The best solar chargers and power banks for camping, hiking, backpacking, and cycle touring – compared
Keeping your phone, laptop and electronics charged while backpacking or bike touring remote areas can be a challenge. Choosing the best camping solar panel and battery pack for your needs requires a fair bit of research. We did it for you, comparing cheap, budget, and more expensive solar panels and power banks to help you choose what to buy. But first of all, let’s try to understand a bit about how solar chargers work.
Solar Panel output power
The electrical power is measured in Watts, unite used to quantify the rate of energy transfer. The power is the product of Voltage and magnitude of electric current (measured in Ampere “A”) W=V*A.
Given that the output voltage of a USB port is always 5V, the more ampere the Solar Panel generates, the more power (Watts) it delivers, the faster your device will charge (assuming it can take higher Amperage, which most devices can do).
More solar cells generate more current, but that means usually means larger and heavier solar panels. The efficiency of the solar cells also plays a huge role, but most of the solar chargers listed here share similar solar cells specifications.
Power Banks and Battery Packs Capacity
The capacity of a battery is measured in Amper per hour, Ah, although the milliampere is more often used (mAh). A battery with a capacity rating of 3500 mAh could deliver a current of 3500mA for one hour. Higher mAh ratings for the same battery type will generally mean longer run times.
The purpose of solar chargers
To choose the best camping solar panel charger for your needs you must first assess what those needs are.
Do you plan on spending days and days in a row hiking or cycle touring in remote areas without any chance to find a power outlet? Will you use your phone and electronic devices constantly, for navigation, taking pictures, listening to music or whatever? Will you rely on the solar panel as your only source of electricity to keep those devices juiced?
If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then you need a more powerful solar charger, and possibly a high-capacity power bank.
If instead, you plan to use the power of the sun only in emergency cases, to keep your phone alive, you can go for a smaller and lighter solar charger.
Solar Chargers interruption issues
Most of these solar panels may stop charging if there’s not enough sunlight (in the shade for example), the interruption recovery speed is the ability of the panel to resume charging when the sun hits it again.
Some of the cheapest panels might fail to resume charging, it can be necessary to unplug the device and then plug it again, this is quite annoying, especially when you’re not looking at the charger.
Some solar chargers perform very well in overcast weather, while some don’t.
Ok, now that we have an idea of how they work, let’s dive into product comparison. Don’t forget that solar chargers also make great gifts for hikers, cycle tourers, and outdoor lovers in general.
11 Best Solar Panel Chargers Compared
Goal Zero Nomad 14 PLUS Camping Solar Panel
The Nomad comes in two versions, the lighter Nomad 7 (7 Watts) and this Nomad 14 (14 Watts). The NOMAD 14 PLUS by Goal Zero has been re-engineered to be lighter and smarter, with a newly included kickstand to keep the panel at the perfect angle and a power-flow indicator that ensures the best solar charging experience.
The new auto-restart feature tracks power flow history and knows the difference between a device that is fully charged and one that disconnects due to environmental causes like lack of sunlight. If a device is disconnected before fully charged due to lack of sunlight the NOMAD 14 PLUS will reconnect and begin charging once the sunlight returns. Ideal for phones, GPS, headlamps, or FLIP 20/30
You can choose between different packages, the solar charger only, with Venture 30 or Venture 70 battery packs, or even with the Guide 10 battery pack if you wish to charge AA batteries.
Charges an iPhone 6 from 0 to 100% in 2/3 hours in perfect sunny conditions, works well even with an overcast sky. Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.22 in (unfolded), 8.46 x 11.22 in (folded).
|Goal Zero Nomad 14 Plus
Biolite Solar Panel 10+ Backpacking Solar Panel
This High-efficiency monocrystalline solar-panel comes in two versions, the 10+ (10 watt USB output) and the Biolite 5+ (5 watts), both are great to charge phones, cameras, and other gear in 1/2 to 3 hours.
