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The Best Solar Panels For Your 2019 Camping Trips

Thursday 5th September 2019
By Ely Power
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By Ely Power
Photo by Rose Erkul on Unsplash

Camping is the perfect way to escape busy, everyday life. But should you disconnect 100% from the outside world? Getting to each destination takes a lot longer without GPS, reaching others in an emergency is challenging with a dead phone, and snapping your adventures is impossible if your camera’s battery is drained. Not to mention all of that gone-off food when your fridge warms up. That’s why every smart camper should have easy access to electricity, even when far from civilization. 

Setting up solar panels for camping is an effective, environmentally-friendly way to charge your appliances and gadgets when you’re off the grid. Yet with heaps of models, brands and extras to choose from, it’s hard to find the right camping solar system for your RV. 

Thankfully, Camplify’s guide to the best camping solar panels is here to help. First things first, let’s run through the basics of using solar energy for camping.

Do you own an RV with solar panels? Hire it out and earn as much as $5,000 - $35,000 per year! Learn more about how Camplify works for owners here.

Keen to try out a solar-powered RV before you bite the bullet? Find out more about hiring through Camplify here.

How Does Solar Power Work? 

Solar panels are made from cells that absorb the kinetic energy in the light before releasing electrons to generate electricity - In other words, they soak up the sunshine and turn it into power for your appliances. Each cell type has its pros and cons.

Monocrystalline solar cells are efficient and long-lasting, meaning you can buy a smaller solar power kit without compromising on power. However, these solar panels are expensive and need to be placed at a 90° angle to the sun on clear, bright days for optimal performance. 

Polycrystalline solar cells are made with multiple crystals, which can lead to small internal energy losses. That said, they can be placed at various angles to the sun and perform well even in dim conditions. Polycrystalline solar panels are cheaper than monocrystalline solar panels, despite being just as durable.

Thin-film solar cells are made by stacking thin layers of silicon blocks. They are popular with RV owners, as the silicon can be attached to the flexible material. They are also more resistant to heat, dust and shading. But be warned, they’re usually less efficient than crystalline solar panels. 

You’ll need a deep cycle battery to store solar power once it’s generated. However, solar energy levels depend on the amount of sunlight throughout the day rather than voltage, so it’s not a great idea to connect solar panels directly to your battery. 

Use a charge controller to continually stabilise the solar panel’s electrical output and match your battery’s voltage (Generally 12V or 24V for RVs). 

As the energy stored in batteries is usually direct current and most appliances run on alternating current, you may also need a power inverter for current conversion.

Fixed, Flexible & Portable Solar Panels: What's the Difference? 

Fixed solar panels are great for nomads, mounting to the roof of your RV. You can charge as you go and don’t need to set up anything when you get to your camping spot. Bare in mind that you can lose about 20% of potential power if your vehicle isn’t in direct sunlight at all times, so carefully consider where the panels should be installed and what dimensions are suitable.

Flexible solar panels are best suited to caravans, campervans and motorhomes with curved rooftops. The main benefit of these lightweight panels is their ability to bend up to 30° (because an eyesore is the last thing you need when you’ve come this far to appreciate the great outdoors!).

Portable solar panels are a wallet-friendly option for the occasional camper, and are often large enough to power demanding appliances. Set up is simple - All you have to do is place the solar panels in the sunlight as a cable connects to the battery. What’s more, these folding solar panels can be safely stored between excursions.

How Much Power Do You Need? 

Before you start searching for solar power kits, make a few calculations to determine what size solar panel you need for a comfortable camping trip.

The first (and obvious) step is to consider where your RV is located - Cloudy days have a significant impact on solar energy production. Luckily, Australia is renowned for its strong sunshine. Just to be safe, double-check that your region has reliable sunlight.

Next, estimate your energy demands. What appliances will you be powering with these solar panels? Check the wattage of each one and work out how many hours it will be running. Multiply these two figures and you’ll have the solar energy required for each appliance. Sum all of this energy consumption to get the total amount of power you’ll need.

Now, let’s get this show on the road!

The Top Solar Panels for Camping-Friendly Power

1. Renogy 400W Flexible RV Solar Panel Kit
Renogy 400w Flexible Kit
Image sourced from Ebay

Buy Now For $899

Look no further if you want durable, high-energy output while on the road. This top-of-the-line Renogy solar panel kit has been specifically designed to fulfil RV owners’ needs. With four 100W flexible solar panels, a PWM charge controller, an MC4 adapter kit, branch connectors and a tray cable, all you need to do is supply the battery.

