Best Solar Charger For Hiking

Best Solar Charger For Backpacking: Top 5 of 2021

Solar chargers have become an essential tool for backpackers over the years. In the modern age of electronic GPS and smartphones, the importance of having access to a reliable power source has never been greater.

If you’re embarking on a real thru-hiking adventure, you could be spending significant amounts of time away from an electricity outlet. In this situation, the sun can provide the energy required to keep you trekking in the right direction.

In this guide, we have analysed a multitude of products to find the best solar charger for backpacking. Since each option has unique benefits, we have put together this complete comparison to help you find the one that suits your style.

Best Solar Charger For Backpacking Comparison

Name

Price

Overview

Super efficient and reliable solar charger for a sensible price

The most powerful and effective portable solar charger

A pocket size solar charger built for day-hiking

Lightweight solar panel with solid charging capability

Compact and durable solar charger that provides bang for your buck 

Best For

Overall

High Power

Portability

Lightweight

Budget

Pros

Great power, reasonable price, easy-to-use, time tested reliability

Super power output, compacts well for its size, USB and DC output

Portable size, decent battery capacity, useful light

Lightweight, durable, easy-to-use, portable

Portable, lightweight, effective when it's cloudy, cheap

Cons

Fairly heavy, folded size is still quite bulky

Heavy, expensive

Solar charging is slow, heavy for its size

Power hampered only by its size

Questionable long-term durability

Overall Rating

Power Output

28W

100W

18W

5W

21W

Weight

1lbs. 7.5oz (666g)

4lbs. 12.6oz (2173g)

1lbs. 8.6oz (699g)

12.7oz (439g)

1lbs. 4.1oz (572g)

Why Do I Need The Best Solar Charger For Backpacking?

Advancements in technology have had a huge impact on the hiking world. The invention of GPS, smartphones and smartwatches has made hiking more accessible for many.

One of the main navigation issues modern hikers face is battery life. Making sure your device is charged is essential to a successful trip, with some electronics draining battery at an alarming rate.

Using a solar charger is a great way to ensure your GPS is charged during long days on the trail. By using energy from the sun to refill your power bank, it will make sure you’re not facing the anxious struggle to find the nearest lodge.

With each option having various pros and cons, finding the best solar charger for backpacking can be difficult. By using the reviews to compare the products in this guide, you will be one step closer to safely navigating the trail.

Best Solar Charger For Hiking
Using your electronics while hiking has become a necessity for many

How To Choose The Best Solar Charger For Backpacking

Type of Solar Charger

Panels Only

If you already own a quality power bank, then a panels only charger will suit your needs. Once you have the solar panel laid out in the sun, simply connect your power bank to begin charging.

Most solar panels now come with a range of charging ports, with some capable of charging multiple devices simultaneously. When making your purchase, be sure to check that the connector you require is included.

Panels With Integrated Storage Batteries

This type of solar charger comes with a panel and battery pack combined into one unit. Designed to be compact and portable, they can be attached onto your backpack to provide all-day power.

Panels With Separate Storage Batteries

If you’re looking for an adaptable ‘all-in-one’ charging solution, a panel with separate storage batteries is your best bet. It gives you the option to leave the solar panels at the camp when they’re not needed, which can save valuable pack space on short and fast hikes.

Solar Output Power

The output capacity of a solar charger measure how much power it can generate. It’s measured in watts, with the highest wattage being the best at converting sunlight into energy at speed.

Of course, you always want to aim for the best output capacity possible. It’s worth noting that that a larger output capacity often means a larger panel, which is something to keep in mind if portability if your goal.

Size

Since you will be hiking with your solar charger, portability is a key factor. However, it’s important to balance performance with size when assessing your options.

  • Large solar chargers will provide the most power. They often come with large panels that will soak up plenty of sun and maximise charging efficiency. However, they will take up a large amount of space in your backpack.
  • Small solar chargers are portable enough for easy storage. If you’re heading on a short and fast hike where you want to pack light, they can offer the reduced size you require. However, they often have smaller panels and a reduced power output.

It’s worth noting that some of the modern larger panels do fold into impressively small sizes when not in use. The best solar panel for backpacking should have the required size to power your electronics, but the capability to collapse into a compact size when not in use.

Weight

It’s worth noting that solar chargers can also vary greatly in weight.

You will find that heavier solar chargers usually produce the most power. They often have larger panels and battery packs that maximise efficiency.

It’s also possible to find lighter options that will suit weight-conscious hikers. Some offer an output that’s enough to power your GPS without putting pressure on your pack. However, they rarely have the capacity of the larger products on this list.

