Portable Solar Panels for Pop Up Camper: The Ultimate Guide
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By XTAR | 09 May 2023 | 1 Comments

Portable Solar Panels for Pop Up Camper: The Ultimate Guide

Pop-up campers are a type of RV that is characterized by flexibility and portability and has become increasingly popular among camping enthusiasts in recent years. However, at the same time, some weaknesses of using pop-up campers for camping have gradually emerged, such as limited space and difficulty providing enough power for various equipment. To address this issue, more and more people are beginning to use portable solar panels to provide power support for their campers, which has also become a popular trend. This blog post will provide a complete guide for using portable solar panels to camp on pop-up campers.

The Benefits of Using Portable Solar Panels For Pop Up Campers

Using a portable solar panel can help pop up camper owners overcome some limitations when camping. Besides providing reliable power support to meet daily needs, there are two major advantages to using portable solar panels.
Compared to fixed solar panels, portable solar panels are usually more lightweight and easier to store. They can be easily folded up and stored in the camper's storage compartment, without taking up too much space. Therefore, they are an ideal choice for pop up campers.
In addition, portable solar panels can be easily moved and adjusted to get the best angle for sunlight, maximizing the collection efficiency of solar energy. Many people usually park their camper in the shade, place the solar panels in direct sunlight, and use extension cords to connect them to batteries or power stations. They adjust the direction and angle of the solar panel 1-2 times a day to achieve optimal results.

How Many Watts Do You Need In Pop Up Trailer Camping

How many watts do you need for RV camping in a pop-up trailer? The amount of power you need depends on factors such as the number of people in your group, the length of your trip, and the appliances you plan to use. For example, a family of 5 on a weekend comfortable camping trip with air conditioning and other appliances may require around 4,650 watts of power per day, while a solo camper on a week-long energy-saving trip may only need around 950 watts of power per day.

Energy need for pop up camper

Estimating the amount of energy needed is an important step when planning for a pop up camping trip. This will help you determine the size and number of solar panels and batteries required to power all your appliances and devices during your trip.
To estimate the amount of energy needed, you will need to consider the power consumption of each appliance or device that you plan to use during your camping trip. The power consumption is measured in watts, and you can find this information on the label or manual of the appliance or device.
Once you have gathered the power consumption data, you can use the following formula to calculate the energy consumption:
Energy consumption (Wh) = Power consumption (W) x Operating time (h)
For example, if you plan to use a 100-watt light bulb for 3 hours each day, the energy consumption would be:
Energy consumption (Wh) = 100 W x 3 h = 300 Wh
After you have calculated the energy consumption for each appliance or device, you can add them all up to get the total energy consumption for your camping trip.
Here is an example table to help guide your calculations:

It is also important to consider the weather conditions and the sun coverage of your camping area when selecting your solar panels.

Portable Solar Panel Size and Number Needs

Now that you have determined your total power needs for your pop-up trailer RV camping trip, you need to figure out how many solar panels and what size is required to meet your power requirements.
There are two conditions you need to consider in guiding the sizing of the solar parts you need.
For the first condition, if your goal is to just maintain charge on your battery while it's sitting, you will likely need a smaller solar panel system, since you will not be using as much power as you would if you were boondocking. A single 100W solar panel may be sufficient for this purpose, depending on the size of your battery bank.
For the second condition, if your goal is to replenish charge as you boondock, you will need a larger solar panel system, since you completely rely on your own off-grid power system. You need to consider more factors.

How much energy are you using in a given day?

To determine how much energy you are using in a given day, you need to calculate the total power consumption of all your appliances and devices. You can refer to the table we created earlier to get an idea of the power consumption of common appliances in a pop-up camper.

What is the sun coverage of your standard camp area?

The sun coverage of your camp area will determine how much solar energy you can harvest.
To determine the size of the solar panel you need, you need to know the peak sun hours in your location. Peak sun hours are the number of hours in a day when the sun is at its strongest, and the solar panel can generate the most power. You can find this information online or by contacting your local solar panel supplier.
For example, if your total watt-hours required per day is 950 and your peak sun hours are 5, then the size of the solar panel you need would be 190 watts (950 watt-hours / 5 peak sun hours).
If you are camping in an area with low sun exposure due to weather conditions, the solar efficiency would be less. In cloudy or rainy conditions, the efficiency of solar panels can be reduced by as much as 50-70%. This means that you would need to increase the number of solar panels or the size of your solar panel array to compensate for the lower efficiency.

