Portable solar panels come in all sizes from units that you can carry in your pocket to fold up panels that end up not being much bigger than the average brief case. It all depends on what your needs are. Ultra portable solar panels can give your phone that extra little bit of power it needs to keep you going to the end of the day. Small panels that will fit in your pocket or hook to a belt loop are an excellent way of providing this little extra boost.
For those with more demanding power requirements you can get portable solar panels that are set up at the camp site and are used to charge the phone, power the camp fridge and everything in between. For about as much room as a sleeping bag will take up in the car you can get a good supply of electricity that will happily keep your fridge and possibly a small portable TV running for your entire trip.
With advances in technology not only making solar panels more efficient they are also lighter and stronger. It’s viable to take solar panels to all the ends of the earth no matter how rough you travel. The new range of net books are a piece of cake for a decent solar panel and laptops in the bush are now a viable option. Need to travel light. No problem as some manufacturers have recognised the need and make solar panels that roll up much like a blanket, are extremely light and take up minimal room in your backpack. They can also pack quite a punch as far as power output goes. They can be laid out anywhere you can find a flat spot in the sun.
It’s important that you figure out your power needs first. Find out the power requirements of all the devices you usually take with you on your trips and write them down. Next you need to jot down the number of hours per day you will be using the device. This will give you a pretty good indication of just how powerful your portable solar system needs to be.
People with high power requirements may need to have a lead acid battery as a storage unit. Everything runs off the battery while the solar panel is responsible for charging it up. When working out how powerful your panels need to be it’s recommended that you only use 4 hours of direct sunlight in your calculations as this will account for inefficiencies in the system and give you a more realistic average.
Your solar panel needs to be powerful enough and get enough sunlight during the day to completely recharge your battery. Ignore these recommendations and you risk running out of power rather quickly. You may be able to get away with less if you only go on short trips as you can just top the battery up when you return home. For longer trips you will eventually flatten the battery if you don’t carefully monitor your power usage.