While many of us head outside to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life, more and more, we’re bringing technology with us into the backcountry to enhance our experience, document our travels, and keep us safe. That being said, when we rely on technology, even for something as minor as a kindle, we need to make sure that we have the ability to keep our batteries charged, especially when we’re out for an extended period of time in the backcountry.
Although we can bring extra batteries and portable battery packs to charge much of our gear, if we’re in the backcountry for a longer trip, bringing extra batteries will eventually weigh us down and take up too much space in our pack. So how do we keep our technology charged without adding weight to our pack?
The answer? A solar charger. Harness the power of the sun to charge your phone, GPS, camera, kindle, and whatever else you might be bringing into the backcountry with one of the best solar chargers for backpacking.
That being said, there are a whole host of different solar chargers out there on the market today. To help you choose the right solar charger for you, we’ve reviewed the seven best solar chargers and even created a buyer’s guide to the most important features to look for when shopping around. Let’s get to it!
7 Best Solar Chargers for Backpacking
We put together a list of the 7 best solar chargers for backpacking. As long as you have sunlight, you’ll have the power to keep yourself safe, capture those magical moments, and document all of your backpack adventures.
Hobest Solar Charger, 10000mAh
The Hobest Solar Charger is a compact charging unit that can power your devices whenever there’s direct sunlight. With an integrated battery pack with a total capacity of 10000mAh, the Hobest Solar Charger can recharge a smart phone up to two times through two 2A max USB ports. If that wasn’t good enough, the Hobest is built with a multiple circuit protection system to prevent short circuits and over-heating, protecting your devices in the long-term.
This charger’s compact and durable design is lightweight, waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof, making it perfect for use in the great outdoors. A built-in mini LED flashlight is great for emergency use in a tough situation. However, the Hobest Solar Charger is designed to charge mainly from frontcountry power outlets, with the solar charger as an emergency backup. Thus, the Hobest Solar Charger is best for hikers who want a compact portable battery pack that can also charge from the sun in a pinch!
- Compact, lightweight design
- Built-in emergency LED flashlight
- Two USB 2A charging ports
- Shockproof, waterproof, dustproof
- Solar panel is very small
- Not designed for frequent solar charges, just in an emergency
- Two Charging Methods: 5V/2A Max Input via the outlet which will help save half time than most other silimar power banks; Solar +Powered anywhere under the direct sunlight, quite convenient for outdoor using.
- Great Capacity with 10000mAh: supports about 2 recharges for your Galaxy S6;Dual USB Output: with 2 5V/2A Max output ports, supports fast charging for 2 devices simultaneoulsy.
- Compact and Durable Design: lightweight with hanger, easy to hang on your backpack for outdoors; waterproof/shockproof/dustproof,quite durable and userfriendly design for outdoor using.
- Built in mini LED Flashlight- with three modes available(Normal /SOS /Strobe), convenient to control with one button. SOS mode is specially designed for emergency use.
Hiluckey Solar Charger, 25000mAh
multmultiThe Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank features a high-capacity 25000mAh lithium polymer battery that can charge a phone 8-10 times without needing to be recharged. Plus, thanks to the Hiluckey’s four foldable high-efficiency solar panels, this device can charge up to 6 times faster than other solar chargers, so you’ll never have to do without power.
Featuring two USB 2.1A charges, the Hiluckey allows you to charge two devices simultaneously without compromising on energy output. The Hiluckey even auto-detects your device’s current and pairs it with the optimal output for the ultimate in charging efficiency.
With a waterproof, shockproof, and durable design, this solar charger is best for outdoor enthusiasts who need to strap their solar panel to their pack and charge on-the-go. If you can’t wait around for your solar panel to charge your devices, the Hiluckey just might be for you!
- Impressive 25000mAh power bank
- Four foldable high-efficiency solar panels
- Can charge up to 6 times faster than other panels
- Two USB 2.1A charging ports
- Can charge up to 8-10 phones in one go
- Waterproof, shockproof, and durable
- Bulkier than other options
- 25000mAh High Capacity: Built-in high-quality 25000mAh lithium polymer battery pack, With solar charging function, you don't need to worry about running out of power, It can fully charge your iPhone, Samsung for 10+ times; iPad, Kindle for 4+ times.
