As technology moves on, solar energy is becoming an excellent means of protecting your home from power outages and providing you with a convenient source of electricity when you are travelling or are off grid.
Solar power has been around for decades, but it was often expensive, had a low return, and often required permanent placement of panels.
When portable versions came out, they were often took so long to charge and had such low wattage they were pointless.
Nowadays you can easily power your home with a permanent solar power system, and you can buy portable solar generators that you can use as a backup power source for your home. Or you can take them on your travels with you.
They are great for your camper van, RV, motor home, car camping, camping, wild camping, hunting expeditions, fishing trips, wood land basecamps, survivals kits, prepper bunkers, off-grid cabins, and anything you can think of really.
These are the solar generators I will look at with you today, they are the ones that are a great addition for you to take away, but when needed they could help you power your home for short periods of time.
Portable solar generators are a great option to have handy, but you do need to be aware of what they are capable of and what their limitations are.
This is what you should consider when making a purchase to ensure you do not waste your money:
If you just want to recharge your smartphone on a multiday thru-hike, that is a totally different solar power system from if you wanted to power a small log cabin in the wilderness.
So, you need to consider what you are likely to need it for and how much power that would require.
Then you buy a solar generator that best suits that need.
If you are still unsure, then ask for a professional help.
If you are just intending for it to only be a back up for your electricity in the home, then you can get a more semi-permanent system and get the most powerful system you can afford.
If you are wanting it to have a greater range of uses, then you need to consider how portable it is, so you need to factor in how you would carry it and how easy it is to set up.
On top of the unit itself, you need to consider the solar input. How many solar panels there are, are efficient they are, how portable they are, how robust they are, and can you add additional panels to the ones already supplied. I like additional points in my generators to allow for expansion if and when needed.
You are best getting a solar generator that exceeds what you think its usual needs will be. You are best overestimating what you will need it for than underestimating.
There is no point in buying a 500-watt solar generator, if everything you intend to use it for takes more than 500 watts to run.
You will need a battery that is big enough to match your needs also, this means you will be able to run the appliances you want without the constant need for sunlight.
But obviously the more powerful things you want to run from it will determine how big of a battery you will need.
If you just want to run a lamp when you are at your bushcraft basecamp then you will only need a small battery, if you want to add in a refrigerator to your basecamp then you are going to need a much bigger battery.
As well as a good battery you are going to need a sufficient inverter rating. Inverters change the stored power from the solar panels (DC) into usable AC electricity.
You could have the biggest battery in the world but if you don’t have sufficient inverter wattage then you will not be able to use the generator for what you intended it for.
These are all solar generators that I have owned, tested, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. However, as I have pointed out… you need to find one that matches your needs not one that matches mine.
This is my current go to portable solar generator.
This suits my needs perfectly. I can get off-grid and away from civilisation for extended periods of time but still have access to electricity for practical and safety reasons.
It is not something you would be able to take with you on a multi-day hike, but I have found it perfect for getting a short walk away from my car and setting up a camp for a few days in a remote and wild location.
Especially in the winter when it gets dark early, when you might need to run a few items to stay safe and for entertainment.
I have used both folding and portable solar panels with this solar generator and both kinds worked well, and the panels are so light nowadays if barely adds weight to your standard kit.
Before I take it out with me, I will make sure I fully charge it. If I have planned the trip well in advance, I will charge it in the garden using panels, if it is a more last-minute trip and I am in a rush.
I will just charge it off the grid. It takes less than 5 hours to get a full battery charge from the mains.
The battery is great, and a full charge will be maintained for upwards of 3 months which is useful.
You can plug in USB cables directly into the unit, which is awesome. Most of the stuff I take out with me have USB charges like my phone, camera, headtorches, and lamps.
To me it makes sense that you would want to be able to get a full charge in during the day, so that you can use it at night.
And this generator ticks that box, as it is possible to get a full charge in around 9 hours of sunlight depending on where you are obviously.
The only real downside of this unit is that you cannot jump start your car with it, which is an option on other generators I have.
I can be away for upwards of a week, leaving my car standing still in cold conditions for that period of time. So, I like to have a jump starting means available.
Therefore, if I am taking this out with me, I leave another option in the car.
This is a very portable and relatively powerful solar generator that is very versatile. But like I said it is not big enough, if your primary reason for having a solar generator is for a back up to your homes power supply.
I get around this by having multiple smaller units. I believe it is more prudent to have multiple smaller units than one big one.
This gives me more adaptability and shields me from unit failures in case of outages and emergency survival situations.
Here are the other ones I own, and why I like them.
This is the solar generator I use if I am just by myself and only away camping for a night or two. It is compact, light, has good output, and is reliable in changeable weather conditions.
If you are just looking for something to keep your phones, gps watch, and lamp charged at night… then this is a great option.
At only 4kg, this can easily fit in a backpack and it can be carried for miles, especially as most of my other solo camping gear is ultra-lightweight.
It can be charged quickly and has a mains and a car adapter too. When I am driving to my location, I will have it on the passenger seat charging, so it has a little head start before I get to my camping spot.
If you are away for an extended period of time with multiple children, this could be a great option for you.
It is small, very lightweight, but powerful… and the best feature is you can charge 11 different devices at once. Which is handy if your kids are glued to their phones, gaming devices, and YouTube.
I have never tested this out, but the manufacturer claims it will hold a full charge for 1 year. This could therefore make it a great option to keep in your survival bunker and food store.
What I like most about it is that it can be trusted to work in a wide range of temperatures, anywhere between -4 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I would rarely be out in conditions outside that range, so it is perfect for my needs.
You can carry this about with you, but it is a little heavy to go to far with it. But it is a beast of a generator and has really efficient charging.
And it has an easy-to-understand screen so you can track how fast it is charging, and what you are using. It can also charge a flat car battery.
This is the solar generator that I leave in my home as it can handle most home appliances and it can charge medical appliances which is great for survival preparedness.
It is a big unit and can take around 17 hours to charge, but you can keep charging it whilst you are using it which is handy.
A lot of the portable generators do not come with panels, you have to buy and attach those yourself when needed.
This one is a great option if you want everything in-built. The generator and panels are one unit. It looks like a suitcase, and you open it out to reveal the panels. So, there is no set up, and no cables running everywhere.
The main problem I have with this product is that you cannot charge it through the mains or your car.
It can only be charged by the solar. This cuts down the options, and I like to have as many options as possible to cover as many eventualities as possible.
That said this a very good solar generator and has a high wattage and a good battery.
Having access to the national grid is great, having back up systems like gas, oil, and petrol generators are awesome but are these sources and fuels always going to be available to you?
In times of natural disasters, government breakdowns, war, and pandemics you might not have protected yourself as much as you think.
That is why I have portable solar generators too, as I should always have access to the Sun unless we get ourselves into a Highlander ll type of situation. If you can also have Hydro and Geothermal means of power, then all the better.
But solar is the most convenient way you can have a back up or portable energy source.
There are a lot of good options out there to buy, but you do have to make sure you buy one that is suitable for your needs. The where, why, and how questions are important.
So hopefully this article has given you some ideas and options but at the end of the day the best solar generator for you is the one that most closely matches your needs.