Most of the navigation equipment we use these days while backpacking requires some form of electricity. Whether it’s a hand-held GPS or your smartphone, you need to keep it charged to know where you’re going.
Battery packs are a great way of ensuring you have some extra charge lying around but even they run out, especially when you’ll need a full charge each day to use any Navigation Apps on your smartphone.
A solar charger is, by far, the most useful charging device you can have with you on the trail. They come in all shapes and sizes, and some even include a battery pack. A solar charger takes sunlight and converts it to electricity that either goes straight to your device or to the included battery pack. They are ideal for long trips into the wilderness where keeping your devices charged is a must.
In order to help you find the best solar charger for backpacking, we have gathered up some of the best we could find and reviewed them across key areas to make your decision a little easier.
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Best Of The Best
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Best On A Budget
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The Powertraveller Falcon 21 Solar Charger is made for long expeditions where you need to charge everything from a laptop to and tablet and a smartphone.
It’s made from durable materials for a life in the outdoors and has a waterproof rating of IPX4. This means it is splash/rainproof but not submergible. You can leave it at camp to charge things up without having to worry if it might rain.
The included solar panels use high-efficiency mono-crystalline cells that provide 25-35% more power than conventional cells, but you do pay a price for this kind of quality. The extra power means you can charge things a lot faster, taking advantage of full sunshine hours.
The solar panels fit into a handy foldable wallet that features an end pocket with two outputs, so you can charge two devices at once. When folded up, this charger is just 6.3 x 11 x 0.4 inches and weighs 16.6 oz. – ideal for backpacking.
It also comes with attachment points for charging on the go. Simply tie it securely to your backpack and connect a device to have to charge while you hike.
The only downside is that it is very expensive compared to others but it is more efficient and charges laptops, phones, and tablets.
The BioLite SolarPanel 10+ is a favorite amongst outdoor guides and for good reasons. It’s exceptionally practical and efficient thanks to handy design features.
The BioLite SolarPanel 10+ uses 2 high-efficiency monocrystalline solar panel that delivers 10 watts of power to a USB outlet or to its inbuilt battery pack when nothing is connected.
It comes with a kickstand so you can angle it to get maximum sunlight. And there is a sundial to tell you which direction will get you the most rays. This means you get maximum efficiency all the time. Plus there is a battery and charge strength indicator so you can see how it’s doing.
The battery pack is rated to 3000 mAh and will charge a normal camera to full or an iPhone 7 2 times. This is really useful as you can charge things at night once the battery pack has filled up in the day.
You can also charge using the Micro-USB port to make sure your battery is full before you set off on your adventure.
All of this sits in a durable, weatherproof design that can be hung for charging on the go. It’s pretty light at just over 1 lb and the dimensions are very backpackable.
The Anker Solar Panel is designed to charge smartphones and tablets but it’ll work with anything that uses a USB charger. The charger uses PowerIQ technology that talks to your device to work out its most efficient charging speed, making sure it gets juiced up as fast as possible.
It features 3 industrial-strength PET polymer-faced solar panels that are sewn tightly into a canvas polyester cover for weather resistance. It’s a very durable, light, and compact set-up that is ideal for slotting into your backpack.
The cover also comes with stainless steel eye holes on each corner for attaching to your backpack so you can charge your devices as you go from camp to camp.
The panels provide up to 21 watts of solar power and can charge two devices when working efficiently. You’ll have to guess the best direction to point them in though as there is no charge strength indicator
Overall an affordable and efficient portable solar charger but some extra efficiency features would be a nice touch.
The Goal Zero Nomad 10 is a great portable solar charger for use with small devices and battery packs. It’ll charge a phone in 2-3 hours when in full sunlight and a battery pack in up to 4-5 hours.
It comes with an efficient solar panel that delivers 10 watts or 6-7 volts of power to the inbuilt USB port. The panel rests on a kickstand so you can angle it in any direction for maximum sunlight, but there are no indicators to help, so you’ll have to guess.
You can also charge on the go by attaching it to your backpack with the eye holes in each corner or using the kickstand to hook it on.
The unit is made from rugged materials to enhance durability. it packs down to just 9.5 x 7.2 x 1.2 inches and weighs just 1lb 2 oz. You’ll be able to slip it into your backpack with ease and it’ll take a knock or two.
Overall it’s a convenient, efficient charger for the price that’ll have your devices juiced up quickly.
The Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Solar Power Bank is about the size of an iPhone when folded away but a bit thicker. It has 4 solar panels, a power bank, and 3 charging outputs all tightly wrapped in a plastic waterproof case for durability.
The solar panels in direct sunlight charge the battery at a rate of 1A. This is pretty average and it does take a while to charge the battery pack just using solar.
The power bank is 25000mah and takes 5.5 hours to charge from the wall using a quick charge USB-C cable. Once fully charged, it is exceptionally fast to charge your devices, giving an iPhone 11 a full charge in just 1.5 hrs. It can charge an iPhone 11 eight times from a full charge, so its capacity is much bigger than most.
You can charge up to 3 devices at once using the battery pack, but the slow solar charging does make it a little ineffective. The idea with this solar charger is to have the battery packs full when you head on your backpacking adventure, and then constantly have it in the sun to keep it topping up as much as possible.
Overall this is more of a power bank with solar panels than a charger but it sure is effective at topping up your devices quickly.
