The Pros and Cons of Solar-Powered Camping Gear

THE ULTIMATE CAMPING GUIDE TO PORTABLE POWER

Solar power has come a long way in recent years. It has become a lot more portable - and eco-conscious campers across the world are taking notice! We’re seeing a fantastic trend of more and more outdoorspeople electing to use solar-powered camping gear.

With a passion for the outdoors, we also have a responsibility: to use eco-friendly practices that are as useful to us as they are harmless to nature. Thankfully, modern technology has equipped us with some amazing gear that can be powered by the simple, pure energy of the sun. 

As many campers are turning to solar for sustainable power that is harmless to the environment – it doesn’t come without its pitfalls. Let’s talk about the benefits (and drawbacks) of using solar-powered camping gear on your next adventure. 

Pros

1. Renewable Energy Source

We’ll start with the most obvious benefit: solar-powered camping gear is a 100 percent renewable energy source. That means it’s completely sustainable and inexhaustible, unlike fossil fuels, which are limited. 

Additionally, solar-powered devices do not emit any greenhouse gases, even while they power or charge your favorite electronic devices - like tablets, phones, lamps, and even generators. Even better - using energy from the sun is totally free, so your wallet benefits just as much as the environment does! 

 

2. Lightweight and Convenient for Camping 

Most solar devices are easy to bring with you on trips due to their lightweight features and relatively small sizes. 

For instance, if you were to bring a traditional fuel/gas portable power station on your trip to juice up your devices, you’ll be strapped with a lot of extra weight.

Additionally, traditional generators are difficult (if not impossible) to fit in backpacks. They’re not very convenient if you’re hiking into a campsite. In most cases, the fuel/gas generators are more ideal if you’re car camping or have an RV.

On the other hand, solar-powered chargers take up very little space and start at less than a pound weight at 14W. The biggest, 100W panels are typically around 10lbs.! Even the heavy duty solar-powered generators are relatively lightweight – coming in at just over 12lbs. This makes it easy to stick portable solar charging gear of any size into your bag and haul around – even if you are traveling solo.

Just pull it out to soak up sunlight whenever you reach your campsite and you’ll be able to use your devices as needed.

 

3. Wattage Options 

Depending on what you’re hoping to charge, there are solar panels and devices with different wattage options to meet your needs. Going serious and using 100W solar panel will allow to power a 32” TV and charge a couple of cellphones simultaneously.

You could get something as low as 14W or 25W, which would be enough to charge your phone or power a small electronic device. 

Think about what kinds of devices you’ll be charging on your camping trip, as well as how many people will need to have access to power. This will affect the wattage you seek when looking at your different sun-powered options. 

 

4. Cost 

While an outdoor portable power station cost can reach up to $1500, most foldable solar panels cost less than $350, even the 100W monster. Considering that sunlight is entirely free of cost, juicing up your devices with solar power is a super cost-effective decision

There are many factors you need to be aware of before buying solar panels or a generator. This might involve:

  • How many devices you have
  • Size of the devices
  • Number of people using the power station
  • Your carrying capacity

Consult a portable power guide to make sure you buy the most ideal product at the right price.

 

5. Durability 

You might worry that many solar-powered devices aren’t as durable as your ordinary camping gear, but that’s not the case. 

When you first glance at a device with solar panels, you might worry that the pieces could easily break while you’re trekking through the wilderness. On the contrary, these portable solar panels are made of extremely durable plastic surrounded by tough fabric. Designed with a handle and adjustable stands along with a pocket to keep cables to make the transportation simpler for budding campers, hikers or any traveler.

Many solar panels are even waterproof, so if you leave it out and a storm rolls in, you won’t have to worry about frying your source of electricity. 

 

Cons 

1. Weather Dependent 

One of the only real cons that comes with solar-powered gear is the reliance on available sunlight. If you’re traveling in an area that’s frequently cloudy, dark, or rainy, you might struggle to fully power up your devices. 

Having said that, there are portable solar panels that can still produce some power, even in minimal light. Look for solar products that can draw light out of dreary conditions - they might take longer to charge without full sunlight, but they can still provide you with the necessary power in most situations. 

Similarly, you cannot collect solar power during the night. If you want to charge your devices while you’re sleeping, you’ll need to plan ahead and juice up the solar generator with these portable solar panels during the daytime to use once the sun goes down. A solar panel that directly powers/charges a device while consuming sunlight won’t work at night. 

 

2. Can Have Lower Power Output 

Let’s get a little bit technical. Most solar-charged power generators can only release energy in the form of an AC output at a defined rate. This means you usually can’t power big devices, such as a full-size refrigerator or a full-size air-conditioning unit. If you plan on taking an RV – or doing some serious glamping – a traditional generator might be the better option.

A fuel-powered generator can output up to 10 times more electricity production capacity. However, most of us don’t really need that much power when we’re camping. Most people are just looking to charge cell phones, a small fan, lights, and maybe a small fridge. You shouldn’t need the capacity of a fuel-powered generator to have what you need while outdoors on a modest camping trip. 

 

3. Limited Source of Power 

Although the sun provides an unlimited source of eco-friendly energy, your solar panels don’t. A solar panel can only power devices as long as it has access to sunlight. A solar generator, on the other hand, can be charged like a battery and serve as a “power bank” during the nighttime

The stored energy in the solar generator can be used to charge devices through the night and power entertainment systems like your TV.

 

In Conclusion 

Overall, it seems pretty clear that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to using solar-powered camping gear. The drawbacks are few, and with the development of new technology every day, solar-powered devices are becoming increasingly reliable

If you’re interested in using more environmentally friendly methods to power up your devices while camping, look into solar-powered camping gear. It’s cost-effective, produces no carbon footprints and is extremely useful in all sorts of outdoor situations. 
For any questions about solar-powered camping gear, don’t hesitate to reach out to the crew at Mount Black – we’re always happy to assist!

 

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