If you do a lot of hiking and similar outdoor activities, you might need a bit more power to keep your emergency equipment running. Since you won’t likely be running into a wall plug in the woods, you’ll need the best solar charger for backpacking and hiking.

How do solar chargers work?

Solar chargers are a bit more complex than plugging your gadget into the main power socket. A typical solar charging unit contains terminals that are capable of harnessing the photoelectric effect of the sun. It would maintain a flow of electricity with its indirect circuit system.

However, the electricity doesn’t directly go into your connected device. Instead, it charges an internal battery, which would distribute some of the energy to your phones and rechargeable lamps. The primary reason is that the collected charges cannot directly charge lithium-ion type cells that most of today’s gadgets have.

What are the advantages of solar chargers for backpacking?

  • The primary benefit of solar chargers is the clean energy they generate. They don’t consume fuel to generate electricity, which means they don’t give off harmful by-products and waste.
  • They produce less noise and have better mechanical efficiency than alternative sources. The process of converting photoelectric charges into useable electricity requires no moving parts. This way, these solar chargers are suitable for backpacking.
  • Solar chargers demand minimal maintenance procedures. As opposed to changing worn-out parts and batteries, you get to take your solar charging unit wherever you want without worry.

Types of Solar Chargers for backpacking use

Typically, the best solar charger for backpacking would fall under the classification based on the type of controller it uses to charge up its batteries with collected solar energy. The following are the types of solar chargers:

  • Simple 1 or 2 Stage Solar Chargers
  • PWM Solar Chargers 
  • MPPT Solar Chargers

Simple 1 or 2 Stage solar chargers use a shunt transistor to regulate the voltage between one or two steps. It means that they cut out power when the output reaches a particular voltage. Simple 1 or 2 stage solar chargers tend to have a longer lifespan than the other solar charger types.

Pulse Width Modulation (PMW) solar chargers have a switch to transition between bulk and float voltage. The switch frequently flicks (pulses) through the modes as the battery demands an adaptable power delivery.

MPPT solar chargers have an intelligent AC/DC converter system to regulate individual panel voltage. It uses a proportionate ratio to maintain current against voltage and deliver the optimum output for various use cases. 

Seven Best Solar Generators for Backpacking

1.    BigBlue Solar Charger – Best Overall Solar Charger

  • Wattage: 28 watts
  • Amperage: 2.4 amps on each port
  • Efficiency: approx. 23.5%
  • Number of Ports: 3 (one type-C deliver, one QC3.0, and one USB)
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Weight: approx. 0.6kg

The BigBlue solar charger is a more compact and lightweight unit you can find on the market at the moment. It utilizes a combination of intelligent technologies to identify your gadget and deliver adequate power without the need for a bulky battery pack. The three USB ports can charge up to three devices simultaneously and provide a fast 5V/4.8A charge at its maximum.

The BigBlue solar charger has a folding design which makes it stand/sit at 1.3 inches. It means it is the best solar charger for backpacking if you need portability. In the box, it bundles a Micro-USB cable which is conveniently long for most handheld devices. The amount of features that you get from the BigBlue solar charger makes it the best overall solar charger on the list.

Pros

  • It is waterproof with an IP67 rating.
  • The BigBlue solar charger supports most 5V devices.
  • The unit has short circuit protection.
  • Its design includes a cloth flap to protect the ports.

Cons

  • It does not store electricity in a battery.
  • Slight cloud covering can affect the BigBlue solar charger’s charging speed.
  • The unit cannot charge bigger laptops or tablets.

2.    Anker Solar Panel – Best Portable Solar Charger

  • Wattage: 21 Watts
  • Amperage: 2.4 amps per port
  • Efficiency: approx. 23.5%
  • Number of Ports: 2 USB
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Weight: approx. 0.4kg

The Anker solar panel aims to deliver fast and efficient power in an emergency. The manufacturer leverages its extensive experience in making battery packs and charging bricks for handheld devices. The unit’s portable design means it can last in the wilderness for as long as you want it.

Anker solar panel can charge two devices simultaneously, and it uses its proprietary PowerIQ fast charging technology to ensure fewer charge times. You would appreciate the PET-Polymer covering the individual panels to protect them against the elements, making it the ultimate best solar charger for backpacking in the wild.

Pros 

  • It can dynamically charge mobile devices, regardless of cloud coverings.
  • The unit is relatively water-resistant.
  • Anker solar panel has rivets and holes for attachment to multiple surface types.
  • Its casing is durable and can survive prolonged exposure to the weather.