The BigBlue 28W Solar Charger uses three highly efficient SunPower panels to deliver up to 23.5% of the sun’s energy to your devices. The panels come in a handy, foldable packet that includes 3 USB outputs and can charge up to 3 devices at once.
They are covered with a special PET polymer surface to protect them from the odd bit of rain and fog. And, the ports are covered by cloth and rubber to prevent any water damage.
When folded it packs down to 11.1 × 6.3 × 1.3 inches for slotting conveniently into your backpack and it weighs just 20.6 oz. adding barely any weight. It comes with metal eye holes on each corner so you can attach it to your backpack for on-the-go charging too.
It also features smart charging technology whereby it recognizes your device and delivers the optimal charging speed to power it up faster.
The Big Blue works with almost all android and apple devices, plus some DSLRs. It doesn’t work with laptops or the Ipad pro though. Charging speeds vary depending on the sunlight, like all solar chargers, and it can take a while.
Overall it’s a quality charger that comes with a 2-year warranty (longer than most) and is ideal for backpacking.
The Nekteck 28W Portable Solar Panel is an awesome solar charger for all your wilderness adventures. It comes with 3 solar panels that fit into a handy foldable pouch that when put away takes up barely any space in your backpack. It even has a zip pocket to store all your cords in.
The charger is built to be tough with a waterproof rating of IPX4 and a canvas cover, it’ll last. The panels used are SunPower Maxeon panels which are known for their performance. The portable solar charger can deliver up to 28W of energy and charge a Samsung Galaxy fully in 2 hours when in direct sunlight.
There are 2 USB charging ports and you can charge two devices simultaneously. It features Smart IC Chip Technology that detects the optimal charge for each of your devices and it works with most USB devices.
The cover comes with 5 metal eye loops and two hooks to attach to your backpack for on-the-go charging. It also has a safety feature that stops any overcharging to keep your devices safe.
Overall this is an excellent charger, the only thing missing is a power bank, but you can always bring one with you.
The CHOETECH Solar Charger is quite similar to a lot of the other portable solar chargers, but it’s about 2/3 to 1/2 the price without compromising very much. If you’re on a budget, this is a great one for you.
It comes with 3 SunPower solar panels that deliver up to 19W of charge in direct sunlight. The panels come fitted in a durable canvas bag that features a pocket for your cables and two USB ports to charge 2 devices at once. The bag folds up neatly to a small size and weighs just 17 oz. making it super backpackable.
It charges devices pretty quickly but using both ports isn’t recommended as it takes the charging time way down, by more than half. It’ll charge a smartphone to full in 2-3 hours and half a 25000mah battery pack in 5 hours. This is thanks to the Smart IC technology & overcharge protection that detects your device’s optimal charge and delivers it.
The CHOETECH Charger is also durable thanks to the PET laminated cover and the tough canvas outer cover. This makes it dustproof and waterproof to IPX4, so it can handle a little splash here and there. If anything was to go wrong, you’re covered by a 2-year warranty.
There are two types of portable solar chargers for backpacking to choose from in the review. Your choices are a solar panels only charger that charges your devices or your own external battery pack directly from the sun. Or, you can choose a charger with solar panels and a battery pack.
Now, you can of course always just buy a battery pack and connect it to a panels only solar charger but it’s not quite as convenient as having an integrated one. The great thing about an integrated one is that you don’t have to remember to plug anything in or have any cables moving around. As long as the solar panels are in the sun, the battery pack is being charged, without any input from you.
Every ounce counts when you’re packing for a long trip in the wilderness. You don’t want to be overweight and strain yourself and therefore every piece of equipment needs to be as light as possible. Unfortunately the heavier a solar panel the faster it charges, so you’ll have to play a game of Watts v’s weight here.
All the best solar chargers in the review are pretty light and compact though, ranging from 14-25 ounces, so you should find one that meets your ultralight needs.
Charging speed comes down to the number of Watts that can be provided by the panels, integrated smart charging technology, and how much sun hits the panels.
The number of Watts varies from charger to charger, and if you need a lot of power you should pick one with a high wattage like 26 Watts. This will also increase the size and weight of the solar charger, so there is a balance to be found here.
The charging speed can be increased by smart charging technology that detects the optimal charge for your device and delivers it, powering it up faster. A few of the solar chargers feature this and it’s well worth having.
The final thing that affects charging speed is how much sun hits the solar panels. This comes down to you putting it in the right place and moving it as the sun moves to give it the maximum amount of rays possible. With most of the solar chargers, it’s guesswork, but the BioLite Solar Panel 10+ has a system to tell you when you have found maximum efficiency.
The best solar charger for backpacking is the BioLite Solar Panel 10+. It’s durable, weatherproof, light, packable, and has a highly efficient charging system with a battery to go with it. You can charge any USB device in 1-3 hours or simply leave it to recharge during the day so you can charge at night. It’s also full of extra features that make it a delight to use.
The all-round best solar charger for backpacking is the Nekteck 28W Portable Solar Panel. It’s durable, reliable, efficient, and can charge up to 2 devices at once, quickly. It has an IPX4 waterproof rating and comes in a handy foldable canvas pouch that fits nicely in any backpack.
The best solar charger for backpacking, if you’re on a budget, is the CHOETECH Solar Charger. For around 2/3 to 1/2 the price of the others you’re getting a solar charger that is reliable, durable, light, portable, and still charges things quickly. It might not have as many Watts as the others but it still gets the job done quickly.