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In recent years, the popularity of camping, hiking, and trekking has grown leaps and bounds. In turn, there are now more gadgets available than ever for these outdoor experiences and with a good portable power supply, you can really rock your next camping trip.
Gone are the days when you needed gas-guzzling generators to power cell phones and other devices. Technology is a marvelous thing; we now have more options to carry a portable solar power for various tools, including:
Many of these camping supplies come with a USB port and batteries that can be easily charged with solar power and portable power systems.
So, if you have planned your next adventure to last for more than a night, you will likely need a reliable power source.
In this guide, we will talk about:- Portable solar panels and generators that will keep your camping gear running
Now, before getting started, let’s take a look at the stats first.
According to the North American Camping Report from KOA, the number of American families who have gone camping has been steadily rising over the past few years. In fact, 62% of people went camping in 2018!
Why do so many people love to go camping?
Well, there are plenty of reasons why camping is a great time - the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, eat s’mores and hotdogs around the fire, and see and experience the outdoors.
But if you ask a group of camping fanatics what their favorite part of camping is, you will most likely hear that it is the time they get to spend in nature without the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
According to this same study from KOA, the vast majority of campers agreed that the best part of the trip was the opportunity to relax and escape the stress of everyday life. Even 52% of teenagers who camped agreed that it was an opportunity to disconnect from technology and spend time with friends and family!
For many of us, camping is one of the greatest opportunities to step away from the stress of work and life.
While camping is one of the best ways to “get off the grid” for a bit and connect with nature, our lives in the modern age really do rely on electricity for many things – there’s no way around it!
For example, although it might sound like a great time to turn off your phone for a couple of days, it’s best to have a charged cellphone in case of emergencies.
Many of the devices you need for safety and convenience rely on a power source as well. If you are going for multiple days, you will want some items that will keep your food at a safe temperature, cook them properly, or heat up water for a quick shower.
Make sense, right?
Plain and simple, access to a power source while camping is one of the best ways to make your excursion more comfortable, safe and fun for the entire family.
For example, being able to charge your phone over a multi-day camping trip can save you a lot of hassle when it comes to staying in contact with friends and family, sharing pictures on social media, or using GPS services.
You may also want to keep your kids entertained after dark too, such as with a laptop or iPad to play games on - and it’s always nice to be able to turn on a lantern light when “nature calls” in the middle of the night. Or, why not get a little crazy with it and set up a movie theatre in your tent with a TV projector! What kid wouldn’t like a movie night in the great outdoors?
Whether you are a total beginner when it comes to camping or a wilderness expert, you may have wondered what type of portable power supply system is best. In the past, most people either relied on a stack of extra batteries or a fuel-powered generator system for power during their camping adventures.
However, there are some clear downsides to these options. Yes, that’s true.
Batteries can be extremely heavy and bulky – plus you need a variety of different sizes depending on the devices you are using. Fuel-powered generators are also incredibly heavy and large. Fuel can be pricey, and you always need to make sure that you have enough on hand or keep heading to the gas station to restock.
Most importantly, fuel-powered generators and batteries are very wasteful.
No one wants their relaxing break to turn into a hunt for more juice! After all, you came to the outdoors to relax and experience nature. Don’t ruin the moment with loud generators buzzing and the exhaust of gasoline in the air!
Camping should be a way to see the world and all of its beauty. Switching to portable, sustainable electricity is the best way to preserve it.
While there are plenty of power options available, one of the best ones for campers is solar power. If you take a search online, you will see that many are promoting solar powered camping gear to keep the lights on and ensure their devices are fully charged during their trips – and for good reason.
So, let’s break down everything you need to know about these portable power sources for camping and all the purposes they serve.
Solar power has seen a fascinating evolution over the past several decades.
While the concept of solar energy seems to be quite futuristic, scientists have actually been studying solar power since the 1800s. The first photovoltaic (PV) cell that was able to transform sunlight into an electric current was built back in 1883 - but the more modern design that we use today was created in 1954.
Solar panels started to become more commonplace in the 1970s and 1980s on businesses and homes. As a result, the prices of solar-powered equipment dropped significantly, making this green energy source far more accessible.
Today, there are enough panels in the United States to power 12 million homes entirely with solar energy!
States like California have done a lot to promote the use of solar energy. In fact, the state government unanimously upheld the decision that requires solar panels on new homes up to three stories – starting in 2020.
