid of gear before its end of life, but in this case, if you have a backup battery or power bank that isn’t chargeable via USB, consider recycling it and replacing it with one that is. Similarly, consider USB chargeable devices like headlamps.
While you can use rechargeable AA and AAA powered headlamps, using one device or cable to charge most of your equipment can simplify your carry. When Intel’s Chief Systems Technologist Ajay Bhatt led the development of USB standards in 1996 and companies started using it, he essentially began a process of universalizing charging and connectivity for all devices. Now, USB technology allows us to easily recharge cameras and GoPros as well as smaller electronics like wireless earbuds.
How we Researched and tested
When researching the best camping solar chargers, we explored websites in the outdoor media sphere, and the tech and science spheres as geeks and gear heads are the most likely to use portable solar chargers to power their electronics.
We chose the models we tested based on reviews and articles we read and analyzed from other reliable sources, including Lifewire, Gear Institute, Backpacker, Wirecutter, The Adventure Junkies, Popular Mechanics, Outdoor GearLab, and others (see Sources). We also looked at verified customer reviews to gather data from professional reviewers and actual users.
How We Tested
We tested these foldable solar panels on multiple days in the field, at campsites, and at home, sometimes even hanging them out of a south-facing window on sunny days of full Colorado summer sunshine. Despite multiple uses and attempts, none of the solar chargers we tested reached the manufacturer’s claimed fully-rated wattages for maximum power output during our tests.
We attached each solar panel to a USB digital tester and various battery packs and other electronic devices we use in the backcountry, including GPS units, Bluetooth headphones, bike lights, headlamps, and more. We attempted to charge our iPhones and iPads directly but found they wouldn’t accept the charge since the power varied too much with the sun and clouds — even on some bluebird days. We found it was better to use them to charge a backup battery or power bank with through charging capabilities and then use that battery to charge our devices while it was charging via the solar panel.
We attempted to test some of the chargers while hiking but found that even though companies place attachment points on the solar chargers to attach them to backpacks, they didn’t perform well in real-world testing that way. We’ll explain why in another section.
We found that the digital USB tester wasn’t as applicable to the Goal Zero and BioLite contenders. This is because we couldn’t connect the digital USB tester to the higher wattage power cord of the Goal Zero, and the BioLite’s solar charge controller and portable battery power bank can provide a more conditioned stream of power from the battery.
When looking for a good solar charger, there are many things to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to determine what you’ll use it for as well as how many devices it will power. Secondly, consider how long you’ll be in the backcountry and how much energy storage and battery capacity you want to carry.
We looked at a wide range of solar chargers and, in some cases, energy storage units (aka batteries). We also came up with some different conclusions than other review sites based on our knowledge and our anticipation of how you’ll actually be able to use a solar charger in the field.
For instance, unlike many other reviews and ‘best of’ lists we evaluated, we firmly recommend using solar chargers with backup batteries. Many high-end electronics like smartphones and tablets require a steady, regulated, or conditioned stream of electricity to charge. It helps limit the amount of damage that a surge or dip in solar power can do to the sensitive electronics inside the device.
Efficiency and power output
Efficiency and power output are two separate, but related, things. Efficiency refers to the efficiency of the solar cells in a panel and also the panel itself. The solar cells in the panel have a higher efficiency than the overall panel as some of the energy they capture is lost in transmitting energy through the wires and electronics of the solar panel. The most efficient commercial solar cells are around 24 percent efficient. A solar panel or charger, however will likely be in the range of 18 to 21 percent efficient.
Power output is measured in terms of wattage or how many watts of energy a solar panel can output. The more efficient a solar panel is means it can output more watts and amps from a smaller area. For charging devices you’ll want a solar panel that’s capable of producing at least 5 watts, however many highly portable solar panels produce up to 28 watts of charging power in ideal conditions. Higher wattages do equal more charging power—however, since most of these solar panels still use USB-A style plugs, they can only produce 2.4 amps of current through those plugs.
