Solar panel technology is better than ever. As solar cell technology has developed, solar power has become cheaper, more powerful and much more reliable, even in lower light conditions.
Solar panels are now also much lighter in weight and can be transported easily. Some are even as thin as a sheet of card and can be folded down into a rectangle no thicker than a magazine!
These new portable solar panels aren’t just useful for charging portable devices like phones but are sometimes even powerful enough to charge vehicle batteries, laptops and high-capacity portable power stations. They can also be used in conjunction with inverters to provide AC power.
This article will review the best portable solar panel brands in the UK and what to consider when buying portable solar panels.
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Best Overall – BigBlue 28W Solar Charger
This excellent portable solar panel is perfect when travelling on foot. It combines a powerful 28w output with an impressively large yet foldable design. The large panel surface area means that the BigBlue 28W Solar Charger can easily handle the charging of high-capacity power banks as well as the vast majority of phones and portable devices.
The BigBlue 28W Solar Charger measures just 11.2L x 6.3W x 1.1D inches when folded or 33L x 11.22W x 0.2D inches when open. It’s a great size for fixing to the back of a backpack for charging whilst on the move.
The solar panel itself has an efficiency rating of 21.5% – 23.5%, which is above average for a solar panel of this price/size/class. That means it’s capable of charging devices reasonably well even in dimer sunlight.
A built-in ammeter allows you to monitor how well the panel is working, also helping you position it correctly for maximum sun capture (solar panels can be very sensitive to placement).
It has an intelligent chip that optimises charging for the vast majority of phones and power banks.
Topping it all off, the BigBlue 28W Solar Charger has a waterproof rating of IPX4, which protects against haze, mist and light rain. Steel eyelets also allow for quick and easy attachment to backpacks and other surfaces.
This is a 28w solar panel with dual USB output only. It is suitable for charging most smartphones and portable power banks.
- Ultra-portable fold-out design
- IPX4 waterproofing
- Dual USB 28w output
- Efficient solar panels for lower-light usage
- Excellent for lightweight travel
- Can charge two devices at once
- Decent low-light performance
- Durable design for travel
Best Premium – Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel
Jackery has built a solid reputation in the solar panel and portable power station market.
The Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel is a high-quality 100w solar panel that can be used either with the USB interface supplied to charge phones or devices, or plugged into a power station.
It makes an ideal partner for the Jackery Explorer 500 power station. Two of these panels can be connected to a Jackery 1000 to provide efficient outdoor, off-grid, portable power.
The SolarSaga has a DC output for connectivity to power supplies and dual USB output, one 3A and one 2.4A to support fast charging. 100w is pretty powerful and will provide around 80w or so to the Jackery Explorer 1000 power generator which should suffice for powering medium-draw electrical equipment including laptop chargers, small fridges, TVs, etc.
The solar panel itself is 23% efficient or thereabouts, which is very good indeed. This places it towards the higher end of solar panels byways of efficiency.
This makes the panel pretty efficient even during cloudier weather, or at least, it doesn’t need total beaming sunshine to produce a solid output. It’s easy to fold into a thin, neat package for easy transportation.
The panel itself is quite large, measuring 65.5 x 55 x 8cm. Two can be combined for greater power – as mentioned, the SolarSaga is the ideal partner for the well-regarded Jackery Explorer range of portable generators.
A high-quality, dependable solar panel for multiple outdoors uses.
- 100w max power
- Dual USB outputs
- DC output for inverters
- 23% efficient
- Very efficient panel
- Comes with USB outputs
- Easy to connect to portable generators
- Thin and foldable
- Not waterproof
Best Budget – Anker PowerPort Solar Panel
Anker is one of the rising stars in the portable power industry and has bestsellers across virtually every category. The Anker PowerPort Solar is no exception – it’s a brilliant portable solar panel for lightweight travel.
At 11.1L x 6.3W x 1.1D inches folded or 26.4L x 11.1W x 0.2D inches opened, this is a smaller solar panel that can easily fit over a trekking backpack or similar. To make this even easier to use when travelling, it has steel eyeholes at the corners, allowing it to be attached to backpacks.
It is also shower-proof for use in mist or light rain and features a device pocket for storing phones and power banks, etc.
The Anker PowerPort Solar has a 21w dual USB output, suitable for charging two phones/tablets simultaneously as well as portable power banks. An above-average 21.5 to 23.5% efficiency rating for the solar panels means charging in dimmer light conditions is possible.
