Best Portable Solar Panel for RVs (7 Panels That Really Work!)

In this article, you will discover everything you need to know about portable solar panels for RVs.

Driving off into the sunset in your RV is a special feeling. It’s such a satisfying way to disconnect and enjoy a sense of freedom.

Whether it’s just for the weekend or for weeks at a time the destination choices are endless. 

You can head to popular campsites with all the amenities. 

Or if you’re like me, you prefer to go further off-grid. This requires a little more planning, especially when it comes to electricity. 

When spending a few days away from a power hook-up, the addition of solar power helps to keep your batteries juiced up.

And now more people are adding portable RV solar panels to provide an extra boost.


Are Portable Solar Panels Worth It for RVs?

Portable solar panels make the ideal accompaniment to your RV. 

If you are just starting out on your journey into solar, it offers an easy method to see if it works for your needs.

In addition, many people already have permanent panels mounted on their vehicle roof, but want to increase the power output. A portable solar panel means you don’t need to bother (or find enough space) mounting the equipment. You can simply park up and unfold it. 

One of the major benefits is the ability to move the portable unit into direct sunlight. That means you can gain maximum efficiency even if you are parked under the shade of a building or tree.


What To Look For in a Portable RV Solar Panel?

Before I start firing products at you, let’s take a look at what makes a worthwhile portable solar panel. Plus we’ll touch on different aspects to suit your needs. 

Power

Start by narrowing down the amount of power output you need. To get decent performance you’ll want at least 100 watts. This will enable you to charge batteries at sufficient speed. Anything less than this will struggle to deliver enough energy to make a noticeable difference in your RV.

To give you an idea of deep cycle battery charging with solar power you can expect 100 watts to generate 6 Amps to 12V batteries. That means you can add 30Ah battery charge per day. (As long as it’s sunny!)

Efficiency

Always look for monocrystalline solar cells. They offer the best level of performance giving your the highest conversion of sunlight to electricity. Monocrystalline products will have at least 21% conversion efficiency. 

In short, the more efficient your solar panel the more powerful it is for its size. 

Connectivity & Ease of Use

Be careful to check the connections and adaptors that come with a portable solar panel. 

You will find they can either be used with Portable Power Stations or deep cycle batteries and charge controllers.

If you want to charge your RV batteries then you’ll need a panel with a solar charge controller or MC4 connectors.

If you want to charge a portable power station then look for the correct adaptors for your power station brand e.g. Jackery, Goal Zero, etc.

Portability

This is a key factor with a portable solar panel. Once you look at the options you’ll see there’s all different shapes and sizes. Take the time to think through your needs.

If you have plenty of room to store and transport the equipment then you can choose larger briefcase design panels. These usually have aluminum frames and kickstands which are very robust. But they are large and heavy.

On the other hand, if room is limited or you want to carry it further away from your vehicle then additions like carry cases, slimline, folding, and weight should be taken into account.

Portable solar panels on VW camper

The lighter and more portable the product becomes will sacrifice durability as metal and glass are replaced by plastic and fabric. 


7 Best Portable Solar Panels for RV Use

Now you have an understanding of what factors make up the best RV portable solar panels, we can look at the top products.

1. Zamp solar Legacy 140-Watt Portable Solar Panel Kit

Zamp solar products are proudly made in the USA and lead the way for innovation in off-grid power. The Legacy Series is a serious piece of kit that allows you to charge your RV batteries with ease.

I’d go for the 140 watt model but you can also pick 45W, 90W, 180W, and 230W.

This product has everything you need and should last you for decades.

The panel comes ready to use with a pre installed solar charge controller so you can hook up directly to your battery. Alligator clips or SAE ports help you do this in seconds. When not in use, you can quickly fold it away, including the kickstand, and store it in the carry case.

VW van with solar panels

It’s easy to use, powerful, and well built. What more could you want?

Pros:

  • Multiple power sizes
  • Ready to use
  • Charge RV batteries
  • Durable
  • Built in USA

Cons:

  • Expensive

2. Renogy 100 Watt Monocrystalline Portable RV Solar Panel

When we talk about any off-grid power solutions, Renogy always seems to have a solution. For RV battery charging with portable solar panels this 100 watt briefcase is ideal.

It’s another complete kit that arrives with a solar charge controller. Once again it is neatly installed on the back so is protected when folded away. The panels are split into two 50W panels to make folding them away super easy. Plus you can transport it safely in the included carry case.  

Monocrystalline solar cells deliver top performance while an aluminum frame keeps things robust and stable. The setup is as quick as unzipping the case, opening the panels, and connecting the alligator clips to your battery. Literally a matter of seconds.

Pros:

  • 100W
  • Easy to use
  • Charge RV battery
  • Carry case
  • Included charge controller
  • Metal frame and stand

Cons:

  • Instructions contradict the setup simplicity

3. Go Power! 130W Portable Folding Solar Kit

This option from Go Power is very similar to the other options above but arrives in a unique power output of 130W. This gives you a little extra juice to bump up the charging current to 6.9Ah.

It’s got everything you would expect in a high quality and durable product. Monocrystalline solar cells provide superior efficiency and the metal frame comes with corner protectors and carry case. 

