Solar power is quickly becoming more and more popular among the RV and camping community. For those who simply can’t afford, or just don’t want to install a complex solar system on the roof of their RV, there is a solution, a portable solar generator.
Adding a solar generator to your camping gear line-up makes off-grid living just a bit more enjoyable. But keep in mind, not all solar generators are created equal.
In this article we are going to take a look at the top 4 best solar generators for off-grid RV camping and what you need to know before making a purchase.
Let’s jump in…
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- At A Glance
- Why Choose A Portable Solar Generator?
- What Is A Solar Generator?
- 4 Best Solar Generators For Off-Grid RV Camping
- What To Consider When Choosing A Solar Generator For Living Off-Grid
- In Conclusion
At A Glance
Why Choose A Portable Solar Generator?
Living, or camping off-grid in an RV can be one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have. It gives us the opportunity to be completely free, to become one with nature, and leave the stresses of everyday life behind, at least for a few days. It gives us a chance to relax, to recharge our internal batteries, and focus on what is most important in our lives.
Off-grid, or dry camping, can have its own set of obstacles to overcome, whether you’re sleeping in a tent, camper, or cabin. I mean, you’re out in the middle of nowhere with nothing more than shelter, some food, and hopefully enough water to get you through.
But what about electricity? Sure, you have the house batteries in your camper to run the lights, awning, and a small fridge or electric cooler. But what if you need more?
Welcome to the world of solar and portability combined into one easy-to-use, convenient package. I’m talking about a portable solar generator.
What Is A Solar Generator?
A solar generator is much like a portable power supply. The main difference is they actually generate energy, not just store it. These units combine a rechargeable battery, a power inverter, a solar charge controller, a solar panel, and multiple ports all into one convenient package.
These portable generators are able to capture and store the sun’s energy using solar panels to give you the power you need when you need it. As long as there is sunlight, you can have clean renewable energy at your fingertips.
With built-in inverters, these portable solar generators convert sunlight into AC power you can use to recharge your devices or power small appliances on your off-grid RV camping trip.
- For more information on portable power stations, check out our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Portable Power Stations.
4 Best Solar Generators For Off-Grid RV Camping
We rely on electricity to not only power our lights and appliances, but also to charge our devices and give us some of the creature comforts of home. If you think about it, electricity has become as vital to our lifestyles as water and food.
With this in mind, you should never have to sacrifice your need for power whether you’re living off-grid, preparing for an emergency, or just trying to make it through the latest power outage during a storm.
Here are 4 portable solar generator options that will solve all of your off-grid power issues.
Best Overall Solar Generator: Jackery Explorer 1000
Jackery has been a leader in the portable power industry since 2012 and is a global top-seller when it comes to portable solar generators. With a record like that it’s no wonder they made it to the top spot on our list for RV owners.
The Jackery 1000 portable solar generator is a fitting example of their commitment to providing their customers with high-quality portable products.
With 1000-watts of continuous output power and 2000-watts of surge power, and coming in at just over 22 pounds, this solar generator easily meets the needs of any RV owner. It is also whisper quiet, so you won’t be disturbing your camping neighbors when using it, unlike a gas-powered generator.
In addition to being powerful and lightweight, the Jackery 1000 portable solar generator features a 1002Wh Lithium-Ion battery and multiple ports to plug in your electrical devices.
The ports include two USB-C, two USB, one 12V “cigarette lighter” port, and an impressive three 110V AC outlets with pure sine-wave technology. Another excellent feature of the Jackery 1000 is the ability to switch off the AC and DC ports separately.
This unit can be charged with a standard 110V wall outlet, a car charger, and with solar power.
The included 100W SolarSaga solar panel features one USB-C port and one USB-A port conveniently located on the back of the solar panel. In addition, the solar panel is foldable for easy storage and portability and weighs only 9 pounds.
Recharging the Jackery 1000 with one 100-watt solar panel takes up to 11 hours, however, adding additional solar panels can be easily achieved with the included adapter cable.
Jackery Explorer 1000 Specs:
- Battery Capacity – 1002Wh
- Battery Chemistry – Lithium-Ion
- Continuous Output Rating – 1000W
- Surge Output Rating – 2000W
- Weight – 22 Pounds
- Size – 13.1″ X 9.2″ X 11.1″
- Warranty – 24 Months
- Easy To Use
- Multiple 110V Outlets
- Molded Handle For Portablity
- Slow Charging Time When Using Solar Panels
- No Covers On Ports
- Jackery offers a complete line of portable power stations, solar generators, and solar panels to meet the off-grid power needs of every RV owner. Visit jackery.com to browse products.
Best Portable Solar Generator For Small Campers: Renogy Phoenix 500
For those with smaller campers, the Renogy Phoenix 500 could be the perfect solution for portable power on the go.
Renogy is one of the industry leaders in the solar industry, from complete solar kits for RVs to portable solar generators for off-grid RV camping.
