With our increasing use of technology, finding the best portable solar panel has gone from a fun gimmick to a severe concern for longer trips. Here are our top picks, including details on what sets them apart from the competition.
What’s the Best Portable Solar Panel?
The challenge for selecting the best portable solar panel is defining what that means. Some people think that a solar panel is portable if they can carry it around in a backpack, while other people think it’s portable if they can tow it behind an RV or another vehicle.
For this guide, we’ll be focusing on human-portable solar panels. With that settled, here are our top choices.
Our Picks for the Best Portable Solar Panels:
- Hiluckey Portable Power Bank (Best Overall)
- Topsolar SolarFairy 100W (Best Large Panel)
- BigBlue 28W Charger (Best Backup)
- DOKIO 220W Panel (Best Capacity)
- EF ECOFLOW 160W (Best Waterproof Panel)
- Jackery SolarSaga 100W (Best Build Quality)
- RICH SOLAR 100W Panel (Best Solid Frame)
Each of these panels has some qualities or attributes that distinguish itself from the competition. Before we get to the reviews, though, let’s talk about why these are so important.
Why You Need a Portable Solar Panel
Solar panels are older than most people think – Charles Fritts created the first known solar cell all the way back in 1883 with an energy conversion rate of about one or two percent. Over the next century, researchers have improved commercial panels to about ten times the efficiency.
We have a lot to thank Fritts for because solar panels have quickly become a must-have technology for people heading on trips or going into the wilderness.
Between smartphones, vehicle televisions, and even jump-starting dead batteries, portable solar panels give access to electricity anywhere you can find sunlight. The best part is that solar panels are finally at the point where they’re affordable and reasonable for anyone to buy.
Most portable panels cost less than $100 and offer meaningful amounts of electricity. Whether you’re buying something for an emergency kit or equipment for regular hikes and camping trips, portable solar panels are worth picking up.
The 7 Best Portable Solar Panels
Here are our favorite portable solar panels. Remember, people have different needs, so make sure you read through all of these options before picking one.
1. Hiluckey Portable Power Bank (Best Overall)
- Built-in high-capacity power bank
- Durable enough for most outdoor activities
- Comes with two high-speed charging ports
- Smaller than other portable panels
- Not as good if you need a lot of electricity all at once
Hiluckey’s portable solar panel isn’t the most powerful charger around. In terms of energy at one time, it’s among the lowest on this list. However, the reason it’s the best overall is that it comes with a high-capacity power bank.
Or rather, you could say this is a power bank that happens to have a solar panel attached to it. Most solar panels require you to either use the electricity as it’s generated or buy an expensive power bank to connect to it.
This solar panel doesn’t have that problem because you can leave it out all day and use the stored power whenever you want.
For context, this panel’s power bank can charge a normal smartphone about eight times without recharging. This panel also has a durable design that’s functionally shockproof, dustproof, and waterproof.
That makes it suitable for most outdoor and wilderness activities, including use during emergencies. As if that wasn’t good enough, this solar panel also has a bright, built-in LED flashlight for added utility.
2. Topsolar SolarFairy 100W (Best Large Panel)
- A briefcase-style fold makes this easy to carry
- The 19V DC port powers heavier-use devices
- It has a smart IC chip to help prevent overcharging
- No power bank included
- Noticeably more expensive than most other options
Topsolar’s 100W SolarFairy panel is an excellent large panel that you can take on the go. Size is one of the key factors affecting solar power generation, and this panel’s ability to unfold from a briefcase to a full-size panel makes it highly practical for most people.
However, there’s one other thing that sets this panel apart: Its focus on charging power stations. Most solar panels emphasize providing enough energy to power small devices like tablets, smartphones, and some televisions.
The SolarFairy, in contrast, works particularly well at charging portable power stations and helping you store energy for use later. The one real drawback of this product is that it doesn’t have a built-in power bank like our top choice does.
If it did, it would be our overall favorite. Despite that, its 100W of generating capacity with the ability to output a lot to one DC port makes this a better choice than many competing products.
3. BigBlue 28W Charger (Best Backup)
- More affordable than most other options
- Several buckles for attaching to different things
- Powers up to three devices simultaneously
- Not suitable for laptops
- Lower capacity than most other portable solar panels
BigBlue’s 28W charger has a lower charging capacity than most of the other options on this list, but it’s also more affordable than the other options. That makes it an excellent backup choice or mid-range pick when you only need some power for your devices.
This panel is also impressively efficient for its size, converting about 24% of the energy it receives to electricity. Most panels cap out at about 20%, so this panel gets more energy from less space.
Meanwhile, the polymer surface helps protect this panel from the elements while rubber port protectors ensure dust and debris can’t enter those areas.
This is a good choice for charging smaller and lighter devices like smartphones and tablets. It doesn’t produce enough power for laptops and other energy-hungry devices, but that’s fine since people don’t always need great capacity.
