A solar charger is a very useful gadget for long backpacking trips because it allows you to easily recharge your electronic devices such as a handheld GPS device, hiking watch or a smartphone. Since many backpackers rely on these devices for navigation along the trails, solar chargers have become very popular. Especially those who use smartphones for navigation on trails (check out our test of the best hiking apps) appreciate solar chargers, because no smartphone with GPS turned on constantly runs for more than a day without being recharged.
Solar chargers typically consist of solar panels and a battery pack. Solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it to electricity which charges the battery pack. When the battery pack is full, you can charge other devices with it. Unlike regular power banks which get drained sooner or later, solar chargers are suitable for very long trips because they allow you to recharge the battery pack as long as you have sunlight available.
In the following we listed the best solar chargers currently available to make your buying decision a little easier. We only listed high-quality solar chargers that come for a good price and provide good durability.
1. Buying a Solar Charger – What is important?
There are three types of solar chargers; panels-only, panels with integrated battery pack and panels with detachable battery pack.
Such a solar charger is best for those who already have a power bank. You simply connect the solar panels to the power bank and the power bank will get charged with sunlight energy. In case that the power bank has enough capacity for your trip, you can leave the solar panels at home to reduce the weight of your pack. However, before purchasing just solar panels make sure that they are compatible with your power bank (connector type).
Panels with integrated battery pack
These solar chargers are usually very compact – the solar panels and the battery pack come in one piece. Therefore, they are great for attaching to a backpack. The disadvantage is that you cannot detach the solar panels in case that you do not need them – for example on short overnight trips.
Panels with detachable battery pack
Such solar chargers consist of solar panels and a detachable battery pack. In case that you don’t need the solar panels, you can leave them at home (or at a base camp) and thus reduce the weight of your pack.
Size and Weight:
The larger (and heavier) the solar panel, the faster it charges the battery pack. However, keep in mind that smaller/lighter solar panels are easier to pack and carry.
Type of the Solar Panels:
There are two types of solar panels; rigid and semi-flexible. Semi-flexible solar panels can be folded for easy carrying. When you need them you simply unfold them and position them towards the sun. The main advantage of semi-flexible solar panels is that they have a large surface area despite being very small when packed.
Solar Panels Output:
The output of solar panels is measured in watts – the higher the output the more sunlight they convert to electricity per hour.
Solar panels typically have attachment points, so you can attach them securely on your backpack. Keep in mind that you need sunlight for solar panels to work and therefore you should keep them out of the backpack during the day when you will probably be hiking.
You typically don’t charge an electronic device directly from the solar panels because the flow of electricity fluctuates too much. Instead you charge a battery pack which you then connect your devices to for easy recharging. Battery packs differ in storage capacity and power output. The storage capacity is measured in mAh. The higher the storage capacity, the more times you can recharge your devices. However, keep in mind that a larger storage capacity also increases the weight and size of the battery pack. Most battery packs have a power output that is sufficient for charging electronic devices such as smartphones, GPS devices and GPS watches. However, battery packs can rarely charge bigger electronic devices such as laptops.