- 4 Times Solar Energy Conversion: With 4 foldable highly efficient solar panels converted solar power into battery energy fastly, it charges by solar with 5W power and 1A input current, which is 4 - 6 times faster than the other solar chargers which only has single panel.
- 2.1A Dual USB Ports: Dual USB ports offer 2.1A high speed charging and enable you to charge 2 devices simultaneously, Compatible with all phone models. Intelligently detects and matches the output current to protect it from over-current, over-voltage, over-heated and short circuit via built-in IC chip.
- Design for Outdoor Activity---- It has 9 built-in bright Led lights can be used as emergency light with 3 modes (Normal /SOS /Strobe). Meanwhile, The ports are protected by cover, making them waterproof, shock and dust. Great choice for camping trips or other outdoor activities.
ADDTOP Portable Solar Power Bank, 25000mAh
The ADDTOP Portable Solar Power Bank fits a whole lot of power into a package that’s just slightly larger than your average smart phone. With a 25000mAh capacity power bank that can charge a smartphone up to 7-10 times on a full recharge and 4 foldable solar panels that pack into a compact package, there’s nothing the ADDTOP can’t do.
Thanks to two dual USB 2.1A output ports, the ADDTOP Portable Solar Power Bank can simultaneously charge two devices at once. An auto-stop feature even cuts off the power flow when the device is fully charged, protecting against over-heating and over-charging for the long-term health of your device.
A set of emergency LED lights, a waterproof design, and a 12-month warranty round out the ADDTOP’s set of amazing features. What’s not to love?
- 25000mAh capacity power bank
- Four foldable solar panels pack down to just the size of a large smartphone
- Dual USB 2.1A output ports
- Auto-stop feature prevents over-heating and over-charging of devices
- Emergency LED lights
- Waterproof construction
- 12-month warranty
- 5-watt output isn’t large enough for efficient charging of tablets
- 25000mAh SOLAR CHARGER: Provides large battery backup for usage during outdoor activities. The power bank can charge iPhone 6 around 10 times, Samsung S6 around 7 times and iPad Air around 3 times on a full recharge.
- 4 FOLDABLE SOLAR PANELS: This Portable Solar Charger is handheld sized, which looks a slightly larger than iphone X when fold. It can absorb more solar energy than ordinary solar charger when unfold.
- FAST CHARGING: Dual USB output ports can charge 2 devices simultaneously up to 5V/2.1A with Quick Charge. Auto-stop when the phone is full charged. This helps protection against over-heating & over-charging situations.
- EMERGENCY LED LIGHTS: The solar power bank equipped bright LED light, works perfectly in darkness, ideal for outdoor trips or emergency events. Easy to carry, you may hang it on your backpack for traveling, hiking, camping.
FEELLE Portable Solar Power Bank, 24000mAh
The FEELLE Portable Solar Power Bank can store an impressive 24000mAh of energy into a durable, compact package. This power bank can fully charge a smart phone up to 10 times with its high-quality solar panels, making it an ideal solution to charging your devices in the backcountry.
Featuring three efficient solar panels with a charging speed up to 3-5 times faster than other options, the FEELLE Portable Solar Power Bank is great for those adventurers who just can’t wait around for their devices to charge. Plus, the FEELLE’s dual 2.1A USB charging ports are both waterproof and dustproof, making it a solid choice for outdoor activity.
- 24000mAh power bank for multiple charges
- Three highly-efficient solar panels for quick charging
- Waterproof dual 2.1A USB charging ports
- Emergency LED lights with 3 modes
- 12-month warranty
- Fairly slow to charge devices
- 24000mAh Power Bank: Built in Eco-friendly 24000mAh Li-Polymer battery, the phone battery can fully charge an iPhone 6s for 10 times, iPhone 7 for 9 times, Samsung S7 for 5.5 times, ipad Air for 3 times.
- Large Solar Panels and Fast Charging : Portable Solar charger with 3 highly efficiency solar panels, which could recharge itself expeditiously, which is 3 - 5 times faster than the other solar chargers.
- Waterproof USB Output: Dual charging ports which offer 2.1A high speed charging allow you to charge 2 devices simultaneo. The USB ports is waterproof, shockproof and dustproof, perfect for outdoor activity .
