Best Portable Solar Panels of 2021: reviews & buy guide
With the United States now home to millions of solar panel installations, more Americans are reducing their carbon footprint than ever before, including those in tiny houses and RVs.
While portable solar panels are a great alternative solution for “on-the-go” homes, we know how difficult it may be to find a high-quality solar panel that’s also compatible with your specific needs. Keep reading for the best portable solar panels and what they’re most suitable for.
|Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel||
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|Rockpals SP003 100W Foldable Solar Panel||
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|Renogy 100W Solar Panel||
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|Zamp Solar Legacy Series 180w Portable Solar Panel Kit||
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|Jackery SolarSaga 60W Portable Solar Panel||
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|ROCKPALS RP082 100w Portable Solar Panel||
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|Newpowa 50w Solar Panel||
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|ACOPOWER 120w Panel with ProteusX Charge Controller||
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|PAXCESS 120w Portable Solar Panel||
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|ACOPOWER 100w Foldable Solar Panel Kit||
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|Nekteck 21w Portable Solar Charger||
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Portable Solar Panel Reviews
Not sure where to start? We’ve got the best portable solar panel reviews for you below.
With a reputation dating back to 2012 and well-rounded features, we’re naming the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel as the best overall option for the year. This model is better equipped to handle extreme temperatures than the average solar panel, with an operating range reaching 140°F.
However, keep in mind that it’s not waterproof, so you’ll need to store it somewhere safe during rainy weather.
This panel tests at an above-average conversion rate of 23%. It is an excellent option for people living in hotter climates and anyone who relies on solar panels while they camp.
When combined with the Jackery Explorer 1000, two of these SolarSaga panels can charge it for up to eight hours. Plus, set up is quick and easy, as shown in this helpful video by Jackery:
To cap everything off, this model uses durable ETFE material, which will extend the panel’s lifespan while making it lightweight and easy to transport.
2. Rockpals SP003 100W Foldable Solar Panel: Best Budget Pick
- Weight: 5.1 pounds
- Dimensions: 64.5 x 20.5 x 1.2 inches when unfolded, 20.5 x 14.2 x 2.6 inches when folded
- Includes: 1 Rockpals 100W solar panel, 10 DC connectors, 1 MC4 cable, and a user manual
- Warranty: 24 months
Suppose you’re looking for portable solar power that won’t break the bank. In that case, you may want to consider the Rockpals SP003 100W Foldable Solar Panel. This budget-friendly panel is foldable, so when you’re done, you can easily transport and store it away.
Another perk is that this panel is compatible with most solar generators on the market, except for the Jackery 440. There are four different size connectors to choose from. The charging currents on the USB ports even automatically adjust according to sunlight levels.
Although it is not entirely waterproof, its durable Oxford cloth makes it water-resistant. So, even if it manages to get a little wet, it’s unlikely that this foldable solar panel will be damaged.
If you prefer a solar panel that’s easy to stack or store, the Renogy 100W Solar Panel is the one to go with. In fact, this panel’s compact shape makes it a great choice for people with RVs, who may have limited space. RV owners looking for stacking capabilities can get the most out of this panel by combining it with a RV solar kit.
To mount the panel, use the pre-drilled holes on the back of the panel. Securing it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
The compact panel is for more than just convenience. The multi-layered sheet laminations can actually enhance the lifespan of the panel as well as the cell performance.
If you’re worried about the Renogy solar panel’s lifespan, the company offers a five-year warranty which is more than enough assurance.
4. Zamp Solar Legacy Series 180w Portable Solar Panel Kit: Best Portable Solar Panel Kit
- Weight: 44.4 pounds
- Dimensions: 39.5 x 21.5 x 3.1 inches
- Includes: A 180W solar panel, 15-amp charge controller, 15-foot cable, and nylon carrying case
- Warranty: 25-year output warranty
Although many of the options on this list only include the actual panels, some people may prefer to buy a solar panel kit like the Zamp Solar Legacy 180W series. We named it our best portable solar panel kit due to its longer lifespan and high performance.
Not only is this kit capable of 180 watts, but the 15-amp digital controller that comes with it can help you monitor how much power you’re using.
You don’t need to worry about buying separate gear for the installation, either. This kit comes with everything you need, including a carrying case. If you’re frequently traveling or taking this kit with you on a camping trip, the carrying case makes it easier to transport and protect it from the elements.
