While you can turn to, you can also use solar to meet your energy needs on the go. There's a number of portable solar panel options available for purchase from a growing number of companies and, while there are a lot of quality options, not all panels are created equal.
Portable solar panels can charge devices anywhere the sun is shining. They can also be used to charge up, which they're often packaged with as -- clean and quiet replacements to that aren't reliant on a supply of gas.
Before you buy a portable solar panel, it's a good idea to define your needs and the most likely scenario in which you'll use it. How much power will you actually need? How portable does it need to be? Will you be hiking with it? Throwing it in the back of your car? Using it just at home? How quickly do you need it to charge your devices or batteries?
Whether or not you've nailed down answers to those questions just yet, take a look at our picks for best portable solar panels. I've chosen what I think are the best options based on size, charging needs and application. Besides highlighting our favorites, I'll let you know what other models I considered and how I came to my decision. That way, you can carefully consider which option is best for you.
Best portable solar panels of 2023
Jackery SolarSaga 200 (the largest of their SolarSaga series) is my top choice for portable solar panels because it's highly efficient, large enough for plenty of uses and one of the lightest and least expensive for its size. Pair it with the Jackery Explorer 2000 power station, and you get CNET's favorite solar generator.
With a capacity of 200 watts, it's large enough to handle most of your solar charging needs. Four of these panels can fill Jackery's 1,000-watt hour power station in 1.8 hours. Like all the panels featured on this list, this one folds up. The folded panel is one-quarter the size of its fully deployed dimensions. The SolarSaga 200 sets the high mark for efficiency among the portable solar panels at 24.3%. It also had one of the highest watts-per-pound measure. (A 200-watt solar panel that weighs 30 pounds isn't as useful as one that weighs only 17.6 pounds, like the SolarSaga 200.)
The SolarSaga 200 is a bit more expensive than the other solar panels on the list, including some of the similarly sized ones. It comes with a three-year warranty that covers manufacturer defects if you buy it from specific retailers.
When paired with Jackery power stations, your purchase of a SolarSaga 200 has plenty of room to grow. Jackery's power stations have some of the highest maximum solar inputs of any power stations today. If solar charging quickly is important, you'll be able to build up to it.
The Rockpals SP003 100-watt solar panel is one of the cheaper options on the market, especially of a similar size. It has a strong efficiency rating of 21.5% to 23.5%. It's a little heavier than some of the other 100-watt solar panels we compared (though not the heaviest), but is still a very manageable 10.8 pounds.
For what you pay, the Rockpals 100-watt panel is a good value, too. There are probably more ways than one to measure value, especially when comparing solar panels of vastly different sizes and prices. One possible measure is watts per dollar. Take the total capacity of the solar panel and divide it by its price and you get a rough idea of how much you're getting for every dollar you spend.
By the measure of watts per dollar, the Rockpals SP003 100W solar panel is the best we looked at. For every dollar you spend you get 0.43-watt of solar charging capacity. That's more than twice as much as some other panels.
This comparison was made using base prices for these solar panels but these products are often discounted, especially at the holiday season.
It makes sense that a solar panel with a greater charging capacity is likely to weigh more. In general, that holds true. But some solar panels do a better job of capturing more sunlight without adding a ton of extra weight. The best we found at packing charging power into a small package is Oupes with its eight-pound, 100-watt portable solar panel.
This Oupes has 12.5 watts of solar charging capacity for every pound it weighs. It's lighter than some panels that are only 50 watts. The Oupes 100-watt portable solar panel has a respectable, though not top-of-the-line, 20% efficiency rating. It's also cheaper than most other panels of similar sizes. (It's part of my pick for the best value solar generator, the Oupes 600-watt solar generator kit.)
If you need fast solar charging on the go, there's one panel that stands out above the rest. Bluetti's PV350 portable solar panel has a massive solar capacity of 350 watts, so it can collect more sunlight and send more electricity to your devices. It's 75% larger than my best overall pick, the Jackery SolarSaga 200. Besides being big, the PV350 also has an excellent efficiency rating of 23.4%. While heavier than any other panel we considered (30.69 pounds), on a pound-per-watt basis, it's actually one of the lighter options.
