Guides Solar Chargers

Best Solar Chargers for Backpacking: A Complete 2020 Buyer’s Guide

camping site

If you’re heading out for a long backpacking and camping adventure with family or friends, then you probably won’t have access to an outlet for most of your trip, which means you may be without a cell phone, GPS or other important electronic devices when you need them the most. This can be very dangerous, especially if you’ve never hiked through the backcountry before. That’s where the best solar chargers for backpacking comes in. When you’re without your important electronics, it can be frustrating, and almost scary to lose touch with civilization, especially on a longer camping or hiking adventure. Bringing along one of these chargers can ensure you’re never without your phone, GPS, tablet, or other essential electronics. These chargers are designed to provide the power you need, so you can remain in contact with your loved ones, and can be lifesaving, should you find yourself lost in the backcountry.

If you don’t have any experience with this type of charger, then this buyer’s guide that I’ve created will go over all the important information you need to know before you buy. I’ve also tested out some top of the line models, narrowing it down to five must-have chargers that can provide the type of power you need, throughout the duration of your trip. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of these models, their rating, and their top features.

Solar Chargers for Backpacking Comparison Chart

ProductCharging PortsWattsPanelsRating
Goal Zero Solar Panel

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113Monocrystalline
Bushnell Solar Charger

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216Monocrystalline
Panergy Solar Charger

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37.5Monocrystalline
Foxelli Solar Charger

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210Polycrystalline
Flynn Tech Solar Charger

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210Polycrystalline

Goal Zero Nomad Solar Panel


Our Rating: (5/5)

This model by Goal Zero Nomad features a foldable design and weighs in at just 1.6 pounds. This is a monocrystalline panel that has a fast charging time and can handle keeping all of your essential electronics fully charged for the duration of your trip. The foldable design will prevent the panel from taking up too much room in your pack, while the built-in pocket allows you to easily store cords and devices that need to be charged, keeping your gear highly organized. Your electronics can be charged by connecting them into the panel’s USB port. This panel is efficient and features a design that is weather-resistant and durable.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Foldable design
  • Durable
  • Weighs just 1.6 pounds

Cons

  • Not compatible with Apple products

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an efficient, easy to use and powerful solar panel system for your next backpacking trip, then hit that buy now button. The lightweight design is a huge plus for the avid hiker, or anyone in need of a solar panel system that won’t add too much weight to their gear. The low-maintenance design is another reason to buy. There’s no doubt that this panel is a must-have for those longer backcountry hiking and camping trips.

Bushnell PowerSync SolarWrap Charger


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This compact, lightweight solar panel is packing some serious power. The flexible solar panel design will roll up into a compact package so you can easily store it in your pack when not in use. To charge your electronic devices, simply plug them into the built-in USB port to keep your gear charged on your next hiking adventure. The panel must be exposed to bright sunlight for a period of four to six hours for a full charge. This model comes with two charging ports, one is a standard USB port, while the other is a micro-USB, which can be used for tablets and smartphones. Thanks to the included high capacity lithium ion rechargeable battery that’s onboard, you can pre-charge the panel the night before you head out and have this stored energy, which will come in handy if you make it out late in the day and don’t have time to soak up any sunlight.

Pros

  • Built-in lithium ion battery
  • Charges in four to six hours
  • Includes two charging ports
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • LED indicators are not very accurate

Conclusion

This is a solar panel setup that has it all including an onboard lithium ion battery, two charging ports, and a foldable design that allows you to easily store this panel in your pack. This model only weighs in at a little over nine ounces, but don’t let its low weight fool you, it’s incredibly durable. Built tough and able to handle your next backcountry trip, this is one solar panel system you’ll never want to hike or camp without.

Solar Charger Portable 5 Solar Panel Power Bank


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This set of five highly efficient solar panels features a foldable design and a reputation for charging electronics four to six times faster than competing models. The charger features three ports, which means you can charge up to three small electronic devices at once. The panels are protected by a tough ABS plastic frame, so you won’t have to worry about damage to the charger in the event of a fall. This model also comes with a built-in LED light panel that comes with a soft light mode which will make it less attractive to flying insects.

Pros

  • Built-in LED lights
  • Five panels
  • Three charging ports
  • Faster charging time compared to competing models

Cons

  • User’s manual is very vague

Conclusion

This model’s reputation for its ultra-fast charging time is just one of the reasons it’s such a big seller. The panel is easy to use and features smart technology that will adjust the output power based on the type of device you’re charging, so the optimal charging current will be used. The lightweight design and durable casing make this model very hiking and camping friendly, as does the built-in LED lights and overall durability.

