Sleeping under the stars with your phone on full bars is no longer a dream, thanks to affordable, quiet and clean off-grid solar generators.
Outdoor activities like hiking, camping, boating, and RV travel are more popular today than ever before.
In the past, bringing anything with you that was powered by electricity - cell phones, radios, fans, laptops - meant choosing one of two options: lugging along a loud, smelly gas generator with extra cans of fuel; or, sleeping in a marina, camp or RV site near available power outlets.
Using any of the solar generators reviewed on this page, outdoor lovers can now sleep anywhere they want and stay in touch with the world outside.
While you're out playing, the solar panels at the campsite convert the sun's rays into a clean and green power supply.
When you get back in the evening, these perfectly quiet power sources are ready again to recharge your electronics, power the camp lights and even power appliances you don't want to travel without.
The silent convenience provided by solar generators is really unparalleled.
Solar generators are completely silent, don't emit smelly & dangerous exhaust fumes, are renewable & green, and are perfectly capable of powering your essential devices.
Think about it: no more worry about running your vehicle's batteries down, hunting for plug-ins, or watching helplessly as your laptop powers off while you drive around, looking for a place to plug it in.
This guide details six of the best solar generators for camping, boating, and RV use. We've selected a couple of choices in each power rating.
Some of these solar generators are only useful for recharging a laptop and a phone.
Others are brutes that can power your refrigerator and a TV.
To figure out how many watts of power you'll need on the road, use our appliance wattage guide.
Best Solar Generators For Boating, Camping and RVs: Comparison Table
- 1Best for Camping: Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power
- 2Best For Boats, RVs & Vans : Bluetti AC200P Portable Power Station
- 3Best for Devices & Small Appliances: Rockpals 250-Watt Portable Generator
- 4Best for Appliances: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X Portable Power Station
- 5Best Lightweight 1000W Solar Power Station: Jackery Explorer 1000
- 6Best Solar Generator With Solar Panels: Jackery Explorer 1000 + 2 SolarSaga 100W
- 7Best Budget Buy: Jackery Explorer 240
- 8Best Briefcase Solar Generator Kit: Renogy PHOENIX Portable Generator All-in-one Kit
- 9Best Solar Generator Lighting Kit: ECO-WORTHY 84Wh Portable Power Station
Jackery Explorer 500
- Best for camping
500W continuous, 1000W surge pure sine wave inverter
- Best for boats, RVs, & vans
2000W continuous, 4800W surge pure sine wave inverter
- Best for devices & small appliances
250W continuous, 300W surge pure sine wave inverter
Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
- Best for appliances
2,000W continuous, 3,500W surge pure sine wave inverter
Jackery Explorer 1000X
- Best lightweight 1000W solar generator
1000W continuous, 2000W surge pure sine wave inverter
Jackery Explorer 1000 + 2 SolarSaga
- Best with solar panels
1000W continuous, 2000W surge pure sine wave inverter
Jackery Explorer 240
- Best budget buy
200W continuous, 400W surge pure sine wave inverter
Renogy Phoenix kit
- Best briefcase solar generator kit
150W continuous pure sine wave inverter
- Best solar generator lighting kit
No AC output
Best Solar Generators for Camping, Boating & RVs: Reviews
1. Best for Camping: Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station
For camping, you want a solar generator that is lightweight yet capable. The Jackery Explorer 500 meets both those needs.
It’s small, light, and can power most of the devices and small appliances used while camping.
The Jackery Explorer 500 hits the right balance between portability and capability.
It’s compact and lightweight, yet has a decently sized battery and inverter for most people’s camping needs.
The lithium battery inside the Explorer 500 has a capacity of 518Wh.
That’s plenty of power to charge devices and power a couple of small appliances for a few hours. It can charge a smartphone 53 times, a laptop almost 5 times, and a mini fridge for 9 hours.
The Explorer 500 comes with USB, DC, and AC outlets so you can plug in all kinds of electronics.
The AC inverter puts out power through a single AC outlet with a max rating of 500W.
For your devices and gadgets, there are three 5V USB-A ports. And for your DC-powered appliances and tools such as car fridges and CPAP, use the two DC 6.5mm outlets or the 12V DC car port.
Three Ways to Recharge
You can recharge the Explorer 500 from a wall outlet using the included AC adapter. It’ll take about 7.5 hours.
