A Guide to Portable Solar Panels for Travelers

Traveling without a way to charge your devices and stay connected to the modern world can be a real hassle and can even put you in some very risky situations with no ability to call for help. As such, many travelers have started purchasing portable solar panels that can be mounted on vehicles or quickly set up at a camp site to provide solar charging anywhere. 

These are ideal components to add to your collection of must-have nomadic gear because they keep you from having to rely on your vehicle’s battery power or plugging into outlets at restaurants or truck stops. The freedom to bring free, renewable energy with you everywhere you go is certainly an appealing perk, especially in today’s world where leaving social media and the internet for even a few days can be a challenge in and of itself.

In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the main features and specifications you should be examining when comparing portable solar panels to help you make a cost-effective selection that’s suitable for your mobile electricity needs:

Benefits and Examples of Using Portable Solar Panels

While you might already be committed to this purchase, it’s still wise to view a summary of the advantages that portable solar panels provide in order to reinforce your buying decision. Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of traveling with portable solar panels:

  • Independent Itinerary – When you’re able to keep your device charged and appliances powered up anywhere, you’ll never have to insert necessary detours and stops into your itinerary. Essentially, your schedule becomes fully independent of the need to locate electricity access. 
  • Preserving Emergency Contact Methods – Being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no way to contact anyone is every traveler’s worst nightmare. Portable solar panels could literally be lifesavers by allowing you to keep your devices powered on during an emergency.  
  • Conserving Vehicle Battery Power and Fuel – Most travelers who don’t have a portable solar setup will use their vehicle’s battery power to charge their devices through a power inverter that plugs into the auxiliary power outlet (the cigarette lighter port). However, you can’t do this for too long without draining the vehicle’s battery and becoming stranded until someone can give you a jumpstart. As a result, you have to waste gas to keep the vehicle running periodically to enable the alternator and keep the vehicle’s battery charged. Portable solar panels can prevent that entire mess. 
  • Ability to Enjoy Technology Limitlessly in Nature – Normally, you can only be out in nature for so long before you’re no longer able to use your laptops, tablets, smartphones or other devices. Even if you bring backup batteries, eventually you’ll exhaust that limited power supply. Portable solar panels let you use technology in nature in a manner that is just as limitless as the sun’s rays. 

According to Semper Solaris, a leading solar company in Westminster, California, many homeowners have decided to reduce their dependency on the grid after seeing the convenience of using portable solar panels. If you’re searching for the best solar company in Westminster, this company might be able to help.

Features to Look for in Portable Solar Panels

Now that you’re probably convinced that portable solar panels are a smart purchase, here are a few of the features you’ll want to examine before making your selection:

  • Wattage & Power Capacity – First and foremost, you’ll need to know how much electricity you’ll need access to during your travels. You can determine this by researching the wattage that each of your devices pull and then adding them up to determine your overall wattage needs. As a rule of thumb, try to get a setup that is rated to provide twice as much power as your initial calculation to ensure adequate charging ability. You can use this guide to calculate your solar charging needs
  • Weight & Size – Typically, the larger your solar panels are, the more power they’ll be able to generate. However, there are some foldable, lightweight options on the market, so these attributes are definitely worth considering in your comparison. 
  • Price & Brand – Finally, while you shouldn’t base your decision solely on price alone, shopping around is advisable because some brands are considerably cheaper than others. However, reading reviews and examining their reputation is also important, as you don’t want to buy from a company that has become known for selling shoddy or unreliable products. 

While there are other features to consider such as color and design, most portable solar panel comparisons are going to come down to the factors mentioned above. 

Portable Solar Chargers vs. Portable Solar Panels

There are two kinds of portable solar panels on the market. First, there’s the kind that are labeled as “solar chargers,” which are smaller setups that devices can plug directly into for charging. These are usually ideal for travelers who want the ability to charge devices away from their vehicle or campsite. 

Then, there are portable solar panel setups that can be mounted on your vehicle or fold out into an easily assemble array. Most travelers start with a small solar charger and then eventually install a larger portable panel system on their vehicles as well. It’s usually wise to opt for a system that provides more power than you currently require, as that will give you the option of adding more devices later on. 

How Big of a Portable Solar Panel Do You Need?

Keep in mind that smaller solar chargers are really only suitable for smartphones and tablets. If you’re wanting a setup that will keep your laptop charged at all times, you’ll need a larger roof-mounted or collapsible panel setup with an external controller and built-in ammeter. Generally, most laptops use between 50 to 90 watts of power, so you’ll need to look for a panel that has a rated output above that range. 

Do Portable Solar Panels Save You Money?

The upfront cost of a portable solar panel setup can be slightly intimidating considering you do have the option of simply charging your devices using wall outlets in various venues. However, for someone who travels on a regular basis, it would be cheaper in the long-term to not have to depend on third-party establishments for access to mobile electricity. 

Most places will require that you buy something before you can plug into other outlets, so when you factor that in along with the gas it takes to facilitate such diversions, it becomes clear that solar chargers definitely do save you money. Plus, let’s not forget the fact that you can continue to use these systems at home to reduce your monthly electricity bill. 

You May Want Solar Panels for Your Home After You Buy Your First Portable Setup

Now that you have a thorough understanding of what you should be looking for when buying your first portable solar panel, be prepared to be impressed by the experience of having access to free energy. Consumers who purchase portable solar setups are more likely to upgrade their homes to solar after seeing the savings and convenience provided by smaller system. By heeding the tips given above, you can ensure that you’ll be satisfied with the portable solar panel system you choose to buy. 

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