Last Updated: Sep 8, 2020 @ 10:30 am.

What's the best solar generator for camping, RV'ing or emergency power? A solar-ready generator is a great way to charge small electronics (phones, tablets, laptops, etc). Bigger units can also power a CPAP or other small appliances.

FYI: Solar-ready generators are often sold WITHOUT solar panels. This article looks at the best solar generators AND their companion panels. After all, if you want a solar generator, you probably want the solar panels necessary to charge it! After extensively researching 14 different generators—comparing performance, quality and capacity—here are the ones we'd recommend.

FYI: We've been reviewing and rating products for families and parents since 1994. We don't take money or freebies from the brands we review. Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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Best Generator Overall

24 smartphone charges
We loved this lightweight (6.6 lbs) solution for charging smartphones and tablets on long road trips. Solar panels (sold separately) can charge this unit in 6-7 hours—great for backwoods adventures!

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Best Solar-Ready Generator: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240

Let’s talk solar-ready generators!

We know—shopping for generators can be confusing. This article focuses on solar-ready generators, sometimes also called portable generators.

These generators are essentially super-sized lithium batteries. Yes, they can be charged by solar panels (or good ol’ fashioned A/C power). These aren’t the bigger generators that run on gasoline or propane.

So what’s best for you?

Ask yourself: what exactly do I want to power or charge?

On an extended road trip (or RV or camping), just about everyone needs to charge their phones/laptops or tablets. For small electronics, we’d recommend a portable generator that is powered by a lithium battery.

(What about more robust power needs? If you are tailgating and need to power a TV or other small appliances, then an inverter portable generator is a better bet.)

Looking for a solar-ready generator? After surveying the camping enthusiasts among our readers and doing 8 hours of additional research comparing performance and durability, we think this is the best bet: Jackery’s Portable Power Station Explorer 240.

Yes, this generator can actually be charged by a solar panel (sold separately). And it works.

One key piece to happiness when it comes to buying a generator: setting your expectations accordingly! This model is designed to charge small electronics (that is, your phone or laptop), not a hair dryer or microwave. Here’s more on why we recommend this model:

What We Liked

• Solar panels (purchased separately) can fully charge this generator in about 6-7 hours.

• Works for devices at 200 watts or less.

• Lightweight at 6.6 lbs.

• Excellent for charging smartphones or laptops. 

• Easy to carry around.

• Battery indicator.

• 1 A/C outlet and 2 USB ports plus 1 DC port.

• Pass through charging. Yes, this model can be charged (by solar panels or A/C) AND charge electronics at the same time.

• Built in stand. Helps position the panels without having to prop them up.

What Needs Work

• Runs down too fast? We see some complaints this generator ran out of juice too soon for some folks. Part of this is setting your expectations—for example, this battery can fully charge a laptop 3 or 4 times.

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Best Companion Solar Panel

Charges generator in 6-7 hours (sunny day)
Excellent solar panel has built-in USB port. Our favorite feature: pass-through charging means you can use the generator at the same time you are charging it. Very cool!

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Best Companion Solar Panel: Jackery SolarSaga 60W Portable Solar Panel for Explorer

As we mentioned earlier, solar power generators are actually only solar ready. Most do not come bundled with solar panels. So if you purchase the Jackery model above, what is the best companion solar panel?

We’d recommend the Jackery SolarSaga 60 watt solar panel. We were impressed with this panel’s overall design and quality. We liked the built in USB outlets—yes, you can plug your smartphone directly into this panel to charge it.

One key advantage to the Jackery brand: it allows for pass-through charging. What’s that? Well, you can use the generator to charge electronics while simultaneously charging the generator with the solar panel. (Not every solar generator offers that feature).

We think that is super-important when you want to use a solar generator for camping or RV’ing—that way, you can get the maximum use out of the generator.

Here’s more:

What We Liked

 “High conversion” solar panel = 23% more efficient than conventional panels.

• Plug and play—it’s easy to use.

• Easy to store. 

• Small, compact size: 6.8″ x 11.4″ x 0.4″.

• Easy to carry thanks to light weight (5 lbs.).

• Brand has good reputation for quality and durability, according to our reader feedback.

• Includes zippered carry pouch.

What Needs Work

• Magnets could stick better. Magnets are used to close the panel—but they could stick better in our opinion!

• Pricey.

• USB port on panel can only charge smartphone (not laptop or tablets).

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Best Budget Friendly

20+ smartphone charges
This panel can charge the FlashFish solar generator in 7-8 hours on a sunny day. 2 USB ports let you charge a phone direct from the panel. Light weight (3.6 lbs.) but larger in size than others.

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Best Budget-Friendly: FlashFish 300W Solar Generator

Yep, solar power generators can be rather pricey. But there is good news: in surveying the camping enthusiasts among our readers, we found a brand that offered good performance . . .  at a price that is easy on the wallet.

FlashFish’s 300 watt solar generator has more power capacity than the Jackery recommended above, yet is more affordable. Go figure.

Here’s what we liked about this unit:

What We Liked

• Ports galore! You get two regular household-style outlet (110 volt A/C) plus 2 12V DC ports and 3 USB ports.

• 300 watts continuous power, 350 watts peak = you can charge small appliances like a CPAP machine (check your machine first, however). The Jackery unit can only charge devices up to 200 watts (that is, no CPAP).

• Lightweight at 5.6 lbs.

• Solar panels (sold separately; see below for a recommendation) can charge the unit in 7-8 hours. Or charge via a wall outlet for 5-6 hours.

• Easy to carry.

• Affordable.

• Over-voltage protection.

• Can even be charged via a vehicle’s 12 volt outlet.

What Needs Work

• No pass-through charging. That means you can EITHER charge the unit via the solar panels (or A/C power) or you can charge your electronics. But not both at the same time. As a result, this unit is probably best suited for backup power or shorter camping/RV trips. Yes, our readers told us they took it camping—but if you want to do long backwoods adventures, this may not be the best choice.

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Best Budget Friendly Panel

Great for backup power in emergency
This panel can charge the FlashFish solar generator in 7-8 hours on a sunny day. 2 USB ports let you charge a phone direct from the panel. Light weight (3.6 lbs.) but larger in size than others.

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Best Budget Friendly Panel: FlashFish 50W 18V Portable Solar Panel

The companion solar panel to the FlashFish model we recommend above is also budget-friendly—a smartly designed 50 watt panel that can charge up the generator in roughly 7-8 hours on a sunny day. Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Easy to carry on trips thanks to light weight (3.66 lbs.).

• Folds for travel. When folded, this panel is 17″ x 17″—open it and it is twice as large.

• 2 USB ports to charge smartphones direct from panel.

• High conversion efficiency.

• Smart charging technology protects against overloading or overcharging.

What Needs Work

• Panels need to be propped up to work—but no stand is included.

• Larger overall size than other brands but less power.

• Slower than the Jackery panel . . . but that is partially because this is a 50 watt panel versus the 60 watts for Jackery.

• Plastic that protects the panels during shipping is hard to peel off.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do extensive researching, evaluating products with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability. For generators, we pour over feedback from the readers of our parenting books (camping enthusiasts, unite!) and then look at lab test results on performance and durability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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