Buying Guide : Portable Solar Panels

Editor: Graham Morfitt, BSc (Physics)
Modern Outpost carries a wide assortment of portable solar panels & solar chargers to meet the needs of mobile power applications. We’ve helped outfit educational treks across the Atacama Desert, kite skiing expeditions across Greenland, bike tours of Asia, hikes up Kilimanjaro, cross-Canada pilgrimages, and week long kayak tours off Vancouver Island.
Our experience: It just has to work.
Which means we have to have ultimate trust in the gear we recommend.

What To Look For…

Solar Power

  • 2 Watts is the bare minimum to keep up with iPods & cell phones (30-50% charge per summer day)
  • 10 Watts is my recommended minimum for laptops & typical dSLR camera use (1-3 battery charges per summer day)
  • 30+ Watts is my recommended range for significant notebook, camera, & video equipment

Solar Panel Type…

  • Crystalline panels are more efficient, meaning more power per square inch, but they need strong direct sunlight for good performance. Best for summer use & mid-latitude locations.
  • Thin-Film panels are more sensitive, and will provide better charging in higher latitudes (Canada), & in bright overcast or partial shade. Best option for 3-season activities.

Solar Storage Battery Capacity…

  • USB battery capacity should be at least 1-2x the daily power output of the USB solar panel charging it (see noted recommendations for each panel)
  • Universal battery packs for “12V” solar panels should have capacity at least 1-2x the daily output of the solar panel charging it (see noted models)

Design…

  • Weather-resistance is an absolute must. Water-resistance is best.
  • Packability is important. These are supposed to be ‘portable’ solar panels, so be sure to note overall weight.
  • Should have grommets, straps, loops, or handles to make it easy to attach to backpacks, paniers, tents, bikes, etc.
What Are The Best Brands?

We’ve seen a lot of solar over the years. Many are simply Kickstarter projects that fail to live up to their hype. What we feature at Modern Outpost are brands & products that have been around for years, and have proven themselves through actual user experience.

What Are Some Popular Options?

Lightweight Trekking with a smartphone, and small camera
Powerfilm LightSaver
Voltaic Arc 10W (solar direct to USB) with V15 storage battery (optional for evening charging)
Goal Zero Nomad 7+ (solar direct to USB) with Venture 30 storage battery (for off-hours)
Voltaic Fuse 6W all-in-1 piggyback solar
Converter Solar Backpack

More Power… For everything up to a dSLR camera
PowerFilm LightSaver MAX
Voltaic Arc 10W with V44 storage battery
Goal Zero Nomad 14+ with Venture 70 storage battery

Still More Power… For everything up to a laptop
PowerFilm 20W Folding, or 14W Rollable (see also: Trek North 20 & Kayak 14)
Voltaic 17W Solar with V88 storage battery
Goal Zero Nomad 28+ with Sherpa 100 storage battery
P3 60W Flex Panel with AC600 battery pack
Voltaic Array Solar Backpack

The Big List…

Below are lightweight solar panels designed to support all electronics up to & including laptops, medical equipment, cameras & videography equipment, and more.
Want a specific solar panel added to this list? Let me know.

3-10 Watt-Hours per Day (1x Full Charge: iPods, small cameras, phones)
Voltaic 1W
Voltaic 2W
Voltaic 3.5W
Voltaic Amp
PowerFilm LightSaver

10-20 Watt-Hours per Day (1x Full Charge: phones, dSLR cameras, small tablets)
Voltaic 6W
Goal Zero Nomad 7
Goal Zero Nomad 7+
PowerFilm 7W Rollable

20-50 Watt-Hours per Day (1x Full Charge: video cams, small drones, tablets)
Voltaic Arc 10W
Voltaic 9W

Voltaic 17W
PowerFilm LightSaver MAX
PowerFilm 10W
PowerFilm 14W Rollable

Goal Zero Nomad 13
Goal Zero Nomad 14+

50-100 Watt-Hours per Day (1x Full Charge: laptops, CPAP)
PowerFilm 20W
PowerFilm 30W
PowerFilm 21W Rollable
PowerFilm 28W Rollable
P3 20W
P3 30W

P3 21W Rollable
Voltaic Arc 20

Goal Zero Nomad 20
Goal Zero Nomad 28+

Going Big : 100+ Watt-Hours per Day (Base camps, tiny houses, trailers, etc)
PowerFilm 60W
PowerFilm 90W
PowerFilm 120W
PowerFilm 220W
PowerFilm 42W Rollable
PowerFilm 60W Rollable
P3 60W
P3 75W
P3 75W (24V)
P3 100W
P3 125W

P3 90W Rollable
P3 200W Rollable
P3 200W EZ-Out Kit
P3 200W EZ-Out Complete System
Goal Zero Nomad 100

Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase
Samlex MSK-90
Samlex MSK-135

%d bloggers like this: