Portable Solar – everything you need to know about mobile energy from the Sun

Portable Solar

Everybody is super excited about solar energy and how it can make life better. But have you considered the different portable solar options?

We’re big fans of clean energy and the fact that the Sun provides constant, free and clean energy is amazing. What’s even more impressive is when we can use this energy wherever we are in the form of portable solar.

According to Energy.gov, more than 173,000 kilowatts of energy strikes the Earth at all times. This incredible and constant flow of energy can be harnessed on the go!

Let’s take a look at the wonderful options available for mobile solar.

What is portable solar?

Portable solar is any product, technology or service that gives people access to the power of the Sun while on the go. When we talk about this type of technology we talk about generating electricity from the Sun while we are mobile and also solar heating and cooking products that can be easily picked up and taken with us.

What are the different types of portable solar?

You might think that portable solar panels are the main form of mobile solar and it might make you think back on the days when kids had solar-powered calculators in their school bags.

Thanks to new technology we are now lucky to have many different products and solutions available to enjoy solar on the go.

Portable solar panels

Solar panels have improved a lot recently and you can now get a lot more power from a smaller, lighter panel.

You can take solar panels with you to power devices such as laptops, smartphones, powerbanks, GPS devices and more. Mobile solar panels are usually light to carry and may even be flexible or foldable.

These types of panels are usually in the 5 to 10 Watt range and effective for smaller devices.

Two examples of portable, folding solar panels are the Anker 24 Watt folding solar panel and the AllPower 100 Watt folding solar panel which can be used to charge laptops and more.

The Goal Zero Nomad 20 Watt folding solar panel is an option if you want a solar pack with loads of utility.

Check out our article about the Goal Zero portable solar panels.

Be sure to also check out the Nekteck 28 Watt which is waterproof and ideal for the great outdoors.

We also recommend the BioLite SolarPanel 10+ portable solar panel for stylish, efficient power on the go.

You will usually need to get a battery separately if you want to store the energy you get from these types of portable solar panels.

According to manufacturers, you can charge your phone within 1 to 2 hours on average, using these types of solar panel chargers.

One thing to consider is that a larger surface area on your panels means you can angle the panel away from direct sunlight and still get some charge. Bigger is better when it comes to solar power!

Solar power kits

So you want to go off-grid but aren’t ready to commit to a full solar installation? Portable solar power kits are great to give you a taste of solar without the full splurge.

What do you get in a typical solar power kit? The solar panel is the core of the system and this charges a battery through a solar charge controller. The same system can even produce AC power through an inverter so you can plugin in everyday items.

Solar power kits are easy to assemble and sold with clear instructions. The entire setup is designed to be portable and therefore not as powerful as those you cannot lug around, but still mighty convenient for if you need power on the go.

Solar generators

A portable solar power generator will come to the rescue when you need the essentials of home but aren’t near a plug point or miles away from the grid.

How does a solar generator work?

A solar generator is a portable electronic device that works together with solar panels to give you electricity wherever and whenever you need it.

The best types of solar generators are powerful enough to power your fridge, microwave, coffee machine and loads of other household appliances at the same time. This is a great solution for when there is no electricity from the grid.

Jackery is a very well known brand of solar generators with a multitude of portable products.

What makes a solar generator great?

  • Easy to use
  • Safe
  • Quieter than regular gas-powered generators
  • Produces clean energy

Solar lights

Solar lighting is one of the most common forms of portable solar. You will find solar lights at any hardware store or garden centre.

Solar lights convert energy from the sun directly into light – so there is no need for an inverter. A rechargeable battery stores energy so that when it is dark the stored solar energy can be used to power lights.

We love solar lighting because they can make a garden look awesome at night, prevent a stubbed toe during a blackout and provide light at a campsite or road trip.

Portable solar geysers

There are many ways to use the energy from the sun to efficiently heat water – and some of these methods are portable. This means you can easily set them up at any location and then pack them up again for when it is time to move on. This is ideal for campers and digital nomads living in RVs or caravans.

A product called the Preppers Peak Sunkettle uses direct heat from the sun to heat water for a cup of tea or coffee and the video below shows this can even BOIL water after 2.5 hours.

This allows you to make water safe for drinking (by boiling it) and prepare a hot beverage, but what about if you want to take a bath or shower?

A number of ingenious solutions include using the inner tube from a car as a reservoir for hot water (just fill it up and leave it in the sun!) and the high pressure solar heaters you see on rooftops – the smaller versions are considered “semi” portable.

inner tube solar heater

There are, of course, more sophisticated solar geysers available, but sometimes the simplest things work best.