- LED Use:The solar charger has bright flashlight with 3 modes(Steady-SOS-Strobe), Awesome for outside activities such as camping, hiking, traveling and other emergency use.
SOARAISE Solar Charger, 25000mAh
With a 25000mAh capacity, the SOARAISE Solar Charger is a portable power bank that can charge a smart phone up to 10 times for long-term use in the backcountry. The SOARAISE’s four solar panels can charge a phone and the built-in power bank all at the same time.
Plus, the SOARAISE can fully charge most phones via its dual 2.1A USB ports in just around 1.5 hours. The SOARAISE solar charger features four 5-watt solar panels, a waterproof, shockproof construction, and even a set of attachment points for easily strapping onto your backpack for long hiking days.
- Can charge power bank and phone at the same time
- 25000mAh power bank for multiple charges
- Dual 2.1A USB charging ports
- Waterproof and shockproof
- Relatively short 90-day warranty
- 25000mAh Capacity: It consists of Li-polymer cells, as large as iPhone 8Plus which can charge most phones over 10 times and tablets at least 3.4 times., meeting your 10-day travel needs.
- 4 Times Solar Panels: Solar Power is 5W, quickly charging the phone simutaneously when the solar charger itself is being charged in sunlight, which is 4-5 times faster than the single-panel chargers. (support wall charger).
- 2.1A Dual USB: Controlled by intelligent IC, it matches various phone models. You can quickly charge your phone and tablet at once. Most phones can be fully charged around 1- 1.5h, tablet is about 2.5 hours.
- Outdoor Necessity: With built-in super bright LED emergency lights and waterproof, dust and shock construction, It can last for more than 5 years, meeting the various electricity needs of outdoor travel.
Qi Wireless Portable Solar Power Bank, 10000mAh
The Qi Wireless solar power bank is a compact 20000mAh power bank designed especially for outdoor recreationalists. This power bank can be charged either by micro USB, USB-C or by sunlight, making it a great option for anyone on-the-go.
The Qi Power Bank can charge multiple devices up to three times without needing to be recharged, so it’s great for weekend backpacking trips in the mountains. Built with some of the most durable materials on the market, the Qi Wireless power bank is splash proof, dustproof, and shockproof for all your adventuring needs. The best part? The Qi Power bank can charge certain phones wirelessly through Qi’s patented system.
- Can charge certain phones wirelessly, reducing weight of your pack
- Includes multiple charging ports (micro-USB and USB-C)
- Not fully waterproof
- Takes 40 hours to charge fully in bright sunlight
- Not designed for frequent solar charges, just in an emergency
- 【LARGE CAPACITY】Built in Eco-friendly 20000mAh Li-Polymer battery, work with all iPhone/iPad/Tablets, other cell phones and electronic devices. Automatically adjust the output power to deliver the optimal charging current keep your devices from overcharging, over-current, over-voltage and short circuit. Ideal choice for hiking, camping trips or other outdoor activities.
- 【Qi Wireless & 3 High Output Ports】The Qi portable solar charger compatibles with iPhone 11/11 Pro/11 Pro Max/XS Max/XR/XS/X/8/8Plus/Samsung Galaxy S10/S9/S9+/S8/Note 9 and all qi-enabled devices. Built-in 2 USB output and 1 Type-C output, allowing you safe to charge for 4 electronic devices simultaneously.
- 【Cable and Solar Charging Combine 】Dual input port (Type-C and Micro USB) enables to fully charge itself around 6-8 hours with the high-speed. The solar panel could absorb light and transfer into electricity. Note: Solar charging is for emergency use, not primary charging source. It is highly recommend you fully charge via wall charger upon first use.
- 【Multi-Use light & Protective Design 】The solar charger has bright flashlight with 3 modes(Steady-SOS-Strobe). The out case is made from durable ABS + PC material better protect battery from water, dust, crashes or drops. Awesome for outside activities such as camping, hiking, traveling and other emergency use.
Nekteck 21W Solar Charger
Built with three monocrystalline solar panels, the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger is a powerful, yet portable solar charger for backcountry use. With an energy efficiency ratio of up to 24%, the Nekteck harness enough energy from the sun to provide a maximum of 2.0A and 21 watts of output from one or both USB charging ports.
