Portable Solar Power Systems: Charging On The Go

Categories: Review and Solar PV Panels.

Portable Solar Power Systems

The development of portable solar power systems provide us with a means of mobile renewable power for people on the go. Renewable energy sources like solar power, wind power and hydroelectric power in static locations were discovered and used because they generated clean power economically.

People like convenience and now we have a clean mobile source of alternative energy.  The innovative electronic mobile devices with batteries bring convenience to our life but there is a need to keep them charged, which brings us to seek the best portable energy source to do that.

Now mobile solar chargers will give charge that provides an extended use to those mobile electronic gadgets.

portable solar power systems

These portable solar power systems can be rechargeable battery packs, or portable solar panels that charge directly from the sun or combined portable solar chargers with battery packs that keep mobile device users working and connected.

Portable solar power systems are being adopted by campers, hikers, beach goers, and adventurers across the world. Your mobile solar panels give you the portable power systems that can provide flexibility to harvest energy from the sun while travelling or resting.

You can clip a small lightweight flexible solar panel to your backpack to get some charge into your phone or camera while you are walking.

portable solar power systems

The Portable Solar Power Systems

The portable solar panels are small in size and light in weight and charge small low power mobile devices while you are on the move. The charge available from these solar panels is dependent on their power generation capacity and how much time they are in full sunlight during the time you are walking.

If you are walking then direct sun access is intermittent at best. Some solar chargers will stop charging when the sunlight is interrupted and need to be reset. These portable envelop sized small solar kits are perfect for topping up small mobile devices like your cell phone or iPod but only if left in the sun for several hours. Then, depending on size of the panel its charging output varies from 1 watt to 20 watts. Choose your charger carefully or use it differently.

If you want to walk and use your phone for pictures then maybe charging your phone at night using stored solar power is possible if you invest in a battery pack. The sun will charge your battery pack during the day while you are away hiking. When you stop for the night, you can top up your phone from the charged battery pack. 

There are larger movable solar panels that can be shifted from the top of your RV or unpacked from the luggage area and placed to catch sunlight while your RV is parked in shade.  

These are bigger mobile solar panels that are used to charge a 12v battery to run gadgets like your mini fridge. The medium to large solar kits can generate in the range between 40 watts and 160 watts.

Benefits Of Mobile Solar Kits

In the early years of solar power, most solar kits available in the market catered to the fixed solar panel requirement. Anyone requiring a portable setup could modify the same to suit their needs. Today, we have particular solar kits being manufactured in various sizes and offering several benefits:

  • Easy to store after the trip is over
  • Low maintenance requirement
  • Their lightweight and compact size makes them easy to unpack and setup
  • Most solar kits come with integrated inline charge controller
  • The wire length is long enough to move the panels around with the shift in sunlight
  • These solar kits are designed with legs that can be tilted to achieve maximum sunlight
  • Quick connect battery connectors
  • Accessories that can be easily set up by amateur campers

Making Your Portable Solar Power Systems Panel Purchase

There are four key factors you need to focus on for making your portable solar panel purchase. These include:

  • Set your budget
  • How much storage space is available for the panels when not in use
  • What add-on features are required to make them work (e.g. extra battery)
  • How much power do you normally require on your trips

An important add-on feature for your portable solar panel charger is to include no-tear hooks, which allows the charger to hang from packs, tents, or trees. Another feature to consider along with water-proofing is its durability and robustness.

Portable solar power system

Your Typical Portable Solar Panel

Generally a portable solar panel consists of the following 6 parts:

Solar Charge Controller

The controller enables the solar panels to fully charge the battery in case of additional power requirement. The charge controller reduces or stops the power to the battery, depending on its current charge condition. There are different controllers available ranging from Shunt Type, PWM - or Pulse Width Modulation, and MPPT - or Maximum Power Point Tracking, with the preferred choice being the PWM with being cheaper, and durable.

Solar panels can deliver more voltage than batteries need to charge them. MPPT controllers have better battery charging efficiency and can accept a higher input voltage than the battery will. PWM will slowly lower the amount of power pushed to the batteries as the batteries approach full charge so as to improve battery life. MPPT converts excess voltage into amps so the charge voltage stays at an optimal level. That reduces the time for charging the batteries so the solar power system operates at its optimum.

Rigid Solar Panels

Some portable units come with rigid solar panels as they prove to be sturdier in the outdoors during extreme weather conditions. Remember to secure them well as they will move with a strong gust of wind.

Hinged Panels

There is a hinge provided at the center of the solar panels between two separate photo-voltaic panels. It allows easy folding of the panels at the time in preparation of storage.

Adjustable legs

The adjustable legs help with keeping the panel in the best position to absorb maximum sunlight. The panels can be easily angled with a slight adjustment to capture maximum sunlight and help in easy storage as well.

Solar Cable

Most portable solar kits come with a 15 to 30 feet length solar cable. This allows the panel to be shifted easily to better sunlit areas while giving enough space around the RV or your vehicle.