However, this kit might be a little heavy to lug around.
Some solar panels may market themselves as “portable,” but transporting them can be a hassle if they weigh fifty pounds or more. At hardly over three pounds, this Jackery SolarSaga 60W Portable Solar Panel is the best lightweight option. There’s a handle on the side of the panel that makes it more convenient to carry.
While it can’t produce as much power as the 100W Jackery panel, it is great for anyone who doesn’t need as much power. The integrated kickstand on the panel also makes it easier to prop up, so you can find the best position possible.
Along with the actual panel, you also get a 3-meter extension cord, which may be perfect for anyone hooking up the panel outdoors.
- Weight: 10.3 pounds
- Dimensions: 17.32 x 14.57 x 2.17 inches when folded, 68.11 x 17.32 x1.18 inches when unfolded
- Includes: 1 100W Rockpals solar panel, a 4-in-1 cable, a parallel adapter cable, and a user manual
- Warranty: 24 months
Very few of the best portable solar panels on the market perform as well as the Rockpals RP082 100W does. With a conversion efficiency that tests at 23.5%, this panel is capable of generating more energy.
This is an excellent choice for anyone who needs a high-performing, quick panel. Besides better performance, the panel can also charge your electronics four times faster than conventional models can.
If you’re worried that it’s not picking up enough sunlight, all you need to do is adjust the angle of the kickstand. And, if it happens to rain, the durable Oxford cloth on the panel ensures that it won’t get as damaged.
The foldable design makes it easy to carry or store away if you’ve got limited space in an RV or tiny house.
If you want a waterproof panel that protects against poor weather conditions, the Newpowa 50W solar panel is a great choice. While it may not produce as much wattage as some of the panels on this list, it does come with an IP65 waterproof rating.
Not only does that make this panel resistant to water, but if you’re camping and get caught in high winds or snowy conditions, the Newpowa solar panel should still be fine. The compact design of this product makes it a great option for charging RV or boat batteries as well as security cameras, lights, or even gate openers.
The installation on this panel is also easy and comes with pre-drilled mounting holes, although you will need to purchase the mounts separately.
- Weight: 10.1 pounds
- Dimensions: 22 x 17.3 x 0.8 inches when folded, 56.7 x 22 x 0.2 inches when unfolded
- Includes: 1 120W solar panel, LCD controller, alligator clamps, 2 MC-4 connectors, 1 carrying case
- Warranty: 1-year warranty
Looking for a solar panel that you can set up easily? No need to look any further than the ACOPOWER 120W Panel. You can set this up in as little as two minutes, thanks to the pre-installed wires, easy Velcro opening, and three standing legs.
This model also comes with a ProteusX Charge Controller, allowing you to protect the battery and make the most of the impressive conversion rate of 25%, one of the highest in the market.
With this panel, there’s no need to worry about overcharging or overloading your electronics. The panel has a smart IC chip that maximizes charging speed but won’t overload those devices once they’re fully charged.
The charging currents on the USB ports also monitor sunlight and adjust to fit changing sunlight levels.
While this solar panel kit comes with quite a few accessories (such as those alligator clamps and an LCD controller), you get a suitcase to carry it all in; to protect fragile parts from the elements.
If you need a little bit more power than traditional 100W panels, the PAXCESS 120W Portable Solar Panel is perfect. This high-performing panel works great for unexpected power outages, whether you’re caught in bad weather on the road or in your home. You’ll have unlimited power of supply, but you can still stay off the grid.
The charging speed on this panel is actually two times faster than most traditional solar panels. It works great for everything from batteries to tablets and laptops.
While the PAXCESS panel seems just as large as a conventional panel, it folds up for convenience. Just fold it up, and it’ll store fine in small, tight spaces.
- Weight: 33.1 pounds
- Dimensions: 19.69 x 25.6 x2.9 inches
- Includes: 1 100W solar panel, charge controller, alligator clamps, 2 pairs of MC-4 connectors, and a pair of Anderson connectors
- Warranty: 18-month workmanship warranty and 25-year 85% output warranty
The ACOPOWER 100W Foldable Solar Panel Kit is the choice to make if you’re looking for an uncomplicated and hassle-free solar panel. One exciting feature that comes with this solar panel is its corner protectors.
