Portable/Foldable Solar Panels – Overview
Updated on April 3, 2019 to include latest production information and prices.
Ideal for the occasional solar panel user, portable (foldable) solar panels can be stored in a compact space and pulled out only when needed. They are great for keeping in your car in case of a breakdown, in your house for supplemental power during an outage (but useless at night), or for camping.
Not Weatherproof – Put Out on Sunny Days Only
Portable solar panels are NOT intended to replace permanent flat-panel solar panels, which have been specifically designed to be weatherproof. By contrast, these portable solar panels are only water-resistant at best.
Everything Included (Except Battery for Power Storage)
While a typical solar panel setup requires a charge controller and numerous cables and connectors in addition to the panel itself, ALL of these components are built into the portable solar panel (except for the cables). To use, provide the solar panel exposure to the sun and simply hook up your USB device or DC device for charging. These panels do not include power banks (batteries) for storing the generated power for later use. To store the power, you need to connect either a USB Power Bank (USB port) and or a so-called Portable Solar Power Station (DC port) (Reviewed here). The lightweight design and portability of the portable solar panel entails an extra premium of around 25% to 50% per watt compared to fixed panels, but the portability and lightweight design of these solar panels open a whole new world of uses.
|Best Overall||Best Price Performance (but heavy)||Best If Using USB Devices Only|
|TalentCell 24W Foldable Solar Panel
||PAXCESS Foldable 50W Solar Panel
||BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Panel with Digital Ammeter
|PAXCESS Foldable 50W Solar Panel Charger with DC 12V and 3 USB Ports||Heavy and sturdy, this foldable solar panel is not ideal for carrying around compared to the other two panels reviewed here. And it’s not just heavy because it’s a 50W panel — it is twice as heavy as the others per watt generated! You can generate the same power at half the weight with two TalentCell 24W Panels (5.1 lb vs. 2.56 lb (1.28 lb x 2)).
Instead, this solar panel is best stored in the home or car for use in emergencies or camping. It has a DC 12 V port and three USB ports, and it has the best price for a solar panel with DC port. Still, in our opinion, the cost savings does not outweigh the benefits of a lighter panel (half the weight). In other words, instead of getting this 50W panel for $137, you are better off getting a 48W panel (24W x 2) for $148. That’s just $11 more for a panel at HALF the weight.
(If you only need USB ports, you should look at the BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger with Digital Ammeter.)
|Verdict||Heavy, but has both USB and DC outputs. Not ideal for carrying around.|
|BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger with Digital Ammeter||Ideal for carrying around, the lack of a DC port means that this foldable solar panel can be used for USB devices only. The ammeter is great for confirming that you are getting maximum sunlight. The charge controller is zipped in a waterproof pouch for extra protection.
|Verdict||Lightweight and ideal for carrying around. Ammeter is great feature, but has no DC port. BEST option if you only need to charge USB devices.|
|TalentCell 24W Foldable Solar Panel Charger with DC 15V and 5V Dual USB Output||Also ideal for carrying around, the DC port means that this solar panel can charge 12V devices and batteries, and can be combined with additional panels for boosting the power output using the supplied Y-splitter cable. Highest cost per watt of the three panels reviewed.
|Verdict||JAPANDUDE’S PICK: Best option because of lightweight design, DC port, and supports doubling of power by adding a second panel, but highest cost per watt.|
|Product||PAXCESS Foldable 50W Solar Panel Charger with DC 12V and 3 USB Ports||BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger with Digital Ammeter||TalentCell 24W Foldable Solar Panel Charger with DC 15V and 5V Dual USB Output||(Flat Panel Kit for Comparison)
Renogy 100W 12V Solar Panel Starter Kit w/Charge Controller + Connectors + Cables + Mounting Brackets
|Verdict||Heavy, but has DC and USB x 3 ports||Lightweight with ammeter, but no DC port||JAPANDUDE’S PICK:
Best option for both lightweight design and DC and USB ports
|Cost per W||$2.80||$2.14||$3.08||$1.97|
|Output Ports||DC 12 V and 5V USB x 3||5V USB x 2||DC 15 V and 5V USB x 2||DC 12 V|
|Dimensions||53.2 x 13.8 x 0.15 inches (unfolded)
10.6 x 13.8 x 1.8 inches (folded)
|11.2 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches||10.4 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches||47 x 20.9 x 1.5 inches|
|Weight||5.1 lb||1.31 lb||1.28 lb||19.84 lb|
|PDF manual||Paxcess Manual||BigBlue Manual||TalentCell Manual||User Manual
We will conduct precise technical testing in a later post to find out how much power you can actually get from these devices.