As you might expect, the PV350 will set you back more than other panels. For what you're getting, though, it's a fair price. For every dollar you spend -- all 849 of them -- you're buying 0.41-watt of charging capacity. That actually tops our value pick above, but the Oupes seemed more within reach and a better fit for more uses.
Other portable solar panels we tested
: The Solar Panel 100 is the first larger offering from Biolite, which has offered smaller 5- and 10-watt solar panels for a little while. Its 100-watt offering is pretty much in line with the other options here but, without discounts, it's a little more expensive to start than others.
: Rockpals' 60-watt offering is a good option for people looking to grab a smaller solar panel. It has the same strong efficiency rating (21.5-23.5%) as Rockpals' 100-watt option (my pick for affordability above). This panel is actually cheaper than the 100W option, but you're getting more capacity for your money if you opt for the larger one. I've seen both on sale for almost 50% off, which makes either a great choice.
: This 200-watt model from Bluetti could have been the choice for the best all-around portable solar panel, instead of the Jackery SolarSaga 200. It's really light for its size and actually cheaper per watt than the Jackery. It has an efficiency rating of 23.4%.
: This 100-watt panel has an efficiency rating of 23% and weighs 11 pounds. It's a little heavier and more expensive per watt than some others on this list, especially of the same size.
: This 100-watt solar panel from the company formerly known as Generark comes in the middle of the pack for price and weight. Its efficiency rating is near the top at 23%.
: The EcoFlow 100-watt panel actually matches our lightweight pick at 12.5 watts per pound. It's a little more expensive for its size than others, but has a good efficiency rating and great, compatible power stations.
: This bite-size solar panel has the smallest capacity of any on this list. It's a good panel, but you can get just a bit more capacity for less money in a few other places.
: The 100-watt solar panel from Renogy is actually a really good price for its size. It's also a lot heavier than others, panels both its size and larger.
Portable solar panel FAQs
What is a watt when it comes to solar panel size?
If you've only come across the measurement watts in one place, it was probably lightbulbs. With lightbulbs, it measures how much energy the bulb uses to light up. A 60-watt lightbulb uses 60 watts to turn on. Since solar panels produce, not consume, energy, here the measure is how much they can produce. A 100-watt solar panel, when it's operating at full capacity, can produce 100 watts of electricity at a time.
If you're charging a 300-watt-hour battery with a 100-watt solar panel, you might expect it to take three hours to fully charge it. One hundred watts of electricity generation times three hours equals 300 watt hours. It's actually a bit more complicated because charging the last portion of a battery often takes much longer than the first part for sort of complicated reasons.
Why isn't my solar panel charging as much as it's supposed to?
You bought a 100-watt solar panel and plugged it into your power station, which tells you how much power is flowing in. Instead of 100 watts, your power station says 80 or 50 or something else. Is your panel broken?
While I can't rule out that your panel is broken, solar charging increases and decreases for a lot of reasons that shouldn't have you sending your panel back to the manufacturer.
Since solar panels convert sunlight to electricity, how much sun gets to your panel has a direct effect on its production. Besides the obvious factors like clouds or shade, the angle of the sun or the angle of the panel to the sun could have an effect. You could try tipping your panel to face the sun more directly.
Solar panels don't work as efficiently when they're hot. If it's a scorcher, you might see a decrease in electricity generation. If you're using your panels in dusty spots, like a campsite, washing away any dust that settles on them could increase their production too.
How we test portable solar panels
Because of difficulties in getting accurate data in the lab, our ranking of portable solar panels relies more on research and comparison of each panel's specs than an actual testing protocol. Where specs were not publicly available, we reached out to companies to get them. Then we compared them, finding ways to make comparisons across different sizes of solar panels. The watt-per-pound and watt-per-dollar measures were two ways we did that.
CNET editors also had hands-on experience with these solar panels, so we could notice anything out of the ordinary or poorly made.