When you are on the road or outdoors, you can recharge from a solar panel (takes about 9.5hrs with a 100W panel) or from your vehicle (takes about 16 hours).
Issues & Limitations
The Jackery Explorer is just about perfect for campers except for a couple of issues.
One, there’s no USB-C or quick charge port, options available in many modern solar generators. You can buy adapters to convert from USB-A to USB-C but having these ports would be more convenient.
The other complaint from customers is that Jackery uses non-standard 6.5mm DC ports. It’s hard to find cables for these ports (standard ports are 5.5mm).
Many customers have resorted to buying adapters like this 5.5mm to 6.5mm converter from Walmart.
The Jackery Explorer 500 is a great choice for campers looking for a lightweight and compact solar generator that can charge their devices and power small appliances.
Avoid it if you need a power station just for recharging your devices and powering a single small appliance like a CPAP or mini fridge. Get the Rockpals 250-Watt portable generator instead (reviewed further below).
2. Best For Boats, RVs & Vans: BLUETTI AC200P Portable Power Station
For boat, RV, and van owners, performance is more important than weight and portability. The Bluetti AC200P is heavy at 60.6lbs, but it can power most household appliances including a full size refrigerator, a TV, and a space heater.
For folks who need a lot more power, the Bluetti AC200P is one of the best solar generators.
It is heavy, but that’s not a big deal when you are setting it up in your RV, van or boat. Once you set it up, you don't need to move it often.
The Bluetti AC200P comes with a massive 2000Wh LiFePO4 battery. That’s four times what you get with the Jackery Explorer 500.
It’s great when you need to power multiple appliances while also charging devices. You don't have to worry about the battery draining too quickly.
More Outlets Than You (Probably) Need
Let’s start with the AC outlets. We are used to solar generators with one or two of them. The Bluetti AC200P has six.
As long as you do not exceed the 2000W max output of the inverter, you can plug in six different appliances.
The Bluetti AC200P also offers plenty of options for gadgets and devices. You get four 5V 3 A USB-A ports, a USB-PD 60W port, and two 15W wireless charging pads.
As for DC, there’s the usual 12V 10A car port and two 12V 3A ports. There’s also a 12V 25A RV port if you want to hook up the Bluetti AC200P directly to your RV.
Normally, such a large-capacity solar generator would come with a major downside - slow recharge.
Not so with the Bluetti AC200P.
It comes with a high-input 500W AC charger. You can charge it from a wall outlet in a quick 4.5 hours. You can get the optional dual AC adapter and halve the charging time to 2.5 hours.
However, solar charging makes the most sense for vanlifers, RVers and boat owners. You’ll be happy to know that the Bluetti AC200P accepts solar input up to 700W, which can recharge the battery in just 3-3.5 hours.
Get a marine or RV solar kit and hook it up to the Bluetti power station. This lets you enjoy endless power wherever you are.
It’s especially great for dry camping, van camping and other situations where you don't have access to power hookup.
Issues & Limitations
While portability is not a big issue for RVs and boats, you’ll still need to move the power stations around by hand. For example if you don't want to leave it in your RV when you are at home.
The Bluetti AC200P is heavy. While it does have sturdy handles to lift it, you’ll need a cart to move it around or have an extra pair of hands to help you carry it.
The other issue is that, while the capacity is pretty big, it’s probably not enough to power an entire RV or boat.
Remember that the inverter has a max output of 2000W. So if you connect the Bluetti AC200P to power your entire RV, it will not support multiple large appliances at the same time (e.g. running a dryer and a space heater or AC).
The Bluetti AC200P works best as supplemental power to reduce the load on your deep cycle RV or boat batteries.
When it comes to vans, however, the Bluetti AC200P can usually power an entire van since the appliances are usually fewer and smaller.
The Bluetti AC200P is a great choice for anyone who needs a high-capacity, high-output solar generator for their RV, boat or van.
Avoid it if you don't need that much capacity. Consider the Jackery Explorer 500 or 1000 instead.
3. Best for Devices & Small Appliances: Rockpals 250-Watt Portable Generator
The Rockpals portable generator boasts a 240Wh lithium polymer battery that can power most of the basic electronics in your RV, boat, or camping tent, including lighting, fan, radio, a small TV, and CPAP machine.
Like the SUAOKI power station, the Rockpals portable solar generator features just a battery and a versatile input/output interface.