It comes with a somehow low capacity 3000mAh integrated rechargeable battery so your power is available even when the sun goes down, and micro USB Charge Input allows you to get a head start on your power by filling up the battery at home.
The ultra-slim weather-resistant design and increased efficiency through heat dissipation make it a good all-in-one choice for backpackers, hikers, and bicycle travelers. It features a battery and charge strength indicator, so you see the strength of the sun to measure your panel capacity, and how much juice you have. The integrated kickstand helps to catch the best sunlight. CONS: heavy and small capacity battery.
The onboard 3,000 mAh rechargeable battery charges fully in direct sunlight in 2 hrs.
Dimensions: 10.1 x 8.2 x 1″
|Biolite Solar Panel 10+
Nekteck 21W Solar Charger
First of all, this solar panel charger does NOT store power, you will need a power bank to store power or connecting to your device directly to charge.
Second bad point: the Nekteck also had trouble recovering a charge after being shaded intermittently. Some devices might need to be unplugged and then replugged for the charging to resume.
Still, this panel is a good choice for those on a budget, the charger’s bungee loops help attach it to your backpack, dual USB charging ports allow up to two devices to recharge at once at a maximum output current of 3 Amps total. It charges an iPhone in about 3 hours in ideal conditions.
Dimensions: 6.3x 11.1x 1.06″ folded, 26.3x 11.1″ opened
Output current: up to 3A (two USB port used simultaneously) up to 2A (one USB port used)
|Nekteck 21W Solar Charger
X-DRAGON Solar Charger, 20000mAh Solar Power Bank
The solar panels are not the highest in efficiency, so this should be considered more as a backup battery with handy solar panels for an emergency.
Anyway, the price, the compactness, and the limited weight makes it an interesting camping and backpacking solar battery.
CONS: It takes about 15 hours of strong sun to fully charge the battery, but keep in mind that’s a huge capacity battery.
|X-DRAGON Solar Charger
+ 20000mAh Solar Power Bank
2.1A Ports (Max 2.4A)
SOKOO 22W 5V 2-Port USB Portable Foldable Solar Charge
Water-resistant and pretty durable, this cheap camping solar charger features Smart IC Circuit with waterproof treatment and rugged high-wear PVC fabric canvas, a remarkably high conversion efficiency, and a Dual-USB Smart Charging Technology (The built-in smart IC chip intelligently identifies your device, and maximizes its charging speed while protects your devices from overcharging and overloading).
The charging current of USB ports (up to 2.4A max 5V DC per port or 3.3A max overall) is monitored and automatically adjusted according to the sunlight level.
The compact size(12.2 × 6.7″ folded) and copper-alloy eye-holes on each corner allow easy attachment to backpacks, trees, or tents. Comes with an 18-month warranty. It takes 2/3 hours to fully charge an iPhone 6 in perfect conditions.
CONS: poor quality controls, some came out flawed. Doesn’t include a battery pack.
|SOKOO 22W 5V
2.4 x port
Foxelli Dual USB Solar Charger 10W
The Foxelli Dual USB Solar Charger is the cheapest of this list, expect to give up some features for this price, namely charging speed. It takes about 7 hours to charge an iPhone 6 with this panel, of course, we are talking about perfect sunny conditions.
Two USB ports allow the user to charge 2 devices at the same time, while the smart charging technology recognizes the input needed for a connected device and distributes current output accordingly, delivering up to 1.85A in total and cutting down on total charging time.
11 built-in loops and 2 carabiners make it easy to carry while backpacking, hiking, camping, kayaking or doing other outdoor activities.
Foxelli offers a 120-day, no questions asked, money-back guarantee with a One Year Warranty.
