Things to Consider When Buying a Solar Panel Kit for Camping
Here’s a quick question- what does the modern outdoor adventurer have that other hunters, mountain climbers, whitewater rafters, campers and hikers from 20, 30 years ago didn’t? Access to helpful, portable technological wonders, that’s what. Smartphones have become all-in-one gadgets containing everything you need, including a replacement GPS app for setting waypoints, or for storing beta on climb routes.
What’s keeping handheld GPS devices from becoming obsolete? Two things. One, a more accurate point via satellite technology, and second, a better battery life. Thankfully, companies and manufacturers now have a wide variety of solar charging solutions you can choose from to counter the effects of having a dead phone. The options are many- from elaborate, efficient panels that cost a lot to pocket-sized, portable ones that can provide a quick charge or two.
With so many to choose from, how will you know what kind of solar charger will work best for you? We got you covered. Here’s our comprehensive advice for buying portable solar panel (for example
Renogy E.FLEX10 with USB port ) for camping out, or for accompanying you on your favorite outdoor activity for that matter.
The Basics: Voltage, Watts and Amperage
You should know that not all solar charging kits are the same. For one thing, these devices vary from one another based on their advertised power. Don’t be confused with the seemingly complicated terms listed, as there is a simpler way to understand them and how they would fit in your charging needs.
Voltage measures how strong the electrical current is, with the current measuring in amperes. Watts indicate how strong an electrical power is. You’ll need to focus on amps and watts as they are the most important factors you will look for when selecting a solar panel kit.
Wattage and You
Small electronic devices such as mp3 players, LED flashlights or simple cellphones can make do with 4 to 5 watt panels. Newer, more advanced smartphones will require more than that, as they eat more power due to having more capabilities and running more advanced apps. The bigger and newer the smart phone, the more power you will need- in this case, a 7 watt panel should suffice.
But what if you want to charge multiple, high-end electronic devices such as an iPhone, an iPad and a LED lamp all at once? That is certainly possible, but be prepared to spend more in this scenario. You will also need more wattage- at 15 watts or higher, at least. Do you need to bring in your laptop for work and other essential tasks on the road? You’ll need an inverter and a battery. A whole new charging world opens up should you wish to charge AC devices- be prepared to spend for and lug a DC to AC inverter, heavy batteries, and an industrial grade solar panel producing 25 watts or more! It was much more difficult to set this up before, but now there are products that offer an all-in-one solar panel kit for individuals who want to bring everything.
One thing’s for sure (and this is a better advice overall) – you’ll want to overestimate your wattage needs rather than underestimate, even if this means spending a bit more money. Smaller watt-capable panels ensure your product will be lightweight and very portable, but be prepared to endure lengthy charging times. In an instance of using 6 watt solar chargers, it would take around 5 hours to obtain a full charge on a mid-end smartphone. A higher capacity watt kit can cut that charging time by half.
Companies understand the limitations set in these panels, and that’s why they add built-in or integrated batteries in solar kits. To compensate for the ever-growing need for more and more energy to power high-end devices, manufacturers produce high-wattage products (at a range of 10 to 15 watt capability) and include battery packs that collect and store solar energy at low rates.
Current battery systems are the current bottleneck holding the potential of today’s devices. Hopefully companies and scientists alike will find out how to put more power and develop higher quality batteries for the sake of our technological future!
Output power is quite easy to understand- higher is better! Output power means it can charge more power-hungry devices such as an iPad or none at all. A 2.1 amp port will be able to charge a smartphone faster than a lower 1.3 amp one.
You will also need to carefully check up on some product’s tech specs in terms of advertised output power. Most solar panel chargers have two charging ports, which means there are two ways to list amperage output. One, they can list the total output combined, and two, they can list the total of each output port, which makes the total amp output better than the others. For example, a company might list a solar panel kit output of 2.1A max, which means that once you plug in two devices for charging, they will share the 2.1A output. Another product might advertise 2.1A max, but in reality one port produces 2.1A while the other one provides 1A, which is a total 3.1A combined. Make sure to go over the product description and/or product label carefully for signs you are buying a better solar charging kit!
Of course, what good is a solar charger if you can’t get enough rays to reliably charge a device to 100%? Think about how many daylight hours you can possibly get in your area. Then, think about how many hours you can possibly get with the solar panel lying out in the sun. If you are going camping out in a location where you only get a few hours of good, strong sunlight, it will be more beneficial to invest in a high-wattage, fast-charging solar charging kit. For regions that advertise a lot of sunlight, you can get away with a lightweight solar kit. When weight is an important factor to consider, you’ll find smaller panels to be useful companions who can get the job done.
Today’s solar charging panels have evolved so much that there’s an overwhelming choice for discerning users. Are travelers looking for a solar kit with a backup battery? Do they want a more compact size with folding solar panels, or do they just want a no-frills solar kit that has the highest capacity? The current trend in selecting solar kits is that consumers are looking for smaller chargers that have a battery backup which goes well on a weekend trip instead of larger solar setups. Batteries are great, but the fact is that they are not as reliable, nor self-sustaining as solar panels. Adventurers who will be going on long trips and distant treks will certainly appreciate solar charging kits more than integrated chargers. Do you want a solar kit that does everything well? You’ll never go wrong with buying a foldable solar panel kit with an included proprietary battery, or a foldable solar panel and an external, high capacity battery.
Three Types of Portable Solar Panels
Ever seen flexible solar panels lying out in the sun or in commercials? Chances are you’re seeing a CIGS-type solar kit. CIGS stands for Copper, Iridium, Gallium and Selenide, which are combined to make a thin film capable of storing solar energy. This type of panel is easy to manufacture and the flexibility might be a big plus to some, but the only drawback to it is the short shelf life. It’s probably the complete opposite of the thicker monocrystalline panels. Don’t have a nice, flat space to securely put your solar panel kit? It’s not a problem with the CIGS solar kit. A CIGS panel is mostly integrated with other materials such as plastic or fabric, and it tends to degrade or delaminate much more quickly than other types of solar panels.
CIGS may have the “coolness” factor of being lighter and more flexible than the others, but monocrystalline panels bring in better performance in their sturdier, more rigid construction. Folding panels were once considered to be a plus in cross-country hiking and backpacking excursions, while monocrystalline panels were thought to be too cumbersome or rigid to use. So monocrystalline panels adapted and took some versatile forms which brought them back into the market. CIGS panels are much less efficient as compared to monocrystalline cells in a straight sunlight exposure, but they have a slight edge in performance under low-light and cloudy conditions.
You can easily tell a polycrystalline solar panel just by looking at it. The bluish hue screams polycrystalline type, whereas monocrystalline panels are more black than bright blue. The difference in hue is not the only factor you should know; monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells are both made from silicone crystals. Monocrystalline panels are made of only one crystal ingot but polycrystalline panels are made of many crystal ingots. What does it mean to the rest of us? The comparison between efficiency in terms of purity and numbers.
A solar kit made up of monocrystalline panels are more efficient- the purity produces around 22% efficiency as compared to polycrystalline’s 18%. But the question in our minds is: isn’t more better?
Monocrystalline panels utilize a singe cell, which allows the electrons contained within much more freedom to move. This particular aspect allows for more energy savings, and a higher efficiency is produced.
Consumers will do great when they choose monocrystalline solar panel kits. The costs are higher than the other types, but you get more usage and more life on a personal product. Polycrystalline panels are a good choice for businesses who are looking to buy bulk with reduced costs. Solar kit companies are catching up on this trend by offering more monocrystalline panel chargers than CIGS-based or polycrystalline panels in the market.