Best Portable Solar Panels For Your RV in 2023

Best Portable Solar Panels For Your RV in 2023

Looking for the best portable solar panels for your RV? Our expert team has tested and reviewed the top options on the market. Find out which one is right for you and start enjoying the benefits of solar power on the go!

Why You Need A Portable Solar Panel for Your RV

portable solar panel angled towards the sun next to a caravan

If you’re interested in being more eco-friendly while you’re traveling around in your RV, and who isn’t, you’re going to need a portable solar panel to keep your RV batteries charged.

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This eliminates the need for a gasoline-powered portable generator and reduces your CO2 emissions and your carbon footprint. 

Portable solar panels are also cheap to run as the energy from the sun is free. This can significantly reduce your running costs (apart from the initial purchase cost). These panels are also fairly maintenance-free so you can spend more time enjoying the great outdoors.

Using solar power is a far more cost-effective way to charge your smartphones and keep your computer running. Additionally, you can use the energy from the sun to run your TV and even the 12-volt fridge in your RV.

A final advantage of having a portable solar panel is that these are easy to set up and don’t require any installation. All you have to do is point the panel towards the sun and plug it in to charge your batteries.

Important Factors To Consider When Selecting A Portable Solar Panel For Your RV

pair of solar panels sitting in the sun and attached to a battery

Before you go out and purchase a portable solar panel for your RV, there are certain factors that you need to consider. These will affect your buying decision and allow you to select the perfect solution to meet your needs. Let’s look at each one in more detail.

Wattage

To work out how much wattage you’re going to need from your solar panels, you have to first work out what you need to run on a daily basis.

For example, if you only plan to run your 12-volt lights for a short time each day and charge your devices, then you should be fine with a 100-watt solar panel. 

However, if you also want to run your fridge on 12 volts and watch the TV for a couple of hours, then you’re probably going to need a minimum of 200 watts or two 100-watt solar panels.

Generally, this is considered the bare minimum when purchasing a portable solar panel for your RV.

The solar panels our team has chosen range in wattage from 120 to 300 watts. However, there are many different sizes available from the manufacturers that we’ve highlighted.

Maximum Power Output

Even though a solar panel is listed as a 100-watt panel, it doesn’t mean that it will supply 100 watts of power whenever it’s pointed towards the sun.

The power rating is determined in a laboratory under standard-type testing conditions. However, these precise conditions are not something that you’re likely to encounter on a day-to-day basis.

You generally want to assume that your solar panel will generate around 75% of its capacity if it’s exposed to around four to five hours of sunlight daily. This estimation will allow you to work out whether the system you choose will give you enough power for your needs.

The Quality And Efficiency Of The Portable Solar Controller

If you purchase a solar panel starter kit, this will usually come with a portable solar controller. This is necessary to convert the DC energy from the sun into the AC energy that will be stored in your battery.

Many of the kits that we’ve outlined below come with a fairly standard solar controller that will work reasonably well to get you started. However, over time, you might want to upgrade this to a better model that will keep you in power for the long run.

Weight

When we’re talking about portability, weight is a major consideration. After all, you’ll probably be unpacking and packing up your panel almost on a daily basis and you want this to be as easy as possible.

However, if you plan to stay put in the same location for a week or two and the solar panel you select is waterproof, then weight may not be a major issue.

Bear in mind though, that the weight of the panel will contribute to the overall weight in your RV so you don’t want to overdo it.

Durability Of The Panel

If you’re going to be investing your hard-earned dollars into buying a portable solar panel, you want to ensure that it’s going to last for a considerable amount of time.

Therefore, you want to select a panel that is at least waterproof because it is likely that it will get rained on at some time or another.

Compatibility

Compatibility is another factor that you need to consider when purchasing a portable solar panel. This is because solar panels can have different output voltages and connectors.

Therefore, you want to ensure that you are able to connect the panel safely to both the portable power station and the type of solar batteries that you have.

portable solar panel attached to a battery

The Length Of The Cable

The length of the cable that connects your solar panel to your battery becomes a major consideration if you often park your RV under trees. In this case, you’ll need to position your solar panel some distance from your vehicle so you’ll need a long cord to connect it.

