Portable/Foldable Solar Panels – Overview
Updated on September 13, 2020 to include latest product 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, and in most products, the controller box is intended to remain dry.
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, simply put the solar panel in the sun and 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 must 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 adds an extra premium of around 30% to 60% per watt to their price compared to fixed panels, but the portability and lightweight design of these solar panels open up a whole new world of uses.
|Best Overall||Best If Using USB Devices Only||Best for Smaller Power Needs||Not Recommended|
|ALLPOWERS 100W Solar Charger (Dual 5V USB + 18V DC Output)||BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Panel with Digital Ammeter||TP-solar 30W Foldable Solar Panel
|ROCKPALS Foldable 60W Solar Panel
|ALLPOWERS 100W Solar Charger (Dual 5V USB + 18V DC Output)||Compact and lightweight, this foldable solar panel is ideal for carrying around, and it provides the greatest output (100W) of the solar panels compared here. At a weight of 5.29 lb, this solar panel has a similar weight per watt as the other lightweight solar panels too.
The best feature of this solar panel is its combination of DC output (for charging power banks or other devices) and USB ports.
If you want a smaller version of this foldable solar panel, see the TP-solar 30W Foldable Solar Panel described below.
|Verdict||JAPANDUDE’S PICK: Best option because of its lightweight design, DC port, USB ports, and cheapest cost per watt.|
|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.|
|TP-solar 30W Foldable Solar Panel||This foldable solar panel is essential a smaller version (30W) of the ALLPOWERS solar panel (100W) above. Like the ALLPOWER panel, it features DC output combined with two USB ports. It’s just smaller has proportionally smaller output.
Fortunately, the price is also proportionally smaller!
If you only need USB ports, you should look at the BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger with Digital Ammeter.
|Verdict||Essentially a smaller version of the 100W ALLPOWERS panel, this is a good option if you do not have high power needs.|
|ROCKPALS Foldable 60W Solar Panel||Although this is not a bad product, its features pale in comparison to the other products. It has the highest price per watt and the heaviest weight per watt. In fact, it is about THREE times as heavy per watt as the others. This means that it is nearly twice as heavy as the ALLPOWER foldable solar panel (100W) despite producing less power (6oW) (5.29 lb vs. 8.68 lb).
Still, this could be a good buy if it falls in price (currently $160) and you don’t mind the extra weight — it’s still lighter than a flat solar panel!
|Verdict||Not recommended because the other available products all beat this product in terms of weight and price.|
|Product||ALLPOWERS 100W Solar Charger (Dual 5V USB + 18V DC Output)
||BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger with Digital Ammeter||TP-solar 30W Foldable Solar Panel Portable Battery Charger Kit with Dual 5V USB Ports and 15V Output
||ROCKPALS Foldable 60W Solar Panel Charger||(Flat Panel Kit for Comparison)
Renogy 100W 12V Solar Panel Starter Kit w/Charge Controller + Connectors + Cables + Mounting Brackets
Best option for both lightweight design, price, and DC and USB ports
|Lightweight with ammeter, but no DC port||JAPANDUDE’S PICK for lower power needs:
Smaller (30W) than Allpowers (100W), but still includes USB ports and DC output
|Not recommended: Despite its heavier weight, this panel still costs the same as the others per watt|
|Cost per W||$2.00||$2.29||$2.33||$2.33||$1.60|
|Output Ports||DC 18V/5A (max) and 5V USB x 2||5V USB x 2||DC 15V/2A (max) and 5V USB x 2||DC 18V/3.4A (max) and 5V USB x 3||DC 12 V|
|Advantages||– Compact, lightweight design and easy-to-carry handle
-DC 18V port and 2 USB ports
|– Digital ammeter
|– Compact and lightweight
– Includes both DC 15V port and 2 USB ports
|– Easy-to-carry handle
– DC 18V port and 3 USB ports
|– Lowest cost per watt
– Weatherproof: Designed for constant outdoor use (on top of RV, sheds, etc.)
||– No DC port (for charging USB devices only)||– None||– Heaviest: About 2X heavy as the others per watt
– Highest cost per watt of these three panels
|– Not designed for portability
– Complicated setup (compared to foldable panels)
|Dimensions||12.8 x 8.2 x 4.4 inches (folded)||11.2 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches||6.1 x 11 x 0.6 inches (folded)
27 x 11 x 0.1 inches (expanded)
|13.4 x 13.8 x 2.36 inches (folded)||47 x 20.9 x 1.5 inches|
|Weight||5.29 lb||1.31 lb||1.2 lb||8.68 lb||19.84 lb|
|PDF manual||BigBlue Manual||User Manual||User Manual||User Manual
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We will conduct precise technical testing in a later post to find out how much power you can actually get from these devices.