The intelligent PowerIQ chip auto-detects device data and adapts the charging output automatically, ensuring fast and smooth charging on compatible devices.
This is a 21w solar panel with dual USB output only. It is suitable for charging most smartphones and portable power banks.
- Ultra-portable fold-out design
- Lightly waterproof
- Dual USB 24w output
- Efficient solar panels for lower-light usage
- Ultra-portable for lightweight travel
- Above-average solar panels
- Decent 24w output for charging two devices
- Steel eyelets and pocket for devices
- Only light waterproofing
- No ammeter
Great Value – Pealiker Solar Charger 25000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank
This is a bit different from other portable solar panels as it comes with its own portable power bank. Essentially, it’s a solar panel that powers a built-in powerbank that can then be used to charge phones and devices.
The advantage of this is that, if you wanted a solar panel to charge a power bank anyway then you won’t need an additional powerbank.
The disadvantage is, this is a lower-power unit with just a 5w output. It’s still powerful enough to charge smartphones quickly but in low light, performance will likely not match up to some other models. It does still have an intelligent charging chip that auto-detects devices and adapts the charging output accordingly.
For the cost, though, this is quite a remarkable gadget. The 25000mAh portable bank does offer more flexibility than a standalone solar panel. You can take advantage of bright sunlight to charge the bank itself without needing to plug in your phone at the same time.
Unlike other portable solar panels, this cannot be easily attached to backpacks. It’s best used whilst stationary.
This is a 5w solar panel with dual USB output only. It is suitable for charging most smartphones and portable power banks.
- Comes with 25,000mAh powerbank which is built-in to the solar panel
- Dual 5w USB output
- Powerbank has a flashlight/torch
- Lightly waterproof
- Built-in powerbank for exceptional value
- Still small and light (500g)
- Durable design
- Built-in torch is surprisingly powerful
- Inflexible with regards to the powerbank (as it can’t be removed)
Great 12V Portable Solar Panel for RVs, Caravans & Boats – TP-solar 120 Watt Foldable Solar Panel
For heavy-duty applications including charging vehicle batteries, laptops and powering inverters, the TP-solar 120 Watt Foldable Solar Panel provides a very impressive 120 watts.
This is better designed for stationary use, e.g. camping trips, fishing trips or even outhouses and other outdoor building like sheds or workshops.
This has 3 outputs. The dual USB outputs can be used to charge virtually any USB-powered device quickly and easily. With a 12v output, the TP-solar 120 Watt Foldable Solar Panel can be used to charge most vehicle batteries – it comes with a battery clamp adapter. A 19v DC output also enables direct charging of many laptops.
One of the key uses of this powerful solar panel is that it can be used to power inverters and ultra-high-capacity powerbanks. The 19v DC output will plug directly into many inverters, which will in turn enable the power of many AC appliances.
Size-wise, this solar panel is still impressively portable. It measures 57L x 21W inches when opened and just 21L x 14W x 1.7D inches when folded. It weighs only 3.5kg too, which isn’t bad at all.
The TP-solar 120 Watt Foldable Solar Panel comes with a huge kit of adapters, enabling it to be plugged into a multitude of appliances ranging from inverters to laptops to powerbanks. It also has a step-down module for the DC output.
With dual USB outputs up to 12V and a DC output up to 19V/5A, the TP-solar 120 Watt Foldable Solar Panel is suitable for a wide range of standard and heavy-duty uses including charging car batteries and powering inverters for AC power.
- 120w max power
- Dual USB outputs and one 19v DC output
- Compact size
- Huge range of adapters included
- Excellent power rating for a variety of uses
- High-quality, efficient solar panels
- DC output for inverters
- Still quite lightweight (3.5kg)
- No ammeter to monitor current directly
Great 12V Portable Panel Kit for Irregular Surfaces – DOKIO 100W 12V Foldable Solar Panel Kit
The DOKIO 100W 12V Foldable Solar Panel Kit is a very powerful portable solar panel with a mighty 100w output. This bi-folding solar panel is suitable for a wide array of uses including powering inverters, charging car batteries and charging/powering standard USB devices.
One excellent feature of the DOKIO 100W 12V Foldable Solar Panel Kit is that it comes with a solar controller box. This essentially routes the solar panel’s output automatically to your appliances. The solar controller itself has a 12v output for vehicle batteries and two USB slots. This enables you to monitor the output power and amperes in realtime.