The 240Wh LiPo battery stores enough charge to power most electronics for several hours or days.
If you spend plenty of time off-grid, either on the water with your boat, in the woods camping, or driving your RV, consider buying off-grid solar generators to keep the battery charged.
We recommend a couple of 50W panels or a single 100W solar panel. For RV and boat owners, look for flexible solar panels. They'll be easier to install on a curved surface.
If you only go out occasionally, you can charge the battery from a wall AC outlet (wall charger included) or your vehicle's 12V DC socket (car charger included).
As for output, you get the usual AC, DC, and USB ports.
There are two 120V AC ports connected to a pure sine wave 250W continuous inverter (300W surge), four 12V DC ports, and two 5V USB ports.
Light but Powerful
The Rockpals solar generator is surprisingly lightweight, coming in at just 5.5lbs. If you plan to move it around a lot, you don't need a cart or someone's help.
It's also compactly designed, measuring just 10" long, 4" wide and 6" high. If you are short of space in your boat, RV, or truck, this is the best power station to get.
The Rockpals 250W power station won't power any high-wattage appliances. Make sure that whatever you plug into the AC port doesn't exceed the 250W continuous max power output of the inverter.
It can only charge devices like your smartphone, camera, or drone and power small electronics like a fan, radio, and mini-fridge.
The Rockpals 250-watt portable solar generator is a great choice for campers, RVers, and boaters looking for a lightweight and compact solar power station to power their electronics such as lighting, mini-fridge, CPAP machine, air pump and so on.
4. Best for Appliances: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
If you want a solar generator that can power appliances in your RV or boat such as a fridge, a TV or a blender, you need to shell out more money for a generator with more watt-hours and a stronger inverter.
One of the best choices is the Goal Zero Yeti 1500X, a new portable power station that replaces the older Yeti 1400.
The 1500X is powerful without being too big or too heavy.
We, personally, don’t fancy carrying a 100+ poundsolar generator around, so the significantly lighter 45lb Yeti 1500X is a good compromise.
The 1500Wh lithium battery in the Yeti 1500X is one of the biggest you’ll find in solar generators for camping and RVs. It allows you to power more electronics for longer.
What makes the 1500X really capable is the powerful AC inverter. With a max continuous output of 2000W and a max surge output of 3500W, you can power just about any appliance in your RV or boat. This includes a full size fridge, a big TV or even a heater.
The Yeti 1500X is also a great choice for campers who travel with power-hungry appliances like a coffee maker or hair dryer. The 1500X can easily handle the wattage needs of such electronics.
It’s also great for extended camping trips. With that much power, you can charge devices and keep your mini fridge and lights running for days.
Versatile Output and Input
In addition to two AC ports, the Yeti 1500X also comes with several USB ports (including USB-C and USB-C PD) and 12V power ports for tools, lighting and 12V appliances.
With all these option, it’s easy to power and charge multiple electronics at the same time. You can have your mini fridge running while you charge your phone. You can even charge multiple phones at once.
As for inputs, there are three ways to recharge the Yeti 1500X. The fastest is through a wall outlet. If you are on the road, you can recharge it through your car’s 12V charger. And if you are outdoors, you can use solar panels to recharge the battery.
The battery is pretty big, so you need a capable solar kit to charge the battery quickly. We recommend at least a 100W panel. A 200W solar kit is even better.
The biggest issue with the Goal Zero Yeti 1500X is the price tag. If you are shopping for a budget solar generator, this is not it.
The Yeti 1500X is also heavier than most portable solar generators. This is mostly an issue for campers. It’ll be a hassle to carry it back and forth from you vehicle.
If you don’t mind the price tag, the Goal Zero Yeti 1500X is the best solar generator for campers, RVs and boats that need plenty of power to keep appliances running.
5. Best Lightweight 1000W Power Station: Jackery Explorer 1000
If you want plenty of power without sacrificing portability, the Jackery Explorer 1000 is the best solar generator, whereas the Goal Zero Yeti 1500X is a great choice if you are looking for a powerful, high-capacity solar power station that can handle large appliances.
However, with the Goal Zero Yeti 1500X weighing 45lbs, it’s very heavy and not at all easy to carry around.
If you want a lighter solar power station that can still power small and medium-size appliances, the Jackery Explorer 1000 is a great alternative.
