Solar power is a must for any truck camper and van owner looking for true off-grid independence. While legacy rooftop solar panels are preferred for most situations, the portable solar panel is a terrific option as well. Why go with a portable solar panel? Several reasons. For one, your camper or van may not have the amount of rooftop real estate for the size of system needed. Thus the portable solar panel can be used to augment your legacy rooftop system in what we here at Truck Camper Adventure call a “split configuration.” Not only that, but the portable solar panel can be used to “chase the sun” and can be used in those situations when you want to keep your rig in the shade while the panel located in full sun. Moreover, the portable solar panel can also be useful during the winter months when the angle of the sun is low in the southern sky.
When buying a portable solar panel two things need to be considered: the rating of the panel and if a charge controller is needed. When using a portable to augment your legacy rooftop system, it best to use a portable with the same wattage or is within 10 percent of each legacy solar panel output. Thus a 160 watt portable can be used with 170 watt rooftop solar panels. Is a charge controller needed? It depends on how your camper is wired. In most cases, your camper’s portable solar power plug is wired directly to the main charge controller inside. In such cases, a portable charge controller isn’t needed.
If you’re looking for a honest appraisal of the best portable solar panels for today’s truck campers and vans, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve actually evaluated all of these portable solar panels and recommend them, so you know these panels are capable of doing what you need them to do. If adapters are needed to use with your camper or van, we’ll tell you. We’ve also evaluated several types of portable solar panels including today’s ultra light, semi-flexible models as well as the standard legacy panels with aluminum frames and glass for long-lasting use and durability. So without further adieu, here are the top 7 portable solar panels for truck campers and vans.
1. Renogy E.Flex 120 Watt Portable
The best of the best. In 2022, we raved about the Jackery SolarSaga 100 as a lightweight portable, yet the Renogy E.Flex 120 is even better. Offering an impressive efficiency of 23.5 percent, the Renogy E.FLEX 120 weighs only 11 pounds, and can harvest up to 6.1 amps IMP and 120 watts per hour. Folded up, the portable panel measures 12.64 long, 21.7 inches high, and only 1 inch deep and extended measures 26.4 inches long, 43.4 inches high, and less than 1/4-inch deep. It comes with standard MC4 connectors, so you will probably need to buy an MC4 to SAE Adapter to use it with your truck camper or van. The build quality of Renogy’s 120 watt portable is excellent and features ETFE lamination, corner guards, and the IP67 rating to protect it from scratches and rain when camping or overlanding. The Renogy E.Flex 120 is compatible with several portable power stations/solar generators including those made by Jackery, Bluetti, Yeti, and Renogy, of course. Comes in an attractive, padded carrying case and features a 1-year warranty. Note: the Renogy E.FLEX 120 does not have a charge controller, meaning you will need to either use the one in your camper or van or the one in your power station/solar generator. Lists for $189.99.
2. Jackery SolarSaga 100
Looking for a lightweight portable solar panel that can be used with both your camper and a portable power station like the Jackery Explorer or Yeti Goal Zero? One of the best is the Jackery SolarSaga 100. 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 IMP. Construction features a thin layer of top-rated 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 and includes a large storage pouch with two USB charge ports. 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. Still skeptical? Check out our recent SolarSaga 100 review where we gave this superb, little portable a 5-star rating. Note: you’ll need a portable PWM or MPPT solar charge controller to charge your truck camper’s main battery system, though a better alternative is to simply connect it to your camper’s main charge controller. You’ll also need an 8mm adapter with an 8mm female connector on one end and an SAE plug on the other that is compatible with your truck camper or van. You can buy a SolarSaga 100 on Amazon.com for $249.
3. Overland Solar Bugout 130
One of our favorites, the Overland Solar Bugout 130 is a mainstay in the overland industry. The Bugout 130 is a unique entry in this survey because its a “solar blanket” portable that can be deployed easily then folded-up for easy storage. Proudly made in Boise, Idaho, the Bugout 130 comes with everything you need to charge the batteries in your camper, including a 130 watt foldable array, and a 20-foot mini-Anderson to SB50 Anderson connector and a SB50 Anderson to an SAE adapter that you can use to plug the panel into any common solar outlet. An optional 10 amp MPPT solar controller bundle can also be ordered if needed. Made of a Cordura 1050D ballistic nylon, the portable measures 22 x 7.5 x 3.5 inches closed, 22 x 68 inches open, and weighs only 7.3 pounds. Built to handle the harshest weather, the Bugout 130 offers an impressive 23.7 percent efficiency and can generate up to 7 amps IMP. Available in five different colors/designs: gray, dark gray, black, Kryptek Altitude, and Kryptek Highlander. Features include a double-stitched D-ring lashing points and grommets for securing or hanging, and an accessory pouch that attaches the bag using heavy-duty Velcro to organize your cables and controller. The benefits of going with a solar blanket is that it can be hung or draped over almost any surface including the front windshield of your truck. You can buy the Overland Solar Bugout 130 for $635 with the controller and $710 with. Can be ordered factory direct or though many overland outfitters nationwide including Four Wheel Campers that offers this neat, little portable as an optional accessory.