Portability and size
The smallest outdoor solar panels we evaluated are 5 watts. These are about the size of a medium tablet, like the BioLite SolarPanel 5. and weigh less than a can of beer. They can produce enough power to slowly charge a smartphone or other device. At 8 inches by 9.75 inches, they’re easy to slip into a day pack.
The largest portable solar panel we tested was the 6 pound Goal Zero Nomad 50. which folds down to just over 17 inches long by 11 inches wide and is well over an inch thick at its thickest parts, making it hard to fit in most backpacks. When set up it folds out to 53 inches wide. It was also the most powerful solar panel we tested and is capable of charging a battery that can charge laptops.
Durability and weather resistance
While these panels will last for years and even decades with proper care, they’re not designed to be left out in the elements like a permanent installation. They are encased in abrasion-resistant fabrics and plastics and are foldable.
The solar cells are encased in impact-resistant plastic and the units usually have an IPX4 water-resistant rating, meaning they can handle water splashes but not much more than that. That shouldn’t be a surprise since the majority of portable solar panels have standard USB-A ports with no waterproof cover.
The majority of the solar panels tested don’t have batteries. The BioLite SolarPanel 5 and BioLite SolarPanel 10 have 3,200 mAh batteries. That’s enough to charge an iPhone 13 or 14 one time. You can also pre-charge these batteries before you leave and use them to charge a device while it’s in your pack or at night and recharge the battery with the sun.
Direct solar charging speed
If the solar panel is optimally placed in full sun it should be able to produce its maximum wattage rating. In these cases, a panel like the Anker 21 Watt PowerPort Solar Charger should be able to provide enough energy to charge 2 USB devices simultaneously at 2.4 amps, the same as many 12-Volt USB adapters used in cars.
Multiple device solar charging speed
In ideal, full-sun conditions a 20 or more watt solar charger with two (or more) USB ports should be able to charge multiple devices at up to 2.4 amps like most 12-Volt USB adapters used in cars. A more powerful panel should be able to charge more, but the device has to be able to handle higher charging amperages like those that use USB-C connections.
Additional features and accessories
The majority of portable solar panels for camping are pretty minimal in terms of features. Most consist primarily of the panel and USB ports. Additional features include a for cables, grommets or loops to attach the panels to a pack or tent, and on some, stands to help keep the panel upright and at the right angle. A few, like the BioLite panels, have integrated batteries and they also have a little sundial that helps users properly orient the panel so that optimum sun hits the solar cells.
When it comes to accessories, there are two main accessories you can use with the solar panels, cords and batteries.
We highly recommend using these with a backup battery rather than plugging a Smart device directly to them. Some Smart devices limit the speed at which the devices can charge when dealing with a variable power source, like a solar panel. Backup batteries, however, can better harvest the variable currents flowing from a solar panel.
Price and value for money
The price of basic solar panels isn’t very high, about 67 for our Best Overall pick, the Big Blue 28W USB Solar Charger. If you have an existing backup battery and know you’ll be camping out for days and need extra power for your electronics when camp is set up, it’s a decent investment. If you’re hoping it’ll power your devices while strapped to the outside of your pack and hiking, you’ll be displeased. Despite advertising photos, even in sunny Colorado where we tested all the devices, these panels weren’t great at delivering power consistent enough to charge devices while hiking with them on a pack.
Integrated Battery or Power Bank
Unlike many other reviews and ‘best of’ lists we evaluated, we firmly recommend using solar chargers with backup batteries. Many high-end electronics like smartphones and tablets require a steady, regulated, or conditioned stream of electricity to charge. It helps limit the amount of damage that a surge or dip in solar power can do to the sensitive electronics inside the device.
In addition, carrying a pre-charged backup battery or power bank and a way to easily charge all your devices when you’re in town or your vehicle can reduce the amount of charging you’ll need to do on the trail. Pre-charging or recharging a backup battery or power bank via the wall or your vehicle will almost always be faster than charging via a solar panel.
The other two models we evaluated cost more. The BioLite, which is only a 10 watt solar panel, retails for 150. However, it’s also the only solar charger we tested with an integrated battery (sometimes called a portable solar power bank). It also has a kickstand, and a unique but simple mechanism called the Optimal Sun System, which helps orient the charger to get the maximum amount of sunlight available. It’s also unique in that it’s encased entirely in plastic.
The Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel. our winner for Best Solar Charger for camping (see review above) had the highest wattage of any unit we tested at 50 watts and was the most expensive unit we tested at 250. It was also the largest and heaviest, but it is the only one that can provide a charge at a higher wattage and voltage.
With panels this small, when the skies are gray, don’t expect much power output. The 50 watt, Goal Zero Nomad 50 should still produce enough energy to trickle-charge a smartphone but smaller panels will slow down to producing very small amounts of power, suitable only for trickle charging a backup battery.
Portable Solar Generator Pack for Outdoor RV/Van Camping, Emergency
A Recent Customer Review:My order arrived promptly, neatly packaged, looking exactly as pictured. I received a note from the company before I received my order, thanking me for my business another upon receipt, to make sure everything arrived as I expected. I appreciate this fine customer service highly recommend this company Customer: J. Glenn
SOLAR GENERATOR SET UPGRADE
- You can pair the Explorer 1000 with 2 SolarSaga 100 solar panels to gain endless power directly from the sunlight. upgrading into a Solar Generator 1000 set.
PICK YOUR WAY TO RECHARGE
- Solar panel with 126W input wattage max within 6.5 hours(0-80%)
- Wall outlet with 163W input wattage max within 5.5 hours(0-80%)
- Car outlet with 80 W input wattage max 11.5 hours(0-80%)
PROTECTED LAYERS OF TECHNOLOGY
Guarded by Battery Management System:
- Over-current Protection
- Short-current Protection
- Over-discharge Protection
- Over-charge Protection
- Over-voltage Protection
- Thermal Protection
Q1: How to know the working times for my device?Why does the duration of some devices deviate from the actual usage data?
A: Working time = 1002Wh 0.85 / operating power of your device. The duration of our equipment is based on laboratory data, and the duration of specific equipment usage may vary.
Q2: What devices can Explorer 1000 power?
A: Please note that the AC output port can only charge/power devices that operate at less than total 1000 Watt.
Q3: Does Explorer 1000 include a built-in MPPT controller?
A: All Jackery power stations have a built-in MPPT controller.
For power saving, Explorer 1000 portable power station will be turned off automatically in 12 hours when being drawn under 10W power.
Due to the big size of Jackery Power Stations Solar Panels, PO Box address can not be accepted.
E1000 can not be used as UPS.
|1002Wh (46.4Ah, 21.6V)
|3110V, 1000W (2000W peak)
|2USB-C ports with PD, 1USB-A port, 1quick charge 3.0 port
|DC 12V, 10A
|8mm DC, 12V~30V (200W Max)
Small Generators Aren’t As Good As Solar For Emergency Preparedness (Part 3)
This article is the third part in a three-part series. You can find Part 1 here.
This All Sounds Pretty Scary. I’ll Probably Just Die, Right?
Solar storms, EMP, hackers, sabotage — yeah, those are frightening things. Going for years without power is even more frightening when you think about it. With a long enough outage, you could lose access to indoor plumbing (water and sewer), medical care, internet, phone, and even having food on the shelves at the local store. Generators powering all of this eventually run out of fuel, and if the trucks can’t get fuel (both refineries and gas stations use electricity), nobody is getting anything from stores until supply chains can adjust or recover.
So, yes, electricity is obviously only going to be a small part of any plan your family would need to be prepared for this. Food, water, shelter, and other things all need to be planned for, but those are beyond the scope of this article. Ready.gov, the US government’s official disaster preparedness information site, does recommend the following for major disasters:
- If you are able to, set aside items like soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfecting wipes, and general household cleaning supplies that you can use to disinfect surfaces you touch regularly. After a flood, you may not have access to these supplies for days or even weeks. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets. Obtain extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment.
- Being prepared allows you to avoid unnecessary excursions and to address minor medical issues at home, alleviating the burden on urgent care centers and hospitals.
- Remember that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases and slowly building up supplies in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips. This helps to protect those who are unable to procure essentials in advance of the pandemic and must shop more frequently. In addition, consider avoiding WIC-labeled products so that those who rely on these products can access them.