As technology improved, manufacturers were able to make solar panels that were small and lightweight - but still powerful. In 2015, the first flexible solar panel was created – it is the same thickness as a single sheet of paper but 20% more efficient than traditional models!
This has led to major improvements in portable solar energy sources. People can now keep their devices charged without having to plug into traditional energy sources.
The bottom line?
The future of solar energy is looking very “bright”.
If you take a look at solar charging gear, you’ll see that there are two main parts of portable solar power systems: panels and generators.
In a nutshell, solar panels collect energy from the sun’s rays and turn it into electric current; generators can only store the energy and supply it to electronic devices.
Solar panels are made up of special materials that collect UV rays.
They contain special PV cells and are covered with a plastic or glass surface. These panels must be angled towards direct sunlight in order to capture the most energy possible. You’ll often see these panels on the roofs of houses and buildings.
As solar technology has improved, panels are now able to collect a good source of power in a very small package – making them great for travelers and campers. But, portable solar panels are much more powerful than you’d expect.
These portable panels are super small and lightweight - you can easily move them around while you set up camp. They also require no installation (unlike the panels that are installed on rooftops) and you do not need any specialized knowledge or training to use them to capture solar energy.
You can also purchase a foldable solar panel for easy storage and transportation. These types of panels are quite small (typically between one to two feet in length) and come in a tri-fold arrangement so they can be stored easily without damaging the panels themselves.
These portable, foldable panels are often fairly light, with many weighing just a couple of pounds.
Now, it’s important to note that these portable solar panels are certainly nowhere near as powerful as the large panels you see on rooftops. But, they can gather enough to power devices or be used as a backup battery option.
There are plenty of smaller, highly portable solar energy systems available that are the perfect addition to your camping gear list – so you don’t need to lug around a huge panel on your camping trip.
Small solar panels of power can generate enough electricity to charge cell phones, run a camping lantern, recharge LED lights and power up camera batteries. This makes them a great choice for campers who need a bare essential source of energy.
However, the ideal amount of power needed depends on the type of device you are charging – so be sure to double check and understand which size solar power system you need for your camping trip.
Generally, it is better to have a higher wattage panel so you are able to store extra energy for later. Larger systems will also allow you to keep devices charged even in less than perfect sun conditions.
Solar powered generators store the energy collected by the panels and supply power to other machines, such as a charging station for your phone.
Most portable solar generators and panels come with a USB port or power outlet so you can attach your device to it while it generates energy from UV rays. Panels can also be used to charge generators that will store the energy for later – similar to a power bank or portable cell-phone charger.
You can purchase solar generators separately from your panel – meaning you can carry the storage battery for use on the go. Portable solar power sources sometimes come with both a panel and generator as a bundled package.
For a multi-day camping excursion, you’ll need to purchase portable solar panels to keep a generator charged up. A 150Wh solar generator takes about 11 hours connected to a solar panel to receive a full charge. You’ll need a fairly large panel system (minimum 60W) and good sunlight to recharge this type of portable generator.
Depending on the wattage of the devices you plug into the generator, the uncharge can last varying amounts of time. To give you an idea, if you have a generator that provides 150Wh, plugging in devices that use 25W will deplete the generator in about six hours. Whereas if connecting high consumption devices with total use of 100W, the generator will last about hour and a half. Good news are standard iPhone charger consumes only 5W.
One of the greatest benefits of solar energy is the fact that it is renewable, safe, and clean, unlike many other energy sources.
Camping is an opportunity to spend time in nature. The products and tools you bring into the wilderness should work to preserve it, not disturb it!
In the past, campers had to rely on propane or gasoline-powered energy sources - like loud, obnoxious generators.
As you could probably guess, gasoline generators are not a safe or eco-friendly option for power.
A generator that runs on gasoline or propane emits carbon monoxide, which is bad for both nature AND your health. Generators need to be run outside and away from any structures because of these harmful fumes – so you cannot keep them running inside of a tent or camper.
Gas-powered generators are bad for the environment for several reasons.
First of all, fossil fuels are NOT a renewable or clean energy source. The abstraction process alone has proven to be extremely bad for the planet - and does no favors in the fight against global climate change.
Fossil fuel generators can also be quite dangerous to use in wooded areas or grassy fields.
If the generator is not set up properly or misfunctions, it can potentially start a forest fire. Furthermore, if any fuel is accidentally leaked, it can do serious damage to the terrain, ecosystems, and water sources.