A built-in 10A solar charge controller means its completely plug and play. The SAE connector means you can hook up directly to your RV. Adding to this, alligator clips are included for a direct battery terminal connection.

The only let down is the stand as the legs and latches feel flimsy!

Pros:

  • 130W
  • Durable design
  • Plug and play
  • Charge controller included for RV battery
  • Carry case

Cons:

  • Legs and claps flimsy

4. Topsolar SolarFairy 100W Portable Foldable Solar Panel

The SolarFairy is one of the best foldable solar panels around for any use. When it comes to RVs it provides a different style compared to others on the list.

It’s more lightweight and compact which is useful for smaller vehicles or if you want to carry it a longer distance.

This works best to charge devices and appliances directly including phones, tablets, cameras, and portable power stations. It’s not designed to work directly with RV batteries. Although, with the correct adaptor and charge controller this could be achieved in front of the DC output. 

In my eyes, this is an all rounder giving you extra power for your essential gadgets. In addition, it is useful in an emergency. You can use this on RV trips, camping, backpacking, and other adventures.

Pros:

  • Easy phone / USB charging
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Multiple DC outputs including 14V
  • Use with Power Station

Cons:

  • Can’t directly charge RV battery

5. DOKIO Portable Foldable 150W 18v Solar Suitcase

DOKIO makes a number of folding solar panels but I have always been wary of the durability. This solar suitcase bucks the trend and delivers everything we’re looking for at an attractive price.

It’s built from monocrystalline solar cells which are housed in a metal frame. Once unfolded a kickstand is ready to angle the equipment into direct sunlight. Included is a charge controller with a neat LCD screen and USB ports. So you can even charge phones directly from the controller.

Alligator clips are included to wire to the controller and then hook up to deep cycle batteries instantly. Plus a secure rubber hand on the frame makes it easy to carry around. 

If you’re on a budget, then this 150W panel is your best friend.

Pros:

  • Budget friendly
  • 150W
  • Folding
  • Included charge controller

Cons:

  • Cheaper build quality
  • Need to wire alligator clips to controller
  • Controller screen lacks wattage information

6. BigBlue 100W Solar Panels, Portable Solar Panel

The team at Big Blue makes solar powered devices in all manner of shapes and sizes. This 100 watt panel packs incredible specs at an affordable price.

It’s a briefcase-style design with two 50W panels that are mounted in jet black aluminum frames. The all dark black color makes it feel like a batman accessory…

Monocrystalline solar cells ensure you get the highest conversion efficiency while the tempered glass covering keeps them safe and waterproof. An included carry case makes it easy to carry around and store safely.

The reason it doesn’t score higher overall is the lack of a charge controller. On the backside, the outlet cable is finished with an Anderson connector. This makes for easy connections but you’ll need to supply the charge controller or power station adaptors yourself.

Pros:

  • Looks awesome
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable price
  • Monocrystalline cells

Cons:

  • No charge controller included
  • No power station adapters
  • No Alligator clips

7. BougeRV 120W Lighter Portable Solar Panel

Finishing up the selection is a super lightweight briefcase style panel. It packs all the critical features we’ve seen in other products but at nearly 50% of the weight.

It’s easy to set up and use, includes monocrystalline high-efficiency cells, folds down with a case, and has a tilted kickstand.

You won’t believe how light it is when you pick it up. Weighing just 10lbs means you can carry it further or simply drive around with less weight. Of course, this does reduce its durability as it uses materials like PET plastic. This still delivers top-quality performance and IP67 waterproofing, but it’s more susceptible to bumps, knicks, and sharp objects.

For the DC outlet, there’s a connector (DC5525 & DC7909) for popular power station models. Plus the universal solar connector enables you to run a charge controller when you purchase BougeRV adaptors and a controller.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • Carry case
  • High efficiency
  • 100W

Cons:

  • No charge controller
  • Need to purchase extra adapter and controller
  • Not as durable

How to Add a Portable Solar Panel to an RV

Once your new solar panel arrives you’ll need to understand how to connect it to your RV. Many people get confused about the best way to do this, especially if you already have an existing solar array.

With a portable solar panel you should hook it up to your battery with a solar charge controller. If you have an existing system, you need to use a separate charge controller. This helps you avoid any voltage or connection issues. You should not try to connect a solar panel directly to your RV battery as the current and voltage will be unregulated leading to issues like overcharging.

Here’s a quick step-by-step approach:

  1. Connect your charge controller to your battery. Connect the positive controller output to the positive battery terminal. 
  2. Repeat this process with the negative side.
  3. If not preinstalled, connect the solar panel to your charge controller with positive to positive and negative to negative wiring. 
  4. Place the solar panel in direct sunlight to start charging your battery.

For an in-depth explanation read my guide to Adding a Portable Solar Panel to an Existing System


Portable Solar Panel for RV Summary

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to portable solar panels for RV battery charging.

In my experience, they enable you to keep your batteries topped up and even give you an extra boost even if you have a solar array mounted on your roof. Tagging on 100 or 200 watts of power output will allow you to easily recharge phones, laptops, tablets, lighting along with running small appliances like TVs and fans.

Thanks for reading and happy adventuring.