If you don’t have time to read the entire review and just want to find the best solar charger for backpacking and hiking, we recommend the BigBlue 28W SunPower Solar Charger.
Getting away from technology is one of the reasons people enjoy hiking and backpacking. However, it’s not always easy or convenient to do so. You might want to charge your GPS for navigation along the trails or keep your smartphone on in case of an emergency. Whether there’s a practical need or you can’t live without technology, solar chargers are the way to go.
It might be challenging to find the best solar charger for backpacking and hiking with all the available options. We’ve rounded up our top five picks to help you choose and make your hikes more enjoyable.
How to Find the Best Solar Charger for Backpacking and Hiking
When buying the best solar charger for backpacking and hiking, there are several factors to consider.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of solar chargers: foldable and rigid.
Foldable chargers are constructed from flexible and lightweight materials, allowing you to fold them for more convenient transport. These chargers are usually used for powering smaller devices like phones, flashlights, and music players.
When it comes to rigid chargers, they generally feature a stronger frame made from plastic or aluminum. Their sturdy construction allows them to operate in harsher conditions. Also, they’re typically larger, allowing multiple devices to be charged at once. This makes rigid chargers an excellent choice for group hiking.
When looking for the best solar charger for backpacking and hiking, you can choose between three types based on their battery pack.
Solar Panels Only
Solar-panel-only solar chargers don’t include a battery pack. Instead, you can use them to charge your device directly via USB or charge a power bank. In addition, they can be used to recharge different devices, most commonly smartphones, headlamps, and GPS watches.
Note that solar panels don’t hold a charge. They only produce power when exposed to sunlight.
Solar Panels With Internal Battery Packs
If you don’t want the hassle of carrying multiple charging devices, consider buying a solar panel with an internal battery pack. They’re compact and easy to use. The solar panel and the battery pack are attached to each other. To charge it, unfold the panel and expose it to the sun. Once the internal battery pack is charged, you can use it to power your device.
Solar Panels With External Battery Packs
If you want to be able to separate the panel from the battery pack, consider getting a solar panel with an external battery pack. Then, connect the battery pack to the solar panel and leave it in the sun to charge it. These chargers are a great option if you’d like to charge multiple power banks, not just the one that came with it. The charged power banks store power, so you can use them whenever needed.
One of the most essential steps in buying a solar charger is ensuring it’s compatible with the device(s) you wish to charge. Check the power outputs and the ports on the solar charger and compare them to your devices.
When looking for the best solar charger for backpacking and hiking, don’t forget to consider the power capacity. The higher the capacity, the bigger devices they can charge.
If you only want to power a phone or a smaller tablet, a 5W panel will get the job done. However, larger devices like laptops can only be charged with more powerful panels.
Generally speaking, the larger the panel, the faster it charges the battery pack. Additionally, a solar charger’s speed depends on the sunlight. Many smaller chargers need to be in direct and intense sunlight to charge more quickly. There are also more expensive varieties that don’t depend on sunlight as much. They can charge reasonably quickly, even in dimmer conditions.
Size and Weight
Your perfect solar charger’s size and weight will depend on your priorities. For example, you can power bigger or multiple devices simultaneously and increase the charging speed only by using a bulkier and heavier panel. On the other hand, if you’re not keen on lugging around a 20-pound solar panel during a hike, you should probably go for a smaller panel.
The larger panels shouldn’t be an issue if traveling around in a camper van or a car. You can charge the panel near your vehicle and only carry the battery on the hike.
But keep in mind that larger solar panels are usually more expensive. So, try to balance the charger’s speed, convenience, and cost.
Depending on your hike’s terrain and weather conditions, you can look for a water-resistant or shock-proof charger.
Additionally, if you plan on carrying the solar panel around, check if it has an attachment point. Then, you can secure it on your backpack and leave it out in the sunlight while hiking.
What’s the Best Solar Charger for Backpacking
1. Best Overall Option | BigBlue 3 28W SunPower Solar Charger
The BigBlue brand specializes in chargers and has an excellent reputation in the electronics world. Their 28-watt model checks all the boxes for a reliable and efficient solar charger.
What sets this solar-panel-type charger apart from its competitors in the same range is its power. With 28 watts, this BigBlue charger has a substantially high power capacity. In addition, provided it’s exposed to direct sunlight, it can charge multiple smaller devices at once, thanks to three USB ports.
Even if the sun angle changes or it gets cloudy, this BigBlue charger will be able to recover from the interruption. This is made possible by a handy auto-restart function that enables a smooth reconnection with your device.
Another unique feature of this charger is a digital ammeter displaying the amount of energy it’s currently generating. The other devices usually signal if they’re charging or not, but none of them display the progress.
Unfortunately, some Apple users had trouble charging their iPhones or iPads with this solar panel. It either stopped charging after a while or refused to connect at all. So if you intend on using this charger for an Apple product, try to find out if it’s compatible first.
Regarding durability, this BigBlue solar charger is made to last. The polyester canvas covering the outside is abrasion-resistant and moderately water-resistant. As a result, it shows minor signs of wear, even after repeated use. As for the panels, they’re made from PET polymer and remain in pristine condition, even after months of sun exposure. Furthermore, as these panels are also moderately water-resistant, the solar charger performs well in semi-wet conditions.
However, its performance and ease of use come at the cost of portability. Although this charger is foldable, its high capacity makes it heavier and bulkier. It’s nothing to worry about – but let’s just say fitting it in a backpack won’t exactly be a smooth ride.