Cons

  • It would not work fully with anything other than direct sunlight.
  • Some users have experienced an issue where the Anker solar panel draws power from the connected device.
  • The unit is more expensive than most competing alternatives on the market.

3.     Renogy Portable E.Flex Solar Panel – Best Solar Charger for Rough Terrains

  • Wattage: 10 watts
  • Amperage: Not stated
  • Efficiency: Not stated
  • Number of Ports: 1 (USB)
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Weight: approx. 0.3 kg

The Renogy Portable E.Flex solar panel boasts a mono-crystalline solar cell layout. It pairs with an intelligent auto-recovery function to ensure that you get back some power when the radiant energy drops. It also has an ample overcharging protection mechanism, handy for safeguarding your smaller handhelds.

Furthermore, the design has little carabineers for you to harness the unit to things such as a tent, tree, etc. The ultra-thin footprint means you don’t have to worry about fitting it in your backpack at any point in time.

Pros

  • The panel surface has a ruggedized texture, making the unit less prone to shatter and scratching. 
  • The Renogy Portable E.Flex can stick to surfaces with its sucker cups. 
  • It charges rapidly under direct sunlight and maintains the speed even with intermittent cloud coverings.

Cons

  • The unit does not generate enough charge rate as 10W demands. 
  • Users cannot take Renogy Portable E.Flex out in the rain, as the charging port is not water-resistant.
  • It requires an extra battery pack to deliver prolonged power to handheld devices. 
  • The solar panel does not support some smartphone models.

4.    Goal Zero Nomad 10 Foldable Solar Panel – Best Splash-Resistant Solar Charger

  • Wattage: 10 watts
  • Amperage: Not stated
  • Efficiency: Not stated
  • Number of Ports: 1 (USB)
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Weight: approx. 0.5 kg

The Goal Zero Nomad 10 is one of the products in the Nomad solar panel lineup. The brand focuses on high efficiency and being a lightweight solar charger. You get a 6-to-7V charging output and a built-in USB port to boost your handheld devices. 

The unit is also versatile. There’s an added kickstand that allows you to rotate the solar panel up to 180°, which makes the Goal Zero Nomad 10 suitable for backpacking. You’ll appreciate the rugged build as well.

Pros

  • The unit holds up excellently under hazy weather and charges rapidly.
  • The kickstand allows the Goal Zero Nomad 10 to capture direct sunlight better.
  • It has a particular level of splash resistance.

Cons

  • It has only one USB port, making an external battery pack essential.
  • The Goal Zero Nomad 10 takes a significantly long time to charge bigger battery packs.

5.    GoerTek Solar Charger – Best Value for Money 

  • Wattage: 10 watts
  • Amperage: 2 amps
  • Efficiency: Not stated
  • Number of Ports: 3 (USB)
  • Integrated Battery: Yes
  • Weight: Approx. 0.5 kg

The GoerTek Solar Charger has a beefy 25000mAh integrated battery, which can charge smartphones several times over. The power bank immediately makes the product the best solar charger for backpacking with a backup battery. The solar charger can charge itself with its solar panels or power mains. Also, the three USB ports can charge devices simultaneously. 

Added features include 36 LED lights which are handy to provide illumination during camping and backpacking. The unit utilizes the ABS material, which is environment-friendly and manages to keep the style and design. Also, it has an IPX6 rating which means you can use the unit under a broad range of weather conditions.

Pros

  • The LED light on the GoerTek solar charger is adjustable and sufficiently bright on its highest settings.
  • The GoerTek solar charger comes with a USB cable in the box.
  • The unit indicates when it is charging by a power outlet or its solar panels.

Cons

  • The charge output from the GoerTek solar panels is lower than what you get from the USB port.
  • It requires a significant amount of time to charge up to 100% with direct sunlight.
  • The design is unwieldy, and weight distribution might not make it easy to carry around.

6.    SunJack 25W Solar Charger – Best for Heavy-Duty Appliances

  • Wattage: 25 watts
  • Amperage: 2 amps per port
  • Efficiency: Not stated
  • Number of Ports: 2 (USB)
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Weight: approx. 0.8 kg

The SunJack 25W solar charger utilizes ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) layers instead of PET. It is supposed to help charge in extreme outdoor conditions, making it suitable if you are looking for a portable solar charger resistant to the elements. The unit delivers a powerful 4W charge output, which is close to a wall-outlet delivery.

Furthermore, the solar charger uses a Smart IC technology to regulate charging speeds according to the devices you have plugged into it. This way, it prevents overcharging. You will also appreciate that it restores some of the solar energy when there is a cloud covering.