It weighs just 22lbs, but outputs up to 1000W of continuous AC power and comes with a massive 1002Wh lithium battery pack.
What we love most about the Jackery Explorer 1000 is how it balances power and portability.
This makes it a powerful choice for RV and boat owners who need to power appliances, as well as campers who want a powerful but portable solar generator.
The 1002Wh capacity of the lithium-ion battery provides power for longer periods and lets you plug in larger appliances without draining the battery too quickly.
For instance, you can power a mini-fridge for 17 hours or charge a laptop eight times over.
For lasting power, hook up a 100-200W solar panel kit to the Explorer 1000. You can camp for weeks, power a small off-grid cabin, or keep essential appliances and devices powered if there’s a power blackout at home.
You can use your own solar panels (200W max input), or get the bundled version with an Explorer 1000 and a pair of SolarSaga 100W solar panels.
To ensure you take advantage of the large battery capacity, Jackery added a powerful AC inverter to the Explorer 1000.
It outputs up to 1000W of continuous power and 2000W of surge power.
You can plug in any appliance or gadget that has a continuous draw of under 1000W. These include a small space heater, some coffee makers, a mini-fridge, CPAP, a TV, and others.
There are three AC outlets, so you can power multiple appliances simultaneously (as long as the combined power draw is under 1000W).
For gadgets such as laptops, smartphones, cameras and USB-powered devices, there are three USB ports. These include two USB ports with power delivery (one of them also has Quick Charge 3.0), and one USB-A port.
For DC-powered tools and appliances, there’s a 12V, 10A covered socket.
Three Charging Options
As for recharging the Explorer 1000, you have three ways to do it depending on where you are and your situation.
We’ve already mentioned using solar panels. This is handy if you are outdoors, or there’s a power blackout at home.
The Jackery Explorer has an 8mm DC charging port that’s compatible with most solar kits.
Remember not to input more than 200W from solar panels.
If you are at home, plug it into a regular AC outlet using the included AC adapter. And if you are on the road, the Explorer 1000 comes with a car charger.
Lightweight and Powerful
The Jackery Explorer 1000 is surprisingly light for its power and capacity. It weighs 22lbs, about 10lbs lighter than the comparable Goal Zero Yeti 1000X.
This makes it especially useful for camping. You can easily haul it around by hand.
It’s also compact, measuring 13.1” L x 9.2” W x 11.1” H. It takes up little space in your truck, RV or boat.
One complaint a lot of customers have about the Jackery Explorer 1000 is the handle.
Goal Zero power stations have a handle that folds down flat, allowing you to place things on the surface.
In contrast, the Explorer 1000 has a fixed handle. You can’t place your laptop or phone on top of the power station as you charge it.
It also makes for less efficient storage, since you can’t stack anything on the power station.
The Jackery Explorer 1000 is a great choice for campers, RVs, and boat owners who need a powerful but easily portable solar power station. It’s also cheaper than most comparable solar power stations.
6. Best Solar Generator With Solar Panels: Jackery Explorer 1000 + 2 SolarSaga 100W
If you want a complete solar power kit for camping, your RV, or boating, we recommend this Jackery kit that includes the Explorer 1000 power station and a pair of 100W SolarSaga panels.
We won’t spend much time talking about the Jackery Explorer 1000 as we’ve already reviewed it above.
It’s a great unit and works well for campers, RVs, boats and vans. It has a sizable battery and a powerful inverter that can power a wide range of appliances.
However, if the 1002Wh battery is not enough for your needs or you’d like a more capable inverter, Jackery offers a kit consisting of the more powerful Explorer 1500 with four 100W SolarSaga solar panels.
However, it’s a heavier and bulkier kit. If you want a kit that’s easy to carry around with you, the Explorer 1000 is the more portable choice.
You can charge the Explorer 1000 from an AC outlet and it even comes with an AC adapter.
But if you plan to use it outdoors or on the road (or on water) most of the time, the two SolarSaga panels included will be handy.
Combined, they provide a max output of 200W. With plenty of sunshine, you can recharge your Explorer 1000 in about 9.5 hours (1-2 days overall depending on how much sun you receive).
The Explorer 1000 has a built-in MPPT charge controller that provides faster charging compared to a PWM controller.
The SolarSaga panels are designed for easy portability. They fold into a compact size with a built-in rubber handle.