Despite its power and size, this solar panel measures just 21L x 29W x 0.5D inches when folded and 42L x 29W x 0.2D inches when expanded.
It’s thinner than other solar panels as it folds only once. Each solar panel is still very large with very high energy efficiency. It also comes with a carry bag and is waterproof.
For heavy-duty usage including powering inverters and charging car batteries, this is an excellent solar panel that is very easy to use owing to its great solar controller.
This solar panel has one output with an optimum running voltage of around 18v. This provides a 12v output as well as dual USB outputs. It is suitable for a wide range of uses including powering inverters and charging car batteries.
- Powerful 100w output
- Comes with solar controller box
- Lightweight at 2.7kg
- Very thin bi-folding design
- Dual USB output and 12v for car batteries
- Solar controller box simplifies uses
- Useful carry-bag
- Waterproof design
- Bi-folding design is quite large lengthwise
The Many Uses of Portable Solar Panels
Powering electronic devices and batteries on the go is an ongoing challenge. Power banks are one way to solve power issues on the go but these will run out and can take a while to charge.
When power sources are finite, there remains one reliable source of power – the sun!
If mains power is limited or you don’t have time to charge devices fully then a solar charger is an excellent option. They are perfectly suited to charging devices when you are ‘off-grid’ for long periods of time.
Portable solar panels can charge a huge array of devices including:
- Phones and other USB-powered devices
- 12v car and vehicle batteries
- Laptops via 19v DC current
- Power stations and power banks via 12v or 19v DC
Portable Solar Panel Guide
Portable solar panels come in many shapes and sizes and have various power ratings (measured in watts)/outputs.
There are quite a lot of features to look out for bear in mind when buying a portable solar panel.
Power is the most important and most confusing variable when it comes to portable solar panels. It can be difficult working out what solar panel you’ll need for the job/requirements you have in mind.
Portable Solar Panels for Portable Devices
Smaller portable solar panels designed for travel by foot or other lightweight travel are likely powerful enough to charge portable devices like phones via a USB port.
They will be typically rated at a maximum of around 25w.
This is easily powerful enough to charge two devices at once using fast-charge technology (on compatible phones).
They will be optimised for portable devices and will contain an intelligent chip that moderates output voltage based on the device(s) that is/are plug-in. These lightweight solar panels are very convenient and make effective chargers for portable devices and power banks, even in lower light conditions. They are ideal for lightweight travel.
Portable Solar Panels for Heavier-Duty Applications
Larger portable solar panels have a much wider array of uses. They can be used to charge 12v vehicle batteries, very high-capacity power banks and can even run inverters.
They will be typically rated up to some 100 – 150w or more.
Inverters take DC current and convert it to AC current. AC current is used for the vast majority of electronic appliances.
With a powerful solar panel, you can feed the power into an inverter that can then be used as a standard mains socket. You can plug in different devices or appliances into an inverter as you would into the mains – as many as the solar panel’s wattage can accommodate.
Don’t expect to be able to run loads of devices off of one portable solar panel from an inverter.
Even hairdryers and microwaves are very power-hungry, typically drawing some 500 to 800w. Still, running laptops, phones, or even a small TV or games console (like a Nintendo Wii) from an inverter-powered portable solar panel is definitely possible in brighter sunlight.
Note that you will not always need an inverter – you’ll only need one if you wish to run AC electronics from your solar panel. Some powerful solar panels are equipped with DC outputs that allow you to charge laptops directly, etc.
These more powerful models will also have your standard USB outputs for connecting USB devices and power banks.
Some portable solar panels are incredibly small and designed to be carried whilst trekking, cycling, etc. These can even fit over the back of trekking bags for powering devices whilst moving.
Larger portable solar panels are instead best used whilst stationary. They’re ideal for camping trips, fishing trips, or even outhouses, small holiday homes and other outdoor uses where power is needed.
Some awesome solar panels here. For portability, it’s very hard to beat the BigBlue 28W Solar Charger with its very healthy 28w dual USB outputs. The Anker PowerPort Solar is a great alternative from a trusted brand.
If you need a heavier duty solar panel for charging car batteries or running inverters then both the DOKIO 100W 12V Foldable Solar Panel Kit and TP-solar 120 Watt Foldable Solar Panel are outstanding options for the price.