What you can do easily, though, is attach it to your backpack, thanks to the reinforced metal eyelets on the panel. It also comes with pouches for storing the devices and cords. Sadly, there isn’t a kickstand, so correctly positioning the panel will take some creativity.
2. Best Value for Money | Ryno-Tuff Portable Solar Charger
If you’re hoping to get a quality solar charger at a reasonable price, check out the Ryno-Tuff portable solar charger. This model is significantly cheaper than similar products without compromising on efficiency.
When it comes to power capacity, this foldable solar panel maxes out at 21W. In addition, it features two USB ports tucked away in protective pockets. As a result, you can charge multiple devices at once at a surprisingly high speed, comparable to much more expensive and powerful solar chargers.
Another great thing about this product is its light weight – it weighs around one pound. So you’ll have no trouble carrying it in your backpack. You can also attach it to your backpack using one of two carabiner hooks. These hooks will come in handy for positioning the charger when the sun hits your tent or vehicle. However, they’re not reinforced, which can lead to durability issues.
While being mindful of the hooks, don’t be afraid to venture out carrying this solar charger. It’s water and corrosion-resistant and able to withstand high temperatures.
Unfortunately, the Ryno-Tuff charger’s efficiency will decrease if the sun is intermittent. It doesn’t have an auto-restart feature, so your device has to reinitiate charging each time the shade hits. This also significantly lowers its charging speed.
Also, some users claim they couldn’t charge their bigger devices like tablets or iPads. This is because the charger either didn’t come with a suitable connector or failed to power those devices.
3. Best Light Backpacking Solar Charger | Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel
If keeping your backpack as light as possible is one of your top priorities, you’ll probably like the Goal Zero Nomad 5 solar panel.
The best thing about this product is its portability. It weighs only 12 ounces. Therefore, the Nomad 5 is the best solar charger for backpacking if you prefer traveling light.
Unfortunately, this isn’t possible without compromising the power capacity. The Nomad 5 provides a maximum of 5 watts for powering your devices. You’ll also only get one USB port, as this panel’s capacity can’t handle more than one device. However, note that the port can charge headlamps, phones, and smaller devices.
However, some users don’t recommend charging your device directly but using a power bank. They noted that the panel might stop working on cloudy days. In addition, as the Nomad 5 lacks an auto-restart feature, your device will constantly switch between charging and not charging. This can be harmful, especially to a phone battery.
Although lacking in the power capacity department, the manufacturers ensured you can make the most of it. The panel features a built-in kickstand, allowing you to prop up your charger in an optimal position. Additionally, you can strap it to your backpack using one of the two available attachment points. This way, the panel can charge while you’re hiking.
4. Best Budget-Friendly Option | Lixada 10W Solar Panel Charger
You might’ve just started hiking and backpacking, or maybe you can’t afford to spend too much money on a solar charger. Whatever the case may be, Lixada’s got your back. This brand offers a great solar panel charger for less than $25.
This solar charger is incredibly lightweight. Although it isn’t foldable, it is very thin and compact, and you can easily pack this charger in your backpack. You can also hang it or fix it on a smooth surface using the provided rubber suckers.
This solar charger holds up well, especially considering the price as far as durability goes. In addition, the panels are coated to avoid scratching.
Unfortunately, some users have called the advertised power capacity into question. They claim they haven’t been able to get it over 5 watts, with the consensus being that this is a 3-watt solar charger. With this in mind, we’d recommend you use this solar charger for shorter hikes or fun hiking dates.
Perhaps due to the issues regarding the power capacity, this Lixada charger includes a single USB port that you can directly attach to your device.
However, many users claim that charging your phone directly only works in perfect weather conditions and intense sunlight. The second some shade is cast on your phone, it will stop charging. As there’s no auto-restart function, you’ll have to reconnect your device. This is comparable to plugging your phone into an outlet, then unplugging it every few minutes. Naturally, this can harm your phone’s battery.
5. Best Charger for Larger Devices | Twelseavan Foldable Solar Charger
Suppose you’re planning an extended backpacking trip. In that case, you’ll probably need a powerful solar charger for all your gadgets and equipment. The Twelseavan Foldable Solar charger could be what you’re looking for.
What makes this solar charger stand out is its remarkable power capacity. With 120 watts, this Twelseavan product is the most powerful item on our best solar chargers for backpacking list. This means you can use it to power your larger devices, and it also works perfectly with solar generators.
A really cool thing about this solar panel is that it features a USB-C port. For this reason, you can charge your MacBook or Nintendo Switch at an impressive speed. Apart from the USB-C port, you have two more USB-A ports at your disposal. In addition, this charger includes a DC port, allowing you to upgrade it with a large-cell external battery of ultra-high power capacity.
However, you’ll have to forfeit portability with this power capacity. This Twelseavan panel is the largest solar charger on our list. When fully unfolded, it’s more than five feet long. We recommend using this charger only with a vehicle nearby.
While this Twelseavan panel might not be portable, it’s highly practical. You’ll receive four kickstands with the product, allowing you to position the panel at an angle. This will enable the panel to get more sunlight than it would when flat. It also comes with a wide array of connector cables.
As expected, this charger’s price matches the variety of features. Unfortunately, this Twelseavan solar panel will set you back about $300. The price is a significant drawback to this product, especially considering that many users claim they can’t use its full power.
Solar Power on the Go
All options we’ve reviewed can serve as an excellent solar charger, depending on your needs. However, our pick for the best solar charger for backpacking is the BigBlue 3 28W SunPower Solar Charger. This solar panel excels in efficiency and quality, and it will be a reliable companion on your hikes.