Thanks to its Advanced Smart IC chip technology, this solar panel can detect the kind of devices you’re charging to ensure that it provides the correct amount of power to prevent overheating and over-charging of your devices. If all of that wasn’t good enough, the Nekteck’s foldable panels, compact size, light weight, and waterproofness make it the ultimate adventure companion.
- Three solar panels with 21 watts of energy
- Dual 2.0A USB charging ports
- Smart technology prevents overheating
- Light, compact, and waterproof
- 18-month warranty
- Slightly more expensive than other options
- 【High-Efficieny】The high-efficiency of its three solar Monocrystalline panels cell is based on SunPower Maxeon technology, that allows them to reach 21%-24% of conversion efficiency while providing enough power (up to 2.0A max per port or 3.0 A max overall)
- 【Advanced Smart IC Chip Technology】 Microchip support to detects the electronic devices plugged into the USB ports for fast charging two phones simultaneously under safe conditions as well as the prevention of overheating
- 【Portable and Foldable】The 6.3x 11.1x 1.06 inch (when folded ) small size and 17.3-ounce design that can easily squeeze in your backpack offers portability and simplicity, and the attachment hook makes it ideal for connecting to a backpack while you’re on the hiking or walking around town
- 【Dualable Design】The canvas surface and precision stitching withstand rugged for outdoor use and the PET polymer cover that guarantees IPX4 waterproof level protection will make the panels resistant to water and even dust
How to find the best solar charger: buyer’s guide
As with any piece of technology, buying a solar charger for backpacking can be a time-consuming and confusing process. With all that mechanical jargon and the plethora of technical specs that accompany every single solar panel, it can be difficult to find the right one to fit your needs. That’s why we’ve created this ultimate buyer’s guide to the best solar chargers for backpacking. Here are the top things to look for when you’re shopping for your new solar charger:
Every solar charger has some form of solar panels that capture energy from the sun and convert it into juice for your devices. However, not all solar panels are created equal and understanding the differences between the different kinds of panels can be critical to deciding between two models of solar chargers.
Basically, there are three main kinds of solar panels that you might find in a solar charger: CIGS, polycrystalline, and monocrystalline. Let’s look at all three here:
Copper Indium Gallium Selenide Solar Cell (CIGS)
CIGS solar panels are a type of thin-film solar cell that convert sunlight into electric power. CIGS cells are manufactured by creating a thin layer of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (hence the name) onto a piece of glass or plastic backing with electrodes on the front and back. These materials have high absorption rates, so they require much less film than other semiconductors, so much so that they can be made so thin that they can be placed on flexible backings.
While a thin, lightweight, and affordable solar panel might sound great, however, CIGS panels tend to degrade more quickly than other options and are much less efficient. Thus, if you’re looking for a long-term solar charging solution, a CIGS thin-film panel probably isn’t for you.
Monocrystaline and Polycrystaline cells
Some solar panels made from monocrystalline cells, which are made by growing a single cylindrical ingot of silicon from a small seed crystal. This ingot is comprised of just one crystal (thus, the name “mono”-crystaline) and is sliced into wafers that absorb the sun’s energy.
On the other hand, some solar panels are made from polycrystalline cells, which are made by pouring molten silicon into square molds. After the crystals cool, they are ready to be used in solar panels, without having to wait for seed crystals to grow and be cut to the appropriate size, as in a monocrystalline cell.
Polycrystalline cells tend to perform better in weak light and produce more wattage per square meter of space than their monocrystalline cousins. However, while polycrystalline cells tend to be better at capturing light in weak conditions, they do experience somewhat high rates of internal inefficiency, especially at the boundary lines where the different crystal facets meet. Since monocrystalline cells are just one crystal, they do not have this same problem.
What all of this shows us, then, is that for most people, there is relatively little difference between a monocrystalline and polycrystalline cell. While there are some people in tech and some scientists that can point out all of the minute differences between the two types of crystalline solar cells, these differences have little bearing on the performance of the solar panel for backpackers. Our advice? Don’t lose too much sleep over this and focus more on other important features of your solar charger.
Panel efficiency is a measure, in percentage, of how efficiently a solar charger can convert sunlight into usable electricity. When electricity is produced, some of the energy is, unfortunately lost as heat, so the more efficient the charger, the better. These days, most quality monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels have panel efficiency ratings between 18% and 25%.