The Phoenix 500 features a 495Wh Lithium-Ion battery coupled with an 800W pure sine-wave inverter which is more than enough to power anything you need when camping off the grid.
In addition, this powerful unit features pass-thru charging which allows up to 8 devices to be powered while the generator itself is being charged.
When using one E. FLEX 220 solar panel, the Phoenix 500 can be recharged to 80% in as little as 2.5 hours in ideal conditions.
Another notable feature of this portable solar generator is the ability to expand if you decide to add even more power, although you may never need to. This unit is already capable of producing 800-watts of continuous power with a surge rating of a whopping 1600-watts.
In addition, the Renogy Phoenix 500 is equipped with three 110V outlets, one USB-C port and two USB-C ports.
I think we can both agree that this solar generator is ideal for any off-grid camping adventure.
Renogy Phoenix 500 Specs:
- Battery Capacity – 495Wh
- Battery Chemistry – Lithium-Ion
- Continuous Output Rating – 800W
- Surge Output Rating – 1600W
- Weight – 16.7 Pounds
- Size – 12.76″ X 8.19″ X 9.43″
- Warranty – 12 Months
- Multiple 110V Ports
- Auto Timeout Setting For Ports Not Being Used
- 1 Year Warranty
- Solar Panels Sold Separately
- Renogy offers a full line of solar products from solar panels and solar generators, to complete solar kits for RVs. Visit renogy.com to see everything they offer.
Best Solar Generator For Large RVs: Bluetti AC200P+PV200 Solar Panels
Larger RVs often mean larger families and more people needing to use a portable solar generator to power them through the day. In that case, a larger generator might be needed to facilitate the needs of everyone in your camping crew.
The Bluetti AC200P solar generator is more than capable of handling all of your power needs when living off-grid in your RV.
Plus, the touch screen LCD display let you keep an eye on the wattage that is coming in and going out.
This unit features a massive 2,000-watt pure sine-wave inverter with a surge output of an even more impressive 4,800-watts. Coupled with a 2,000Wh LiFePO4 battery, this portable solar generator can power even the heaviest of loads with no problem.
Not only does the Bluetti AC200P have six 120V outlets, but it also features four USB-A ports, one USB-C port and four additional regulated DC outputs.
In addition to outlet ports, this solar generator has two wireless chargers incorporated into the top of the unit. Recharging this solar generator can be done through 120V AC, 12V DC, and up to 700-watts of solar panels. Plus, this unit features pass-thru charging allowing the user to stay connected while charging.
Bluetti AC200P Specs:
- Battery Capacity – 2000Wh
- Battery Chemistry – LiFePO4 (Lithium-Iron Phosphate)
- Continuous Output Rating – 1600W
- Surge Output Rating – 4800W
- Weight – 60.6 Pounds
- Size – 16.5″ X 11″ X 15.2″
- Warranty – 24 Months
- 1200-Watts Fast Dual Charging Capable
- 17 Total Output Ports
- Very Heavy
- High Phantom Discharge Rate
- To view the full line of portable power solutions that Bluetti offers, visit their Amazon store here.
Best Budget Friendly Portable Solar Generator: RockPals 300W Power Station+SP003 100W Solar Panel
The RockPals 300W portable solar generator is made for RVers that are on a tighter budget but still want the convenience of portable power.
This unit features a 280Wh, Lithium-Ion battery that has enough power to charge cell phones and cameras, inflate an air mattress at the campground, and even run a few small appliances.
As far as ports go, this portable solar generator has one 110V outlet that is rated for 300-watts of continuous power and 500-watts of surge power, one 12-Volt “cigarette lighter” port for charging in the car, two 5mm DC ports, two USB ports, and one USB-C port.
Coming in at just over 7 pounds, this small, yet powerful portable solar generator is an ideal choice to serve up the needs of any RV or off-grid camper.
The main drawbacks of the RockPals 300 are the noisy internal fan, reduced battery capacity in colder weather, and the face of the unit has some flex to it when plugging in devices.
RockPals 300 Power Station Specs:
- Battery Capacity – 280Wh
- Battery Chemistry – Lithium-Ion
- Continuous Output Rating – 300W
- Surge Output Rating – 500W
- Weight – 7.7 Pounds
- Size – 10.5″ X 5.3″ X 8.5″
- Warranty – 24 Months
- Bright Backlit Display
- Plenty Of DC Ports
- Protective Port Covers
- Loud Internal Fan
- Reduced Battery Capacity In Cold Weather
- To view the entire line of RockPals products, visit rockpals.com.
What To Consider When Choosing A Solar Generator For Living Off-Grid
When choosing the best solar generator for your off-grid living needs, there are a few things to consider.
A portable solar generator is not an inexpensive purchase. These units can get expensive, very quickly. The larger the unit, the higher the cost.
There are cheaper options out there, but you will get what you pay for. If you choose a unit from a reputable company, you can’t go wrong.