Battery Connectors

The battery connectors help in easy attachment and removal of the solar kit from your battery. Some solar power kits also include alligator clamps and Anderson connectors.

Check out one option for your portable solar power system below.

Uses For Portable Solar Power Systems

portable solar power system

Charging your laptop

For some campers the laptop is as vital to your survival as air or water. Your laptop can be easily charged using the mobile solar panel. While you are sitting on the beach, trekking your way through a forest or sitting in basecamp of the Himalayas, this solar charger keeps the laptop alive. The charging time of the laptop depends on the sunlight availability, wattage offered by the solar panel, and the size of batteries in your laptop.

Cell Phone Charging

A cell phone is the most valued travel accessory of the traveler and the easiest to charge with a portable solar charger. A charged mobile phone keeps you connected to the world and gives you access to maps without depending on the mains power supply or a battery. You need to select a charger that has a higher and quicker Wh output. Around 10Wh gives you a slower charge so if you have an iPhone, it will take around 2 hours for it to be fully charged.

Charging Your RV

Installing a large size mobile solar panel atop your RV assists you for charging electronics that makes for a quiet and hassle-free trip. 

For an RV camper that uses the solar PV power option it guarantees a quieter camping experience. Having reliable power is one of the critical aspects of a comfortable motorised holiday. Engine powered electricity generators need fuel. They are noisy, emit fumes into the camp environment and also lighten your pocket at the same time. 

You can park your RV under a shady tree to escape the heat, easily detach the solar panels from the RV and move the panels under direct sunlight to charge your batteries. Solar PV power is a powerful, cost-efficient way of charging the RV batteries along with batteries of portable devices, and provide lighting and even air conditioning during the heat of day. The solar panels that you use with an RV are smaller in size compared to the panels you use in a home solar setup but in an emergency they can help provide power at home base camping.


You could use the vehicle’s batteries for this purpose and a portable generator working full time. The diesel generator’s fuel consumption adds to the cost of using batteries. The video below is on the portable solar power set up.

Portable Solar Power, Solar Cooking, Wearable Solar, And Water Purification

For trips that are a little longer than just a few hours, portable solar power systems and panels are handy for survival. You can use solar for heating water, solar cookers and grills for cooking. There are minute-sized solar water purifiers available that are a life saver in areas with water problems. Portable solar PV chargers for electricity on the go are a must have for the traveler.

Portable Solar Power Devices

If you are a frequent traveler, consider buying devices and gadgets that have an inbuilt solar charger and power pack so they will be independent of your RV's solar power setup. Now the RV's solar power can be used solely for your lighting and heating needs. 

Many small portable electrical devices are offered with a solar power enabled variant. Gadgets like the music system, lanterns, navigation devices, phone, camera and other gadgets come with power banks, power stations, or designed so you can add a solar power charger.

You’re usually going on a camping, hiking or a trekking trip because you love nature. You like to relax in the peace offered there so you don't want to harm the pristine balance of natural quiet by generating unnecessary noise of a generator. Use rechargeable batteries so you don't need to change and dispose of single use items at the campsite. The chemicals in disposable batteries that leech into the soil will in time affect the local flora and fauna. 

Single-use batteries don't make sense with portable solar power systems available. The best batteries for recreational use are rechargeable solar batteries

You might consider a combination of fixed and portable solar power systems. If your fixed panels of your mobile power system on the RV can do with a boost you might add additional capacity with portable solar panels and extra battery storage.

Movable solar panels do have some disadvantages, the primary one being the effort of moving the mobile panels from place to place to keep them in the sun. Also, if a thunderstorm, strong winds or heavy rains show up, you have to pack them up to prevent damaged equipment. 

Wind gusts hitting the panels from the back can easily flip them over. You can secure the panels in a location using temporary measures like a metal fence post and water jug to secure the legs of the panel in place.

Although most solar panels in the market are waterproof and have a shockproof exterior, the wind flipping them and panels tumbling over and over may damage them. You need to change the position of the panel during the day to continuously optimise your panel's power collection. 

Be mindful of the solar panels’ placement if you go walking around the campsite at night in the event of walking over them. Portable solar panels are more expensive than larger roof-fixed solar panels.

portable solar power systems

Collapsible Water Bag

portable solar panel systems

Metal fence post

Wearable Portable Solar Power

The functionality of wearable portable solar power systems have been upgraded, with the technology moving beyond watches to solar textiles. In the future your clothes may be able to charge your laptop or your cell phone while you are walking.

These solar textiles have tiny solar panels stitched into the fabric of clothing to operate electronic equipment. The technology can be extended to the curtains you generally place in your camping vehicles, tents and umbrellas.

Water Purified By Portable Solar Power

In the field of water purification, Stanford’s new solar water purifier uses visible light and does not depend only on the UV rays of sunlight. And this technology is quick; it requires only a few minutes to give you reliable drinking water. 

The future for mobile solar power systems is going to be filled with solutions from creative innovation.

Check out another option for your portable solar power system.

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