Are Portable Solar Panels Waterproof?


Whether you’re an avid traveler, outdoor enthusiast, or roaming professional, you can find great use with portable solar panels. These gadgets allow you to get access to power on the go, no matter how remote your location. But can these devices withstand whatever mother nature has in store for them?

Unfortunately, not all solar panels are waterproof. However, all portable solar panels should be. Since being outdoors in various conditions is part of the purpose of solar panels, they should be able to withstand the elements throughout the year.

waterproof solar panel

In this article, we will explore what makes a good portable solar panel, how portable solar panels are waterproof, why they are waterproof, and how to tell which portable solar panels are properly waterproofed.

What Makes a Good Portable Solar Panel

Solar panels serve one main purpose: to turn solar power into electricity. Portable solar panels allow you to access that function anywhere in the world that there is enough sunlight to do so. 

There are criteria in general that you should look for with solar panels and some specific features that your portable solar panels should have.

Power Output

solar power out plug

As the main purpose of a solar panel is to provide power, one of the most important criteria is that the device produces enough power to be useful. The most efficient portable solar panels can produce up to 500 watts of energy a day.

Weatherproof

Another crucial feature of solar panels is that the devices can withstand all types of weather. Solar panels that are installed outdoors permanently need to live out in the elements year-round. It is important that these electronics are watertight and able to survive frigid conditions without cracking.

Portable solar panels should also be waterproof. Not just because they might get caught under a flash rainfall, but because if you are a backpacker or traveler, there is a good chance your bag might get soaked when crossing a river, or hiking in the rain, or in storage on a bus.

Ease of Use

Solar panels, particularly portable ones, should be easy to set up and tear down. There shouldn’t be too steep of a learning curve involved with solar panels, as the gadgets themselves are supposed to provide a simple solution to the issue of power generation.

Portability

When it comes to portable solar panels, the portability of the panel is obviously extremely important. What this means is that the panel should be light enough to carry in a backpack, foldable, collapsible, or compact, and easy to handle and place in various areas.

portable solar panels

Some portable solar panels are too large for a backpack and are better suited to car travel or “van life.”

Why Should Portable Solar Panels Be Waterproof?

It’s quite obvious why home solar panels should be waterproof, as they spend 30 years outdoors. But portable solar panels can be moved easily, so you could potentially move them if it started to rain, right?

This is a thought process that many companies follow, and they don’t make waterproof solar panels because of it. This keeps their costs down and allows them to spend less on the materials for their product.

These companies aren’t totally wrong. You could potentially move a portable solar panel every time unsavory weather begins if you are sitting right next to it. Unfortunately, this is quite unrealistic, as you probably won’t want to sit around all day, making sure your solar panel doesn’t get wet.

For Camping Activities

One of the best uses for a portable solar panel is to use it while camping, backpacking, or traveling. The most likely thing you would be doing is setting up your solar panel in the morning so it can absorb as much sunlight throughout the day and then carrying on with your plans. 

Your solar panel might be sitting at the main campsite in the open while you go on a day hike, and in this case, you wouldn’t be there if a surprise rainstorm hit. The solar panel would be left at the mercy of the rain, and if it were not waterproof, it would be rendered useless.

For Boating Activities

Another extremely commonplace that people use portable solar panels is on a boat. The panels are extremely handy for charging accessories and devices used for boating or fishing. When you are surrounded by water, however, the chances of your solar panel getting wet go up exponentially.

As you can see, it is just as important for a portable solar panel to be waterproof as fixed solar panels.

solar on a boat

What Makes Portable Solar Panels Waterproof?

Solar panels are electronic devices, and as such, they can be potentially damaged by exposure to the elements. Water, moisture, rain, and snow can all create intense problems for electronics. Because solar panels spend up to 30 years outside and will sit through the weather of spring, summer, fall, and winter, it’s important that they are impervious to water damage.

Solar panels are waterproof thanks to a variety of materials used to create a casing for the internal components:

  • A glass sheet on the front protects the panels from the elements
  • A polymer sheet on the back protects the internal wiring from weather
  • A metal frame holds both pieces together
  • A sealant glue prevents moisture from entering into the casing

These are the basic components of fixed solar panels, and most portable panels use the same. Some portable panels don’t use as extensive sealing as fixed panels, however, so it’s important to do your research into which companies offer high quality, weatherproof portable solar panels, and which companies have earned poor reputations.

How to Tell Which Solar Panels Are Waterproof

Even though all solar panels should be waterproof, that doesn’t mean that they always are. In every industry, there are companies that try to cut corners and skip out on what they see as surplus functions of a device.

  • One of the main indicators that a solar panel may not be waterproof is an extremely low price. It’s true that you get what you pay for, and a portable solar panel that is overly cheap may not be made very well. Even if a cheap solar panel claims to be waterproof, its poor construction could mean that water still gets into the components.
  • Look for product labels that say “waterproof” or “weatherproof.” These labels ensure that the device has been made with extra care taken to ensure it can withstand the elements.
  • Some solar panels are treated with extra waterproof seals or coatings, which will ensure the extended ability to withstand water. There are also solar panels that use stainless steel frames, which increases the durability of the product. This metal, and other materials like it, is corrosion-resistant, so it won’t rust in the rain.

If there is any doubt that a solar panel you are looking at is waterproof, then reach out to the company directly or look online for reviews.

Summary

One of the handiest accessories to invest in for your travels is a portable solar panel. These devices allow you to recharge your gadgets and electronics, increasing the comfort of your surroundings. They can also be crucial for keeping safety devices charged, like satellite phones. That’s why it is so important to choose the proper portable solar panel that is reliable and weatherproof. 

Not all portable solar panels are waterproof, although they should be. It is worth it to pay a little extra money to ensure that you are getting a high-quality product that can withstand the elements.

Hivan Team

As an independent team of travelers, we do share positive and negative observations as we find them and make our best to help and inform other vanlifers around the globe.

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