Best Solar Panels for Campers: Buying Guide
Are you curious why your neighbors’ camp is silent all the time? Are you sick of cleaning the carb, changing the oil and filter, changing the spark plug, and filling up the gas can for your generator all the time? Do you want to experience nature and the great outdoors as peacefully as possible and reduce emissions?
In this article, we aim to show you the best solar panels for camping that you can source easily to help make that happen when out RVing or stealth parking in your camper van.
Whether you want to keep your batteries topped off during the day for lower power users, or want to build an extensive system that can run an air conditioner off grid, here are some of the best camping solar panel options that will help you stay off grid longer and run your generator less (or allow you to get rid of it altogether!)
Top Pick for a Basic Camping Solar System
Renogy 200 Watt Solar Panel Kit
Renogy 200 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel Kit with Adventurer 30A LCD PWM Charge Controller and Mounting Brackets for RV, Boats, Trailer, Camper, Marine, Off-Grid Solar Power System
$299.99 in stock
Renogy makes a full line of budget solar panels and other solar equipment, like inverters, charge controllers, and batteries.
Their 200 watt solar kit comes with 2 x 100 watt panels, panel mounting brackets, a basic solar charger/charge controller (the component that converts the solar panel power to the correct voltage and charges the battery), a bluetooth module for use with their free app, and wiring and connectors that will work for most campers for a basic installation. Basically, everything you need to get started with solar!
You’ll just need to connect this kit to your battery pack to begin collecting juice from the sun.
Best Camping Solar Panels Over 200 Watts
Newpowa 210 watt Solar Panel
Newpowa 210W(Watts) Solar Panel Monocrystalline 12V High Efficiency Module for RV Marine Boat Trailer Camper Green House Off Grid System
Why I love this panel:
Newpowa has been around for a while now as a popular panel brand on Amazon. They make well priced, good quality panels that I have personally installed on a number of RVs.
The best part about these panels is they are narrow enough to fit next to your roof air conditioner. These aren’t much bigger than most of the 100w panels on Amazon, and are rated for more than double the watts!
These are great for any size system, and if you are looking to get as many watts as possible on your roof, these maximize space with their size vs wattage rating for a lot of rigs.
Best Portable Solar Panel Kits
Need a simple solar setup? Check out these portable kits that ease the power burden. You can also read our dedicated post to portable panels here.
Dokio compact, flexible solar panel kit
DOKIO 300W 18V Portable Solar Panel Kit (ONLY 0.9in Thick) Folding Solar Charger with 2 USB Outputs for 12v Batteries/Power Station AGM LiFePo4 RV Camping Trailer Car Marine
This kit from Dokio is great if you don’t want to bother with a roof system and chasing wires down. If your needs are minimal, or you just want to go camping for the weekend here and there, this kit may be just what you need.
You can hook this up to your battery, power station (such as a Jackery), or charge a phone via the usb port on the controller. This folds up nicely and is very lightweight.
Renogy portable solar suitcase
Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Off Grid Portable Foldable 2Pcs 50W Solar Panel Suitcase Built-in Kickstand with Waterproof 20A Charger Controller
$199.99 in stock
5 used from $179.39
These suitcase style portable setups are a little more robust than the above flexible folding kits. They have a built-in kickstand to aim at the sun to maximize how much solar you can harvest.
This comes with an attached waterproof charge controller, so you can hook up directly to your batteries safely. It also has an included carry case to protect it when packing it up.
Top pick flexible solar panels
Do you need flexible panels for your application? Have an odd shaped roof? Don’t want to drill holes? Have a van you want to keep low profile? Want to have a setup that’s easy to tuck away when traveling?
You will generally pay a lot more per watt for flexible panels than you will for glass panels, but they can make sense in your situation and be worth the extra cost. Check out these top choice panels for these situations and more.
DIYRVLiving Pro Tip: Don’t be fooled by the off-brand flexible panels and kits you see on Amazon that are rated for high watts at an extremely low price. They are typically misleading advertising, and don’t get even remotely close to their ratings. In fact, you will be lucky to get 25% of what some of them are rated for! Here are our picks for quality brand flexible panels that are rated properly, according to industry standards.
Renogy 175 watt flexible panel
This Renogy flexible panel gets you a lot of watts out of a lightweight, flexible panel! There just aren’t really many options out there for flexible panels above 100 watts. This 170 watt Renogy one gets you there and then some!
Renogy Flexible Solar Panel 175 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Semi-Flexible Bendable Mono Off-Grid Charger for Marine RV Cabin Van Car Uneven Surfaces
8 used from $211.44
Topsolar 100 watt flexible panel
The Topsolar 100 watt flexible panel is a great choice if you only need around a 100-300 watt system and don’t have a ton of space to work with. It’s a great sized panel and can mount to virtually any surface.
Topsolar Flexible Solar Panel 100W 24V/12V Monocrystalline Bendable - 100 Watt 12Volt Semi-Flexible Mono Solar Panels Charger Off-Grid for RV Boat Cabin Van Car Uneven Surfaces
Solar Camping Considerations & FAQs
Do you want portable or mounted solar panels?
Portable solar power can be convenient, because you can set your portable panel or solar suitcase nearby in the sun, even if you’re parked in the shade. It also allows you to pump up your system with additional watts if you don’t have a lot of roof space. But you do have to set up your panels every time you park.
On the other hand, solar panels mounted to your roof are always working, and you never have to set them up or put them away. The convenience is unmached.
Should you go with a flexible or rigid panel?
Rigid panels are extremely sturdy and reliable, and tend to last a long time. Flexible panels can sometimes have issues with lifespan because there is no air flow beneath the panel, so unless you have a specific use case (such as using a flexible panel as a lightweight portable panel) or a specific mounting strategy (like using sign board under your flexible panel to increase airflow), we usually recommend using rigid panels. Read our full guide on flexible panels here.
Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Panels
Back when solar panels were less efficient, the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels might have been greater. But nowadays, the difference is miniscule. Any panel you buy will still be rated for the appropriate number of watts that it outputs.
How many watts or solar panels do you need for camping?
The number of panels you need depends on how many watts you need, and how your panels are configured. And the number of watts you need depends on what appliances you plan to use while camping! Will you be using large appliances like an air conditioner, microwave, or air fryer regularly? If so, you’ll need bigger batteries that can support your daily power needs, and you’ll need enough solar panels to recharge those batteries.
A good basic rule of thumb is to have twice as many watts as you have for amp hours. So if you have a 200AH power bank, you’ll need approximately 400 watts to keep it charged.
Can you hear the quiet?
Whatever panels you choose from the ones above, we know you’ll love taking advantage of the power from the sun. For many, it enhances the camping experience and can save money on fuel costs. If you have any questions on your solar needs, please reach out as I have extensive experience in RV solar.
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