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There are two types of people in this world: campers and glampers. Campers want to shuffle free of societal shackles and reconnect with nature — no social media, no heating, no electricity!
And the glampers… well, they just want to explore natural environments without giving up any of the luxuries they enjoy at home.
But what if the world wasn’t so black and white? What if there was an option between these poles for the people who want to immerse themselves in nature, with a few choice home comforts?
Well, with the Topsolar SolarFairy 30S, this might just be possible.
Belonging to this emerging 3rd type of people myself, I was eager to give the 30S a whirl, and having now spent a fair amount of time with it, I’m happy to pass on what I learned to you today!
- Fits in a backpack
- Doesn’t require any aftermarket purchases
- Dual USB ports with QC and PD technology
- IC chip protects against battery deterioration
- DC output for charging discrete batteries
- Almost entirely waterproof
- Efficient monocrystalline composition
- Great build quality
- Decent price
- Doesn’t come with a stand
- Short warranty
Topsolar SolarFairy 30S Solar Panel At A Glance
The Topsolar SolarFairy 30S is an insanely portable solar panel for those that like to travel light.
It may not be the most powerful solar panel in the world (not by a loooong shot), but that’s not what this diminutive dynamo is about. The 30S is in its element when exposed to them, keeping the bare essentials juiced as we wander the wilderness!
Where Can You Purchase The Topsolar SolarFairy 30S Foldable Solar Panel?
Shop the Topsolar SolarFairy 30S Foldable Solar Panel here.
I know we’re only dealing with a maximum theoretical capacity of 30 watts here, but I was still super excited to take this thing out for a test run when it arrived at my doorstep.
Luckily, the day it showed up, it was bright, cloudless (more or less), and cool — the perfect conditions for high-efficiency solar performance.
Before the postal worker had even managed to get back into their van, I’d unboxed this baby, and the obligatory first impression inspection was well underway. Not 2 minutes later, I was out in the yard, ready to take some solar readings.
It was 10.30, the sun was beaming down from a high point, and there were no pesky shadows around. I spent a moment or two experimenting with gradients, but before long this panel was soaking up sun like an absolute beast.
In direct sun, the monocrystalline cells were pulling an average of 21 watts.
At some points it reached 23, at others, it dwindled to 18, but I was happy with that. You have to accept that you’re going to lose a certain amount of power in the process.
I then waited for a cloudier day and took it for another test run. As you’d imagine, the output went way down into single figures, but it still performed 15% better than my other 30-watt panel.
If you’ve got pretty much any sort of 12V battery to recharge, this is absolutely the panel for the job!
It can be used to give your car battery a new lease on life, or even as a jump starter. It’s also fantastic for reinvigorating digital cameras, smartphones, tablets, GPS devices… you name it.
What’s more, it comes with everything you need to start charging, including a 6.5 ft DC-to-DC extension cable, a cigarette lighter cable, an alligator clips cable, and a couple of carabiner clips.
However, it’s important to know this thing's limitations before committing to a purchase.
It’s a very self-contained unit, by which I mean that it’s not designed to be used in conjunction with discrete PWM or MPPT charge controllers, so the output is limited to the ports on the junction box.
Design And Durability
The panels are coated in a high-quality, smooth black fabric, and they’re completely waterproof, earning them some serious brownie points with backpackers such as myself.
I couldn’t find a stitch out of place, but I do question how abrasion-resistant this fabric is, as, in my experience, panel coating materials tend to be quite coarse.
That said, when I was doing my product research pre-purchase, I never came across any complaints about tearing or loose threads.
What I did find a couple of people complaining about is the rigidity of the panels, but in my eyes, rigidity is a good thing, as it helps keep the panels in good shape.
The junction box is really well-made, and I love the fact that there’s a rubber stopper to block dust and debris from working its way into the ports when the panel’s not in use; however, unlike the panels themselves, the box isn’t waterproof.
Also, I don’t know if this is just my unit, but when in operation, I can hear a very faint whining sound. It’s very quiet and super easy to tune out, but strange nonetheless. Other than that small issue, the craftsmanship is spectacular!
The dual USB ports are without a doubt the stars of the show in the feature department. You can use these ports to plug small electronics directly into the panel — no solar battery or charge controller required.
One is a USB-A port and the other is USB-C shaped. Both are equipped with IC intelligent chip technology, meaning the ports tailor the output to the attached device, minimizing charge times and preventing battery deterioration.
The USB-C port is also kitted out with additional USB PD tech, which is fantastic for drawing a superfast charge in emergency situations.
You can use both ports simultaneously, but the output will drop and QC/PD technology will be disabled.
I managed to get 16 watts going into my phone via the USB-C port on a clear, late afternoon, but it was winter. I imagine it would reach at least 18 on a lovely summer’s day, possibly even 20.
You also get a DC 14.4V port for all your battery charging needs, so there’s never any need to use a charge controller as a middleman.
On the more practical side of things, you get two grommets that enable you to hang mount the panel from the top of your bag, so if you’re hiking with the sun beating down on your back, you can soak up some solar energy on the go!
For those that worry about their devices running out of battery on long hikes or backpacking expeditions, this technique funnels power to your phone in real-time, stabilizing your 100% charge as long as the sun is in the sky.
I’d prefer if there were four grommets, one in each corner, as that would open up even more mounting options, but I’m relatively happy with the two I was given.
Okay, so first of all, this is a ridiculously portable panel when folded down! Measuring just 6.1 x 11.02 x 1.38”, it wouldn’t even hog space in a small backpack.
To maintain it’s collapsed form, the edge of the casing is fitted with a magnet that holds everything firmly in place, so you don’t have to worry about things unraveling.
One downside is that it doesn’t come with any integrated or discrete stands, which is kind of irritating, but there’s always something you can use as a stand-in, whether that be a rock, an incline, or your backpack.
Value For Money
This 30S doesn’t exactly break the bank and considering the quality of the build, technology, and the accessories that come as standard, I’d say it’s absolutely worth the price tag!
I know it’s not super powerful, and you’re technically paying more than a dollar per watt, but it sure does pack a punch for a tiny little thing, and the fact it fits so well in a backpack is a huge plus in my book.
Topsolar solar panels come with a 1-year material and craftsmanship warranty. I’d prefer longer coverage, but it’s not like we’re spending a fortune here, so our expectations have to be realistic.
The Final Verdict
The SolarFairy 30S is one of the best solar panels for those new to the solar energy game, as you literally only need a USB charging cable to start using it.
You don’t have to do hours of research on charge controllers or fork out for an expensive solar battery. It comes with everything you require right out of the box.
I’d also recommend it to any backpackers already well versed in the ways of solar energy, as it’s the perfect little addition to an adventure pack.
It’ll keep your essential electronics juiced, so you never end up lost or unable to contact help in case of an emergency.
I, for one, absolutely adore the Topsolar SolarFairy 30S, and I’d definitely buy it again. If I could change just one thing about it (other than the warranty), I’d give it an integrated kickstand, but other than that, it really is an awesome solar panel!
I give the Topsolar SolarFairy 30S Portable Foldable Solar Panel 4.8/5