Best Portable Solar Panels For RV
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Many campers may think that portable solar panels for RV are not necessary if they have really good deep cycle batteries. But remember, deep cycle batteries have a limited capacity only. So, investing in portable rv solar panels systems can be incredibly beneficial. Especially when your RV vacations or off-grid camping has been ruined by power outages before.
If you are a beginner in RVing, check out these tips before you start.
Table of Contents
WHAT IS A PORTABLE RV SOLAR PANEL?
Portable rv solar panel kits are not new. But portable solar panels for RV batteries that can be set up and dismantled within minutes are soaring in popularity in recent years. This is due to the amazing advancement in solar power technology that leads to the creation of small and lightweight panels.
These lightweight solar panels kits for RVs make incorporating them into our camping needs so much easier than before. Being able to produce sustainable energy without being overly reliant on gasoline is very attractive indeed. This RV panel allows us to go off-grid for a longer period of time.
There are numerous solar panel kits for RV available. We have explored and selected 5 of the best RV solar kits to review here.
5 BEST PORTABLE SOLAR PANELS
The Renogy Monocrystalline Portable Foldable Solar Panel Suitcase is a complete solar power system, foldable into a suitcase. Opening the suitcase will unfold 2 pieces of 50-watt, waterproof solar panels. These panels are made from transparent tempered glass for higher energy conversion efficiency.
Those panels have a 20-amp waterproof charge controller with an LCD screen. Renogy’s controller utilizes PWM technology that provides efficient, stable, and safe charging. This portable solar kit can regulate the flow of energy from the solar panels to the battery by reducing the current gradually.
Included in the unit is a pair of tray cables with alligator clips to connect with the battery. Plus, a protective casing so that you can carry it around safely.
Renogy’s solar kits for RVs are relatively light, weighing just 26 pounds. You are unlikely to sweat a bucket when transferring it between your house and RV. Moreover, it folds down into a slim suitcase with a dimension of only 20.0 x 27.2 x 2.8 inches. Hence, allowing you to easily fit it into your RV.
Setting up this panel is really easy. Just hook up the panels to the charge controller. Then, use the alligator clips to connect the controller to your battery. Lastly, select the type of battery you have and then let the system do its work!
Renology is very versatile. It works with a variety of different batteries. From gel to sealed, lithium and flooded batteries too. It is one of the best RV solar panels in the market.
- Waterproof panels and charge controller
- Comes with 10 ft alligator clips cable
- Works with a variety of batteries
- Hold-down bolts are quite flimsy
Proudly handcrafted in Oregon USA, this Zamp Portable Solar Panel Kit is one of the most friendly to use solar systems. It requires no installation. The kit includes a 140-watt foldable monocrystalline panel, 10-amp charge controller, padded nylon case and a 15-foot cable. That’s everything you need to start charging a 12-volt battery.
One of the strong selling points for Zamp’s solar panel is variety. These small 12v solar panels have a wide selection of power wattage output. From 45, 90, 140, 180 and even 230 watts as well. You will definitely find a solution that suits your need or preference well with Zamp.
This system comes with a weather-resistant 5-stage digital charge controller to protect both its battery and panel. However, weighing at 32 pounds, these panels are quite heavy.
With newer RVs nowadays coming with readily built-in Zamp Solar Ready ports, connecting the Zamp’s solar panel will become too easy. Simply connect to your RV’s charging port using the provided SAE wire and you are all set!
But if your RV does not have Zamp’s Solar Ready port, fret not, there is also a pair of alligator clip wires included to connect the panels to any 12-volt batteries.
While this unit may have a steep price, rest assured it’s meticulously crafted in the USA using locally sourced materials. Zamp is so confident with their product that they are putting a 25 years output warranty on it. This is definitely something worthwhile you can buy with confidence.
- Very long warranty
- Zamp solar port is available in most newer RVs
- Extensive choices of wattage ratings
- Heavy to transport
- It’s quite costly
This Boulder 100 Briefcase from Goal Zero consists of 2 Boulder 50-watt monocrystalline solar panels. Built with durability in mind, this weather-proof panel is made from thick tempered glass and a solid anodized aluminium frame with corner protection.
Right out of the box, this solar panel kit for RV comes with the solar panels and an 8mm cord (which is 6 feet long), along with a canvas carrying bag. Unfortunately, the default kit is rather basic. So you need to purchase some essential add-ons depending on how you plan to use this system.
Goal Zero highly recommends using their solar panels together with their power station. So, if you already have their Yeti portable power station, simply just plug the 8mm cord from the solar panel directly to the power station. The panels will directly charge up the power station.
But if you are looking for just solar panels because you already have your own battery or power station, you need to buy a few separate parts to connect the solar panels to your battery. So, that is a slight disadvantage in getting the Boulder 100.
The Boulder 100 Briefcase is very versatile though. It is tough enough to be left outside as a permanent fixture on your RV yet light enough to move it around in its carry bag.
- Very durable
- Versatile use, can be installed permanently on the RV
- Has their own compatible solar generator/power station
- Need to purchase essential add-ons
If you like small and compact solar panels, this ACOPOWER is definitely the one for you! Weighing at a mere 9 pounds, it features tri-fold 3 x 40-watts panels which fold neatly into a 22 x 17.5 x 1.2 inches suitcase. This makes ACOPOWER the smallest portable solar panel and popular suitcase solar panels in the market.
ACOPOWER’s solar panels are made from waterproof monocrystalline cells. The complete kit consists of a PWM charge controller, removable MC-4 connector cable and a pair of alligator clips. There is a well-made pouch attached to the back of the first panel when folded. All those accessories can be kept inside this pouch.
