While not quite the fabled money-growing tree, a solar panel feels like a close second. You plant a solar panel where the sun shines and watch the electricity pour in, right? Well, not quite that simple. A basic solar energy system is made of three parts: panel, controller, and battery. The solar panel needs a battery to store the electricity, as well as a control to help protect your battery from the changing amounts of power from the solar panel. Even a simple system has some factors that can impact their effectiveness, like wire thickness and panel positioning, giving you plenty of tinkering opportunities to dial in your system.
While solar panel systems can be a bit complicated (and require a hardware investment), having an alternate source of energy can make a huge difference in your comfort while camping or getting by during a power outage. If a solar panel system feels like a bit too much work, consider a generator as another alternative power source. Either way, having a backup method for charging electronics or keeping a fridge running during a brownout is a great addition to your camping gear or emergency kit.
To help you find the right solar panel, we dug through thousands of reviews for a variety of options available online. Based on our research, these are the best solar panels you can get right now.