Pros

  • SunJack 25W solar charger can charge heavier-duty battery packs.
  • It doesn’t require direct sunlight to charge at total capacity.
  • The package includes 2 USB charging cables.
  • The unit folds excellently with magnets on the back.

Cons

  • The product’s fabric in the middle uses a hanging loop stitch, which is likely to come undone and let the panels fall out.
  • The SunJack 25W is more expensive than alternatives.
  • Its charging output is fickle under direct sunlight.
  • The unit does not support older handheld devices.
  • It leaves out sharp edges when folded.

7.    SunPower ECEEN Solar Charger – Best Versatile Solar Charger

  • Wattage: 13 watts
  • Amperage: 2 amps
  • Efficiency: 22%
  • Number of Ports: 2 (USB)
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Weight: approx. 0.6 kg

The SunPower ECEEN solar charger has an adequately weather-resistant polyester design. Its numerous hooks ensure that you quickly attach the unit to your backpack or any other suitable surface. The Velcro straps further emphasize its portability profile.

The two USB ports can generate a maximum of 2 amps and charge two handheld devices simultaneously. The product highlights portability, thanks to the fact that it folds down to a few inches. The manufacturer included a net pocket with the ECEEN solar charger for convenience, making the unit the more suitable option on the market for backpacking.

Pros

  • The SunPower ECEEN solar charger can maintain charging speeds for more extended periods.
  • The unit can charge some devices at a fast rate.
  • It is less likely to sustain damage and marks from scratches in the outdoors.
  • The string hoops do a decent job of holding the solar charger fast against the wind.

Cons

  • The product feels heavier than it weighs, thanks to its non-user removable nylon sleeve.
  • Its USB ports are a bit flimsy as they are not waterproof.
  • The zipper around the net pocket can come off easily.
  • The product’s charge output gets prolonged under direct sunlight.

Buying Guide: How to pick the right solar charger for backpacking

Given the portability of solar chargers in recent times, it is tougher to make the purchase choice as you have to consider a lot more variables to suit your specific needs. Below are some factors to consider to help you decide on the best solar charger for hiking within your budget:

1.    Surface Area

The solar panels’ surface area is one of the first things you’ll have to consider when trying to pick up the solar charger. It determines how much overall charge you will get from the unit in a single instance. Logically, the bigger the surface area, the more charge output you can expect and vice versa.

However, there are some trade-offs you’ll have to bear in mind. A more extensive solar panel significantly reduces portability. You will have to make the final decision against how well the solar charger fits in your backpack without sacrificing the surface area. Luckily, today’s best solar panel for backpacking will most likely have technologies to enable it to pack more solar efficiency in smaller panel units.

2.    Power Storage (Battery Pack)

It will help if you consider the kind of power storage you’ll like your solar charger to have. Generally, products fall into one of the two categories, namely:

  • Solar Panels
  • Solar Banks

Solar panels are the category of solar charger products with only the solar panel, without a battery pack for backup power. One of the benefits of the type is that the products are excellently portable without an added weight. They are also versatile, as you can position them on most surfaces facing the sun to use them.

On the other hand, they cannot hold backup power, making them inconvenient when there is little or no sunlight. Also, there is not much value, as the typical best solar panel for backpacking will cost as much as a solar product with a backup battery.

Solar banks have a two-component design, including the solar panels and the battery pack (power bank). The design allows the solar charger to charge up its backup battery and sometimes charge other devices simultaneously. When they don’t have access to direct or indirect sunlight, solar banks can top devices as well. You might also find other conveniences such as LED lamps included in the product.

You get to enjoy better versatility with solar banks and experience a more impressive value for money. However, you have to deal with lower efficiency and higher bulk as a trade-off. You weigh in the pros and cons of the two categories to make a buying decision for your needs.

3.    Charge Interruption Recovery

Newer solar chargers try to help consumers solve charge recovery issues, which happens when there is a sudden cloud covering to disrupt the charge. Generally, manufacturers would include a technology to detect the slight change in the sun’s intensity and compensate for it using a charge recovery system. In the end, you get to maintain a certain charge speed with or without direct sunlight.

You need to consider how much you need the charge interruption recovery. Specific devices won’t charge when there is a fluctuation in charging speeds, while others would double or triple their expected charge time. However, products that include technology tend to cost more. You may have to take note if it would be worth the extra money for a small but nifty feature.

4.    Charging Speed

Charging speed is also one of the front-line considerations when picking out a solar charger for the outdoors. It is best to keep expectations below what is obtainable with wall mains, but few options make it to the mark. While higher wattage increases your chances of a higher charging speed, you should be more on the lookout for a higher amp count.