Using this system is really easy. Whenever you require additional power or need to recharge a battery, simply open the suitcase and place the panels facing the sun. Then you are all set to hook it up to your battery. The convenient feature of this pre-wired panel is that you will not need any tools to set it up.
Furthermore, ACOPOWER has a very versatile use as well. You can use it as a solar panel or as a solar panel kit. To use as a solar panel, remove the MC-4 connectors from the solar panel and attach them to your solar generator’s adapter to start charging. On the other hand, to use as a kit, simply connect the alligator clips to any 12-volt deep cycle batteries and start charging.
The panels and fabric suitcase are waterproof but note that the charger is not waterproof. You will need to bring it inside if it rains. Therefore, be alert and stay near the panels whenever the clouds look like it is going to rain.
- Lightweight and highly portable
- Well designed pouch to store all accessories
- Very versatile use
- The charge controller is not waterproof
The ECO-WORTHY solar panel is one of the most adaptable portable solar panels kits. Specifically designed to work with various solar generators like Jackery, Goal Zero, Flashfish, and Rockpals. Thus, making it a fantastic starting point for beginners who are entirely new to solar panels. We have previously reviewed Jackery, discover how this solar panel can work with Jackery’s solar generator.
ECO-WORTHY is made with 4 pieces of waterproof monocrystalline cell panels. These panels can be folded neatly into a 21.5 x 14.6 x 2.5 inches suitcase. Plus, this campervan solar panel kit weighs just about 9 pounds. Making it an ultra-light and portable solar panel.
The full kit comes with a 20-amp PWM charge controller that has 2 USB ports. There is 9.8 feet extension cable for you to extend the length of the solar panels. Plus another 9.8 feet alligator clip cable to connect the charge controller to your battery.
Those cables allow you to strategically position the panels under the sun for maximum absorption. But many users commented that 9.8 feet is too short and rather limiting. Hence, they could not place it far enough from their RV for more sunlight.
Last but not least, there is also a 10 in 1 DC adapter included. This is the main gem in the entire kit. With this versatile adapter, you can connect the panels with various solar generators and devices too such as your phones and tablets. That’s why ECO-WORTHY is the most beginner-friendly system.
- Compatible with various portable solar generators
- Ultra-light and portable
- Easy to set up
- Controller is not user friendly
- No kickstand included
Portable solar panels come in various types, sizes and capabilities. So, these are some aspects you need to consider first in order to choose the right solar panel for your RV.
Types of Portable Solar Panels
Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient of all 3 types. They can generate a large amount of energy even when sun exposure is limited. Although expensive, they are also the most reliable and resistant to extreme temperatures.
Polycrystalline panels are less expensive than monocrystalline panels and take up less space than amorphous. They are less efficient but still are a decent investment.
Amorphous are the least expensive type. But on the downside, they are very inefficient compared to the other 2 types. Being an outdated technology, it is not advisable to get this type of panel.
This is an indicator of how much watts the panels are producing. Naturally, most people will look to get the highest watt possible but that will cost a lot. So, how much watt you need is highly dependent on your power usage.
Solar panels are still practically insufficient to generate enough power for energy guzzlers such as air-conditioners or fridges. However, they are great for smaller devices.
[ Also Read: Our detailed guide on Best Fridges for reliable cooling ]
You need to carry the panels between your home and RV. Plus setting up and dismantling too. So, you would definitely appreciate lightweight panels that are highly portable. Just ensure you do not get something too small to the extent that it does not produce enough power for your needs.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Q: How much watts do I need for my RV?
A: This will mostly rely on your power usage. We suggest that you get the highest watt solar panels based on your budget. Once you start using it, you will eventually be able to gauge how much power you need based on your camping activities.
Q: What type of solar panel is best for RV?
A: We highly recommend monocrystalline solar panels for your RV. Although it is the most expensive type, it is also the most efficient among all 3 types. The other 2 types are either too bulky or produce too little watts.
Q: Should I choose portable or roof-mounted panels?
A: Practically, we suggest you choose portable solar panels. Roof-mounted panels will limit where you can park your RV. You will be forced to park under the sun to ensure full sunlight exposure.
But there are times that you would appreciate having more freedom to park wherever you want, including shady areas. So, this is when portable panels come in handy.
Q: What can I run with a 100-watt portable solar panel?
A: In general, a 100-watt portable solar panel is suitable to run only small, low-powered gadgets such as mobile phones, fans, tablets, coffee machines and drones.
But if you want to power a fridge, you will definitely need at least a 200-watt capacity.
Q: Are solar panels worth it on a RV?
A: It may cost a bit initially but it pays off by itself in the long run when you no longer need much gasoline to fuel your fossil generators. Also, the freedom to go off-grid longer and not crowding in RV parks for hookups is truly worthwhile.
All 5 of the portable solar panels that we reviewed above are great choices because they are highly rated and recommended by many. But depending on your needs or preferences, there may be one that suits you better than another.
For seasoned users, we highly recommend the Zamp portable solar panel. Its higher price point is justifiable with it being meticulously made in the USA using locally sourced materials. Plus, Zamp is a solid household brand to the extent that newer RVs have Zamp’s solar port readily built-in.
However, if you are just exploring your first solar panels, we suggest going with the Eco-Worthy 120W foldable solar kit. It is super affordable and versatile. So, it will be very helpful for you to decide what suits you best for your next purchase.
We hope you enjoyed this review and if you have questions about any of the Best Portable Solar Panels For RV, or want to leave your own personal review, feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!