In other words, your starting point is to prepare for 2 to 3 days of needs with a basic kit you can use indoors or take with you in case of evacuation. Then, start preparing for longer times without basic needs a little at a time as your household budget permits. Try to pick canned foods with longer shelf lives and rotate them into your normal household meals to keep things fresh. You can also pick up boxes or buckets of food with even longer shelf life specifically for emergency food storage if you have some extra money.
It’s also fun to get into hobbies that are useful in emergencies, like amateur radio, wilderness survival, and camping, and if it’s legal where you live and you’re not personally opposed to it, firearms. It’s also good to work with people in your community and local officials on these things to make sure everyone is better off in the event of an emergency.
So, no, you don’t have to die if something truly awful happens. Just do what you can here and there to slowly build up preparedness.
Taking Care Of Electrical Needs Without A Gas Generator
Home solar and battery setups have a lot of big fans, and many of those fans will excitedly tell you all about getting solar panels, a Tesla Solar Roof, or Tesla Powerwall. I’ll get to those in a minute, but I think it’s better to start small. Not everyone owns their own home, and not everyone who owns their home can afford to do all of that.
I’d recommend starting with portable power stations, also known as solar generators. These battery banks can charge from any source, including solar panels, car cigarette lighters, or a wall plug in your house. Smaller ones can charge from any USB-C charger, too. For emergencies, you can keep one charged up in your home and ready to go. I don’t personally recommend leaving them plugged in 24/7, though, as a solar flare or an EMP attack could fry them through the grid. Sitting unplugged, they should be safe.
Most of them can be carried with you in case of evacuation, and even the smaller ones can power essential medical devices like a CPAP machine overnight.
Here’s a few I’ve reviewed here at CleanTechnica:
Picture by Jennifer Sensiba.
Joyzis BR-300 Portable Power Station: Good for up to 300 watts, with a 300 watt-hour battery. Normally 279, but there’s a special on them until December 21st where you can get them for as little as 150. Features that set this apart: built-in lantern and wireless charging plate.
Jackery Explorers 300 and 1500. Picture by Jennifer Sensiba.
Jackery Explorer 300: Good for up to 300 watts, 300 watt-hour battery. 299. Features that set this apart: small size, better display than Joyzis, compatibility with other Jackery solar panels.
Jackery Explorer 1000: Up to 1,000 watts of power, 1,000 watt-hour battery. 999. Can power some appliances, like a refrigerator, small heater, small air conditioner, or toaster oven, but it’s bigger and heavier.
Jackery Explorer 1500: This is the biggest one I’ve personally tested and used in an emergency. 1599. CleanTechnica’s Kyle Field did a more in-depth review of the unit here. It can do 1800 watts continuous, but can only do that for about an hour (1500 watt-hour battery). This one can power microwave ovens, space heaters, saws, and many other high-draw devices, or run smaller things for a long time.
With any of these, you’ll need solar panels to charge them up during long outages. The Jackery models work best with Jackery’s solar panels, but there are aftermarket panels that can charge them, too. I personally use a 60-watt folding solar panel with my Jackery Explorer 300 because I wanted both to fit in my backpack with my radio gear.
My recommendation is to pick up a large one for your home or to carry in a car, and a small one to carry in a backpack in case of evacuation.
A photo from the time I used my EV as a power supply for my house. Photo by Jennifer Sensiba.
Another great option is to use an EV as a power supply. After all, an EV has a huge battery, right? I did this in a pinch by tying into my Nissan LEAF’s 12-volt battery with a cheap power inverter. The LEAF is supposed to provide up to 3000 watts this way, but I’ve read that Tesla vehicles can provide up to 2500 watts. Some EVs and hybrids come with their own built-in inverters to give you 120 or 240 volts for a house or jobsite, making them an excellent option, too.
When it comes to home solar and battery storage to power your whole house indefinitely, that’s something you’ll need to work with professionals on. But not all home solar-battery systems are built to withstand something like the Carrington Event or a nuclear EMP disaster. The solar panels and batteries themselves won’t be harmed by such things, but the long wires coming in from the utility company and the wires feeding solar power into the house are points of vulnerability.