What is the size of your current battery bank?

When considering the size of your battery bank, you need to take into account the voltage and capacity of the battery. This will help you determine the solar panel size and number required to recharge the battery bank while boondocking.
Most RVs use 12-volt battery systems, but some larger setups may use 24 or 48-volt systems. Assuming you have a 12V, 100Ah LiFePO4 battery bank, you will need to calculate the amount of power required to recharge the battery bank each day. If you use an average of 50Ah per day, you will need to recharge 50Ah per day to keep the battery bank topped up. A 100W solar panel will generate around 30Ah of power per day, so you will need at least two 100W solar panels to recharge your battery bank each day. 
And you can discharge the LiFePO4 battery up to 80% without damaging it. That means you need three 100W portable solar panels to fully charge it, so that you can have enough power even in the next two rainy days.

How many portable solar panels do I need for a pop up camper

To determine the number of solar panels needed, you need to divide the size of the solar panel by the wattage of the solar panel you plan to use. For example, if you plan to use 100-watt solar panels, and the solar panel size is 190 watts as we mentioned above, you would need 2 solar panels (950 watts / 100 watts per panel).
Keep in mind that there are factors that may impact the efficiency of your solar panels, such as shading, temperature, and the angle and direction of the panels. It's a good idea to add around 20% to the wattage you calculated to account for these factors and ensure that you have enough power to meet your needs.
For example, if you calculated that you need a 100-watt solar panel, it would be a good idea to consider using a 120-watt or 150-watt panel to account for these factors. This will help to ensure that you have enough power to run your appliances and devices even in less-than-ideal conditions.

How to Pick the Proper Portable Solar Panel

When it comes to picking the proper portable solar panel for your pop up camper, there are several factors to consider, including the type of panel, the wattage, and the brand. In this section, we will explore these factors in depth and provide recommendations for the best portable solar panels for pop up campers.

Portable Folding Solar Panels or Portable Flexible Solar Panels?

Portable solar panels come in two main types: folding and flexible. So, the portable folding solar panels or the portable flexible solar panels, which one is better for a pop up camper? It depends on your specific needs and preferences. Many RV-ers have two solar panels. One portable flexible panel is screwed and glued to the roof of their pop up campers, which is a good recharge when driving. And at least one portable 100W folding panel with them on the trip.
Actually, unless you have lots of panels up top or often camp in the desert, youll rarely get enough sun unless you are free to move the panels around. If you camp in heavily wooded areas, you may find it better to use folding panels. You can park your trailer in the shade and set up your folding panels in the sun directly, and re-orient the panels once or twice a day if youre in camp to maximize charging.
On the other hand, a permanently installed panel is less trouble; you install it and forget about it. A portable flexible solar panel can be glued to the roof or the side of the camper with an adhesive, avoiding the need to put holes up there. Additionally, flexible panels have the advantage of being significantly thinner than folding panels and can even be mounted using velcro strips.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Solar Panel for Pop Up Camper

When choosing the best portable solar panel for your pop up camper, there are several factors to consider, including:
Power output: The power output of a solar panel is measured in watts. Make sure the panel you choose can generate enough power to meet your needs.
Size and weight: Consider the size and weight of the panel, as well as how easy it is to set up and take down.
Durability: Look for a panel that is sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of outdoor use.
Price: Solar panels can vary in price, so consider your budget when making your decision.
Brand: The brand of your portable solar panel will determine its quality and durability. Look for a reputable brand that offers a warranty and good customer service.

Recommendation of the Best Portable Solar Panels for Pop Up Camper

After considering the above factors, we recommend the XTAR 100w and 150w portable solar panels for pop up campers.

XTAR 100W portable folding solar panel - SP100

One highly recommended portable solar panel for pop up campers is the XTAR 100w panel. This panel is a folding monocrystalline solar panel that generates enough power to charge your batteries and run small appliances. It is durable and weather-resistant, making it a great choice for outdoor use. According to many reviews and influencer tests, the actual watt of this rated 100W panel reaches around 110W.

