Best Portable Solar Panels in 2021
(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)
Portable solar panels are a great way to recharge your RV batteries when dry camping.
With portable panels, you can easily dip your toes in the solar power waters.
They are also great if you only need to generate electricity via solar energy on occasion.
Also, portable solar systems are a great way to complement an existing installation of rooftop panels.
They give you a bit of flexibility when it comes to parking in less than ideal solar locations.
On this page, you will find reviews of three different price points for portable solar panels.
You will also learn some things to consider before purchasing portable solar.
All About RV Solar Panel Systems!
Below are reviews of the best portable solar panels.
If you want to educate yourself more about the technical details of a solar panel system, read our guide here.
Best Portable Solar Panel Reviews
We narrowed down the many choices in solar power to show only the best portable solar panels.
Zamp is an industry leader in portable solar power. They are a natural choice for inclusion.
They produce an awesome product and a wide variety of panel sizes. However, they have the most expensive portable RV solar panel kits.
Renogy offers a much more limited selection of portable solar panels. Still, they have more affordable solar power kit options.
Finally, if you don't want to spend much to get portable RV solar panels, look at our best on a budget solar panel kit. It isn't the best quality, but it will do the job.
Best Portable Solar Panels
Zamp Solar Panels
Zamp portable solar panels are some of the best portable folding solar panel systems that money can buy. But they aren't cheap.
Zamp portable solar power suitcases can cost twice what Renogy portable systems cost. Are they worth it?
That's for you to decide - we just provide the facts about these solar panel kits. Zamp does offer the widest range of panel wattage choices.
In our book, choices are a good thing.
Continue Reading Zamp Portable Solar Panel Review
Best Value in Portable Solar Panels
Renogy Solar Panels
Renogy offers a great combination of price and performance with their portable solar panel kits.
Both Camp Addict Co-Founders have a legacy 100-watt Renogy portable solar power system. They used them for several years.
There are a few negatives to a Renogy system when compared to a Zamp portable solar system.
But for the money, you cannot go wrong with a Renogy solar panel kit.
Eclipse Or 'Legacy'?
Renogy Eclipse foldable solar panel kits are the latest technology that features more efficient solar panels. This means they are smaller and lighter than the (older) 'legacy' version, but the Eclipse does cost a bit more.
Therefore, if you need a 100-watt solar power kit, simply decide if the price is the most important factor for you (legacy panel), or if you want smaller and lighter (Eclipse panel).
If you need a 200-watt solar panel system, Eclipse is your only option (available with and without a solar charge controller).
Eclipse 100-Watt System
Legacy 100-Watt System
Eclipse 200W (WITH controller)
Eclipse 200W (NO controller)
Renogy is running a Prime Day price match sale with deals up to 33% off select Renogy products. Good for a very limited time only!
Renogy Is Price Matching Amazon Prime Day Deals!
Shop Renogy directly through Sunday 6/27/2021 to take advantage of these amazing deals!
Continue Reading Renogy Portable Solar Panel Review
Best Portable Solar Panels on a Budget
Eco-Worthy Solar Panels
Eco-Worthy portable solar panels for camping are one of the most affordable ways to get solar energy into your batteries.
But, are they worth the small savings compared to getting a substantially better portable solar system?
We think not, but it's up to you.
Sure, you can save a little under $100 by going with an Eco-Worthy portable solar kit versus a Renogy solar system. However, you'll make some sacrifices.
You get cheap construction and a solar charge controller giving zero information about your state of charge.
Continue Reading Eco-Worthy Portable Solar Panel Review
Portable Solar Panel Purchase Considerations
Below we offer some additional things to consider when shopping for the best solar panels for RV battery charging.
Also, you will find information on what to do if your camper has a Zamp solar port.
Waterproof Solar Charger Controllers
The best RV solar panels come with a solar battery charge controller that is waterproof.
That said, there was a time when Renogy's solar controllers were not waterproof.
However, they have since corrected this and are using waterproof charger controllers.
So, both Zamp and Renogy controllers on the foldable solar panels are waterproof.
If you happen to purchase a portable solar panel without a waterproof controller, be very mindful of the wet weather.
Solar Panel Electrical Connectors
Another key thing to ponder before you pull the trigger on purchasing a portable solar power system is what type of electrical connectors it uses.
To be honest, this isn't a deal-breaker. Electrical connectors can be changed if necessary.
Most users of portable solar systems won't care what type of connectors come with a portable solar power system.
Often, they'll use the supplied wiring harness and alligator clips to connect directly to their RV battery bank.
If your RV comes with a pre-wired solar port that you plug portable solar panels into, pay attention to what type of connectors a particular solar panel kit has before you buy.
Or, simply change the connector ends.
That said, if you want to put your portable solar panel farther away from your motorhome or travel trailer, you'll need extension cables.
In that case, you must know what type of connectors your camper solar panels have. Then, you can buy a compatible extension.
This may not surprise you, but each manufacturer of portable solar systems has its idea of which connector is best.
Just like they have their idea of how to program a solar controller. Let's hear it for industry standards! (LOL)
Some of the more common solar wiring connectors include:
Solar panel kit wiring connectors aren't something to lose sleep over. Worst-case scenario, you purchase the connectors needed and change them out.
