When it comes to designing a powerful solar power system for truck camper and vans, the best approach is to employ what we call a split configuration consisting of both roof-top solar panels and portable solar panels. Why? Because truck campers and vans lack the roof-top real estate for large numbers of solar panels. Throw in a roof-top air conditioner, a couple of roof-top vents, and a skylight and the square-footage on top of these rigs is even less. Obviously, no such restrictions exist for portable solar panels. The number of portable arrays that can be deployed is theoretically unlimited. In this article, we review the SolarSaga 100 and make a case that this terrific, lightweight portable solar panel is a great option for truck campers and vans.
Truth be told, we prefer the roof-top solar panels. Once it’s installed there’s not a lot that you have to do maintain them, just the occasional inspection and cleaning. Theft of roof-top panels isn’t a concern either. But portable solar panels have their benefits too. Unlike roof-top solar panels, portable panels can be both tilted and aimed directly at the sun to maximize amperage output. This is a huge benefit, especially during the winter when the sun tracks lower in the southern sky. Not only that, but portable arrays can easily be moved to avoid shading from nearby trees and objects. For roof-top arrays, you have to move your entire rig to get out of the shade.
With our truck camper’s recent solar power upgrade consisting of five RuggedFlex 100 watt solar panels, we wanted a pair of 100 watt portable solar panels to supplement our system, especially during early mornings, late afternoons and winter when the sun is lower in the sky. When it comes to designing a solar power system with multiple panels it’s important that the wattage of each panel be similar or within 10 percent Vmp and this includes any portables. Yes, we still have our old Renogy 100 watt portable, but lugging around a rigid, 27-pound panel was starting to become cumbersome to say nothing of how much room the solar suitcase took in the backseat of our truck where we kept it stored. After researching portable solar panel options, we decided give the Jackery SolarSaga 100 a try.
SolarSaga 100 Specs
If you’re not familiar with the Jackery SolarSaga 100, it’s pretty neat. Rather than being rigid and heavy, the SolarSaga 100 is semi-flexible and light. Constructed using monocrystalline silicon cells with an impressive 23 percent efficiency, the SolarSaga 100 weighs only 9.1 pounds, comes with its own kickstands, and can generate a rated 5.5 amps. The unit consists of a 100 watt folding solar panel, an orange junction box with USB-C and standard USB charge ports, and a 9.5-foot-long cable for plugging the unit in. Construction features a thin layer of solar cells, covered with Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a fluorine-based plastic polymer. The one-piece ETFE-black laminated case is attractive, durable and water-resistant. However, due to the unit’s sensitive electronics, the unit should not be left out in the rain. Latching for the folding portable is accomplished quickly and easily through the use magnets, which are built-in to the orange TPE handle located at the top of the unit. You can buy a SolarSaga 100 on Amazon.com for $299.
SolarSaga 100 Performance
So how well does the Jackery SolarSaga 100 work in real life? Incredibly well. It transports easily, deploys quickly, and works exceptionally well either individually or in parallel with another SolarSaga 100. When connected directly to our rig’s 360 amp hour lithium battery via a portable charge controller, the solar array often generates an output of 5.7 amps, higher than the panel’s maximum rated output of 5.5 amps. More importantly, the SolarSaga works well connected in parallel with our camper’s primary 500 watt solar power system, which is controlled with a Zamp ZS-30A PMW charge controller.
Unfortunately, Jackery has made using the SolarSaga 100 with your truck camper and van difficult. Most portable solar panels are equipped with an universal SAE plug, but not Jackery’s. The company opted to use an 8mm barrel connector for use with their portable power stations instead. That’s fine, the barrel connector works well in that regard, but Jackery should have included an 8mm adapter with an 8mm female connector on one end and an SAE plug on the other that is compatible with most RV solar power systems. This was and continues to be a source of real annoyance for not only us, but for others who buy this portable panel. Fortunately, getting the right adapter isn’t that hard. We went through Amazon.com and were able to get what we needed within a couple of days. Note, that some trimming of the female connector will be needed to ensure a tight fit.
Are there any issues with the Jackery SolarSaga 100? Just a few, though their pretty minor. While we are particularly happy with the unit’s portability and light weight, the unit’s 9.1-pound, EFTE construction does make it prone to be moved or blown over by powerful gusts of wind. We rarely had that happen with the much heavier Zamp and Renogy rigid portable solar panels that we used in the past, but that’s something that we can live with with this exceptional lightweight portable. The other issue relates to the semi-flexible nature of the solar panel. The EFTE-laminated construction makes it light, but also less durable. What will happen to the panel if you happen to accidentally leave it out in the rain? And what is the lifespan of the panel? Rigid glass and aluminum panels can last 20 years, we’re not sure if the SolarSaga 100 can last as long.
In spite of the lack of adapters needed for truck camper and van use, we highly recommend the SolarSaga 100. The unit is so-well engineered and easy to use that every van and truck camper owner with lithium batteries should own one. Sure, you can buy the excellent Renogy 100 watt solar suitcase with it’s stout construction and programmable charge controller for $70 less, but as we pointed out, it’s also three times heavier and takes up more storage space. Having used both portables, we prefer the Jackery SolarSaga 100. It’s so much lighter and easier to use and that’s the name of the game, though you will need another adapter for parallel use with another SolarSaga 100.
Unfortunately, the good folks at Jackery seem to be clueless on what a great product this portable solar panel truly is and how this product can be used with almost any RV including truck campers and vans. They’re focus has been on supporting their excellent line of solar generators only and that’s too bad. If we were leading Jackery’s team, we would include a simple charge controller and an SAE adapter and start marketing this portable for broader use in the truck camper and van overlanding communities. Jackery would make a mint. What would we rate the Jackery Solarsaga 100? With a rating between 1 to 5 stars with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest, we enthusiastically give this product a rating of 5 stars. It’s terrific.