One exciting feature that comes with this solar panel is its corner protectors. When traveling with a solar panel, it is easy for the panel to get damaged, especially corners that may be sitting on the ground.
These corner protectors keep the most fragile part of the panel from touching the ground or getting dirty. Part of its design makes the panel foldable, so it’s a lot easier to transport if you need to.
If you’re worried about the panel rusting or corroding over time, the sturdy aluminum frame helps prevent this.
There are also two handles on the back that slide out as a kickstand so that you can get the optimal angle in the sun.
While the extra accessories that come with this panel make it a little heavier, it’s still relatively lightweight as far as solar panel kits go at 33 pounds.
If you’re not looking to rely on a solar panel all the time but you’d still like to have one around for easy charging or unexpected power outages, the Nekteck 21W Portable Solar Charger is about as portable as you can get.
Not only does it fold up, but this panel is small enough to fit into a backpack while you hike or a small bag when you travel. The microchip technology on the panel recognizes when you plug electronic devices into the USB ports and can charge two devices at the same time.
While you probably won’t be charging large batteries like RV or boat batteries, this solar panel should work fine for most phones and tablets.
The canvas surface on this panel helps it withstand harsh weather conditions, and the polymer cover also guarantees IPX4 waterproof-level protection.
How to Choose the Right Portable Solar Panel
With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to find the best portable solar power, especially if you’re unsure where to begin. The best portable solar panel kits come with specifications about wattage, conversion rates, and even flexibility, but what do these factors mean?
Here are a few factors to consider before purchasing a portable solar panel:
One critical factor to consider with any solar panel, especially portable solar panels, is wattage. Sciencing notes that,
…manufacturers assume an average available solar energy of 1,000 watts per square meter.
However, most portable solar panels won’t have that much wattage. Still, it’s not unusual to see portable panels with everything from 20W to 150W. That said, many ask, “What can a 100W solar panel power?” Usually, 100-watts can handle anything from a laptop to a router or the lights in your home. If you want to power large batteries, like your RV or boat battery, you’ll want to go with a higher wattage.
However, if you’re only looking to charge your phone, tablet, or laptop while you’re traveling, you can easily settle for a more affordable panel that’s only 20W or 50W.
It’s not a requirement, but usually, the higher the wattage, the bigger you can expect your panel to be. A 20W panel might be able to fit in your backpack, but you’ll probably need to pack a 100W separately or carry it in a suitcase.
Keep in mind that even if your panel has a high wattage, it may not always be able to produce that much energy. Depending on how much sunlight there is and your panel’s conversion rate, a portable solar panel doesn’t always reach maximum efficiency.
The most significant difference between conventional and portable solar panels is just like the name suggests: portability. Traditional panels may be installed or set up on a roof and aren’t meant to travel.
For those that may have RVs, tiny homes, or just frequently traveling, a conventional solar panel is not a convenient option.
Portable panels are typically much smaller and easy to transport. Still, not all portable panels may be as convenient as they advertise.
Not only should you look for a panel that’s less than fifteen pounds, but check to see if the panel folds up or comes with a carrying case. Some portable panels do fold up, so they’re easy to store when you’ve got limited space and may even be small enough to stick into a bag or backpack.
Warranties are good to have for any product, but they’re specifically important for portable solar panels. Frequent traveling can cause wear and tear on your portable panels, but if you have a 2-year or 5-year warranty to back it up, you’ll have a lot more peace of mind.
On top of 1-year or 2-year warranties, many portable solar panel manufacturers also include longer output warranties. This helps to ensure that your solar panel continues to perform up to 80% or 85% of its original ability for up to ten, twenty, or twenty-five years. If it doesn’t, you can get a replacement for free.
Before you buy, double-check to see if the manufacturer includes a standard warranty as well as an output warranty.
When shopping for a portable solar panel, you may see specs about the energy conversion rate or efficiency, but what does this mean?
According to the Solar Technologies Energy Office,
The conversion efficiency of a photovoltaic (PV) cell, or solar cell, is the percentage of the solar energy shining on a PV device that is converted into usable electricity.
However, not all the sunlight that reaches a solar panel will be usable. With most commercial panels, it’s normal to see a conversion efficiency of only 15% to 20% (3).
For portable panels, aim for a conversion rate that’s over 20%. Portable panels with conversion rates of 21% or 23% (or higher) tend to be the most effective.