Another unsavory option many campers turn to for portable power is their car battery to charge up their phones or other devices. While this can work in a pinch, it can be quite expensive over the long run - as you burn through gasoline to keep the engine running and ensure the battery doesn’t die on you!
You also run the risk of potentially overheating your engine. No one wants to be left stranded in the middle of nowhere with a broken-down car.
Solar powered energy sources eliminate these dangers entirely – there are no harmful fumes, no fossil fuels to burn, and no risk of compromising your car!
They are also much easier to operate than these other types of power sources and can be easily transported if you move campsites.
Portable solar power systems are ideal for spending time in nature, as they will not disturb the surrounding environment. There is no risk of causing a fire, damaging plants, or polluting water supplies! Additionally, solar panels and generators do not make any noise that could disturb your peaceful excursion.
And the best part?
Solar panels can save you all kinds of money!
They are just a one-time purchase and many of the portable camping options are quite affordable - starting at just $60 for the smallest versions.
Plus, you don’t have to keep buying fuel or worry about running out during every trip. Solar power supplies often require little maintenance and will last you for years to come.
Not only will solar energy reduce your carbon footprint; it will reduce the cost of camping!
Every good camper knows the key to a successful trip is having the right supplies without over packing. Having too much gear can slow you down, especially if you are backpacking for part or all of the trip. But not having enough or the right type of gear can make camping a totally miserable experience.
If this is your first time planning a camping trip for your family, you probably have a checklist of camping gear that you want to bring with you. Apart from the essentials, you may be wondering what type of electronics are really worth bringing along.
Oftentimes, people prefer to bring electronics that provide convenience or entertainment, such as an iPad to keep the kids occupied or a lantern that lasts overnight as a nightlight. But for these, you will want a portable power bank that can charge everything you need.
To make room for your other supplies, you will need a charging system that is small and lightweight for easy transportation, especially if you are planning on doing some hiking.
You also want to have a reliable and multipurpose system that can work for ALL of your supplies. It’s not enough to just bring a pack of batteries or an external charger for your phone - as these charging systems can only be used for one device at a time.
Solar charging systems are the perfect option as they are extremely versatile and convenient. Unlike fuel-powered generators and battery packs, solar panels and generators are totally safe to keep inside of your tent, camper, or RV.
Most portable power supply systems are light enough to move around easily and carry in a backpack. If you have several panels or a larger system, you can hook it up to the roof of an RV, camper, or vehicle.
But portable solar energy sources are not just for camping trips!
They are great to have on hand in the scenario you get stuck without a place to charge your phone. There are even some small solar panels that can be draped over a backpack so you can stay charged!
This means you can keep your devices charged on the beach or while traveling to a new city without having to stop and charge up.
Solar power systems are extremely versatile in that they can charge multiple types of devices - as long as they have the right connection piece (such as a USB port or a plug). A fully charged 150Wh solar powered generator or portable power bank can keep items like iPads, phones, drones, cameras, GoPros, USB fans, or other common electronics powered for hours!
Obviously, there are numerous benefits to using portable solar power systems.
But while we’ve touched a lot on the advantages of solar powered camping gear, it’s important to go over the downsides to this type of energy, too.
One of the biggest disadvantages to portable solar generators and chargers is the fact that smaller systems do not provide excessive amounts of power.
The smaller the solar panel is, the less energy it can convert. Shoddy portable options often deliver fairly low voltage. If you shop on a cheaper end, a small portable solar panel with a built-in converter will provide enough energy to keep a phone charged, but that’s about it.
If you want to charge a lot of devices (such as everyone’s phones, a camera, and a couple of lighting fixtures), then you will probably need to purchase several panel systems or a larger solar portable generator.
Furthermore, solar panels are extremely dependent on the weather.
If it rains or the sky is overcast and cloudy, you can’t efficiently recharge the generators through the solar panels and you won’t generate as much power as you could on a sunny day.
Higher voltage generators and battery packs typically require up to 11 hours of solar energy to charge, so if you are not in an area with direct sunlight (such as in a thickly wooded forest) or the weather is not cooperative, it could take a bit longer.
Some solar generators are also quite sensitive to extreme temperatures. They are not made for camping in super hot or cold environments. This means that taking it to the desert in the middle of the summer or on a cross-country skiing trek is not recommended.
And of course, like any other electrical power system, it is dangerous to use near bodies of water or in rain.
The panels themselves are waterproof (which is why they can be installed on the roofs of buildings), but the generators are not. Contact with water would result in malfunctions or a potentially dangerous electrical shock or spark.