Typically, home outlets generate around 2.5A, with the voltage powering it at up to 250V. It means solar chargers at 2A and above would deliver a faster-charging speed overall. Additionally, a wattage helps your chances for a high charge speed as well.

However, faster-charging speeds aren’t all good news for your devices. Some solar chargers deliver a fast charge that the device cannot retain. It leads to the electronic giving false readings and therefore requiring a slower boost afterward. It would help if you had a minimum charging speed requirement instead of a maximum to balance out the charging impacts.

5.    Multiple devices charging speed

You need to consider the charging speed for multiple devices as a derivative of the previous factor. There are solar chargers that can charge multiple devices simultaneously, while there are those that can’t. It means that the charging speed for various devices is essential if you carry a significantly big bag.

Typically, products split their amperage between the number of ports they have. This means that you have to use the simple formula below to have an idea of the individual charging speeds:

Stated Amperage/Number of Ports = Charging Speed of each Port

However, some manufacturers would state otherwise if one of the ports has a separate amperage count. As a recommendation, 2A should be the minimum for each of the ports, as it means you get upwards of 4A simultaneous power if the solar charger has more than two ports.

6.    Power use

Power use shouldn’t be a maligned factor in your solar charger purchase decision, as it also determines how well the product suits your use case. Most solar chargers without a battery pack have limited power functionality since you only use them in the light and fold them when not in use.

On the other hand, solar banks offer more power use, with the manufacturers including other emergency features such as an LED lamp, radio, or compass. Better power use contributes to the value you’d be getting from a solar charging product. 

However, since you might be going on backpacking or hiking, you might not need the solar charger to have the extra features since you may have made provisions for them already. Still, a little more power use would be handy.

7.    Accessories

You can identify an excellent solar product by the amount of included accessories with which it comes. Accessories are essential to help you get the most of the solar charger, and you may feel cheated if you get some included in the box.

For instance, some solar charger models include charging cables in the box, making it more convenient to use the product and saving you the worry of buying an extra cord. Other accessories include strings, kickstands, toolboxes, and so on. Be sure to check what you’ll be getting in the box before purchasing to know which of the accessories you’d have to buy separately.

However, accessories may drive the solar charger’s cost – as in the case of included battery packs. So you may want to cross-check how much more value it would add instead of getting it elsewhere.

8.    Other Factors

Below are some of the other factors you need to consider when buying a solar charger:

  • Mode of Travel: If you would be backpacking, you need a portable solar charging product with adequate attachments for on-the-go usages.
  • Travel Duration: It’s best to have a solar charger with an included battery pack for longer trips.
  • Durability: Durability is handy for rougher terrains. For example, nylon-covered solar chargers fare better with impacts against rocks and debris.
  • Weight and Portability: It would be nice to consider your carriage weight before going for a solar charger. Pick a lighter option if you’re the only one backpacking, and consider other options, if the party is larger.
  • Waterproof: You need some level of waterproofing since you would be outdoors. Splash-resistance will do in most situations, but you can get a higher rating for better moisture performance.

Are Solar Chargers Worth it?

Yes. However, the extent of the worth depends on several variables, and it’s essential to put them in perspective for a clearer insight. First, the kinds of people who would buy (or consider buying) a solar charger determine how much value the product holds.

For outdoor enthusiasts, a solar charger is essential for camping, hiking, and backpacking. It provides emergency power without the burden of having to fuel it. It keeps your devices on, charged and the entire experience will be a more pleasurable one.

Solar chargers are also suitable for disaster preppers, who critically need backup power for their appliances when there is a tragedy. For instance, solar chargers become extremely worthy in places where hurricanes and floods have hit, causing a large-scale power outage. The people get to keep some essential devices on and charged, which might aid rescue operations and relief distribution.

Lastly, travelers might need solar chargers, especially when their destination might not have the ideal power supply level. Solar charging products would mean that they don’t get stranded in a foreign location and can power things like cameras and smartphones to pictures for longer.

Frequently Asked Questions- FAQs

1.    Is it necessary to have direct sunlight for solar panels?

Solar panels don’t require direct sunlight to function as they use energy from daylight to produce electricity. Also, note here that heat has nothing to do with the production of electricity.

2.    Can I charge using my solar charger on a cloudy day?

As mentioned earlier, solar panels use daylight to produce electricity. So you can charge your solar charger even on a cloudy day.

Conclusion

Solar chargers are a nifty addition to a backpacker’s arsenal, as it provides electrical energy using the inexpensive solar power. As there are many solar charger options currently on the market, it might be tough to pick one. The guide above aims to help you pick out the best solar charger for your budget and specific use needs.

Scroll to Top