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The 5 Best Foldable Solar Panels
When you’re camping, the best foldable solar panel can help you keep your electronics charged in case of an emergency—or even just for fun. My family loves camping, but we also like to camp in comfort. Our dream vacation is camping in a beautiful national park, enjoying a great meal by the campfire, and doing so with the peace of mind to know that our phones and other comfort items are ready to go if we need them.
That’s why I always bring along my best foldable solar panel to recharge the battery in my smartphone, as well as batteries for some of my other camping gear. Read our foldable solar panel reviews & ratings to find the best solar charger for your next camping trip.
In This Article
Best Choice: Kingsolar Solar Charger 40W Portable Solar Panel Charger
The Kingsolar Solar Charger 40W Portable Solar Panel Charger is the best foldable solar panel for camping because its lightweight design allows it to be carried easily on any adventure and stored out of the way when not in use. Its durable, industrial-strength build and waterproof design make it perfect for outdoor use.
When it is sunny, I can use the Kingsolar Solar Charger 40W Portable Solar Panel Charger to easily charge two smart phones or other rechargible devices simultaneously. When the sun goes down, my devices are fully charged and ready to use at night. This system can charge any device that works with five to 18 volts such as a GPS location device, iPhone, iPad, camera, laptop, or tablet.
One cool thing about the Kingsolar system is that it automatically identifies the electrical voltage needed by any device to recharge it properly. The solar energy conversion rate is at 23.5% efficiency, which helps recharge things quickly. Some great accessories to get with it include a battery-powered LED camping light and a small battery-operated fan to use for cooling a tent.
- Lightweight design makes it easy to transport while camping
- Ultra-compact folded size stores easy when not in use
- Industrial-strength PET-fiber build is durable for moving around
- Waterproof desigh protects it from water damage to the components
- Attachment may be difficult without bringing extra clips to fasten it up
Premium Pick: Rockpals 100W Foldable Solar Panel Charger Port
The Rockpals 100W Foldable Solar Panel Charger for Suaoki Portable Generator is the best foldable solar panel for camping because its high-power output lets you charge multiple devices simultaneously while camping. It’s compatible with most external battery systems and has higher output than many other portable solar chargers.
The Rockpals 100W Foldable Solar Panel Charger for Suaoki Portable Generator is a superb choice for a large campsite. It can provide the power needed for many devices and recharges the most popular styles of external battery packs. This Rockpals unit is a 100-watt solar charger that is designed to work with the Suaoki portable generator, the Goal Zero Yeti power station, the Jackery Explorer 240, and the Webetop battery pack.
It comes with many connectors. It also has built-in USB smart charging ports that can recognize a device to prevent any overloading or overheating while recharging.
The way I like to use this system is to always keep an external battery pack connected during the day to recharge it. If there are many people at your campsite, this is the best foldable solar panel system to use for a group.
- High-power output charges higher-watt devices without issue
- Comes with two USB charging ports and a QC3-USB charging port for multiple devices
- Works with many of the popular external battery systems
- Junction box is not waterproof
- Heavy for backpackers to carry with the weight of 10.8 lbs
Best Value: ECEEN Solar Charger Panel with 10W High Efficiency Cells
The ECEEN Solar Charger Panel with 10W High Efficiency Sunpower Cells is the best foldable solar panel for camping because its waterproof design and ultra-compact build let you keep your phone connected in the wilderness in the event of an emergency.
The ECEEN Solar Charger Panel with 10W High Efficiency Sunpower Cells is the best foldable solar panel for those that only want to charge a smartphone. It is great for backpackers because, when opened, it hangs nicely on a backpack. For hikers, who walk with the sun to their backs, they can plug a smartphone into this device and it will charge as they walk along.
This solar charger is only 10 watts so it is not strong enough to recharge a laptop efficiently. It is waterproof so that means it will not be negatively affected if it starts to rain. Another reason why backpackers like this solar charger is the weight is less than one pound (0.8 lb.).
It comes with four carabiners that attach to each edge. Using them makes it very easy to hang the solar charger from a backpack, a tent, or a tree. It also comes with a long 15 and 3/4 inches (40 centimeters) USB cable to attach the unit to a smartphone.
- Waterproof design is safe to use in the rain
- Comes with a 12-month warranty
- Smaller than a sheet of paper when closed (11.5 by 6 inches)
- Low electrical output only good for smartphones
Runner Up: Goal Zero Nomad 14 Plus Solar Panel Charger
The Goal Zero Nomad 14 Plus Solar Panel Charger is the best foldable solar panel for camping because its lightweight build lets you stay connected to your phone backpacking or allows you to wire panels together for a more powerful charging station.
The Goal Zero Nomad 14 Plus Solar Panel Charger model is a medium-sized unit in the Nomad series. It has enough solar energy collection power to recharge a smartphone or a tablet device. It can work on some slightly-cloudy days.
The feature I like is the information readout. It gives a value for the strength of the sunlight and an estimate of the time needed for a connected device to fully recharge. Another helpful feature is that if the sunlight disappears temporarily and then the sunlight comes back, the device automatically restarts the charging. This is nice because other systems require user intervention to reset the charging process if the sun fades and then returns.
- Lightweight design perfect for backpacking and compact camping styles
- Panels connect with more of the same model to increase charging power
- Batteries required to run the information readout system
Honorable Mention: SUAOKI Foldable 60 Watt Portable Solar Charger
The SUAOKI Foldable 60 Watt Portable Solar Charger is the best foldable solar panel for camping because its extremely high output lets you charge pretty much any device while you’re out in the wilderness.