Protecting from these threats is possible. Hardened inverters are available, and you can have EMP protection (this would protect from solar flares as well as nuclear attacks) installed on the lines coming in from the utility company. It’s also good to have shielded wiring used to connect solar panels to the inverter and batteries, properly terminated and grounded to direct solar flare or EMP energy away from your home and safely into the ground.
No Doom Gloom Required
If there’s anything you should take away from this article, it shouldn’t be doom and gloom. Renewable energy gives us hope. Before we had solar power and today’s battery technology, you really were at the mercy of the power company in emergencies unless you had a generator and fuel. With solar power and batteries, you can keep your family safe and comfortable for years. This is something we should be excited and happy about!
I don’t like paywalls. You don’t like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don’t like paywalls, and so we’ve decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It’s a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So.
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The 7 Best Solar Generators for RVs: A Review and Comparison
You’re looking to jump on the solar generator bandwagon, but you’re not sure where to turn. You’ve come to the right place.
If you’re new to solar energy and attempted to read about DIY solar generators for RVs to no avail, or you’ve bought a solar generator but are ready for an upgrade—this post is for you.
Identifying the best solar generator for your RV can be a challenge! With so many plug-and-play options on the market, let’s walk through the seven best solar generators for RVs.
Our Top Picks
Ultimate Expansion CapabilityDELTA Pro by Ecoflow
Best Entry-Level High Output OptionBluetti AC200Max
Best Solar Generators for RVs
Read about each of the generators on our list, and don’t miss our downloadable comparison chart and buyers guide below!
Anker PowerHouse 767
The Anker PowerHouse 767 comes with HyperFlash technology for charging from 0% to 80% in just one hour. It’s our best solar generator for RV enthusiasts because of its record-breaking charging speeds, expansion ability, and low cost per Watt-hour.
When you upgrade to the Expansion Battery bundle, the system cost comes in at just 0.73/Wh which is very competitive and doubles the capacity of this system.
|4096 with 760 expansion battery
Anker provides bundled configurations that include their model 531 Solar Panel rated at 200W.
- Five-year full device warranty included
- Power up to 12 devices—2400W includes an exclusive RV port, four AC ports, three USB-C charging ports, two USB-A charging ports, and two car outlets
- Wheels for power to move this solar generator with ease
- Regular firmware updates resolve most issues reported by customers and expect future updates to continue optimizing this solar generator
- Anker is a trusted brand known for its excellent customer support
- AC charging cable, battery-to-host cable, car charging cable, and solar charging cable included with accessories bag
The award-winning DeltaPro Solar Generator is our runner-up best solar generator for RVs, which comes with a mega expandable system that can grow from 3,600 Wh to 25,000 Wh with extra batteries and/or other EcoFlow Smart Generators. You can purchase expansion batteries for less than a dollar per watt-hour!
EcoFlow’s DELTA series was named in TIME’s Best 100 Inventions of 2021 and won the 2022 Red Dot Design and IF Awards.
|7200 with expansion battery
|3500 2800 = 6300
EcoFlow sells multiple solar panels compatible with the Pro, including the 400W Portable Solar Panel and the 220W Bifacial Foldable Solar Panel.
- Five ways to charge—EV station charging, solar, wall outlets, Smart Outdoor Generator, or 12 v auto adapter (included)
- Easy-to-read LCD screen or EcoFlow app allows you to view and control charging time
- Can be charged in 1.7 hours with a 3400W EV charging station
- Includes wheels for easy maneuvering
- Regular firmware updates
- Five-year warranty
- AC charging cable, car charging cable, DC5521 to DC5525 cable, and handle cover included
- Level 2 EV adaptor is not included, and you may need an adapter to connect with a mobile EV charger if your EV charger doesn’t have a standard AC plug
If you want to dip your toe in the water of solar generators for your RV with some ability for expansion, we think the Bluetti AC200Max is the best solar generator for you. It can be expanded for less than a dollar per watt-hour.