It’s important to note that the length of the cable also has some bearing on the amount of power that can get to your battery. 

Portability

While some portable solar panels can actually be mounted on the roof of your RV and complete solar panel kits are available to enable you to do this, there are also flexible solar panels that fold up suitcase-style so that you can pack them away at the end of the day. 

We’ve included some of each type in our reviews so that you have a choice of what you would prefer. 

We understand that RV owners will have different needs when it comes to solar power. So, keep in mind what your needs are going to be when you settle on the best option. 

For example, if you plan to travel off-grid a lot and on a regular basis, you might want the convenience of having solar panels mounted on the roof because you can harness the sun’s energy while you’re driving.

On the other hand, if you intend to spend a lot of vacation time in parks where power is available but will spend a short amount of time off-grid, you might be better off with foldable monocrystalline solar panels.

Top 5 Portable Solar Panels For RV Use

Now that you know what to look for when selecting a portable solar panel for your RV, here are the top 5 best solar panels that our team has selected for your consideration.

#1 – Eco-Worthy 200 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit (2 Pack)

 Eco-Worthy 200 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit (2 Pack)

Main features:

  • Watts – 100 watts per panel (2 panels included)
  • Solar Charge Controller & Type – 30A 12V/24V PWM Controller
  • Built-in Stand – No
  • Cable Length – 16.4 feet
  • Dimensions – 39.8 x 18.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Weight – 11.46 pounds
  • Daily Output – 800wh when exposed to 4 hours of full sunlight 

This is the lowest-priced solar panel package on our list. However, it does come with two 100-watt solar panels so is good value for money. The panels are made from monocrystalline modules. These are framed with aluminum alloy and covered with low iron glass.

All of this makes the panels quite durable. They’re designed to withstand high winds and even snow loads.  The panels can be used to charge both 12-volt and 24-volt batteries which makes them very versatile. 

Each panel comes complete with two 35-inch cables. Plus, the waterproof IP-65-rated junction box has bypass diodes preinstalled. These are designed to minimize power drop in low-light conditions. 

The controller is quite small and compact and also has two USB ports so that you can charge your electronic devices directly. 

These solar panels can be used to charge most batteries. This includes lithium batteries, AGM and gel batteries.

Here’s a video that shows you how to install these panels on your RV:

ProsCons
Affordable and reasonably lightweightThe aluminum frame on the panels has sharp edges
Waterproof and durableThe cable to connect the controller to the battery is quite short
Kit is easy to installThe controller is a little on the cheap side and the wires may come out of their ports
Excellent starter kit

#2 – Renogy 200 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit (2 Pack)

Renogy 200 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit (2 Pack)

Main features:

  • Watts – 100 watts per panel
  • Solar Charge Controller & Type – Wanderer 30amp PWM charge controller
  • Built-in Stand – No
  • Cable Length – 20 feet
  • Dimensions – 47.3 x 21.3 c 1.4 inches
  • Weight – 14.1 pounds
  • Daily Output – 1000Wh based on 5 hours of direct sunlight

With this solar panel kit, you get two 100-watt monocrystalline panels, a Wanderer 30 amp PWM controller, cables and mounting brackets. 

The panels feature an anti-corrosion aluminum frame, a high-efficiency solar cell and a low iron tempered glass covering. All of this results in a highly durable panel that is protected from distortion and other types of physical damage.

The junction box is IP65 rated making it waterproof for extended outdoor use.

The controller is compatible with four different types of batteries. This includes lithium, sealed, flooded and gel batteries. It will ensure that your battery is charged safely to 100% capacity. It also has the capacity for you to add an additional 2 panels for a complete 400-watt system.

This is a great starter kit and the team liked the fact that it is expandable without also having to purchase an upgraded controller.