The battery capacity of a solar generator is simply the amount of power the unit can store, which is listed in watt-hours. Watt-hours are the amount of energy a certain device requires to operate for one hour.
For example, the typical phone charger requires around 5 watts of electricity to operate. Some newer “fast-chargers” may be rated for more, but for the sake of this example we’re going to assume your phone charger is rated for 5 watts.
Over the course of one hour, the phone charger would use 5 Watts of power. If you were to charge two 5W phone chargers at the same time, these devices together would use 10 Watts of energy.
So, if you have a solar powered generator that has a 1000-Watt Hour battery, you could charge these devices for 100 hours before needing to recharge the solar generator. (on paper)
Another real-world example of battery capacity would be running a 200-watt fan and 800-watt Instant Pot in your RV at the same time.
200 watts + 800 watts = 1000 watts per hour. If these items were plugged into the Bluetti AC200P portable solar generator listed above, they would run for approximately 2 hours before the generator batteries would need to be recharged.
With this in mind, when choosing the best solar generator for off-grid living, knowing what you will be powering with it is extremely important. The last thing you want is a generator that is too small to handle your off-grid electrical needs.
Today’s solar generators will typically have one of two types of rechargeable batteries, Lithium-Ion, or Lithium Iron-Phosphate (LiFePO4).
Lithium-Ion batteries have a total life cycle of 500 to 1,000 charges before they begin to degrade. When this happens, these batteries will lose approximately 80% of their total capacity.
This means that over time, an off-grid solar generator with a Lithium-Ion battery that is rated for 1,000-Watt hours will degrade to around 800-Watt hours.
Think of your cell phone for example. Have you ever noticed that after hundreds of recharges, the battery doesn’t seem to last as long as it did when it was new? This is the same thing.
The LiFePO4 battery, however, has a total life cycle of between 2,000 and 5,000 charges before they begin to degrade. In addition, these types of batteries can manage higher temperatures than the Lithium-Ion batteries.
While the Lithium-Ion batteries have a shorter life cycle than the LiFePO4 batteries, they also weigh much less. Lithium Iron-Phosphate batteries are mostly found in stationary units because of their weight, but they can also be found in portable units as well.
Either way you go, both options are much better than lead-acid type batteries.
To learn more about the differences in the two types of rechargeable batteries listed, check out this article by Anton Beck from epectec.com. He goes into full detail about the differences.
Continuous And Surge Output
The continuous output of a solar generator is simply the maximum number of watts the battery can provide continuously.
The surge output, or peak output, is the initial draw that some larger devices pull on start-up. A good example of this would be a circular saw. The saw might have a continuous, or running wattage of 1200 watts, but the initial surge required to get the saw motor up and running could be as high as 2400 watts.
When selecting a portable solar generator for your RV or off-grid camping needs, keep these figures in mind. Also, you should never run a solar generator at the maximum rating for very long. Doing so will reduce the lifespan of the unit.
Think of running your tow vehicle at the maximum RPMs for an extended period of time. It wouldn’t be long before you will be replacing the engine.
Size And Weight
RV owners are well aware of the size and weight of anything they pack into their rigs. In fact, weight is one of the most crucial factors to consider with any RV.
You should take the size and weight of a solar generator for your RV into account to make sure you will be able to stow the unit on travel days.
Number Of Ports
Portable solar generators will have any combination of useable ports. Some will have multiple AC ports, while others will only have one or two. In addition to AC ports, these units also have a wide variety of DC ports as well.
The 110V AC ports will be the main point of power for most appliances. However, USB and “cigarette” DC ports are used for charging devices like phones, drones, and running 12 Volt refrigerators.
The display on a portable solar generator is extremely important. This is where you can find all the information you about what is going on with the unit.
A useful display will show you the total wattage being used, the amount of battery power available, and the input wattage when charging.
The solar input rating of a portable solar generator tells you how much energy the unit can take while charging with solar panels.
The higher the solar input capacity, the faster the charge time.
Are you looking to use an off-grid solar generator while it’s charging? If so, make sure the unit supports pass-thru charging. What this feature does is lets you continue to use the generator and charge it simultaneously.
The RockPals portable solar generator, for example, has pass-thru charging. The unit turns off the AC outlets but not the DC ports while charging the batteries.
The expandability feature of a portable solar generator is especially important for those that may wish to expand their total output at some point down the road.
You may find that the generator you initially chose just simply isn’t up to the task of keeping up with your off-grid living needs. So, instead of buying a larger solar generator, you can just add to the one you already have.
Having a portable solar generator makes off-grid living and anything else you want to do much more comfortable. Having one in your camping gear arsenal allows you to explore the great outdoors without worrying about power.
Whether it be for keeping your RV or camper house batteries charged, enjoying your favorite Instant Pot recipe, or simply charging your devices, in today’s technological world it just doesn’t make sense to go without power.
What are your thoughts on the best portable solar generators for off-grid RV camping? Leave us a comment below and let us know.