It provides an extra removable 4-slot USB charger (separately buying) for your phones, flashlights, and portable mini fans, etc.

XTAR 150W portable folding mono solar panel - SP150

For those who need more power, the XTAR 150w panel is another great option. This panel is also a folding mono solar panel and can generate enough power to run larger appliances, such as a refrigerator or air conditioner. According to the latest customer reviews on social media, the best actual watts are 170 watts or even 180 watts. Thats amazing!

In addition, this larger XTAR solar panel has two unique features:
► Dual Protection: built-in Bypass Diodes eliminate the hot-spot risks of XTAR SP150 solar panel which may damage the PV cells.
► Four PV modules of SP150 connected in parallel ensure the output independence of each PV module. You will still get 75% output if one module is under the shadow.

Installation of a Portable Solar Panel For Pop Up Camper

When installing a portable solar panel for your pop up camper, you have two options for powering your devices: connecting the panel to a battery or a solar generator.

How to install a portable solar panel with a battery

When installing a portable solar panel with a battery, a charge controller is recommended to regulate the charging of the battery and prevent overcharging. The charge controller should be sized appropriately for the solar panel and battery capacity. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for connecting the solar panel and charge controller to the battery. It's also important to use appropriate wire size and connectors for a safe and efficient installation.

How to install a portable solar panel with a generator

When connecting a portable solar panel to a solar generator, a charge controller is not needed since most solar generators come with built-in charge controllers and inverters. However, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for connecting the solar panel to the solar generator, especially the wiring connectors.
When wiring multiple solar panels together, you can wire them in series or parallel. Wiring solar panels in series is useful when you need to increase the voltage of the system, such as when charging a 24-volt battery bank. On the other hand, wiring solar panels in parallel is used when you need to increase the amperage of the system, such as when charging a battery bank with a high amperage demand. We have a previous blog post dedicated to this topic - Connecting Solar Panels In Series Or Parallel”. Be sure to check it out for a more in-depth look at the subject.


FAQs about Using Portable Solar Panels for Pop Up Campers


1. Can I use a portable solar panel for my pop up camper?

Yes, a portable solar panel can be a great option for providing power to your pop up camper while you're on the go. It's lightweight, easy to set up, and can be easily stored when not in use.

2. What size solar panel do I need for my pop up camper?

The size of the solar panel you need for your pop up camper will depend on your energy needs. As a general rule of thumb, a 100-watt solar panel is enough to power basic appliances and charge your battery.

3. What type of battery should I use with my solar panel for my pop up camper?

A deep cycle battery is the best type of battery to use with your solar panel for your pop up camper. Lead-acid batteries are cheaper but have a shorter lifespan and can only be discharged to about 50%. LiFePO4 and Li-ion batteries are more expensive but have a longer lifespan and can be discharged to a greater extent.

4. How long will a solar panel take to charge my pop up camper battery?

It depends on several factors, including the size of your solar panel and the amount of sunlight it receives. On average, a 100-watt solar panel can charge a 100Ah battery in around 6-8 hours on a sunny day.

5. How do I connect my solar panel to my pop up camper battery?

You will need to use a charge controller to connect your solar panel to your pop up camper battery. The charge controller regulates the amount of power that is sent to the battery, preventing overcharging or undercharging.

6. Can I use a solar panel to run all of the electrical components in my pop up camper?

It's possible to use a solar panel to power all of the electrical components in your pop up camper, but it will depend on the size of your solar panel and battery. You may need to limit the use of high-power appliances and consider upgrading your solar panel and battery if you plan to use a lot of electricity.

7. How do I clean and maintain my pop up camper solar panel?

To clean your pop up camper solar panel, simply wipe it down with a soft, damp cloth. Be careful not to scratch the surface of the panel. You should also check the connections regularly to make sure they are secure and clean.

8. How do I store my pop up camper solar panel when not in use?

To store your pop up camper solar panel when not in use, you should first clean it and then disconnect it from your battery. You can then safely store it in a carrying case or other protective container.


Final Thoughts

Overall, using portable solar panels for your pop up camper can greatly enhance your camping experience, providing you with reliable and environmentally friendly power. So why wait? Invest in it today and start enjoying the benefits of sustainable and self-sufficient camping!

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