Battery Pack

If your solar charger comes with a battery pack, you will need to assess its quality. Using a battery is the best way to extract power from your panel that can then be used outside of sunlight hours.

Each battery pack will offer a different storage capacity. It’s measured in mAh, which stands for ‘milliamp-hour’.

Batteries with a high mAh value can store the most power, making them desirable. However, it’s also worth noting that they’re often the heaviest.

If you choose a battery with a low mAh value, you will usually be able to save some weight. The downside is that lower power results in less charging time for your devices.

 Charging Ports

The best solar chargers for backpacking often come with a range of charging ports. USB is the most common, since it fits almost any type of device.

Some will come with multiple charging ports. This is handy if you have multiple devices to charge at once, allowing you to provide energy for your entire hiking group.

Type of Solar Panels

Semi-Flexible

Semi-flexible solar panels can be folded or rolled up for easy transportation. They pack into a very small size, but provide a large surface area once deployed.

Rigid

Rigid solar panels come as one solid unit. Since they are not flexible, they do not pack down in size. Due to portability issues, they are most commonly found in very small chargers that can easily fit into a pack.

Best Overall Solar Charger

BigBlue 28W

Big Blue 28W Solar Charger For Backpacking

Charging Speed

Reliability

Cloudy Weather Solar Performance

Multiple Devices Charging Speed

Weight

Portability (Folded Size)

Durability

Overall

The BigBlue 28W is one of the most popular solar chargers on the market. It offers time-tested durability and has been providing backpackers with reliable charging for a number of years.

Despite not being the lightest charger on the market, it is still backpack friendly due to its improved folding size. The entire unit has a total folded size of 11.1×6.3×1.3in (282x160x34mm), which is reasonable for a panel with a strong power output.

Once unfolded, the BigBlue has four 7W solar panels that will charge your device efficiently via three USB ports. The design is extremely simple to use and compatible with almost any modern device, supplying good charging speed even in partly cloudy conditions.

If you’re looking for a ‘no thrills’ panel that will ensure your gadgets are charged, we strongly recommend the BlueBlue 28W. The key to a good solar charger is reliability, which is one of many categories that sets the BigBlue apart as our top pick.

Pros

  • Fast charging speed
  • Time-tested reliability
  • 3 USB outlets
  • Decent multiple device charging speed
  • Works well in slightly cloudy conditions
  • Good durability
  • Value for money price

Cons

  • Comparatively heavy
  • Still relatively bulky

Best High Power Solar Charger

AllPowers 100W

AllPowers 100W Portable Solar Panel For Backpacking
  • Power Output: 100W
  • Weight: 4lbs. 12.6oz (2173g)
  • Battery Included: No
  • USB Outlets: 2
  • Retailers: Amazon
  • Alternate Versions: AllPowers 120W

Charging Speed

Reliability

Cloudy Weather Solar Performance

Multiple Devices Charging Speed

Weight

Portability (Folded Size)

Durability

Overall

Hikers that are hoping to provide enough energy for their entire camp might need to sacrifice some portability for improved energy output. If that sounds like you, then our recommended choice would be the AllPowers 100W.

As you might already suspect from the name, this panel offers a high energy output of 100W thanks to its 15 waterproof panels. Those looking to charge multiple devices at maximum speed won’t be disappointed, with two USB outlets combining with a DC outlet to offer compatibility with a range of devices.

It’s worth noting that all this power comes at a cost, with the AllPowers being the heaviest solar charger we have reviewed by a long shot. Weighing in at 4lbs. 12.6oz it’s more than double the weight of its ‘lower-wattage’ competitors, but still retains a folded size of 12.6*7.5*3.6in (320×190.5×91.4mm) which places it firmly into the portable category.

Anyone wanting to hike fast and light will find the AllPowers 100W far too cumbersome. However, it offers supreme efficiency that cannot be matched by any other portable panel, making it one of the best choices for power hungry backpackers.

Pros

  • Super fast charging speed
  • Can easily charge multiple devices at once
  • 2 USB and 1 DC outlet
  • Durable and waterproof
  • Good folding size for a panel of this capacity
  • Huge range of adapters included for a variety of devices
  • Perfect for powering your campsite

Cons

  • The heaviest option by far
  • Expensive

Best Portable Solar Charger

Blavor Solar Charger

Blavor Solar Charger For Backpacking

Charging Speed

Reliability

Cloudy Weather Solar Performance

Multiple Devices Charging Speed

Weight

Portability (Folded Size)

Durability

Overall

Despite continuous advancements in technology, most solar chargers still take up a significant amount of space in your pack. However, that’s not the case with this product from Blazor, which brings solar energy in a compact package.