Foxelli Dual USB Solar Charger


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is one efficient and fast charger and it comes equipped with polycrystalline solar panels, which have a reputation for their excellent sun absorption properties and overall power. This model is designed specifically to charge smartphones, but it can also handle charging tablets as well. This charging system only weighs 1.10 pounds and features a compact design with a sleek profile. It’s the perfect model for hiking, backpacking, and camping out. It comes with eleven built-in loops and a couple of carabiners, so you can easily attach it to the outside of your pack or even your tent. It’s also weatherproofed and can withstand heavy downpours, without damage. The solar panels themselves are shielded with PET polymer that’s industrial strength.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • Equipped with polycrystalline solar panels
  • Fast charging time

Cons

  • Charging is not stable on overcast days

Conclusion

This panel system is dust-proof, weatherproof, and built tough. It’s designed to charge up to two devices at the same time, so you’ll never have to worry about your phone or tablet running out of juice. The manufacturer also offers a one-year warranty and a 120-day money back guarantee, both of which will give hikers and campers more of an incentive to buy and try this charger out in the woods or on the trail.

Flynn Tech Solar Panel Charger


Our Rating: (4/5)

If you’re looking for a durable, compact, and lightweight solar powered charger to take with you on your next camping or hiking trip, then this model by Flynn Tech is a great option and one that won’t hit your wallet too hard. It comes equipped with a built-in flashlight, and a fast charging time of five hours. The added carabiner can be used to attach the charger to the outside of your pack or your tent, however, there have been some complaints that the carabiner needs to be upgraded and constantly slips.

This model can easily charge any USB device, tablet, or smartphone, so you can keep your essential electronics fully charged throughout the duration of your trip.

Pros

  • Built-in flashlight
  • Fast charging time
  • Easy to use
  • Low price

Cons

  • Included carabiner is poor quality

Conclusion

This model is powerful, durable, and can withstand inclement weather including heavy rainfall and high temperatures. This charger’s ease of use and faster than average charging time make it a true asset on the trail and will provide the type of reliable performance you need when you’re miles away from civilization.

Solar Chargers for Backpacking Buyer’s Guide

Even when you’re in the backcountry roughing it, you’re going to need to keep at least one of your electronic devices charged, in order to have a way to reach someone in civilization in the event of an emergency. If you have children who are not with you on your trip, then you’ll also need to keep a phone charged so that your children or other family members will have a way to get a hold of you. In situations such as these, having a charger on hand will be invaluable. While you may not be glued to your phone and plan on doing your best to avoid using a device when you’re on vacation camping or hiking, you will still need to keep at least a phone charged at all times. This is where these innovative chargers come in. They offer a wide range of benefits and will allow you to enjoy one or two comforts of home, even when you’re camping out in the woods, miles away from civilization.

These chargers are affordable, eco-friendly and will come in handy when you need to charge one of your essential devices, such as your smartphone. However, there are some important factors that you’ll want to consider before you buy. But before I dive into the must-have features to look for, first I’ll go over the benefits of this type of charger, and why you’ll never want to camp or hike without one.

Benefits of Solar Chargers for Backpacking

Portable solar cell

  • While many of us go hiking or camping to get away from it all and spend some time lost in nature, there are many reasons why it’s still important to take your electronic devices with you.
  • With the use of one of these chargers you can stay in touch throughout the duration of your trip and let your family and friends know how your trip is going and that you’re safe.
  • While a smartphone can keep you in touch with your friends and family and they come equipped with GPS apps, nothing beats a dedicated GPS device, which is far more accurate and offers a stronger signal. But if you don’t bring along a charger through the backcountry, then you’ll have no way of using your GPS once the battery has run out. If you’re heading out for your first hiking adventure, then you’re at a higher risk of getting lost. In the backcountry, this can be very dangerous, which is why it’s so important to never hike without a GPS.
  • A solar charger allows you to harness the power of the sun to keep all of your important devices charged and running at all times. Basically, these chargers will help make your life a little easier when you’re camping and roughing it.

Other Important Features

These types of highly portable solar chargers are big sellers for hikers, RV users, and campers. If you’ve been camping or hiking before, then you know one minute your phone is at one hundred percent, but by the end of the day, if you use GPS, your battery is barely hanging on. For those new to camping and hiking life, nothing can be scarier than finding yourself in the woods without a way to contact your loved ones.

A solar charger is the best solution to this problem. These chargers are extremely affordable and a must have in any hiking or camping pack.

Power

Sunlight is everywhere. The best thing about this type of charger is the fact that these charging banks will charge all throughout the day, even on overcast days. These devices have significant battery storage, so you can be sure that there’s power from the day’s charge by sunset. You can use these banks over and over again. In most cases, a high-quality model can last for several years.

