A portable solar panel charger is a must-have for any tech-loving adventurer. Whether it’s phones, cameras, or GPS trackers, hikers and nomads are increasingly finding themselves in need of power on the go.
By opting for a solar-powered charger, you’ll have a constant source of energy at your fingertips, both on the trail and off. In 2022, I consider a solar panel charger a staple for every hiking backpack. These handy devices are compact and exceptionally light, but can still collect enough solar energy to recharge all your gadgets.
Solar power banks vs. solar panel chargers
So, you want a solar-powered charger, but you’ve probably noticed that there are two different types available: solar power banks and solar panel chargers. What’s the difference?
Solar power banks are portable battery packs with built-in solar panels. You should charge them up before you hit the trails, but you can switch to solar energy if you need to. These are the most reliable option if you’re in need of fast charges and constant power.
On the flip side, portable solar panel chargers are incredibly lightweight and compact, and usually feature multiple panels that fold out to capture energy. While they can’t store any power for later, they still pack a punch, and are great for ultralight hikers that need to charge multiple devices.
How to choose the best solar charger for your adventures
Choosing the best solar charger for your needs is easy once you know what to look for.
First, consider what you need to charge. Chargers come in different power outputs, so be sure to check before you buy. Next, think about the ports you need, and make sure they’re compatible with your devices.
Finally, size and weight should also be a consideration. You don’t want something that’s going to add a lot of extra weight to your pack. Check the specs for water resistance, dust protection, and shock proofing too, if those are important to you.
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The BigBlue 3 28W SunPower is an incredibly powerful and lightweight solar panel charger. Its three USB charging ports come with smart charging technology, which optimizes charging to fit the needs of different devices. This charger is rugged and durable, and comes with weatherproof port protectors. With four solar panels at your disposal, you’re able to keep your tech charged — even on a cloudy day.
Anker is known for high-quality portable chargers, and the Anker 513 PowerPort 21W is no exception. This compact solar charger delivers high performance with fast charging and has enough juice to power two devices at once. Comes with stainless steel ring holes, so you can hang it on your backpack to charge as you hike. Unfortunately, it can only deliver top performance in direct sunlight, but once it’s in the sun you’ll get all the power you need.
The X-Dragon 40W Solar Charger is the largest on this list, coming in at 40 ounces and featuring six solar panels. What you sacrifice in weight and size is gained back by the 40 watts of energy output, which is enough to power an external battery and laptop. You’re probably not hauling your laptop into the backcountry, but the X-Dragon would be a good choice for remote working nomads looking for eco-friendly backup power.
The Blavor QC 3.0 18W power bank is designed for the techy outdoorsman and comes with a built-in flashlight and compass. It weighs 22 ounces and is just slightly chunkier than an iPhone, but it can fully charge your phone around 7.5 times. Four solar panels fold out from the case to help you recharge the bank, and there’s access to two USB ports, plus a USB-C and Micro-USB port.
With fast charging speeds, very little weight, and the ability to store power, the BearTwo 24,000 mAh is a solid option. This lightweight power bank is durable and waterproof, and can charge your phone up to five times. Just keep in mind that while this device can charge from the sun, that’s not its main function. The single solar panel is designed to give you power in emergencies, but you should definitely charge up this power bank before you hit the trail.
The BioLite Solar Panel 5+ is a 14-ounce single solar panel with a built-in battery. The solar panels produce 10 watts of energy for recharging your gadgets, and the battery stores up to 3,200 mAh of extra power. It’s slim enough to easily slide into your hiking pack, and the built-in sundial helps you align the panel with the sun, so you can be sure you’re soaking up the rays just right.
The Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank fits four solar panels into a device that’s not much bigger than your smartphone. It’s the best of both worlds, with a portable battery pack and fold-out solar panels. This charger is waterproof, dustproof, and comes with an integrated flashlight, plus a hook that easily attaches to your backpack. The battery bank is rated to hold 25,000 mAh, which allows you to charge up to three devices at once, and the solar panels charge at a rate similar to a 1A wall charger.