When you shop around buy a solar charger, you might find that some models only give you a solar panel, while others also come with an integrated battery. An integrated battery pack provides more charging options as it allows you to charge devices even when the sun isn’t out. This means that you can charge the battery pack all day with your solar panel and then use it to charge your phone or camera at night while you sleep.
The main downside to an integrated battery pack is that it tends to add weight and bulk to your backpack. However, they do make it easier to charge your devices after the sun has set and allow you to store energy for use on a cloudy day.
If you do choose to buy a solar charger with an integrated battery, you’ll want to look for a charger with a high mAh capacity. Essentially, the higher the mAh capacity, the more energy the battery can store. A general rule of thumb is that 10,000mAh can charge a newer smartphone 2-3 times and you’ll probably pay more for more mAh capacity.
A milliamp hour is a measurement of charge or the flow of current over time. One ampere hour (a.k.a. amp hour or Ah) is equal to the current of one ampere over one hour. A milliamp hour (mAh) is a thousandth of an amp hour.
This might all sound like gibberish, but basically, every battery has a specific battery capacity, which can be measured in mAh. Many smartphones have a battery capacity close to 3000 mAh, while you can buy portable battery packs with a variety of different mAh capacities, with higher mAh capacities allowing for more charges over time.
Ease of Use
No one wants to buy a fancy new solar panel only for it to be so technologically complex that it’s damn near impossible to use. Thus, ease of use is of the utmost importance for a backpacking solar charger.
Thankfully, many solar chargers are pretty easy to use. Generally speaking, all you need to do is hook up your device or battery pack, set up the charger in the sun, and wait. If you’re trying to hook up multiple devices at once or set up some unique backpack carry system, you might want to look for a charger that has multiple charging ports or an assortment of straps and loops for easy set-up.
Ideally, we’d all have microscopic solar chargers that can juice up our phones in a matter of seconds, even if it’s not really sunny out, but, unfortunately, that’s not a reality with our current technology. Instead, anyone looking to purchase a solar charger needs to be prepared to compromise on size, efficiency, or price.
Essentially, if you want more power, you need a bigger solar panel or more money. Thankfully, there are plenty of foldable solar chargers with high-quality panels out there that can limit the amount of space you’ll need to carry your charger around in the backcountry.
Generally, portable solar panels themselves aren’t too terribly heavy, which is great news for us backpackers. Unfortunately, integrated battery packs, while convenient, do add a significant amount of weight to your system. Thus, you need to decide if power and convenience are more important to you than a few extra ounces in your backpack on your next adventure.
Connectors and Ports
These days, most solar chargers are outfitted with USB ports, making it quick, simple, and easy to hook up a smartphone or pretty much any other device to your charger. That being said, if you’ve got a special device you’re looking to charge, like a camera, that doesn’t charge via USB, you might need to look for a solar charger that has a 12V port or another option.
Additionally, if you’re out for a long trip and are looking to tether multiple solar panels to each other, you’ll need to make sure that they have the appropriate connection points for your purposes.
Many companies will list “charging speed” as the number of hours it takes to charge a device, but these stats can be misleading as they are highly dependent on the current conditions. Instead, you’ll want to learn more about the output power of your solar charger.
Most solar chargers will list the max amperage of each charging port on their devices. For some devices, the max amperage might be 2.1A while for others, it might be just 1.3A. More amps mean a faster and more powerful charge, so if you need to charge a high-powered device, like an iPad or a new smartphone, you’ll want more amps.
In addition to high-amp outputs, the best solar panels will have high wattage ratings, too. Basically, you can think of amps as the “current” of the electricity while watts are a measure of the electrical power. A 4- or 5-watt solar panel is just fine for a small handled device, while most smartphones will require at least a 7-watt panel, combined with a relatively high max output amperage. For iPads and other tablets, you’ll want at least 15-watts to get a good charge.
Thus, we can judge the charging speed of a solar charger by analyzing the device’s max amperage and wattage. The higher the amperage and wattage, the faster and more powerful the charge.
At the end of the day, however, you’ll probably only take one solar charger with you on your next backpacking trip. If we were going to choose just one of the solar chargers in our review into the mountains with us, we’d go with the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger, for its excellent combination of high wattage and amperage, compact size, and durability – all great things to look for in your backpacking solar charger. Happy trails!