Its highly efficient monocrystalline panels perform well even in low-light conditions, with the assistance of bypass diodes that hinder power drop from clouds and shade. Corrosion-resistant aluminium frames mean the solar panels can withstand harsh weather for decades, such as extreme winds and heavy snow loads.

The 30A PWM charge controller is the perfect match for your RV, with attractive flush wall mounting and negative grounding for battery compatibility. Its self-diagnostic system and electronic protection prevent impairments from any installation errors or system faults. You can also keep track of its charging data through the built-in LCD screen, which allows you to set parameters and analyze outcomes. 

The safe, reliable and productive charging use algorithms to optimize the process depending on battery type, generating an average power output of around 1,600W per day. To top it all off, this solar panel kit recharges your battery bank silently so that you can enjoy the great outdoors in peace.

Overall, expect excellent function and aesthetics from this solar panel kit. Just remember to bring your own battery!

Key Features
  • Monocrystalline solar panels
  • 30A charge controller: 
  • For use with 12V and 24V panels 
  • Compatible with sealed, gel, lithium and flooded batteries
  • 4 Stage PWM charging protects against overload, overcharging, short circuit and reverse polarity
  • Bypass diodes facilitate great performance in low-light environments
  • IP68 rated junction box
  • Withstands up to 2,400 Pa winds and 5,400 Pa snow loads

  • Power output: 400W 
  • Conversion efficiency: 18.4%
  • Panel dimensions: 49’’ x 21.3’’ x 0.08’’
  • Included: 4x 100W monocrystalline panels, 4x Z bracket mounting set, 3x branch connectors, 30A charge controller, 30’’10 AWG MC4 adapter kit, 16’’ 10 AWG tray cable

2. ACOPower 120W Portable Solar Panel Kit
ACOPower 120W Portable Solar
Image sourced from Amazon

Buy Now For $425

ACOPower’s 120W solar panel kit is one of our favourite options for campers who are new to the renewable energy game. Set up the solar panels beside your caravan or go exploring with their bungee loops attached to your backpack. No matter where your camping adventure takes you, the ACOPower solar kit will keep your appliances and devices charged. 

Foldable and portable, this solar panel kit is seriously compact. In fact, all of its bits and pieces are stored inside a suitcase weighing only 8.4lbs. It’s small but mighty, with SunPower monocrystalline cells boasting a conversion efficiency of up to 25%. 

Along with the solar panels, you’ll receive a 10A LCD Charge Controller, two 5V USB ports and MC4 connector cables. As everything is pre-wired, the solar panels can be mounted in seconds. Simply connect them to your 12V battery, whether it’s sealed, flooded AGM or GEL. 

Lightweight, efficient and foldable, this solar panel is ready to be brought on the go, meeting all of your charging needs along the way!

Key Feature
  • Monocrystalline SunPower solar panels
  • Compatible with 12V AGM, flooded, sealed or GEL batteries
  • Foldable and portable design

  • Power output: 100W
  • Conversion efficiency: 25%
  • Panel dimensions: 56.7’’ x 22’’ x 0.2’’
  • Included: Solar panels and suitcase, 10A LCD charge controller, MC4 connector cables, USB ports, alligator clamps

3. Suaoki 60W Solar Charger
Suaoki 60W Solar charger
Image sourced from eBay

Buy Now For $359

Suaoki is a market leader in camping gadgets so it’s no surprise that its 60W portable solar panel has some stellar features. 

Functioning like a standard briefcase when folded and weighing only 7.7lbs, it’s the perfect travel buddy. That said, this is so much more than a basic foldable solar panel, achieving an impressive 20% conversion efficiency that can charge two devices simultaneously.

The instant power source offers a 5V USB port and an 18V DC dual output, keeping your devices full of juice. You’ll also find SAE and DC connectors for energy storage applications, as well as a 10-in-1 connector to charge most laptops. They’ve thought of it all, even including a car charger in case your battery dies. 

Perhaps best of all, this monocrystalline solar charger has integrated smart TIR-C technology that automatically adjusts the current to maximise the charging process while preventing any overloading or overheating. 

Set it up anytime, anywhere and feel the power.

Key Features
  • TIR-C technology for optimal charging efficiency and protection
  • 10-in-1 laptop connector cable (Excl. Macbooks)
  • 5V USB port and 18V DC dual output

  • Power output: 60W
  • Conversion efficiency: 20%
  • Panel dimensions: 11.5’’ x 7.1’’ x 2.9’’
  • Included: 1x foldable solar charger bag, 1x car charger, 1x 10-in-1 laptop cable, 2x DC-to-DC cables, 1x DC-to-SAE connector, 1x SAE-to-clamp connector

4. TCXW 100W Portable Solar Panel
TCXW 100W Portable Solar Panel
Image sourced from Amazon

Buy Now For $272

This one is for the dedicated adventurers who brave all seasons. TCXW’s super lightweight 100W solar panel offers convenience, longevity and punch-packing power - The monocrystalline cells reach efficiency values as high as 22.5%.