Dimensions: Unfolded size: 24.6×8.7×0.6” Folded size: 8.7×6.1×1.2”
|Foxelli Dual USB
Solar Charger 10W
WakaWaka Power+ Solar-Powered Flashlight + Charger
The relatively low capacity 3000mAh battery fully charges in 12-18 hours in the sun, or 3 hours plugged into a power socket. It charges an average smartphone in approximately 2 hrs, provides up to 180 hours of light on one charge when used as a torch.
The flashlight has 4 light settings from 5-70 lumens and light and charger can be used simultaneously.
Add the sturdiness of high impact resistant, 100% recycled PC-ABS and the compact size 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.1″, and you’ll have an appealing backpacking device.
Anker 15W Power Port Solar Lite
With half the price of a Goal Zero 14W, this solar panel delivers the fastest possible charge up to 2.1 amps under direct sunlight. The 15 watts SunPower solar array is 21.5-23.5% efficient, providing enough power to charge two devices simultaneously.
The compact size (11 × 6.3″ folded or 18.1 × 11″ opened) and elastic loops on each corner allow easy attachment to backpacks, trees, or tents.
The panel is very light, but remember the weight doesn’t include any battery, which should be purchased separately (in case you want it). 18-month warranty
Charges a 10000mAh power bank in 4 hours (ideal conditions) and, similarly to the Goal Zero, resume charging automatically when sunlight conditions change.
CONS: Not the highest durability, the small pouch for a phone or other devices might be too small for a big phone.
PowerPort Solar Lite
SunJack 14W Solar Charger + 10000mAh QC 3.0 Power Banks
The SunJack 14W Solar Charger comes with a large capacity 10000mAh battery pack (charges iPhones and most smartphones up to 5 times), while the four solar panels pump out up to 2.8 Amps of USB power, with a built-in smart IC chip to intelligently identify your device and maximize charging speed while protecting from overcharging. Automatic restore if shade occurs. Backed by a 12-months hassle-free warranty.
This solar charger is one of the most efficient in this list, capable of charging the 10000mAh battery in about 4 hours of direct sunlight, it also performs very well in overcast weather.
CONS: very heavy
Dimensions: Folded 9×6.5×1.75″ (23×16.5×4.5cm) Unfolded 9x31x1″ (23x79x2.5cm)
+ 10000mAh QC 3.0 Power Bank
Powertraveller Slimline Solar Charger 3500 mAh Internal Battery
Lightweight and compact, this solar charger with integrated 3500mAh is certainly no beast but can come in handy for emergency phone or other device charges, although I won’t rely on it to keep my electronics juiced during a really off-beat trip.
The polysilicon solar panel offers photovoltaic efficiency up to 17% and features a USB 700mA @ 5v output, fully supporting Apple iPhones, iPads, iPods, mobile phones, and other 5v gadgets.
The Solarmonkey adventurer also has a solar energy detection feature which activates the incorporated state-of-the-art MPPT (maximum power point tracker) technology, allowing it to charge your device more efficiently in low light conditions. The kit comes with a handy Velcro strap so it can be attached to tents or rucksacks.
The solar panels will charge the internal battery in 12 hours in ideal light conditions.
Dimensions: 6.7 x 3.8 x 0.9″
3500 mAh Internal Battery
Voltaic Systems Arc 20 Watt Solar Charger for Laptops
With a19,000mAh/73Wh battery pack that can fully charge the average laptop one time and a standard smartphone up to 6 times, this combination is one of the most powerful backpacking solar chargers available.
The Voltaic Arc 20W takes 7-8 hours to fully charge a MacBook Pro in good sun, it can also charge DSLR and drone batteries.
Of course, don’t expect this kit to be lightweight, with 3.3 lb (total) is the heaviest in this list. It comes with many different laptop adapters.
Dimensions: Open 33.9 x 10.0 x 0.1 inches, Folded 7.5 x 10.0 x 0.8″ (solar panel) – 0.63 x 7.28 x 4.92″ (battery)
|Voltaic Systems Arc 20
Watt Rapid Solar Charger for Laptops
Battery weight: 1.2 lb