Three Keys to Buying a Solar Charger for Your RV or Boat

Whether you need to trickle-charge a battery, or provide power to your entire rig, a portable solar panel can help.

White RV on the side of the road
Solar panels are a terrific way to supply your outbound rig with power, especially if you spend a lot of time off the grid.Magda Ehlers

You’re a boondocker, or a gunkholer, and you’ve got the t-shirt to prove it. You love getting away from campgrounds and marinas and hookups and pump out stations—anything that adds to your independence is right in your wheelhouse. So, a solar charging system fits perfectly with your gadabout persona. Whether it’s a small, portable system to keep your batteries charged or a large-scale set of panels to carry your full electric load, let a device’s convenience, power output, and cost factors guide your choice.

Convenience

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Off Grid Portable Foldable 2Pcs 50W Solar Panel
This portable system features two 100w panels, fits into a suitcase, weighs 27 pounds, and is designed to be connected to your battery.Renogy

Small systems designed for portability are great when the boat or RV moves from place to place, and the charging system needs frequent takedowns and set-ups. The ability to permanently mount larger systems with minimal maintenance can also be a factor when choosing the system that’s best for you.

Output

BigBlue 63W Solar Charger Portable with SunPower Solar Panel
This 63w portable panel weighs only three pounds and is designed to keep your vehicle battery at full power.BigBlue

Look for a solar charger rated for the wattage you need. Small wattage chargers are great for trickle charging. However, to completely power an RV may require 500 or more watts, which requires large solar panels taking a substantial amount of space, extra batteries for storage, a charge controller, and an inverter. Large solar charging systems are often permanently mounted to a base.

Cost

DOKIO 220 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel
This product features a portable 200w foldable panel with a controller, weighs only nine pounds and is available for under $250.DOKIO

In general, the more power you need to generate with your solar charging system, the more it will cost. More portable solar chargers in the 10- to 30-watt range are available ranging from $100 to $500, while large wattage solar chargers integrated into the vehicle’s electrical system can reach into a couple grand.

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