For most users of portable solar panels, what comes with the system is good enough.
Solar Panel Extension Cables
Portable solar panels have one big advantage over rooftop-mounted solar panels. The ability to move panels to a location that has full sun.
Also, you can angle them to point directly towards the sun throughout the day, maximizing solar energy harvesting.
Trust us, it comes in very handy to have a bit more power cable than comes standard with the portable panels.
Indeed, this can help keep your panel in the sun. Have no fear, you can purchase extension cables.
We BOTH have used them and we both HIGHLY recommend getting extensions.
The most commonly available extension cables (the ones with the correct size/gauge wire and multiple length options) have MC4 connectors on the ends.
These are the connectors that come with Renogy portable solar panels. Zamp portable panels use SAE connectors.
It's a lot harder to find the properly sized wire in this style of an extension cord.
Zamp does offer the 15-foot extension cord, but sometimes it's not available on Amazon.
Don't forget to choose what wire gauge and wire length you want for your solar panel extension wires.
Solar Extension Cables (MC4 Connector)
Zamp solar panel extension cord (part number ZSHE15N) is 10 AWG wire and only comes in a 15-foot length. It has SAE connectors.
Zamp Extension Cable (SAE Connector)
Easy Portable Solar Panel Hold Down
Portable solar panels for camping 'live' on the ground. There, they can be affected by high winds.
Winds can easily flip them over and cause damage.
Fortunately, it's easy to rig up a hold-down system that prevents this.
For portable solar panels that have a Renogy style leg setup, you need:
- a metal fence post
- a 5-gallon collapsible water jug or the like
The metal fence post sits on top of the legs. The filled 5-gallon water jug sits on top of the fence post.
You end up with 40+ pounds of water holding the panel in one place. (Bonus- if there is no more wind in the forecast, you have spare water.)
Both Camp Addict Co-Founders Kelly and Marshall use this exact setup to secure their Renogy 100-watt portable solar panels.
This has worked in some pretty extreme winds. We have yet to experience solar panel flipping using this method.
(Update- Kelly shattered one panel by not securing it down in Moab in 2018. Ask her if it is the only one she has broken...)
If your portable solar panel has legs like the current designed Zamp portable panels, you will only need the collapsible 5-gallon water bag.
Place it over the leg's horizontal support.
You won't need the metal fence post because of the 'built-in' horizontal support.
5-Gallon Collapsible Water Container
Do You Have A Zamp Sidewall Solar Port?
Some RVs come from the factory with a Zamp Sidewall Solar Port. This port is an SAE connector.
It allows you to plug in a foldable solar panel. In other words, the RV is pre-wired to 'accept' a portable solar panel.
Does this mean that you are only able to use Zamp portable solar panels with this setup?
YOU CAN USE ANY BRAND!
BUT, be aware that the Zamp Sidewall Solar Port is reverse polarity (positive side goes to the negative battery terminal and vice versa).
This can create big problems if you just willy-nilly plug in a foldable solar panel that is wired 'correctly'.
As in, things will fry!
Have no fear! As long as you are aware, there is a simple workaround.
If you want to go with something else besides a Zamp system, you can.
Simply purchase one, or both, of the below adapters, and you are in business.
If your portable solar panel of choice has an SAE connector, simply purchase the SAE polarity reverser connector below.
If you are wanting to plug in a portable solar panel (such as the Renogy portable solar systems) with MC4 connectors, you need to purchase just the SAE to MC4 adapter shown below. Why? This particular adapter handles the polarity reversing.
Bingo! You are in business!
Solar Battery Maintainers
If you don't need a portable solar system to keep your batteries charged WHILE camping, you can benefit from solar charging while your unit is stored.
Simply use a solar battery maintainer. It keeps your RV house batteries charged when stored and not connected to power.
There is always a slight draw on your batteries when you are not plugged in.
Because of this, over time, the batteries drain, unless you have some way to maintain the charge.
Solar battery maintainers (chargers) are available at many price points and many power outputs.
Be aware that cheaper products will most likely have low wattage solar panels.
They may not be able to maintain your RVs house battery bank at a fully charged state.
OR, they may come with a cheap solar battery controller that isn't 'smart'. This can damage your batteries.
The below featured solar battery maintainer by BatteryMINDer comes with a 15-watt solar panel and solar controller.
It will not overcharge your RV house battery bank. Also, it can be permanently mounted.
Otherwise, it comes with legs that allow for temporary installation.
You can read the instruction manual (PDF) to find out how to properly use it.
BatteryMINDer Model SCC515-15 (15-Watt System)
Portable solar panels for campers are a great way to charge your RV battery bank. It uses free solar energy, courtesy of the sun.
If you camp off-grid for long enough periods where your batteries would be drained from normal use, solar power is an awesome solution.
Your neighbors will thank you if you are using sunlight to charge your batteries instead of using a portable generator.
Now you have a better understanding of what is available when it comes to portable motorhome or travel trailer solar panels.
Start enjoying the free solar energy today!
Camp on, Addicts!
He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona.
Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing from April 2014 - December 2020 (now RVing about 50% of the time), Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle. Marshall spends the majority of his RVing life boondocking. He is the part of Camp Addict that knows 'all the things'. He's good at sharing his technical knowledge so you can benefit.