When you’re shopping for this type of charger, the first spec to check out is the measure of the battery. This refers to the types of devices the charger can charge. Additionally, you’ll also need to consider how long the charger needs to power up. 2000mAh is the minimum solar power you’ll need and it’s powerful enough to provide a smartphone with a single full charge.

If you’re camping out for a couple of days, then a smaller model should do the trick to keep your phone charged, but if you’re heading out for a longer trip then you’ll need to search for a much bigger power bank.

Portability

In some cases, you may need to charge your phone more than once a day. In these cases, a basic solar power bank will work just fine. These chargers are specifically designed for outdoor activities, such as camping. When you’re camping out in the summer, the sun is available everywhere, which makes a solar charger a better choice over a standard large power bank. When you’re charging a device, make sure you place the solar power bank directly in the sun.

Weight

When you’re hiking or camping, you want to keep the weight of your bag low, since you may be hiking for several miles. These days, solar chargers are very compact and lightweight, which allows you to easily slip one in your pack. Some models will come with a carbine clip, which will allow you to clip it on the outside of your pack, so it’s highly accessible and you won’t have to dig through all of your gear to find it. These clips aren’t just light, some models are also foldable, which makes them even more portable and easier to take with you, wherever you’re headed.

Charging Capacity

A panel is rated in watts. The higher the watts, the more power it’s able to generate. A product’s charging capacity will tell you what size of device it will be able to charge. There are a variety of battery sizes, so your job will be to choose a model that can handle your devices, based on their power needs. In most cases, you’ll need this type of power bank to charge smaller gadgets such as tablets, GPS devices, and smartphones. These small electronics will only need around five volts of power. Make sure you take a look at your device’s power capacity. This will help you determine the size of charger you will need.

If you need a power bank for larger devices, such as a laptop, then you must choose a model that comes equipped with a larger voltage solar panel and inverter. These models are somewhat larger in size compared to devices used for smartphone charging and are able to easily handle charging up a laptop, or multiple small electronic devices.

Solar Panels

Next, you’ll need to take a look at the solar panels themselves. The device you choose should come with high-quality solar panels that offer a high watt rating. The larger the panels, the more powerful and the faster you can charge your devices. Aside from the size of the panels, their efficiency is the most important factor. This refers to the amount of energy conversion that will impact how long it takes to charge a device.

Take a look at a panel’s surface area size. A large panel can handle more sunlight and will collect and store energy faster. It then converts the light to energy. A smaller panel will be easier to pack and highly portable, but it will also take longer to charge a battery. A bigger surface is perfect for conditions such as overcast days or low-intensity light in the winter.

Panel Type

There are a few different types of solar panels to choose from:

  • Monocrystalline
  • Polycrystalline
  • CIGS panels

The CIGS panels provide the best flexibility; however, they’re also made out of very thin materials that don’t have a very long lifespan. Most seasoned hikers can agree that the best type of solar chargers will come equipped with monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels. The polycrystalline panels are made out of multiple crystal ingots. A monocrystalline panel is made out of a single crystal ingot. These panels are more energy efficient, however, they’re also more expensive compared to the two other types of solar panels.

Charge Time

One of the most common questions people shopping for this type of charger has is how long it will take the power bank to charge before it’s able to power up a device. The charge times will vary from model to model with a charge time that ranges from two up to sixteen hours of sunlight exposure. This can depend on light conditions and the size of the surface area.

Durability

The charger’s overall durability is also important. You’ll be using this device outdoors, when you’re camping and hiking, so it has to be durable and able to take a fall without breaking. Some models will come with a type of coating that will protect it against scratches.

Waterproofing

Ideally, a power bank should be totally waterproof, however, these models can be hard to find. It’s more common to come across a model that’s water-resistant, which means it can handle light to moderate rainfall, but cannot be submerged.

Charging Ports

The number of charging ports a device has will indicate how many devices it can handle charging at one time. Lower-powered models may only be able to handle one device at a time. Larger chargers can handle anywhere from two to four devices at a time. If you’re camping with a large party, then a bigger charger will be the best option, since in most cases, everyone in your party will have a phone they need to charge.

It’s very important that you pay attention to your device’s power needs. If you’re the only one in your hiking party that’s bringing along a charger, then the odds are it’s going to be working overtime. In some cases, if there are several family members who will need to rely on a charger to keep their devices charged, you may be better off purchasing multiple models instead of relying only on one model to do the job.

Warranty/ Money-Back Guarantee

Many of the leading models will come with some sort of warranty. You’ll most likely come across chargers with a warranty length that ranges from three to twelve months. Higher priced models often offer a lengthier warranty, compared to low priced chargers.

Chargers that come with a money-back guarantee will allow customers to purchase the device and try it out for a period of 30-120 days and return the device for a refund if the buyer is not satisfied with its performance. This will allow you to put the charger to the test on your next camping or hiking trip and get a full refund if it doesn’t perform as expected.

