Just because you want to go off the grid for extended periods of time doesn’t mean you want to give up all of your creature comforts. With your RV or camper, you aren’t beholden to campsites or parks with electricity hookups—but that means drawing from your limited battery or gas supply if you want the fridge and toaster to work. Staying powered up without worry requires an easily-renewable energy source, and the best option is kitting out your home on wheels with some RV solar panels.
Along with solar power generators, solar panels are a quiet alternative for keeping your appliances working without lugging around spare gas cans or stopping at the gas station to fuel up for your traditional generator. RV solar panels come in different sizes and wattages for various needs, and you can even buy adjustable ones for paring down or expanding to suit the trip at hand.
What to Consider
Materials and Set-up
The two most common solar panel materials are monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels use a single silicon crystal to capture solar energy, while polycrystalline panels rely on multiple silicon crystal fragments. Monocrystalline is more efficient so we only recommend this type.
Solar panels come in rigid and flexible models. This matters when deciding where you are going to use your panels and whether or not you plan on mounting them permanently on top of your RV or camper. Flexible panels are ideal if you’re mounting on a curved or uneven surface, but if your RV is flat up top, a rigid panel will work just fine.
Decide whether you want to mount your panels or go the portable route. Mountable panels come with hardware and instructions for self-installation, like our best overall pick from Renogy. Mountable RV solar panels are more durable than portable ones, fit with waterproofing and wind resistance, since they are always outside braving the elements.
Portable solar panels fold up for compact storage, designed for easy set-up and tear-down from site to site. They are scratch-resistant and can handle a light shower, but they’re not meant to stay outside permanently and will get damaged if you do so. Some portable picks have features like integrated kickstands and handles to make setting them up at the optimal angle as smooth as possible, no matter where you’ve posted up for the night.
Wattage and Efficiency
Most RV and camper rigs require 100 to 500 watts of solar power depending on what you need powered. 100 watts will power a small fridge along with a toaster and coffee maker, but if you have a full on electric stove, a fridge, and multiple appliances, you’ll need more power.
We recommend you start small and expand to more wattage if needed as multiple panels can be wired together for more energy. Keep in mind product descriptions describe watts in optimal conditions—sunny day, no shade, no clouds—and typically pull less than this. The efficiency rate is a better sign of how well the solar panel works—the best ones are 23 percent or higher.
How We Selected
To choose the best RV solar panels, we used our expertise from testing and recommending solar power generators, as well as reviews from other travel outlets like Treehugger and SolarReviews. We considered the different uses for RV solar panels, ultimately presenting a range of options that work for different RV electrical needs. After pooling together the top products, we scoured user reviews to ensure that the quality and efficiency of these solar panels adheres to the performance the manufacturers promise. Here are out top picks for RV solar panels to keep you powered up and on the road.