Even when you want an authentic, rustic wilderness experience, it’s sometimes desirable, or even necessary, to have electricity. Whether you want to power lights, heaters or fans, entertainment devices, or jump start your car with a dead battery, sometimes electricity is simply necessary. Portable solar panels are a fantastic way to provide power anywhere you need it.
These kits are compact and allow you to gather the energy of the sun when you are traveling off-grid, and use it to power lights, electronics, stoves, and other necessary items. Many portable solar panel kits are even temporary, designed to be set up when needed at a campsite, and then packed away at the end of the trip.
Top 5 Portable Solar Panel Kits For RV
It’s a good idea to have solar panels for RV use, even though an RV charges its own batteries when driving and is often parked in camps with power pedestals available. When unplugged and non-driven, the batteries on an RV slowly drain over time, and having a backup power source may be necessary. A portable solar panel kit is an excellent backup system for the battery on an RV or trailer. It is much more powerful than your solar phone charger that is meant for recharging your phone or use it as an emergency flashlight.
A portable solar panel kit for camping can be an important safety item, and not just a luxury. In an emergency, it may be necessary to power electric lights or communication devices. While camping is all about connecting to nature, you still don’t want to compromise safety. Solar power is becoming more accessible, with prices lowering and installation becoming simpler, so it’s a great time to start using this free, renewable energy source.
Portable Solar Panel Kit Buyer’s Guide
A portable solar panel kit connects your RV, trailer, or campsite to a free and renewable energy source. Solar power is safer and quieter than a generator and doesn’t require fuel to operate. It’s a fantastic solution for your off-grid power needs, and a great investment in your long-term safety and comfort when traveling.
When shopping for a portable solar power kit, it’s helpful to know what kinds of solar panels you will most often find on the market. Solar panels are generally made from a few different materials, with different features.
Monocrystalline solar panels are the familiar dark panels we have come to expect. They have a high efficiency rating, a high power output, and are the most durable. They are slightly less sensitive to high temperatures than other materials. These features make monocrystalline solar panels the most expensive.
Polycrystalline solar panels are blue and have a speckled look. They have slightly lower efficiency than monocrystalline panels, and a shorter lifespan, particularly when exposed to high temperatures. However, they are accordingly slightly less expensive.
Thin-Film Solar Cells are easy to produce, less expensive, able to withstand high temperatures, and are flexible. This flexibility creates more options for installation, but the trade-off is that they are generally larger than crystalline panels and have a shorter lifespan.
How to determine what portable solar panel kit is right for your needs
How much power do you need?
There are portable solar panel kits designed specifically to simply top-up the battery of an RV or camper, and larger ones intended to meet your daily power needs. Measure how much electricity you need from your solar panels, so that you can make the right choice.
Do you need a battery, an inverter, or a charge controller?
If you are using your solar panels to charge the battery on an RV or camper and drawing power out of the vehicle with internal power outlets or a cigarette lighter, then you may not need anything else.
However, as your power usage grows, you may need an extra deep cycle solar battery to store the power generated by the panels during daytime, and then a method of making that battery power available for your needs. This is often done with an inverter that turns DC power from a battery into AC power for devices. With added batteries, you also need a solar charge controller to protect it from overcharging because your panels can generate much higher voltage than your batteries can handle.
If you are using your solar panels directly to power outlets in an RV or camper, without routing power through the battery, you may need a transfer switch. Think about the entire flow of electricity in your system, from the solar panel all the way to your phone, heater, or coffeemaker.
Where is the best place to install the solar panels?
Many of these systems are designed to be installed on the roof of a camper or RV. Remember that if you do that, you will need to park in the sun, in order to expose the panels to the most daylight possible.
If you plan on simply placing the panels in the sun, remember that you will need enough cable to run from the panels to your battery, and that the longer the cable, the less power is transmitted through it. It’s preferable to keep the panels as close as possible to the battery, so that the power drop through cable resistance is minimized.
Pay attention to durability
While solar panels that are designed for permanent installation at a single site can be a bit more fragile, solar panels intended to travel with you, move frequently, and be connected and disconnected often, need to be much more durable. Pay attention not just to the quality of the panels, but of the quality of the frame, and the materials and quality of cables, clamps, and connectors. You need rugged durability in all the components of your portable solar panel kit, just like you need for all your other gear.
Finally, any portable solar power kit will require some basic electrical knowledge in order to install it correctly. Even though these kits come with instructions and support, it’s important to know the difference between positive and negative terminals, how to connect fuses, the role of inverters, etc. Electricity can be dangerous, so if you have doubts about your ability to install a portable solar power kit correctly, consult a professional.
Portable Solar RV Kit Reviews
1. WindyNation 100Watts Solar Panel RV Kit
2. Renogy 100Watts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit
Renogy offers a monocrystalline solar starter kit, with a system expandable to up to 400 Watts, should your needs grow over time. This kit has everything you need for a first-time installation, down to the nuts and bolts, and is designed for people new to solar power. It is designed to be an RV portable solar power kit, installed on the roof of an RV or camper, and not designed to be as truly portable as some other solar kits.
People love how well it works and how easy it was to install and operate. Many people opt to purchase a mount (sold separately) that allows the panels to be installed at a tilt, instead of flat, in order to get a better angle for the sun, and to allow snow, rain, and leaf debris to slide off the panel rather than block it.
3. ECO-WORTHY 120Watts Folding Solar Panel
This ECO-WORTHY solar panel kit is so portable it even packs into a suitcase with a sturdy handle. With a pre-installed controller, and pre-wired for charging a 12V battery, this is truly a plug-and-play portable solar panel, ideal for remote campsites or emergency power needs.
This system isn’t expandable, because it isn’t intended to be permanently installed and serve long-term power supply needs; it is designed for portability and versatility. Easy to set up anywhere and immediately start charging a (not included) battery, this is a great solution for temporary or emergency needs.
4. ALLPOWERS 100Watts Flexible Solar Module
This highly efficient solar panel from ALLPOWERS is lightweight and flexible, able to bend up to 30 degrees. The light weight and flexibility makes it ideal for installation on irregular surfaces, or on the side of a tent or on top of a canvas awning.
This is only for the solar panel itself, you will need to purchase solar wiring, cable connectors, and a controller separately in order to utilize this solar panel. People are displeased with the durability of this item, claiming that it quickly loses efficiency or stops working altogether, but it might be a great solution if you need solar panels that are very low weight.
While many campers and outdoor enthusiasts rely on traditional gas generators for their power needs, they are loud, require fuel, and can have toxic emissions. Ultimately, they are harmful for the environment, and disturb the peace that is a key benefit of spending time in the outdoors. It’s time to leave gas generators behind and adopt green solar energy. Nowadays most portable solar generators allow you to charge it up with solar panels too. With so many options to choose from, it should be easy to find a portable solar panel kit that meets your specific needs, whether you frequently boondock, are a traditional outdoor camper, or just want an emergency backup power supply for your RV or trailer.
Remember folks, don’t just buy the cheapest one you can find from your Google search. While all those we have talked about are truly top notch, you still want to pay attention to their specs so you buy the one that best suits your needs. You want to pay attention to the size, the power capacity, the various output types, durability, and accessories that come with the kits. We recommend our number one pick Renogy Solar Starter Kit because it is affordable, easy to install, and well constructed for mobile and any stationary applications. If you just need to keep your phone charged up, you shall consider these lightweight portable solar chargers instead.
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