Each solar panel weighs a light 5.5lbs, so they are easy to carry by hand.
The solar panels have a built-in kickstand, making it easy to set them up on the ground or on the roof of your vehicle.
Note, however, that you cannot set them up on the roof permanently. Take them down when on the move.
The SolarSaga panels come with a nice bonus - they have built-in USB ports. So you can charge your phone or any gadget directly from the solar panels.
Each panel has two USB-A ports.
Issues & Limitations
The Jackery Explorer 1000 and SolarSaga kit is pricey. If you are on a budget, you can ditch the solar panels and get just the Explorer 1000 or look for a kit with a smaller power station.
The Jackery Explorer 1000 and SolarSaga kit is a great choice for campers, RVers, and boat owners who want a complete solar power kit with a solar generator and solar panels.
Avoid it if you don't need solar charging. You can get the power station on its own.
7. Best Budget Buy: Jackery Explorer 240
If you are on a budget, we recommend the Jackery Explorer portable power station. It is a compact and lightweight solar generator that's good enough for charging devices and powering small appliances.
The Jackery portable power station is small but capable. The 240Wh lithium-ion battery will power small appliances for hours and charge various devices multiple times.
It doesn't have as many output options as other solar generators, but they are enough for most people's needs.
There's a single AC port with a 200W continuous and 400W surge pure sine wave inverter. It's safe to plug in most small appliances and devices such as a CPAP machine, a mini-fridge, a fan, or a laptop.
There's also a DC carport for use with DC-powered devices such as lighting and air pumps.
To charge your phone or tablet, use the two USB-A ports. They can also charge drones, cameras, smart watches, Bluetooth speakers, and any USB-chargeable device.
It's easy to recharge the battery.
If you are at home, plug it into a wall outlet. That's the fastest way to recharge it. If you are traveling in your RV or car, plug it into your car's 12V DC cigarette lighter socket.
The power station comes both with a car charger and a wall adapter.
When you are outdoors, you can recharge the battery using solar panels. The panels are not included, but we highly recommend buying them if you are planning extended outdoor trips.
A 100W solar panel kit is enough to keep the 16.8Ah battery charged.
A Pocket-Friendly Option for Campers
For campers who want more power without spending a lot of money or carrying a bulky power station, the Jackery Explorer is a great choice.
It's compact and lightweight but powerful enough to power and charges most of the appliances and devices you'll carry with you.
Don't expect the Jackery Explorer to power a coffee maker, blender, or power tool. It can only power small, low-wattage appliances.
Also, note that it doesn't come with solar panels. Depending on your needs, you might have to budget more money for a complete kit.
The Jackery Explorer portable power station is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a budget solar power station for camping or use in an RV or boat.
8. Best Briefcase Solar Generator Kit: Renogy PHOENIX Portable Generator All-in-one Kit
The Renogy Phoenix all-in-one solar generator provides a convenient, highly-portable way to enjoy solar power on the go.
It consists of a 20W solar panel and a 246.24Wh lithium battery, all integrated into a compact briefcase kit.
If you want a complete solar generator kit but don't want to lug around a power station and separate solar panels, the Renogy Phoenix kit offers an integrated alternative.
Everything, including the solar generator and the solar panels, is built into a single unit.
It resembles a briefcase, complete with a handle. When you open it up, the top section houses the two 10W solar panels, while the bottom section has the solar generator with the battery and all the ports.
This makes the Renogy Phoenix kit one of the most portable solar generator kits. It’s great for campers as well as RV and van owners who want a portable kit they can use in or away from their vehicle.
Being a compact briefcase, it’s not surprising that the Renogy Phoenix kit has a small battery. The lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 246.24Wh.
It’s perfect for charging multiple devices and powering some low-wattage appliances.
AC, DC and USB Outlets
The Renogy Phoenix kit is small but it has all the outlets you need for your electronics.
There’s a single AC outlet with a max output of 150W. So you can only plug in low-wattage appliances that draw less than 150W like a CPAP, mini fridge, or fan.
There are also four USB ports, two DC outlets, and one DC car port.
Three Charging Options
The 20W output from the two built-in solar panels charges the battery pretty slowly. Thankfully, the Renogy Phoenix kit has two solar input ports, allowing you to add on more solar panels.
The battery can take in up to 100W of solar power.