4. DOKIO 220W Panel (Best Capacity)
- Charges power stations and USB devices alike
- Significantly more watts than anything else on this list
- Capable of charging RV and marine batteries
- It comes with many types of plugs
- Somewhat inconsistent build quality
- Fewer USB ports than some competing products
DOKIO’s panel is the opposite of the previous choice. At 220W, this is one of the highest-capacity portable solar panels around. Most competitors top out at 200W max, and it’s not rare to see them linger around 100W instead.
That means this panel produces far more energy in the same amount of time than any other option here. To some extent, the very benefits here also make it a little hard to recommend.
Smaller solar panels convert power directly for use with devices like smartphones, but this panel works best when you hook it up to a power converter, portable generator, or large battery. That means you’ll need to get an intermediary device in most circumstances.
However, while it specializes in larger devices, it also has USB ports for charging normally. That’s the connection most people care about, and the flexibility here means this panel more than earns its spot on this list.
5. EF ECOFLOW 160W Panel (Best Waterproof Panel)
EF ECOFLOW’s panel earns its place on this list for one reason: It’s a properly waterproof solar panel. That means it’s better for moist environments than just about any competing product. Specifically, it’s IP67 rated, which is a standardized rating meaning it’s 100% protected against sand and can be immersed in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes without harm.
This is the most common rating for waterproof items on the market because it’s the first level that’s genuinely waterproof. The only better rating, IP68, is for long-term immersion under high pressure. That’s not relevant to most solar panels.
EF ECOFLOW’s panel comes in at 160W, which is higher than most of the competition. It also comes with an MC4 connector that lets you link multiple panels together if you need to buy several of them at once. Special ports make it easy to mount, though you may need to get one of the company’s power stations for best performance.
This panel is noticeably more expensive than most of the other options on this list. In this case, what you’re really paying for is the excellent waterproofing and protection, rather than raw generating capacity.
6. Jackery SolarSaga 100W (Best Build Quality)
- Excellent construction quality
- Compatible with both regular devices and Jackery’s power stations
- Decent water resistance
- Relatively expensive
- Comparatively low wattage for its price
Jackery’s SolarSaga isn’t a particularly unique product. It has no special features that set it apart from competing products, although it does have a center-fold design instead of the more popular four-panel layout. What makes this product worth considering is its outstanding overall build quality.
Unfortunately, some solar panels are highly inconsistent, with faulty parts or much lower power generation than expected.
Jackery builds to a higher standard, though, so you can expect a long-lasting, reliable product. This charger comes with one USB-A port and one USB-C port for charging regular devices.
It’s also IP65 water-resistant, which means it’s fine if it gets the occasional splash but not appropriate for leaving out in the rain. This is the best product to get if you want something guaranteed to work well, even if it’s a little more expensive than other options.
7. RICH SOLAR 100W Panel (Best Solid Frame)
- Easily one of the most durable panels on this list
- Just the right size for being human-portable if needed
- Suitable for permanent outdoor use
- Not as portable as the other options on this list
- Not as efficient for its size as other options
All of the other options on this list are lightweight, foldable panels. They’re especially easy to transport, but they don’t have the same degree of structural strength as traditional panels do. That’s where RICH SOLAR’s 100W panel comes into the picture.
This aluminum-framed panel is just small enough for easy transport at a little more than 2 feet by 3 feet in size. It’s clearly too big for casual hiking.
But it’s portable enough to set up next to RVs, campers, and other vehicles when you’re on the go. It’s also suitable for outdoor parks and festivals. This solar panel is also more durable in a different way.
Many portable solar panels only last a few years at best, but this panel is rated for 25 years of output. That’s excellent performance for its price, especially if you want to use something a lot while you’re on the go.
Portable Solar Panel Buying Guide
Here are some things to keep in mind before you go shopping.
Consideration 1: Power Generation Rate
The biggest concern with portable solar panels is their power generation rate. This is listed in wattage, although environmental factors can impact how efficient a panel is.
For context, a fast-charging smartphone may need up to 65W of power, and a solar panel only provides its listed rating under ideal circumstances.
In short, make sure you buy panels that produce enough energy in real-world conditions to suit your needs. You may have to buy several of the best portable solar panels.
Consideration 2: Energy Storage
Storage is the other main concern. Solar power is convenient because you can obtain it throughout the day while you have sunlight, but it’s not as helpful unless you have a way to access it.
For most people, this means getting a battery or a power bank to hook the panel up to. That’s a hidden cost, though, making most solar panels more expensive than they seem. Energy storage isn’t as crucial if you want to hook up your solar charger to an existing solar system like an RV or boat battery.
It’s much more important if you want to charge devices at night or expect to be in areas with lots of cloud cover and, therefore, lower generating efficiency.
So, What Is the Best Portable Solar Panel?
We like the Hiluckey Portable Power Bank more than other solar panels. It doesn’t have a high power generation rate.
But its high-capacity battery means it’s significantly more useful out of the box than most competitors. The Jackery SolarSaga is an excellent alternative, thanks to its outstanding build quality and reliability.