How Big Solar Panel Do You Need for Camping? How to Calculate?

Camping with a suitable portable solar system has many great benefits, like traveling to remote, unpowered locations, which means, no need for me to sacrifice items such as mobile devices, LED camping lights, and portable fridges etc.,

How big of a solar panel do I need for camping?

It depends on the amount of power you need at camp during the day, for example for lights. The amount can also depend on how much power your individual devices need. There are many different types of solar panels made. They range from small to large and can vary in size even more than this. If you enjoy camping, then go with the panel that best fits your needs.

Bringing solar panels to the camping site means you will stay comfortable and at peace throughout the camping journey.

After discovering the importance of solar panels when camping, the next job is to figure out the solar panel size that will be needed. However, it is still important to know what devices you may take for camping such as charging equipment, lights, fridge, etc.,

Before I end up with a particular number and size of solar power, I need to make sure how many electrical loads I have to bring.

First, consider how many Amps will be drawn from the battery. For those who do not know where to find this information, check the device label or product manual.

Meanwhile, it is also essential to determine how long each item will be used. This will help in getting the total Amps hours daily. Amp-hours (Ah) Refers to the stored power measurement. Once the number of Amps drawn, and you need to determine the following:

  • The size of the battery
  • The duration of each item to be run over the day
  • The number of electric loads along with their amps

How to Choose the Right Solar Panel

When I was new to the solar panel system, choosing the right one for me was challenging. What I did in finding the right type of solar for me was I went to the camp with a fully-charged battery in my unit. Then, I did not connect it to any electric hook-up. That is to see how long my battery will power my appliances.

As I returned home, I look for the battery rating and then calculated the average energy used during the camping. For instance, my 110Ah battery lasted for about two days, which is 110/2 = 55Ah daily.

After that, I searched for a portable solar panel that will match my battery according to a similar average. I learned that my solar panel would only top up the battery when receiving sunlight.

Part of determining the right solar panels for my camping needs is determining what type I should get. I discovered the two types of solar panels: amorphous and crystalline.

The crystalline solar panel is considered the most common type. It comes with monocrystalline. The more efficient a crystalline is, the more expensive it is. That is because it can provide a higher solar-generated electricity amount even in a smaller area.

The amorphous solar panel is known to be less vulnerable to higher temperatures. So, this type of solar panel is more tolerant to shading. However, its efficiency is not completely affected by hot weather.

While the crystalline solar panel is more fragile, the amorphous one is more mechanically resistant. The latter is easy to fold or roll and flexible.

How to Use A Solar Panel When Camping

This is very important – Need to position the solar panel in a particular spot to get the maximum benefit of sunlight. That is because a portable power system has relatively limited wattage.

During noontime, the solar panel can get the strongest sunlight. Some campers cannot follow the full sunlight with their solar panels on the roof of their camper, so they use portable ones.

However, for some who insisted on having solar panels on the roof of their camper, they purchased the crystalline panels.

Since I used the portable ones, I was able to install them on the ground.

How much solar power do you need for camping?

Another challenging scenario that every hiker or trekker may experience when choosing the right solar panel is the size. This can be challenging, especially if they have no idea about their daily use of electricity.

To check the real consumption use, it’s also a nice idea to just estimate by using the power ratings.

According to electrical terms, the power (W) is equal to current (A) multiplied by voltage (V). Since my battery produces 12V in powering my appliances, I need to take the power rating. After that, I will divide it by 12.

For example, my 16W light draws a 16/12 = 1.33A. I turn it on for roughly three hours per day. So, I will need a 1.33 x 3 – 4Ah per day from the battery to power my light.

To give you a better idea about the power usage for every item, take a look at the table below:

AppliancePower Rating in Watts (W)Current Drawn at 12V In Amps (A)Number of Hours Appliance is OnAmp Hours (Ah) RequiredEnergy Top-Up Power Day in Watt Hours (Wh)
 (Power/12) (Current x Hours)(Power x Hours) 
12V Radio2422448
14” 12V Color TV453.827.590
Water Pump403.31.20.78
Kitchen Ventilation Fan201.70.50.910
Halogen Downlighter (each)100.821.620
Living Area Light (each)161.333.948
TOTAL   18.7Ah224Wh

Final Thoughts

Without solar panels, our camping experience would not have been so much comfortable and convenient. The good thing is the solar energy power system is easy to install and very efficient.

Choosing the right type as well as the size can be challenging at first. However, once you do the proper research and calculations as described above, you can easily figure out the right solar panel for your camping needs.