You will need to safely store your portable solar power system if you get stuck in the rain to keep the electrical components dry.
Hence, while opting for portable power, it's important to understand pros and cons of portable solar power
In order to decide which portable solar panel and generator system is best for you, you must first figure out how much power you actually need.
This will be dependent on several factors.
If you are planning to camp in an area that has a lot of amenities, you may not need a large system. However, if you are going into the middle of the wilderness with just a tent, then it may be quite convenient to have a larger energy system to make the trip a little bit more comfortable.
You can probably get by on an overnight trip with a small portable power system that keeps your phone charged and be totally fine. But, if you are going for several days or weeks, then you want to be sure that you have a large solar panel to collect enough power for all of your necessary devices.
Finally, you are wise to whittle down your list of electronic devices to only the most necessary.
Sure, bringing a nice camera, a GoPro, and a drone will allow you to capture incredible photographs during your trip – but all of these devices require a lot of power to keep them fully charged.
Decide what is most important so you aren’t overloaded and too dependent on powering up while you are on your trip.
Let’s go over some of the best solar panels on the market, ranging from small to medium to large.
If you just need to have your essential bases covered (such as charging your phone or a GPS battery) or you are looking for a small and highly portable solar panel for personal use, the 14W Foldable Solar Panel Charger is the best choice.
This provides enough power to charge one device via USB port, and it folds up so you can easily carry it with you wherever you go. This device is perfect for single charges for items like:
This model can easily be laid out over your backpack or bag while you are walking around. Or, you can set it up at the beach or on a picnic table while you grab lunch. This smaller version is probably the most convenient - as it takes up very little space, weighs less than a pound, and is very affordable.
However, this can only charge one device at a time through a USB port. Moreover, it generates a relatively low amount of power, especially if the sunlight is not directly shining onto the panels.
Keep in mind what you need to charge and be realistic. If it’s just a phone or a small handheld device, this system definitely gets the job done!
If you’re looking for something with a little bit more power, then consider a 25W Foldable Solar Panel Charger.
This type of system is a better choice for an overnight or 2 to 3-day camping trip for one to two people. It comes with dual USB Ports and high efficiency panels for boosted energy conversion, so you can easily charge two devices at once.
This system can provide charges for devices like:
Don’t worry though – this larger system won’t weigh you down!
It still weighs less than 2 pounds for easy transport and storage. You can fold it up and stick it in a standard size backpack or duffel bag to bring it with you wherever you go.
The larger portable camping power stations that provide the most power are the most ideal choice if you are bringing the whole family or plan on camping for several days.
The good news is there is still no need to compromise on versatility or convenience with a larger solar charging system!
You can opt for a 60W Foldable Solar Panel Charger that comes with three USB port connections – meaning you can charge multiple devices at the same time. This system is equipped with a DC output, which allows you to charge larger devices - like laptops.
It is also able to fold up easily for storage, making it a great choice for smaller families or groups that need a decent amount of power during their camping trip. This power system can power multiple devices, such as:
If you need to maximize the amount of power you generate from a solar panel system, your best option is to go for the 100W Foldable Solar Panel Charger.
Such solar panel charger comes with four solar panels that can easily be folded up and placed in your backpack or vehicle. You can charge multiple devices simultaneously on this system, and the panels are created with monocrystalline silicon for higher energy conversion rates and faster charging times.
This system is optimal for powering multiple devices, such as:
Both of these larger systems will give you a lot more power to keep multiple devices charged - while still being lightweight enough to travel with.
The 60W panel weighs 8.8 pounds while the 100W is just over 10 pounds, both come with 3 USB ports and DC output.
Camping is a fantastic opportunity for you and your family to be in nature - rather than be connected to WIFI or watching TV. But it doesn’t have to mean that you are totally disconnected from technology!
Having electronic devices can make camping trips far more comfortable, convenient, and safe. Plus, it allows you to capture lots of memories on devices like your phone and camera to record your adventures.
By using portable solar panels for electricity, you can rest assured that your electronic devices will stay charged up for multiple uses throughout your camping trip.
There are so many benefits to using portable solar charging systems - as they allow you to have safe, green energy sources that are powerful and still easily transportable and convenient.
Portable solar power should definitely be something to consider bringing along for your next excursion. There are plenty of options out there to keep small and large devices charged - even while you’re in the middle of the wilderness, enjoying the peace and quiet of nature.
Have you used solar power while camping? Do you have anything you’d like to add? Please let us know in the comments!