Whether you're planning a road trip, sailing adventure, beach holiday, or camping trip, keeping your electronic devices charged in remote areas can be a challenge. Solar power is a great eco-friendly option for staying power on the go, but traditional panels are bulky and designed to be fixed in one place. However, there is now a plethora of portable solar panels available that are lightweight, powerful, and can withstand the elements. They are also compact enough that you can store them away for use in case of an emergency power outage. There are several popular solar panels to choose from. But only panels are available, whether rigid or semi-flexible, with integrated energy storage cells or with (separate) batteries.
All require consideration of the following main variables:
1. Power output
When purchasing a panel, consider the cost you will be charged to calculate the size of the panel you will need. A small device like a mobile phone will be fine on a 15-watt panel, whereas a larger device like a cooler will require a larger panel (usually a battery to store the energy). The wattage is the maximum DC output under optimum conditions, but remember that cloud cover will prevent it from reaching maximum output.
As you may plan to take the panel with you when you travel (or at least move it around the yard), you need something that is robust, durable, and compact enough to store and transport easily. Keep in mind the type of trip you'll be taking: if you'll be hiking and carrying your gear on your back, the lighter the panel, the better. Heavy-duty latches, rust-proof materials, protected glass, and reinforced parts are important for the longevity of the panels.
3. Size and Quality
Depending on how you travel and the storage space available when not in use, the size and weight of the solar panel are important factors. Many panels can be folded into an easy-to-carry case, but if space is limited you may need something smaller. Although panels with a nylon casing may be lighter, they may not be as durable as those with a metal frame. If you just want to power the light and don't need to charge the unit, then it is best to choose a lightweight solar light.
4. Equipment compatibility
Finally, think about what you want to charge with your panels and check that your solar panels are compatible with these devices. If not, you may need to purchase additional cables or adapters. Many of these panels are designed to be compatible with batteries and mobile power supplies made by the same manufacturer.
Note on the selection of output connectors and adapters:
If you purchase a solar panel with a built-in battery - either integrated or stand-alone - any necessary connectors between the panel and the battery will be included.
If you buy the panel and battery separately, note its output linker and whether it is suitable for charging your device directly (if recommended) or linked to a separate battery pack. Your options may include a USB (standard, mini, micro). A linker (with a choice of adaptable tips) or a DC output with voltage control.
Key specifications for portable battery packs:
Storage capacity: This tells you how much electricity the battery pack can store before it needs to be recharged to be used later to charge your devices.
By comparing the storage capacity of a portable battery with the storage capacity of the battery in your device, you can get an idea of how many charging opportunities you have. This is usually expressed in milliampere-hours (mAh) or ampere-hours (Ah). For example, 2200 mAh = 2.2 Ah. Watts per hour (wh) is another measure of capacity. Converting watt hours to milliamp hours: (Wh /Volts) x 1000 = mAh
Tip: Transferring energy from one cell to another is not 100% electrically efficient. Therefore, a power pack rated at 2000 mAh will not fully charge a 1000 mAh electronic battery twice.
In order to charge or top up an electronic device, you need a battery pack with sufficient storage capacity and sufficient output voltage to transfer energy to your device.
How much is enough? Find out the storage capacity of the battery in your device. For electronic devices with an internal battery, check the technical specifications to find the battery capacity. If your device only uses replaceable AA batteries, this is