Unike the other panels on this list, the Blavor solar charger comes in the form of a power bank. It can be charged with the deployment of four folding solar panels, providing a solid amount of solar energy for such a small package.

Even when the sun isn’t shining, charging can be achieved through the built in ‘power bank’. The battery has an excellent storage capacity for its size, proving it’s capable of fully charging multiple electronic devices at speed through its two USB outlets.

Anyone looking to save pack space and ensure their GPS remains charged during a day-hike should seriously consider the Blavor solar charger. Despite its limited solar potential, it has an excellent battery capacity and a charging speed that is reliable enough for most electronic devices.

Pros

  • Large battery capacity
  • Portable size
  • Charges electronics quickly
  • Durable in most weather conditions
  • Battery charges quickly from a wall socket
  • Bright camping light included
  • Solid solar charging capability for a power bank

Cons

  • Solar charging is the slowest we have tested
  • Still heavy despite its portable size

Best Lightweight Solar Charger

Goal Zero Nomad 5

Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel For Backpacking

Charging Speed

Reliability

Cloudy Weather Solar Performance

Multiple Devices Charging Speed

Weight

Portability (Folded Size)

Durability

Overall

Reducing pack weight is a favourite pastime of backpackers, day-hikers and self proclaimed ‘speed hikers’. If you fall into this category, you will find the Goal Zero Nomad 5 offers the lightweight efficiency required to keep your electronics charged without weighing you down.

Upon review, we were impressed with the solar efficiency produced by the Nomad 5. It has proven capability of charging most power banks in a matter of hours with moderate sun, which is exceptional considering its light weight and limited 5W output.

Besides charging speed, the Nomad 5 also excels in the durability category. Its rugged and weatherproof design is easily attached to the outside of your pack for all day charging without any concerns around its safety.

The Nomad 5 is by far the lightest panel we have reviewed, but its measly weight is not reflected in its performance. Fast and reliable charging are almost guaranteed with this panel, along with a simple design that makes it one of the best solar chargers backpackers.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Portable size
  • Durable construction
  • Easily attaches onto your pack
  • Fast charging speed
  • Effective when partly cloudy
  • Handy kickstand

Cons

  • Can only charge one device at a time
  • Reduced size and weight limits power output

Best Budget Solar Charger

Foxelli 21W

Foxelli 21W Solar Panel For Backpacking
  • Power Output: 5W
  • Weight: 1lb. 4.1oz (572g)
  • Battery Included: No
  • USB Outlets: 3
  • Retailers: Amazon
  • Alternate Versions: Foxelli 10W

Charging Speed

Reliability

Cloudy Weather Solar Performance

Multiple Devices Charging Speed

Weight

Portability (Folded Size)

Durability

Overall

The Foxelli 21W solar charger proves that budget conscious backpackers need not despair. Coming in at an incredibly affordable price with a range of features that can challenge any panel on this list, it’s easy to see why it takes the prize for our top budget pick.

With a reduced price point you would naturally expect to find reduced charging capability, but the Foxelli performs admirably in most key categories. It has an impressive charging speed that even performs well when multiple devices are attached, with a maximum of 3 USB connections possible at one time.

Designed with backpackers in mind, it comes with two carabiners and a variety of attachment points that will easily connect to any pack and catch the sun throughout your hike. Once attached, it won’t weight you down much either and has a respectable folded size of 8.7×6.1×1.2in (221x155x30mm) that is more than capable of fitting in most hiking backpacks.

The Foxelli 21W performs well across the board, providing a solid charging capability that can easily keep your navigation device on track. We were surprised by the charging speed and reliability it has to offer for such a reasonable price, making it a no brainer for bargain hunting backpackers.

Pros

  • Fast charging speed
  • 3 USB outlets
  • Value for money price
  • Great attachment points
  • Portable folded size
  • Reasonable weight for its capability
  • Wide device compatibility

Cons

  • Long term durability could be an issue
  • Carry pouch velcro closure system lacks security

Summing Up

Finding a way to keep your electronics charged can be tricky, especially if you’re heading for a multi-day hike. Solar chargers are a great solution to your battery life issues, providing a way to charge your GPS without finding a power outlet.

The best solar chargers for backpacking can harness power from the sun to ensure your devices stay charged throughout your adventure. By allowing you to trek for days without locating a power source, they are a great way to make sure you don’t stray too far from the trail.

Every solar charger has unique benefits, so be sure to read the comparisons and find the one that works for you. Once you have read this comparison guide, you should have a good understanding of which solar solution will work best for you.