Portable solar cookers

When people think about solar, they usually think about generating electricity from the sun, but the practical ways you can use the sun’s direct heat are amazing.

Portable solar cookers let you boil water and cook food using only the heat from the sun. You can bake, boil, fry, steam and roast – even on cloudy days!

Check out the vast range of products from GoSun, for example, including solar ovens, grills, coolers and more.

You can have a full kitchen powered by the heat from the sun, and even bake brownies!

Solar power banks

When you’re on the move you want to make sure you have a backup of power for your cellphones, cameras, laptops and more.

Remember, the sun doesn’t shine at night (duh) and you may have days that are very cloudy. This is when you will need a solar power bank to store all that good, clean energy from the sun.

Portable solar power banks are usually about the size of a large smartphone and are designed to attach to a solar panel or set of solar panels – or have a compact, integrated solar panel. Some models are waterproof or even have built in flashlights and wireless charging options – it all depends on your budget.

Models with fold-out sets of solar panels will charge faster than those with a single solar panel, but these are more bulky.

Solar power banks

How do people use portable solar?

People on the move need portable solar and there are many ways the energy from the sun can be used when you are out and about.

Solar backpacks

Hikers, trail runners and campers use solar backpacks to charge devices while they are on the move.

These are not the best way to charge your devices since you are usually in shade and the panel does not always face the sun directly, but even so solar backpacks are a useful way to charge up while you’re on the move.

Portable solar for camping

You can use the power of the sun in many ways while you’re camping:

  • Cook your meals using solar cookers
  • Charge your devices using solar panels
  • Store energy using a solar power bank
  • Have a hot shower or bath using a solar geyser
  • Make a warm beverage using a solar kettle

The benefits of solar for campers keeps growing as people develop clever ways to harness the power of the sun.

Portable solar for hiking

We’ve all seen the videos and promo photos where hikers move nimbly through the jungle with a solar panel on their backpacks – charging their devices on the go.

The reality is that when you’re trekking through the bush and trees you are in shade for MOST of the time and your solar panel is hardly ever pointing directly at the sun. The better solar panels for hikers to attach to backpacks are usually multi-panel (to allow for different angles to capture the sun’s energy) and have larger panels.

Either way, don’t believe the hype and, like hiking, slow and steady is the name of the game when it comes to solar power while hiking.

Portable solar for commuting

You will always need power when you’re in the city or moving between two cities. Rushing to a meeting but your phone is dead? No problem! Solar comes to the rescue.

Stuck in a boardroom all day and sitting near a sunny window? Use that solar power to charge up while you wait for your turn to speak.

Sitting in a taxi on the way to the airport? Solar can help you stay charged up.

We are thankful we have so many options these days to carry solar chargers in our pockets or laptop bags so we have reason to be left without a full charge when we need it most.

Portable solar for mobile homes and RVs

Millions of Americans travel across the US each year in an RV or mobile home. Some people live for years in a nomadic state, enjoying the beautiful countryside and moving from place to place constantly. This type of lifestyle needs portable solar for RVs to keep you going.

Portable cookers, portable solar panels, portable geysers and portable solar power banks make life on the road so much easier.

How much power can you get from a portable solar panel?

According to analysis done by EnergySage, you can expect to get about 100 Watts of energy per portable solar panel.

Technology is constantly improving through and we’re starting to see panels hitting the 200W mark while only weighing 14 to 18 pounds.

Two great examples are the Bluetti 350W panel and the Jackery 200 Solar Panel.

What are the advantages of portable solar panels?

Portable solar panels are:

  • Convenient, portable and easy to use
  • Waterproof
  • Efficient (if you’re using folding monocrystalline panels)
  • Versatile: you can add them to the roof of an RV or put them up near your tent
  • Uses clean, renewable energy
  • Low maintenance
  • Reduces how much you spend on electricity

What are the disadvantages of portable solar panels?

  • Poor weather can affect their performance
  • Can only effectively power smaller devices
  • Can be bulky to carry around if you want larger, more effective panels
  • Relatively high initial cost of ownership
  • Can create pollution during the manufacturing process

The ongoing research in solar technology helps reduce the disadvantages and increases the advantages of portable solar panels. We’re excited to see what new products the future brings.

Is portable solar power worth it?

Absolutely yes – once you start using portable solar charging, cooking and power bank devices you will wonder how you ever commuted, hiked or travelled without them.

We love the fact that solar allows us to enjoy clean, renewable energy from the sun while helping to combat climate change and save us money.

Portable solar is booming right now and will continue to grow in the future.

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