The solar generator comes with 16 outputs to suit your electrical needs. A 30A NEMA TT-30 port and a 12V 30A DC port are included with RV fans in mind.
|5120 with B300 expansion battery
|1700 2000 = 3700
Bluetti’s most popular solar panels to pair with the AC200MAX include the 200W PV200 and the 350W PV350.
- Bluetti is known for its excellent customer support
- Easy to set up and run for buyers new to solar generators for RVs
- Mobile app available for reading display
- 24-month warranty
- The solar and cigarette lighter use the same port, which makes the cigarette lighter port unusable while charging with solar
The ALLPOWERS S2000 is our best solar generator for RV for those on a budget because has a significant amount of power for less than a dollar per watt-hour!
It’s an extraordinary budget solar generator for RVs with a 30-A plug-in, and it has 12 outputs. The power station has 2400 wattage with a surge of 4000 wattages.
The ALLPOWERS SP037 400W Portable Solar Panel is an ideal panel to pair with the S2000 for a fast charge or consider the 200W SP033 solar panel if you’re ok waiting a bit longer to charge.
- Five-year warranty
- Fully recharged in 1.5 hours using a wall outlet with included 1500 AC adapter and 3 hours using MPPT 650W max solar input
- Remote control with a phone app
- 10 years of battery life
- The ALLPowers brand regularly has coupons and sales on this product, so keep an eye out for deals to save
Jackery Explorer 1000
You won’t find a Best Solar Generator for RV list without a Jackery model. Jackery has been a fan-favorite solar generator brand for a long time.
The Jackery Explorer 1000 is a trusted unit that will allow you to power 90 percent of appliances. This power station can be charged in six hours with 100W solar panels or 5.5 hours via an AC wall charger.
Without a 30A AC plug, this solar generator isn’t ideal for plugging in your entire RV, but you could still plug in directly with a 15A to 30A adapter.
You can mix and match Jackery’s SolarSaga solar panels to match your charge speed and budget requirements. Jackery has multiple panels in the lineup including a 200W panel and a 100W panel. For an ultra-fast 1.8 hour charge, Jackery bundles the Explorer 1000 with four of their 200W SolarSaga panels, and they also offer a lower-cost bundle that includes the Explorer 1000 with two 80W SolarSaga panels.
- Quiet and strong— little to no noise
- Features industry-leading cylindrical batteries that meet UL Safety Standards
- Jackery is a popular and trusted solar generator brand
- Jackery often has coupons available for this product, so keep an eye out for deals
- AC adapter, car charger cable, and SolarSaga Parallel adapter included
- The display backlight does not have the option to stay on permanently, and it is difficult to read without the light
Goal Zero Yeti 500X
Goal Zero is another brand known for its best solar generators for RV. The Goal Zero Yeti 500X is a small option that is suitable to power your laptop or other smaller devices. It’s small size will allow you to tuck it out of the way when not in use.
The Goal Zero 500x pairs well with either the Nomad 50W, 100W or 200W panels.
- Lightweight and portable—only 12.9 pounds
- Trustworthy brand known for its humanitarian roots and giving back to disadvantaged communities
- Compatible with Goal Zero Light-A-Life for bright LED light (not included)
- Long charging time; expect 10 hours with a wall or USB, and 12-14 hours with solar or buy the Goal Zero X 600 W Power Supply to cut charge time down to five hours
- Relatively expensive when considering its cost per watt-hour in comparison to other solar generators for RVs
The Anker 521 is the best solar generator for RV enthusiasts who need a small charge. If all you need to power is your laptop or a lamp, the Anker 521 is a solid choice.
It comes with six ports, including two AC ports, two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, and a car outlet. Charge it up in two hours with a wall, or four hours with solar energy.
You can get the Anker 521 bundled with a 100W panel, or mix and match separately.
- Anker is a trusted brand
- Long-lasting battery built to last over a decade
- Smart temperature monitoring control system to prevent the device from getting too hot
- Anker’s worry-free five-year warranty
- Lightweight—only eight pounds
- Solar panels can be purchased as a bundle or separately
- Only 200W output, so definitely not intended for powering large appliances
- Solar panels not included, but they can be bundled with your purchase
Best Solar Generators for RV Buyer’s Guide
Keep reading for details on everything you need to know to make the best buying decision you can.
