What size solar panels do i need for camping?

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Powering essentials and charging batteries using portable solar panels have been a part of modern camping for a long time.

I also take at least 800W of foldable solar panels and a solar generator with me whenever I go for Overlanding or Boondocking.

I also rely on my 2000-watt inverter generator and power station to power my AC, coffee maker, and other motor-driven devices.

If you are a new camper, or you are just switching to solar in your outdoor adventures, you might be asking yourself how much solar do I need for camping?

Being an outdoorsman and tech-savvy, I have covered this question in detail for you.

What Size Solar Power Do I Need for Camping?

The amount of solar power needed for camping depends on the wattage rating of the appliances you are going to use and the number of available daylight hours. On average, 300W of solar power is needed to replace a 100Ah battery, and 400W solar panels are needed if you are going to replace a 200Ah battery for boondocking.

To give you a rough example:

Solar panel power is measured in watts and a watt is equal to a volt multiplied by an amp,

Watt = Volt X Amp

Suppose you are going to replace your 100Ah battery to run your 12V appliances, and you have 6 hours of available daylight in your camping area.

100Ah x 12V= 1200Wh

Now divide the total watt-hours by the available daylight of the sun.

1200Wh/6H = 200W solar panels

This is theoretical, you have to add at least 20% more to your calculations to cover the energy loss. Therefore, you would need at least 240W solar panels.

To give you another example:

Following devices are mostly used on a camping trips.

DeviceAmpsHoursAmp Hours (12v)
  Mini-Fridge  4  16  64
  LED lights  0.5  6  3
  Phone Charger  2  2  4
  Laptop  2  6  12

Now suppose you have a 150Ah battery and all of the devices are 12V.

83Ah x 12V = 996Wh

Now considering 6 hours of daylight.

996Wh/6H = 166W Solar Panel

Adding 20% extra to cover as a safety precaution, you would need a 199W solar panel (200 watts)

Before we shine more light upon the topic, you need to learn about starting and running watts.

What are Starting and Running Watts?

Starting, peak or surge watts refer to a brief surge in power required to start a motor-driven device and running or rated watts refer to continuous power required to run a device.

Motor-driven devices such as a refrigerator require a brief surge in power to overcome inertia and start. Later, it settles down to its original power requirement (running watts). (check power consumption of refrigerator)

Now that you know the difference between starting and running watts, let’s discuss how much solar power is enough for RV camping.

If you are confused about watts, kWh then check out this short article to understand it once and for all, what is watt, kilowatt and kilowatt hour (kWh)?

What Size Solar Panel Do I Need for RV Camping?

Following are some of the most common and basic RV accessories that we use during the day and night:

  • LED lights
  • 12V ceiling fan
  • A mini-fridge
  • Water Heater
  • TV
  • Cellphone
  • Laptop
  • A power jack

A 300-watt solar panel system with a 12V battery is enough to run the above-mentioned devices (not at the same time)

If you want to add a coffee maker, a microwave, RV’S built-in furnace, blender, food processor, and a toaster, then you would need a 600-watt solar panel system.

Use this simple calculator to calculate the power consumption of household appliances.

Using a Solar Generator for Camping

One of the biggest advantages of solar generators on camping trips is that you can use and charge them at the same time.

Solar generators are not only portable, lightweight, compact, durable, reliable, and powerful, but they offer a variety of different outlets to charge and power various 12V appliances. It is one shop for all.

On a camping trip, saving space and using compact gear is the most important thing. Being an outdoorsman I would highly recommend getting a solar generator along with a minimum of 400W solar panels.

Suppose you need a foldable solar panel system for your camping trip. Instead of increasing the solar panel capacity, why not go for a solar generator like a JACKERY Explorer 1000.

Jackery has 1000 running watts and 2000 starting watts power output, 1002Wh battery capacity, a ton of AC and ports, and a flashlight.

It has three charging options.

  • 200-watt solar input = It takes 8 hours to fully charge
  • It will take 7 hours to completely charge the AC wall outlet
  • 13.5 hours to fully charge from 12V car outlet.

A 1000-watt portable solar generator like a JACKERY 1000 will run the following things.

  • Laptop = 9 charges
  • Cellphone = 100 charges
  • Coffee maker = 50 minutes
  • Microwave = 45 minutes
  • Mini-cooler = 17 hours

Can I Use Solar Panels to Run The AC While Camping?

If you have a battery bank of 600Ah, and a 1200W solar panel system, you can run a 15,000 BTU AC without a problem.

But, most boondockers including me rely on a good old 2000-watt portable inverter generator, or a 2000-watt solar generator to power AC because we have to consider the starting watts of the AC as well.

Are Foldable Solar Panels Good for Camping?

Foldable solar panels require little to no space and for campers, saving space and packing more gear is the most important thing. Foldable panels are portable and easy to use with any device or solar generator. They are durable, reliable, and powerful. You don’t even have to install them in series, most foldable panels come in a pack of four (100W each) connected.


I would recommend getting a solar generator and foldable panels for camping. By then, you would have a permanent and reliable energy solution. I have already answered the question “what size solar panels do I need for camping” in detail. If your energy need for camping is 100W, then purchase a panel of 120W. We always add 20% to the total to cover the energy losses.

Check out the following articles to know more about how solar power system can save you ton of electricity bill.

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