Price

In terms of price, smaller chargers with lower power capabilities are priced around $20, while larger models designed to charge up bigger devices, such as laptops, can cost you around $100 and are equipped with larger panels that provide more power. Chargers with monocrystalline solar panels will be more expensive than models that come equipped with polycrystalline panels.

Ease of Use

phone and charger

  • Most models are fairly easy to set up. All you have to do is hook up your electronic device, make sure your charger is exposed to sunlight throughout the day, and then you can harness all that free power. Many of the panels can easily be maintained by wiping away moisture and dust using a cloth. Keep an eye out for smart charging tech, which all top of the line models offer. This involves a microchip that will automatically adjust the charging when a device is connected, for efficiency and safety. This feature will also restart the charging in the event of an interruption. Interruptions can be caused by something as simple as a passing cloud or someone blocking the sun. A device that doesn’t come with this tech may get stuck in the slow charge model, which will require the user to reset the charger manually by unplugging and plugging it back in.
  • You should also consider how you’ll be charging. Do you need a stationary setup, a device that can go from your backpack to the outside of your tent? Or are you hiking from campsite to campsite so you need a model that can charge while you hike? How the device will charge during the day matters since placing the panel in the correct angle will hinder or improve charging accuracy.
  • In most cases, the panel must be facing toward the sun at an angle that’s equivalent to the user’s latitude. This often results in steeper angles in the winter and shallower angles during the summertime. You may need to adjust the angle of the charger throughout the day if you’re hiking and notice that the backpack charger has moved to a position that prevents it from soaking up the sunlight. While panels that are strapped to a backpack are simple to carry, it often results in 2/3s of a foldable model hanging vertically, which will only work if you’re walking with the sun at your back. Since the charger will be attached to your pack, you’ll need to experiment with the angles of the panel to ensure it’s getting the most light possible. Many models will come with a pocket for devices and cables, but it’s important that you pay attention to how hot they can become. You don’t want your device to fry while you’re charging it.

Usage Tips

  • Always make sure that the device has a full charge before you leave for your trip.
  •     Avoid charging it for too long before your trip since if you wait too long you may end up losing the charge.
  • If possible, avoid allowing a device to completely lose battery power before hooking it up to a charger.
  • If you’re planning on hiking in extreme temperatures, be sure that your device is able to safely operate in them. Most models can handle a temperature range of 14 degrees up to 200 degrees. However, it’s a smart move to ensure the device can handle higher temperatures, before you head out.
  • Keep in mind, you won’t always be camping and hiking in ideal conditions, so it can be a challenge to keep your charger powered. Always make it a priority to take advantage of ideal light conditions when they present themselves, in order to avoid running out of power.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Well do Solar Chargers Work?

In many cases, a model’s power output will be dependent on how much sunlight it gets during the day. Under direct sunlight, this type of charger can have an output of 2.5 amps per port, or 4.8 amps for a single device. In most cases, a charger’s output is around one to two amps.

How Long Does a Solar Charger take to Charge a Phone?

In some cases, it can take as long as twenty to thirty hours at half power, even in ideal conditions. When a charger is fully charged it can charge a phone in ten to twelve hours.

How do I Choose a Solar Charger?

When you’re shopping for a charger, it’s important to choose the right wattage. You must purchase a charger that offers a wattage that’s large enough to keep your electronic devices fully charged. This means if you want to charge a more powerful device, such as a generator or laptop, then you’ll need a charger with more wattage.

What Size Solar Panel do I Need to Charge a Cell Phone?

Most models of cell phones can be charged using a five to twenty watt solar panel. However, there are some cell phone batteries that have a higher voltage and may need more than five watts of power to fully charge. Go with the highest wattage panel you can afford.

How do you Charge Your Phone while Hiking?

Using a solar panel is the best way to charge your phone during a hike and the simplest way to keep all of your devices charged when you’re traveling. It’s also one of the most affordable options since these devices are powered by sunlight.

How Big of a Solar Charger do I Need?

Most commonly, these chargers come in twelve, twenty-four, and forty-eight volt options. The amp ratings can range from one to sixty amps. You’ll base your power needs on the power needs of your electronic devices.

Final Thoughts

The best solar chargers for backpacking for your next camping or hiking trip should be powerful enough to keep your essential devices charged, should come with the correct number of ports, to allow you to charge every device you need, and should feature a surface that’s large enough to easily allow the panels to soak up all the sunlight it needs. The chargers in my top five lineup each meet the mark in terms of power capacity, panel quality, and durability. The goal of this guide is to teach you everything you need to know about these chargers in order to help you find the perfect model that will keep your electronic devices powered up for your next backcountry adventure.