Comparison Chart of the Best Solar Generators for RVs
The following table compares all the important features you’ll want to consider when buying the perfect solar generator for your RV. Download a copy for further reference.
Amount of Power You Need
The first step in determining the best solar generator for your needs is to make a list of every item you want to power. This will help you determine exactly how much power you need.
This chart will give you a general idea of how much power electrical items use in RVs.
To understand this chart, you must understand the difference between rated watts and surge watts.
Rated watts, also known as running wattage, are the amount of electricity required to run the electronic continuously. Surge watts, also known as starting wattage, are the additional wattage needed for two to three seconds to start the electric motors normally found in appliances like fans and refrigerators.
|Rooftop Air Conditioner (15,000 BTU)
|Electric Water Heater (6 gals)
|4 Light bulbs (75 W)
|Microwave (635 W Power)
|850 – 1250 W
|850 – 1250 W
|19” Color TV
|50 – 200 W
|Satellite Dish Receiver
|Cell Phone Charger
|5 – 25 W
Capacity is expressed in Watt-hours (Wh). When considering the best solar generator for RVs, the cost of a solar generator is generally associated with the capacity of the generator.
Higher capacity solar generators can go longer without charging the unit either in the sun or, if the sun isn’t shining, plugging it in. The power that can be pulled out from the device usually corresponds with the capacity of the device.
This is the capacity you need to power your whole RV successfully without having to charge constantly. The absolute best solar generators for RVs will be in this range or will be able to be expanded to it.
You will find that most of the best solar generators for RVs in this range can be expanded to much larger power ranges using expansion battery systems.
These systems can occasionally power your whole RV, and some of them include a 30A AC output (ideal for plugging in your RV), but you will need to charge more often.
You won’t be able to plug in the whole RV, but this will allow you to run some small electronics like a laptop, a television, lights, or simply charge your phone.
The best solar generators for RVs can be expanded, allowing you to increase your generator’s capacity to power devices and the time needed between charges.
Total Outlets and Ports
If you have many items on your list to power, you need to be certain you have enough outlets and ports (and the right type) to power your devices.
The most common ports are AC outlets (30A and 15A), USB, USB-C, and automobile auxiliary power plugs (car chargers or cigarette lighters).
Weight and Portability
You want to consider the weight and portability of your solar generation for an RV. Think about how easy it will be to pack it up when it’s time to hit the road. Portability is the number one consideration when researching the best solar generators for RVs.
Review the portability features when selecting the best solar generator for RVs. Some solar generators include wheels for easy maneuvering. All of the best solar generators for RVs list their weight in the product description.
If you’re camping solo, you want to make sure you will be able to move your generator on your own. If not, you will need to plan on asking for help or bringing a second set of hands.
Charging speeds vary for RV solar generators and rely on the power source. They can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 48 hours to charge. The following factors will impact the charging speed of your RV solar generator:
- The capacity of the solar generator
- Number of solar panels
- Sunlight available to convert to solar power
- Solar panel positioning
Note that solar generators can be charged via outlets if no sun is available. Many campers choose to bring a backup generator for this scenario.
When the sun is hidden behind clouds or you need your RV solar generator charged faster than the sun allows it to charge, you want to have plenty of additional charging options. The most common charging method alternative to solar is charging it with the 110V AC output wall plug-in.
12V auto adapters (car/cigarette chargers) are popular accessories the with best solar generators for RV, and USB-A charging is also possible on some solar generators.
Modern charging methods are becoming more popular on newer models of solar generators. USB-C chargers, for example, are lightweight and charge faster than solar energy.
Some new and innovative RV solar generators come with EV hookups, which are becoming more popular as solar energy takes off. Depending on the EV charger, though, you may need to buy a separate Level 2 EV adaptor, like in the case of the DeltraPRO EF EcoFlow.
Some of the best solar generators for RVs are available bundled with solar panels, but not all of them. If your solar generator does not already come with solar panels, you will need to buy some. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most solar generator manufacturers also make solar panels that are guaranteed to work with your solar generator.