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Solar Chargers Review
The Best Solar Chargers – List
- Goal Zero Nomad 10
- Anker PowerPort 21W
- BioLite SolarPanel 5+
- Revel Gear Day Tripper
- PowerTraveller Falcon 21
|Feature/Product||Goal Zero Nomad 10||BioLite SolarPanel 5+||BioLite SolarPanel 5+||Revel Gear Day Tripper||PowerTraveller Falcon 21|
|Weight||1 lb. 2 oz. (510 g)||14 oz. (390 g)||1 lb. 3 oz. (538 g)||7.1 oz. (201 g)||16.5 oz. (470 g)|
|Dimensions||9.5 x 14.5 x 0.75 in. (24 x 18.4 x 3.2 cm) Folded||11 x 6 x 1.1 in. (28 x 15 x 3 cm)||10 x 8 x 1 in. (26 x 20 x 2.4 cm)||5.5 x 3 x 0.7 in. (14 x 7.5 x 1.7 cm)||6.3 x 11 x 0.4 in. (16 x 28 x 1.1 cm)
|Type||Panels-only||Panels-only||Panels with integrated battery pack||Panels with integrated battery pack||Panels-only|
|Solar Panels Type||Semi-flexible||Semi-flexible||Rigid||Rigid||Semi-flexible|
|Solar Panels Output||10 watts||21 watts||5 watts||n/a||21 watts|
|Battery Pack Capacity||/||/||2200 mAh||8000 mAh||/|
|Battery Pack Rechargers iPhone 8||/||/||1.2 times||4.3 times||/|
|Solar Recharge Time for Battery Pack||/||/||2 hours||n/a||/|
1. Goal Zero Nomad 10
The Goal Zero Nomad 10 solar panel features built-in kickstand which clicks into place at multiple angles and allows you to position the solar panel perfectly towards the sun. It is made of rugged and durable materials, and can be strapped to your backpack, tent or other gear. The solar panel has an output of 10 watts and works perfectly with power banks from Goal Zero. The Goal Zero Nomad 10 solar panel is often combined with the Goal Zero Venture 30 power bank which has a capacity of 7800 mAh. The solar panel recharges this power bank in 4.5 to 9 hours. Nevertheless, the solar panel can also charge various devices such as cell phones, cameras etc. directly. The Goal Zero Nomad 10 is a powerful solar panel that is perfect for backpacking and other lengthy activities in the outdoors.
2. Anker PowerPort 21W
The Anker PowerPort 21W is a panels-only solar charger and thus it is a good option if you already have a battery pack/power bank. However, Anker states that the PowerPort 21W solar panels are suitable to charge electronic devices such as smartphones, headlamps etc. directly. The Anker PowerPort 21W solar charger features the PowerIQ technology which discovers and replicates your device’s original charging protocol to provide the fastest possible charging speed. However, be aware that the solar panels will not generate enough electricity to match the device’s original charging protocol in case of cloudy or rainy weather. The Anker PowerPort 21W solar charger is also super lightweight and very small when packed. It has attachment points, so you can easily attach it on a backpack. However, it is not waterproof.
- PowerIQ technology
- Not waterproof
Where to buy?
3. BioLite SolarPanel 5+
The BioLite SolarPanel 5+ is a solar panel with integrated 2200mAh battery pack. It features a built-in kickstand, battery/charge strength indicator and corner latches. The kickstand allows you to position the solar panel optimally towards the sun while the corner latches enable you to attach the solar panel to your gear. The solar panel outputs 5 watts and recharges the integrated battery in less than two hours. The BioLite SolarPanel 5+ weighs 14 ounces which is not a lot, considering that the battery is integrated. The solar panel is also equipped with sundial which helps you align the solar panel directly to the sun. The BioLite SolarPanel 5+ is a great option for various outdoor activities.
- Attachment points
- Integrated battery
Where to buy?
Also available at:
4. Revel Gear Day Tripper
The Revel Gear Day Tripper is a very light and compact solar charger. The solar charger has an integrated battery with the capacity of 8000 mAh which can recharge iPhone 8 more than four times. It also features a rugged design and handles moisture, dust and shocks without a problem. The solar charger can be attached to gear with a carabiner (included in the package) and has two USB outputs. Therefore, it can charge two devices simultaneously. The Revel Gear Day Tripper also features a built-in backlight. It is perfect for charging cell phones, tablets and cameras on shorter backpacking trips.
5. PowerTraveller Falcon 21
The PowerTraveller Falcon 21 is a panels-only solar charger. Nevertheless, it can charge up to two devices directly from the three efficient solar panels. The solar panels are made of durable fabric and IPX4 rated, which means that they can withstand water splashes from any direction for up to five minutes. The PowerTraveller Falcon 21 also has four attachment points in the corners, so you can easily attach it to your tent or other gear. It uses monocrystalline cells from SunPower which produce 25-35% more power compared to conventional cells. The PowerTraveller Falcon 21 is due to its power best for long backpacking trips.