Here’s a useful video that shows you exactly how to connect the controller both to a battery and to the solar panels:

ProsCons
Lightweight and portable panelsNo built-in stand
Easy to install & useSome users have mentioned issues with the controller such as cables popping out on their own
Expandable

#3 – Dokio 300 Watt 18 volt Portable Solar Panel Kit

Dokio 300 Watt 18 volt Portable Solar Panel Kit

Main features:

  • Watts – 300 watts across a folding panel 
  • Solar Charge Controller & Type – Dokio LCD Smart Controller
  • Built-in Stand – Can stand on its own in concertina fashion
  • Cable Length – 9.85 feet
  • Dimensions – 77 x 37 inches when unfolded
  • Weight – 17 pounds
  • Daily Output – designed for portable use only, not permanent installation

This foldable solar panel kit is a little different to the previous two on our list in that the panels are flexible and can fold up into a small tidy unit that even comes with its own carry bag. This makes this a truly portable unit that you can take anywhere.

The flexible panels are quite robust and corrosion-resistant. They feature monocrystalline solar cells and a polyester canvas backing. There’s a sheet of insulating resin between the backing and the sheet of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) that sits behind the solar cells. The cells are then covered with another sheet of EVA and the entire unit is protected with a sheet of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene).

The kit comes complete with the Dokio LCD smart controller which also has 2 USB charging ports so you can use it as a solar charger to directly charge two electronic devices at the same time. This is a convenient way to keep your small devices charged constantly.

The controller is compatible with a range of different batteries including AGM, Lead-acid, Lifepo4, Lithium and gel batteries. The controller also offers surge protection, overcharge protection and short circuit protection.

Although this panel is waterproof, it’s not designed for permanent installation but rather for portable use only. It’s recommended that you bring the panel in overnight or during inclement weather conditions.

ProsCons
Truly portable, lightweight & easy to storeNot suited for permanent installation
Durable and waterproofPanel can easily blow over in strong wind
Controller has 2 USB charge ports

#4 – Acopower 120-Watt Portable Solar Panel

Acopower 120-Watt Portable Solar Panel

Main features:

  • Watts – 40 watts per panel (120 watts total)
  • Solar Charge Controller & Type – ProteusX 20 amp PWM Controller
  • Built-in Stand – Includes Adjustable kickstands
  • Cord Length – 
  • Dimensions – 22.05 x 17.72 x 3.6 inches
  • Weight – 11.24 pounds

This features a foldable design as it is a folding solar suitcase-style solar panel which makes it very portable and perfect for RV adventures. It is particularly suited for use with solar generators but can also be used to charge a battery. This makes it an excellent choice if you’re planning to spend an extended period of time off-grid.

The entire unit consists of 3 connected panels each capable of generating 40 watts of power. These panels are protected with an ETFE coating for durability, scratch resistance and excellent light transmission. 

This solar panel setup is designed for temporary use and should not be permanently installed. It’s recommended that the panel be taken indoors at night and not left out in the rain.

The included ProteusX 20 amp PWM Controller features 3 USB ports for charging all your electronic devices directly. It also offers short circuit protection, surge protection and overload protection, keeping your battery safe from being overcharged.

The team were quite impressed that the controller could easily be attached to a battery with the use of alligator clips (no tools required).

Here’s a very useful video which shows you how to set up and use this type of solar panel. Although this video demonstrates the 105-watt folding solar panel, the instructions apply to all the folding solar panels that Acopower produce.

ProsCons
Lightweight & very portableNot intended for permanent installation
Controller features 3 USB ports
Durable panel
Included kickstands

#5 – Acopower 200 Watt Mono Lightweight Portable Solar Panel Kit

Acopower 200 Watt Mono Lightweight Portable Solar Panel Kit

Main features:

  • Watts – 200 watts (two 100 watt panels)
  • Solar Charge Controller & Type – Acopower 20 amp PWM Controller
  • Built-in Stand – Yes
  • Cable Length – 98.4 inches
  • Dimensions – 31.5 x 26.97 x 1.97 inches (folded size)
  • Weight – 20.9 pounds
  • Daily output – 960 Wh depending on sunlight availability

If you’re looking for just a little more power output but really like the portability and convenience of a suitcase-style solar panel kit, you might like to consider this unit also made by Acopower.