The simple folding design, complete with handles and four attached lanyards, makes this solar suitcase easy to carry, install and adjust to the right angle. Its solar panel comes with supreme strength PET polymer on one side and a polyester canvas on the other, providing durable protection against the elements. So if you’re planning to explore some wild climates off the beaten track, this is the portable panel for you.

To complete the package, it is equipped with a dual USB and DC port for your many devices. The included MC4 connector will also connect the solar panels to a charge controller (but you’ll have to supply this yourself).

Key Features
  • Monocrystalline solar panel
  • Ultra-compact for effortless transport, weighing only 5.1lbs
  • Dual USB and DC port
  • PET polymer faced panels and polyester canvas for water-resistant durability

  • Power output: 100W
  • Conversion efficiency: 20.5% – 22.5%
  • Panel dimensions: 47.6’’ x 21.1’’ x 0.2’’
  • Includes: 1x solar panel, 1x dual 5V USB and 18V DC port, 1x MC4 connector

5. Renogy 50 W Flexible Solar Panel
Renogy 50W Flexible Solar Panel
Image sourced from Renogy

Buy Now For $71.99

Renogy is at it again with their 50W monocrystalline flexible solar panel, which curves up to 248° (!) to blend in with your RV’s roof. Whether you’re driving a motorhome, campervan or caravan, it’s a wallet-friendly addition to your camping trip.

The ultra-lightweight design uses advanced polymer materials to reduce its weight by 70%, making installation that much easier. Pre-drilled holes on the back of the solar panel will help you to secure. Once mounted, transparent dots on the solar panel’s surface absorb sunlight from any angle.

The flexible solar panel has a waterproof junction box, aluminium framing and impact-resistant glass, so it’s no wonder it can withstand winds as strong as 2,400 Pa and snow loads as hefty as 5,400 Pa. 

As if you haven’t caved already, this solar panel comes with built-in MC4 connectors compatible with Renogy’s Adaptor Kit for a smooth solar system set up.

Key Features
  • IP65 rated waterproof junction box
  • Works with on-grid and off-grid inverters
  • Pre-drilled holes for grounding and mounting
  • Bypass diodes reduce power drop in low-light conditions
  • TPT back sheet for lasting, smooth performance
  • Withstands 2,400 Pa of wind and 5,400 Pa of snow
  • Corrosion-resistant aluminium frame
  • Anti-reflective, high transparency tempered glass

  • Power output: 50W
  • Conversion efficiency: 18.35%
  • Panel dimensions: 24.8’’ x 21.3’’ x 1.2’’
  • Arc: 248°
  • Included: 1x solar panel with waterproof MC4 connectors

6. ALLPOWERS 100W Flexible Solar Panel
ALLPOWERS 100W Flexible Solar Panel
Image sourced from Amazon

Last but not least, ALLPOWERS have designed an impressively efficient solar panel in allegiance with SunPower (the top dog in solar panel manufacturing). 

Packing 100W of power, this compact monocrystalline solar panel somehow manages to weigh a mere 4.1lbs. Combine this with its four metal reinforced mounting holes and set up just got a whole lot easier. In between uses, bend the arc up to 30° for handy storage in cramped corners or crowded caravan parks. 

Rigorously tested against mother nature, the aluminium frames of this sturdy solar system can withstand extreme winds of 2,400 Pa and snowfall of 5,400 Pa. Its tempered glass panel is also water-resistant, adding to the overall durability. Lastly, the junction box protects against dust and dirt, including a blocking diode to prevent reverse currents. 

Yep, it’s safe to say that this is a top pick for your next RV camping trip. 

Key Features
  • Compact, folding design
  • Blocking diode included in the IP65 rated junction box
  • Water-resistant
  • Withstands winds of 2,400 Pa and snow loads of 5,400 Pa
  • Compatible with batteries up to 18V

  • Power output: 100W
  • Conversion efficiency: 21%
  • Panel dimensions: 46.8’’ x 21’’ x 0.09’’
  • Arc: 30°
  • Includes: 1x monocrystalline solar panel with MC4 connector charging, 1x car battery charger, 1x cigarette lighter plug, 1x clip line, 1x set of suction cups

Own a solar-powered RV? Hire it out and earn as much as $5,000 - $35,000 per year! Learn more about how Camplify works for owners here.

Want to experience camping in a solar powered RV? Find out more about hiring through Camplify here.

To find out how Camplify can work with you and your RV, register today here.

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