There’s also an option to charge it from a wall outlet or your vehicle’s 12V port.
Issues & Limitations
As we’ve already mentioned, the built-in solar panels are pretty slow. It can take up to two days to fully recharge the lithium battery.
If you’ll be relying heavily on solar to keep the battery charged, we highly recommend adding more solar panels to get to the allowed 100W max input.
The other limitation is that the Renogy Phoenix kit is limited to very low-wattage appliances that draw less than 150W of power.
The Renogy Phoenix kit is best for campers and RV owners looking for a highly-portable all-in-one solar generator kit complete with solar panels.
Avoid it if you want a kit with higher solar output or one that can power more appliances. Try the Explorer 1000 + 200W SolarSaga kit instead.
9. Best Solar Generator Lighting Kit: ECO-WORTHY 84Wh Portable Power Station
This Eco-Worthy lighting kit includes an 84Wh solar generator with a built-in lamp, three external lamps, and an 18W solar panel.
It’s the best choice if you want to light up your camping site, RV, or van while also charging your devices.
If you need a solar generator mostly for lighting up your RV, van, or campsite and charging your devices, there’s no need to get something expensive with a large battery.
The 84Wh ECO-WORTHY solar generator is perfect for your needs.
It comes with everything you need to set it up including the power station, lights, and a solar panel.
The entire kit is extra light, weighing just 5.7lbs. You can even take it with you when hiking.
The solar generator is fairly small at just 84Wh. But if you are just using it for lighting and to charge your phone, it can last for days.
You can also run small electronics like a fan.
The ECO-WORTHY kit comes with four lights.
DC & USB Output
There are three 3.2V DC outlets for each of the lights. You can turn the lamps on and off individually or press the main button on the solar generator to turn off all of them.
There’s also a 5V, 2A USB-A port where you can charge your phone or connect USB-powered electronics like a fan.
The ECO-WORTHY kit includes a small 18W solar panel that charges the small battery in a day or two depending on how much sunshine you get.
You can also charge the solar generator via USB.
Issues & Limitations
If you are looking for a solar generator that can run a CPAP and other small appliances, this is not it. It’s designed primarily for lighting.
The kit is pretty affordable, which is probably why build quality is a bit lacking. We do not recommend using it in rugged conditions. We also cannot be sure about it’s longevity, though the 2-year warranty is encouraging.
Many customers also say customer service is very good. They promptly replace any faulty components. If you are still on the fence, Eco-Worthy also offers a 90-day refund.
You can get a better built solar lighting kit from well known brands like Goal Zero, but it’ll be expensive.
For RVs, vans, boats, and occasional campers, we think the ECO-WORTHY lighting kit is good enough.
The ECO-WORTHY 84Wh solar generator lighting is a great choice for campers and RV, van or boat owners looking for an affordable solar lighting kit that can also charge their phone.
Avoid if you want a solar generator that can charge multiple devices and power appliances. Go with one of our other picks instead.
Buying Guide: What To Look For When Buying a Solar Generator for Camping, RV or Boat
Battery Type and Capacity
The most important part of a solar generator is the battery. Specifically, the type battery and its capacity.
When it comes to type of battery, the two main options in the market are lead acid and lithium ion.
Lead acid is an older technology that’s reliable and affordable. On the downside, lead acid batteries don’t last as long as modern lithium batteries.
Lithium ion batteries are compact (easier portability), they are more efficient and they last longer. On the downside, solar generators with lithium batteries cost more.
If you can, get lithium battery solar generator. The benefits are worth the higher price tag.
As for capacity, check the watt-hours (Wh) of the battery. The ideal capacity depends on your needs.
Most campers don’t have large appliances, so a solar generator with a 200-1,000Wh capacity will be adequate.
If you mostly want to power lights and charge your smartphone, camera and other devices, a 200Wh capacity will do.
If you have a mini-fridge, CPAP and other small appliances, get a 500+Wh solar generator.
For RV and boat owners that want to power appliances, get a solar generator with at least 1000Wh in capacity. That should give you enough power to power a TV, fridge and other electronics for a couple days or more.
A good way to determine the right capacity is to check the wattage rating of your appliances. Multiply each wattage by how many hours you use the appliance every day. Add up figures for all appliances to see how many watt-hours you need per day.
Based on this, get a battery big enough to supply power for 1-2 days.