It features two 100-watt durable solar panels that can be folded into a compact size for easy storage. The panels have an in-built kickstand so that you can easily angle them directly towards the sun.

These panels feature the same durable construction as the 120-watt kit and utilize the same type of controller. They can be used to charge a battery or with a solar generator.

If you really like this unit and want to increase your power capacity, it’s not that difficult to expand the kit with a second one to give you a massive 400 watts. Here’s a quick video that shows you exactly how to do this:

ProsCons
Portable folding solar panelsThe included cable is a little short
Included carry bag & kickstands
Durable and long-lasting
Expandable

How can you work out how much power you need?

One of the easiest ways to do this is to use a plug in electricity usage monitor that allows you to plug in your appliances and devices one by one. The monitor will then tell you how much wattage each appliance uses. 

For larger appliances such as air conditioners and fridges, they should have a wattage rating on a panel. For example, a 1200-watt air conditioner.

Then, you can work out your total power needs by creating a list of all of the appliances that you want to run, list their individual power needs and add them up.

You then want to convert the wattages into amp hours so that you know how much power you’ll need per hour of usage.

To do this, you simply need to divide the wattage of each appliance by 12. For example, a 1200-watt air conditioner will use 100 amps per hour (1200 divided by 12).

After you’ve done this, you’ll need to work out how long your battery will power your appliances before it runs out of stored power.

For example, if you have a 100AH (amp hour) battery, you can safely assume that your battery will run your air conditioner for one (1) hour before it runs out. 

However, it’s important to note that deep cycle batteries should never be allowed to run out completely as this will shorten their life. Ideally, you only want to run down your battery to 50% capacity before recharging it.

This becomes even more confusing if you have to use an inverter that turns DC current into normal AC current. This is because the inverter will also use some power. So, to be on the safe side, assume that your inverter will use around 20% of the power that is needed to run your appliances.

Maintenance Tips For Your Portable Solar Panel

solar panel cleaning with a long handled squeegee brush

One of the most important things that you want to do is keep your solar panels clean at all times. If the panels are covered with dust or dirt, their efficiency in producing power will greatly reduce.

This is easier if you have portable suitcase-style solar panels because you can just give them a quick wipe-over before putting them away at the end of the day.

However, if you have panels that you’ve mounted on the roof of your RV, they’re generally out of sight and you might not remember to inspect them regularly. It’s a good idea to include a general cleaning of your panels in your weekly to-do list.

This is particularly important if you’ve just experienced some stormy weather that may have deposited a lot of debris and dust onto your panels.

To avoid scratching your solar panels, use a soft, non-abrasive cloth and water. Then, dry with another soft cloth or squeegee to remove any residual residue.

For stubborn stains or dirt, you can purchase a solar panel cleaner in concentrated form.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many solar panels do I need to run an RV?

At a minimum, you want to look at six 100-watt solar panels to run your RV while you’re off-grid.

How many solar panels do I need to run my RV AC?

Most RV air conditioners will need 1,800 watts to start up and around 650 watts per hour to run. Therefore, you’re going to need 16 x 100-watt solar panels to run your RV AC effectively.

Will a 100-watt solar panel run an RV fridge?

A 100-watt solar panel should be able to run a small 12-volt fridge. However, you would be better off with two 100-watt solar panels to ensure that your fridge keeps running when you’re off grid.

Why is it necessary to connect the controller to the battery before connecting the solar panel?

You need to connect the controller to the battery first so that it can read what type of battery you have and adjust accordingly. This avoids causing damage to your battery.

In Summary

Portable solar panels are invaluable for people who love to go camping or traveling around the country in their RV. While some models can be mounted on the roof of your RV, others are foldable and can be packed away at the end of the day.

These are great for charging up your battery or even your portable devices when the sun is shining and you’re in a remote area with no power available. Our team was happy to test several of the models available on the market and select five of the best that you might want to consider.