The SUAOKI Foldable 60 Watt Portable Solar Charger is in the category of the best foldable solar panel because it is good for charging many external battery power stations that are made by Suaoki, Enkeeo, Goal Zero, Yeti, Webetop, Paxcess, and Rockpals. It has a high 20% conversion rate for sunlight. It collects enough solar energy to be able to charge two devices at the same time, and It can be connected to a five-volt USB device and also has an 18-volt DC output.
I like the way this solar charger folds up to fit in a soft-sided carry bag that is like a briefcase. The folded dimensions are a very compact 11.5 by 7.1 by 2.9 inches.
This system comes with many connectors and cables. It comes with a car charger, a 10-in-1 laptop connector cable, an SAE-to-Clamp connector to use for connecting directly to storage batteries, two DC-to-DC cables, and one DC-to-SAE cable. It has almost everything needed to connect to anything for recharging. This system is a good value when compared to the others in its category.
- Large solar collection area for more powerful solar charging
- Can charge car batteries in an emergency
- Works in low light or on cloudy days
- Comes with a carry bag for easy transportation
- Too heavy for easy use while backpacking or for lightweight camping styles
Features to Consider for the Best Foldable Solar Panel
When trying to determine the best foldable solar panel, I took the time to understand the complaints about the different choices. One common thing I noticed is that people who were new to using a portable solar panel system had expectations about the charging process that are unrealistic.
Most of the newbies were disappointed that it took many hours to recharge a smartphone and that recharging did not work on cloudy days. Also, some received defective products when they arrived and only learned about the problem when they were already on a camping trip or a long hike.
These problems convinced me to always test any equipment before taking it on a trip. Having the ability to recharge a GPS location device, when lost, can save a person’s life. The same goes for a smartphone. It is not helpful to have the ability to connect to the cellular network when the phone battery runs out during an emergency.
When you’re buying a foldable solar panel, it’s important to determine which features are top priority, because the best foldable solar panel varies from person to person. For me, the important features are:
- Price — I want good value. This is usually not the cheapest or the most expensive but in between
- Capacity — I know what I need the system to recharge, which is my smartphone and laptop
- Weight — I hate carrying extra weight so it has to be lightweight
- Reliability — It better work when I need it to work
There are many styles of foldable solar panels to choose from that range from the smaller units designed to charge small devices, like a mobile phone, to larger multi-panel units designed to charge up all the device and battery needs for a larger group of campers.
A comparative feature in solar panels to look out for is the solar conversion rate. This specification is the efficiency rating of how much solar energy the panels convert into electricity. Panels than exceed 20% conversion are better than those with lower ratings because they will charge things faster. Another feature to consider is the weight of the solar panels, especially if you have to carry the unit for some distance. Durability and waterproofing are also important.
The functionality variations include the types of connection ports, the electrical outputs of each port, and the connecting cables that may be used to connect to other devices. Units that come with fast USB charging ports are better than those with only the older, slower USB charging port designs. Most people prefer having the ability to charge at least two devices at the same time.
Benefits of Using Foldable Solar Panels
I love the freedom to go anywhere that I want. It is terrific to be outside in nature and still use my favorite devices. Watching movies while camping is really enjoyable. Other benefits include there is less need to carry heavy batteries and spare batteries for all the devices. Buying equipment that has tiny solar cells for power is more expensive than buying equipment without them. These devices can be charged up by portable solar panels instead.
Portable solar panels are lightweight and take up little space. They can provide outdoor comfort, better communication, and entertainment when camping in areas with no electrical service. The panels can be set out in the sunshine even if the campsite is in the shade. After you take along portable foldable solar panels on your first camping trip with them, you will probably be like me and never want to go camping without them.
Outside of using foldable solar charging panels, solar power can help in other ways while camping too. A solar camp stove can help you cook your food using solar power, while solar powered lanterns and solar powered radios can keep you safe in the dark or in emergency situations.
Precautions When Using Foldable Solar Panels
There are a few precautions to take when handling this type of equipment, even with the best foldable solar panel systems. For example, even though these systems are foldable, it is still possible to break them if they are folded across the panel and crushed. So, always pack them properly.
Waterproof does not mean that these systems can be submerged in water or that they don’t need to be cleaned. It means that rain will usually not harm them. If you drop a solar panel unit in a creek, river, or lake, take it out of the water and let it dry out completely before trying to use it for recharging. This helps to avoid causing an internal electrical short. Waterproofing does not include connectors, cables, junction boxes or accessories.
Always test gear for functionality every time before taking it on a trip, especially if its use will be important.
The winner of the best foldable solar panel from my reviews for all-around performance, price, usefulness, and value is the Kingsolar Portable Solar Panel Charger. Its 40-watt output and the ability to charge two devices at the same time is why I like it. It is just the right size to charge my smartphone and my laptop.
The Suaoki 60-watt solar charger would be my next choice; however, it costs more and does not work that much faster than the Kingsolar 40-watt unit. When going for a short day hike. I use the ECEEN unit just to keep my smartphones charged. I do not have many friends that go along, so I do not need the Rockpals unit’s capacity and it weighs too much to carry on a hike.
For me, the Kingsolar Solar Charger is my “Goldilocks” choice that is just right. That’s why I’ve chosen it as my top pick for the best foldable solar panel.