Solar panels can be expanded upon using Y-branch cables. You do want to be careful when mixing and matching solar panels, though.
Carefully consider the electrical parameters of each solar panel. If the panels have different characteristics, you could end up with a performance issue. Solar panels should have the same wattage output for optimal performance.
Lifespan and Warranty
Portable RV solar generators have a lifespan of about 10 years, with the solar panels having a 25-year lifespan. There are steps you can take to increase the lifespan of your investment because if you use your generator often and don’t maintain it, it may fail sooner.
Regular maintenance includes wiping down dust and debris with a soft cloth. Inspect the battery for residue, and always consult your manual for specific maintenance tips.
Store your RV solar generator in a cool, dry area when not in use. Avoid exposing it to extreme cold or heat.
Do not overcharge your battery or float charge your battery. Overcharging the battery shortens its lifespan. Float charging refers to always leaving a charger on your battery so that it’s continuously at 100%.
Cycle your battery to avoid your battery having too low or too high of a charge for a long time by using 25 percent of your battery’s capacity, then charge it back to 50 to 75 percent. Do this at least every six months.
Check to see if your solar generator comes with a warranty before you buy it, and don’t forget to fill out any required paperwork for the warranty to go into effect.
The number one complaint buyers often have for solar generators is they’re difficult, if not impossible, to return. Most solar generators for RV are made from lithium-ion batteries, which opens up a wormhole for those wishing to ship them, either to return them or mail them to someone else as a gift.
UPS and FedEx have strict rules on lithium-ion batteries, which can make it difficult to ship them. It’s important to do your research first before buying your best solar generator for RVs, and it’s best not to plan on shipping a solar generator to your friend on the other side of the country.
Best Solar Generators for RV Frequently Asked Questions
Can you run an RV solar generator continuously?
It’s possible assuming you have enough sunlight and storage capacity. You must generate and store more electricity than you consume to be able to run an RV solar generator continuously without charging.
Can RV solar generators be used at night?
If your RV solar generator is charged, yes. How long it will last throughout the night depends on the battery length and the amount of time you charged it during the day. Prepare for night hours every day by keeping an eye on what time the sun sets so you can charge your generator accordingly.
Are solar generators noisy?
Solar generators do not have any moving parts, so this allows them to run in silence. Other than being better for the environment, their quietness is something that makes solar generators so appealing to RV owners. The last thing you want to hear while relaxing in the wilderness is a noisy generator.
The best solar generators for RVs are not noisy, though some complaints have been made about the devices used to charge them when not using solar energy.
Do solar generators require much maintenance?
They require very little maintenance to stay in top-notch shape. Other than regular dust removal, checking connections, and removing moisture, there’s not much maintenance required. However, since you are spending thousands of dollars, you want to keep your solar generator in tip-top shape.
The best way to keep your solar generator in excellent condition is to have it inspected by a professional electrician who offers generator services. Corrosion is the number one issue with backup generators, caused by moisture getting into the battery banks.
Do I need to purchase an inverter for my solar generator?
Though unlikely, if your solar generator does not have AC ouptut(s), then yes, you will need to buy an inverter.
Solar panels produce Direct Current (DC) power, and the appliances in your RV run on Alternating Current (AC). An inverter inverts the DC power to AC power, allowing it to power your appliances in your RV.
Note that the best solar generators for RV units come with built in inverters, but should you end up buying a unit that does not come with one or you need to buy an extra one, pay attention to the wattage capacity when selecting an inverter. The Giandel Power Inverter has an integrated solar charge controller, 12V input, and supports up to 1200 Watts output.
Wrapping up the Best Solar Generators for RVs
Now that you know all about the best solar generators for RVs, you’re ready to make the best of solar energy.
The Anker PowerHouse 767 will charge for you in just an hour, though the DeltaPRO EF Ecoflow 3600Wh has some innovative features. One of the solar generators for RV on this list is certain to meet your needs!Before you go, read about the Best RV Heater for Winter Camping.
Posted on Last updated: March 30, 2023
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