Unless you are getting one of those foldable or backpack solar generators designed just for charging devices, a proper camping or RV solar generator will have an AC outlet or two.
But just because there’s an AC outlet, it doesn’t mean you can plug in any appliance. What determines what you can plug in is the size of the inverter, the component that converts DC power from the battery to AC power.
A small AC inverter may have a max continuous output of 300W. That means you cannot plug in any device or appliance rated higher than 300W.
A 300-1,000W inverter can power small appliances like a CPAP machine, a mini-fridge, a desk fan and lighting, in addition to charging devices like your smartphone or a camera.
A 1,000-2,000W inverter can handle higher-wattage appliances like a full size fridge, a small heater or a coffee maker.
As with battery capacity, it comes down to your needs.
Check whether the solar generator comes as a full kit, complete with solar panels. Most are not complete kits; you have to buy the solar panels separately.
When choosing the best solar panels to pair with your camping or RV solar generator, look for those that can deliver between 100W and 200W of power. Below 100W, the solar generator will recharge slowly, probably over several days.
Either polycrystalline or monocrystalline panels are great. We especially love those that have a foldable or briefcase design for easier portability and storage.
RV and boat owners should consider the newer thin film solar panels. They are less efficient, but they are easy to install on the curved surface of your RV or boat.
Check if the solar generator comes with a built-in charge controller. If it doesn’t, you may need to buy one for use with solar panels. A charge controller ensure the solar generator battery charges safely and efficiently.
PWM charge controllers are cheaper, but they let power go to waste. The best option is an MPPT charge controller. Because of their higher efficiency, MPPT charge controllers charge batteries faster.
A good solar generator should have three types of ports: AC, 12V and USB. This allows you to power and charge different kinds of appliances and devices.
There should also be three types of input ports for recharging the battery: solar, AC and car charger. This gives you different recharge options for various situations: AC when at home, car charger when on the road and solar when you are outdoors.
Finally, check how portable the solar generator is. This is especially enough for campers. You need a solar generator that will fit in your truck together with your other gear, and which will be easy to carry by hand over short distances.
Keep in mind that there’s a tradeoff between battery capacity and weight. If you want a compact and lightweight solar generator, you have to make do with a smaller capacity battery. If you want more power, you have to contend with a heavier and bigger solar generator.
Pros and Cons of Solar Generators for Camping, RVs and Boats
Solar Generator vs. DIY Solar Kits
Unlike solar generators that don’t require any assembly or installation, a DIY solar kit comes with separate components that you need to assemble and install.
Furthermore, you need to know how to connect the solar kit to a battery bank or an existing electrical system.
This is all right if you have the time and skills to do that. A DIY solar kit is especially suitable for RVs and boats that already have a battery bank. These kits don’t include a battery – they usually consist of solar panels, wiring, a charge controller and an inverter.
If you prefer a plug and play option, a solar generator is the best choice. Yes, you won’t be able to connect it to an existing electrical system. On the upside, you don’t have to worry about wiring to anything.
The battery and charge controller are built into the generator. Plugging in a cable from a solar panel, AC wall outlet or a car charger to recharge the battery is easy and quick.
For camping, definitely get a solar generator.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are solar generators good for camping?
Solar power generators are very good for camping. They are much better than carrying a gas generator.
A solar generator is quiet, easier to use and maintain, and doesn't emit any harmful fumes. Solar generators are also lightweight and easily portable.
What size solar generator do I need for camping?
The best solar generator size depends on what you need to power and charge when camping. If it’s just charging devices and maybe one appliance, a 200-300Wh solar generator is ideal.
If you want to power multiple appliances, get a 500Wh solar generator. It’s more capable, but still light enough to carry by hand.
For truck or car camping, you can go even bigger and get a 1000Wh solar generator that can power larger devices.
Can a solar generator power an RV or boat?
Unless you have an extra-large solar generator like the Yeti 6000X, it’s unlikely that you can power your entire RV or boat with just a solar generator.
The limitation is not just the battery capacity but also the inverter. Even large solar generators have a max 2000W inverter, and cannot support multiple high-wattage appliances at the same time.
That said, if you have smaller appliances in your RV, boat, or van, then you can power it with a solar generator. You’ll just need to find a way to hook it up to the RV port.
Install solar panels on the roof to charge the solar generator whenever it is sunny.