Higher conversion rates are a good feature for anyone, but it is especially great for people who travel or live in climates with unpredictable weather. When it’s cloudy or even rainy out, you’ll get the most out of your solar panel if it’s got a high conversion rate.
Type of Portable Solar Panel
In addition to considering wattage or efficiency, it’s also important to understand what type of portable solar panel you want. There are three main types of solar panels: monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels, and thin-film solar panels.
Monocrystalline solar panels have a purer composition of cells because they’re cut from the same crystalline silicon ingot (4).
As a result, monocrystalline panels tend to be a little more efficient and perform better in higher temperatures (5).
Many people opt to get monocrystalline portable solar panels, but they’re not always as affordable.
Polycrystalline solar panels, however, use solar cells that come from different pieces of silicon. While the manufacturing process is less expensive than monocrystalline panels, their blended composition means they’re slightly less efficient. Poly solar panels still work good as a portable option and tend to be more budget-friendly (6).
Some experts categorize thin-film solar panels as polycrystalline. However, thin-film solar cells are typically made of other materials and can be 350 times thinner than poly- and monocrystalline alternatives, making them ideal for portability. Unfortunately, they have the poorest-quality performance with a typical conversion efficiency of 7-18% (7; 8).
Yes, you can mount a portable solar panel on your roof, but most portable panels aren’t designed to handle changing weather conditions. One bad rainstorm could damage your portable solar panel, so it’s not a good idea to mount it outside.
Even if it can handle poor weather conditions, many portable solar panels don’t come with mounting technology. So, if you do plan to mount your panel, you’ll need to purchase mounting tools separately. Most people set up their portable solar panels when they’re using them, and then store them away until they’re ready to use them again.
If you require more power than a portable solar panel can provide, you might need a solar generator. For instance, if you’re relying on your solar panel to power your entire RV or tiny home, you may need more power than a 100W or 150W panel can provide.
In some cases, you might need a foldable portable solar panel. Some portable panels come with the option to fold them up, while others just include a handle for transportation.
Although a portable solar panel doesn’t have to fold, this feature can be convenient for various reasons. When you’re carrying the panel, folding it up makes it a lot easier to carry, especially compared to wide panels that just have handles. Many of the panels that have higher wattages are capable of folding.
Sometimes, you might need a kickstand for your portable solar panel. This is useful if you only plan to use your panel occasionally.
Most of the time, solar panels need to be tilted at any angle to achieve their maximum efficiency. While they’ll still soak up the sun, if they’re laying flat, you may not see the same performance as you would with a kickstand. If you can, aim to get a kickstand that allows you to change the angle, so you can adjust the amount of sunlight it’s receiving.
In rare cases, a portable solar panel can hold up in the rain or snow, but it’s not usually recommended. While portable panels won’t do as great in pouring rain or blizzards, they can handle some extreme weather conditions.
Many panels use a protective material or coating that makes them water-resistant or even waterproof. If you happen to leave your portable solar panel out in the snow or the rain, it might hold up, depending on the model. However, too much extreme weather could affect the panel’s long-term performance or damage the solar cell structure.
- The Output Watts of Solar Panels. Retrieved from: https://sciencing.com/output-watts-solar-panels-6946.html
- Solar Performance and Efficiency. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-performance-and-efficiency
- Photovoltaic energy factsheet. Retrieved from: https://css.umich.edu/factsheets/photovoltaic-energy-factsheet
- Crystalline and Polycrystalline Silicon PV Technology. Retrieved from: https://astro1.panet.utoledo.edu/~relling2/teach/archives/6980.4400.2011/20110224_PHYS_6980_4400.pdf
- Monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels | American solar energy society. Retrieved from: https://ases.org/monocrystalline-vs-polycrystalline-solar-panels/
- PV cells 101: A primer on the solar photovoltaic cell. Energy.gov. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/articles/pv-cells-101-primer-solar-photovoltaic-cell
- Thin-film solar panels | American solar energy society. Retrieved from: https://ases.org/thin-film-solar-panels/
- Polycrystalline Thin-Film Solar Cells and Modules. Retrieved from: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/old/4610.pdf
Hi, Im Dara. Born and raised in Farmingdale NY and I spend my time online covering alternative energy news and local developments,in the space. My mission is to help more people realise the benefits of using alternative energy. When i’m not blogging about energy you’ll find me walking my dog, working out, or practicing meditation!