Energy is the greatest concern of modern industry and communication. Our planet currently is home to almost seven billion people, and they all want reliable energy for their basic needs, as well as for more recreational purposes.
How can we keep up with this massive demand for energy? There is more than one way to answer the question. The long-term answers are provided by solar energy.
No Outlet Necessary, No Lack of Power
Portable solar panels are collections of photovoltaic cells contained in a small housing package, usually strong plastic. They react with sunlight to produce a certain amount of electric current.
This current is sufficient to recharge most commercially available batteries. These small solar panels give their owners a fairly reliable source of free energy, although cloud cover can be a problem.
The most likely candidate to benefit most from a portable solar panel would be anyone who regularly uses a portable electronic device while out in public, unable to access the electric power they pay for at home.
The Technical Details for a Successful Power Up
A basic understanding of electronic power is necessary for you to make the best purchase you can.
Try to think of the technical terms of wattage and voltage in comparison to plumbing: water pressure is equal to voltage, the electric current (or amperage) is the flow speed of the water, and the size of the pipes holding the water is equal to electronic resistance (or ohm). The end result that you are after is the wattage, which is voltage times amperage (flow speed of water times water pressure).
As you can imagine, amperage and wattage are the main elements you will look at when making your purchase.
Another factor that has to be considered is weather. If you work in a high precipitation zone like Scotland or the Pacific Northwest, you will need a panel that works fast. Spend the money for high output panels that employ monocrystalline solar cells.
Solar cells use two basic types of solar cells: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Polycrystalline cells are not as efficient as monocrystalline, but they are less expensive.
Our Top 10 Portable Solar Panels List
When considering the range of products and prices available for portable solar panels, finding the item that is best for you could become a daunting task.
Following is a list of our top 10 portable solar panels to help you decide on a product that is right for you.
1. Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase
While not a true lightweight at almost 28 pounds, this solar panel packs a big punch. With two 50W panels creating a 100 watts output and excellent low light production, the Renogy can be counted on for quick recharging or simple high power operating capability.
- The charge controller works with LCD display and fully adjustable settings
- The stand and handles are corrosion resistant aluminum, making this a durable product for outdoor use
- Low-voltage system avoids electric shocks while providing maximum power output
- Bulk is a problem. These units are three inches thick, 20 inches long and 27 inches wide. Not a product for backpackers.
- No waterproofing on the controller unit
Max power: 100W
Max Voltage: 18.0V
Weight: 27.5 lb
Size: 19.9” x 8” x 2.8”
Efficiency & Durability:
Renogy has constructed a great power generator with this product, but the bulk of the item means it is not for backpackers. Ideal for setting up in a base area.
With its durability, power output and simple structure, these panels are ideal for outdoor construction or large groups of travelers. You can find this product here
2. X-DRAGON High Efficiency 20W Solar Panel
X-DRAGON is fairly new on the scene, but numerous rave reviews make it worth a look. This little gem of a panel shows why. Though not a powerful package, the high efficiency of this panel is no joke, and it is competitively priced to outmatch similar products.
- Lightweight, small and compact
- Dual ports with 5V2.4A max
- An excellent solar cell is undercut by extreme claims to efficiency – the panel is highly efficient, but solar power has not yet reached the level of 25% efficiency
- Not intended to have add-on capability
- A 12-month warranty does not compare to similar warranties offered for similar products
Size: 23.3 x 12.1 x 0.12 inches unfolded
Weight: 1.6 lbs
Capacity: 5V2.4A Max, 2 USB ports
Efficiency: 22% - 25%
Efficiency & Durability:
Not as well protected as large panel in a metal case, the durability of this small plastic device is reasonable, considering the price. The manufacturer has over-rated the efficiency of the panel.
An inexpensive package perfect for backpackers who need a panel that is easy to use. The product ships quickly and you can find it here:
3. Go Power! GP-PSK-120, 120W Portable Folding Solar Panel
- Heavy-duty storage cases provide outdoor protection
- Monocrystalline cells ensure good low-light capability
- Heavy duty means lots of weight, not for backpackers
- LED lighting on controller makes for difficulties when setting up
4. RAVPower 15W Solar Panel
- Very snug design, lightweight and highly flexible
- High efficiency means quick work: in bright light, this unit will recharge some devices in under 40 minutes
- Nylon packaging does not provide great durability
- Does not deal with cloud cover very well, shutting down if light conditions drop for a significant amount of time
5. Anker 21W 2-Port Solar Charger
- Compact design makes for easy storage
- Powerful panel makes recharging easy and fast
- Extensive warranty and good customer support
- Slightly heavier than most 21W panels
- Highly limited compatibility issues - it will not work directly on iPhones. It also requires a battery bank to charge incompatible devices
6. Vinsic 22W Portable and Foldable Solar Panel
- Dual charging feature not easily matched by any other solar panel
- Fine compatibility with all digital devices, including iPhones, tablets and other USB items
- Much better warranty than usual, at 18 months
- Heavier than most comparable portable solar panels
- When unfolded, not a conveniently portable device
7. ALLPOWERS 100W Bendable Solar Panel
- Only 6 lbs. of weight for 100W of power. Amazing.
- Capable of charging larger electric units like boats or RVs, as well as smaller devices
- Flexibilty feature allows it to adapt to unusual positions
- Efficiency traded off for flexibility and weight
- Average durability and warranty
8. ECO-WORTHY 100W Portable Folding Solar Panel
- Vulnerable to low light problems
- Slower recharging rates in general
9. Suaoki 60W Portable Sunpower Monocrystalline Folding Solar Panel
- High powered, but not really enough power for a RV or boat
- Extremely fast and efficient power source when applied to small or mid-sized items
- Great waterproofing in the design
- High performance reflected in price
- Somewhat oversized for hikers
10. AspectSolar EP-60 Portable Solar Panels
- Very lightweight for the 60W of power offered
- The charge controller employs Maximum Power Point Tracking to offer safety and efficiency in regular usage
- Excellent warranty for the size, at five years
- Too heavy for hikers, but not strong enough for larger batteries
- Limited information provided by manufacturer
Solar panels are highly productive, producing energy and paying for themselves fairly quickly.
Our Conclusion of the Top Solar Chargers