4. Expion360 120 Watt Portable
A brand-new addition to the portable solar panel field, the Expion360 120 watt foldable is already, a big-time favorite here at Truck Camper Adventure. Crafted with durable and weather-resistant materials, this IP65-compliant portable is built to withstand the toughest outdoor conditions with a temperature range of 14F to 122F degrees. At only 11.35 pounds, its also easy to transport and set up in minutes. With a powerful output of 120 watt and 5.75 amps IMP, this solar panel can quickly charge your lithium battery, ensuring that you always have enough power to run your appliances and charge your devices. Folded up, the Expion360 120 watt portable measures 21.25 x 30.5 x 2 inches, and measures 42.25 x 30.5 x 1 inches opened and deployed. This unit does not include a solar controller. You will need to order Expion360’s weatherproof 10 amp MPPT portable charge controller when used separately from your camper’s legacy solar power system. The portable already comes with SAE connectors, meaning no adapters are needed for most applications. Note, when working with SAE cables and connectors, it is crucial to pay close attention to polarity to avoid potential damage or hazards. Improper polarity can lead to reversed electrical flow, resulting in ineffective charging, equipment malfunction, or even electrical shorts. Sells for $499 from the Expion360 factory or from an Expion360 dealer.
5. Renogy 100 Watt Portable w/Waterproof Controller
This Renogy 100 watt legacy panel comes with everything you need to start charging your truck camper’s batteries. Renogy’s 100 watt portable consists of two 50 watt monocrystalline solar panels wired in parallel, a waterproof 20 amp Voyager PWM charge controller with an LCD digital display that is compatible with both lead-acid and lithium, a 10-foot (12 gauge) cable with alligator clips, and a padded suitcase for storage and transporting. The two panels, which generate a maximum operating current of 5.71 amps IMP, are physically connected with a hinge that allow you to open and close the panels in seconds. This portable array is equipped with two extendable, aluminum arms that allow it to be adjusted to obtain the optimum angle toward the sun. When folded and stored in the protective suitcase, the unit measures 21x21x3-inches. The total weight is only 19.4 pounds, 8 pounds lighter than the original Renogy 100 watt model we reviewed in 2016. One feature that we really like is that the controller is mounted to a hinged plate that hangs vertically when the array is in use, this feature makes reading and adjusting the controller easier than most of the competition. Constructed in Germany using SunPower solar cells, Renogy’s monocrystalline solar panels provide a very high module conversion efficiency of 24 percent. Note: you might need to an SAE adapter to use with your camper. A 5-star product rated here on Truck Camper Adventure, this rugged, little portable sells for $159 on Amazon.com.
6. Zamp Legacy 180 Watt Portable w/Waterproof Controller
Looking for a rugged, long-lasting panel with loads of power? The Zamp’s Legacy 180 watt portable is the one for you. This American-made portable packs a powerful punch with 180 watts and 10 amps IMP. It features two rigid, aluminum-framed 90 watt panels, a waterproof ZS-10AW PWM portable charge controller, and a 9-foot-long pigtail with an SAE plug. A bit on the heavy side, this legacy panels weighs 44.4 pounds and measures roughly 36 x 22 x 3-inches fully extended. The fully-integrated portable solar panel comes with everything you need to connect to your camper including a charge controller, alligator clips, and the industry standard two-prong SAE plug (the latter is what we recommending using). Switching between the plug to the alligator clips is quick and easy. The included ZS-10AW charge controller is capable of supporting four types of deep cycle batteries—wet cell, gel, AGM, and lithium (LiFePO4) and offers an easy to read digital LCD screen that displays essentials like battery voltage, charging current, total amp hours accumulated during the current day, charging capacity, battery types, and unit fault codes. Built in Oregon, the Zamp Legacy 180 watt portable comes with a 25-year output warranty, one of the best. It’s true that this 44-pound unit is bulkier and harder to deploy than all of the other panels surveyed in this article, yet when it comes to durability and power Zamp’s Legacy 180 watt portable can’t be beat. Also available in 45-watt, 90-watt, 90-watt “long”, 140-watt, 180-watt, and 230-watt kits. Sells for $599 on Amazon.com.
7. Jackery SolarSaga 200 Portable
Even though the Jackery SolarSaga 200 was specifically made to be used with the Jackery Explorer 2000 Solar Generator, the lightweight portable can be used with any truck camper or van when outfitted with the right electrical adapter. Constructed using monocrystalline silicon cells with an impressive 24.3 percent efficiency, the SolarSaga 200 weighs only 17.5 pounds, comes with its own kickstands, and can generate 200 watts and 9 amps IMP. Construction features a thin layer of top-rated 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 and includes a large storage pouch. 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. When deployed, the SolarSaga 200 measures 91.34 x 21.26 x 1.57 inches, and 21.26 x 24.21 x 1.57 inches folded up. Like the SolarSaga 100, you’ll need a portable PWM or MPPT solar charge controller to charge your truck camper’s main battery system, though a better alternative is to simply connect it to your camper’s main charge controller. You’ll also need an 8mm adapter with an 8mm female connector on one end and an SAE plug on the other that is compatible with your truck camper or van. The SolarSaga 200 sells for $699 via the Jackery website.