You’re about to take the perfect nature pic with your cell phone. Right when you need it most, your phone dies. You’re nowhere near an outlet so how will you recharge? The best hiking solar chargers will help you power your electronics even when you’re out in the wild.
Taking a few extra pairs of AA batteries on your hike won’t do the trick. Today, most electronics rely on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. You’ll need an external charger to keep your electronic devices running on your hike. Luckily, there are reliable, lightweight solar chargers that can recharge your devices.
One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to help you when it comes to gearing up for the outdoors. In this guide, we’ll walk you through what to consider when buying a hiking solar charger and show you our selection of the best models available.
For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out the Best Hiking Headlamps.
Quick Answer - The Best Hiking Solar Chargers
- Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight
- Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit
- Nekteck Solar Charger
- ECEEN Solar Charger
- X-Dragon Solar Charger
Comparison Table - Best Hiking Solar Chargers
|Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight||Yes||14.4 oz||1 Watt||$||4.4|
|Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit||Yes||1.5 lbs||7 Watts||$$||4.1|
|Nekteck Solar Charger||No||1.4 lbs||20 Watts||$||4.6|
|ECEEN Solar Charger||No||0.8 lbs||10 Watts||$||4.3|
|X-Dragon Solar Charger||No||1.1 lbs||14 Watts||$||4.4|
Reviews - The Best Solar Chargers for Hiking
Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight
- Weight: 14.4 oz
- Output Capacity: 1 Watt
- Battery: Yes
- Flashlight, floodlight, and emergency light all-in-one
- Two power modes
- Integrated USB ports
- Long-lasting, rechargeable 4400mAh battery lithium battery
- 7-48 hours run time
- Includes solar panel, USB charger, and hand crank
BEST FOR: MULTI-USE
PROS: Solar panel + internal battery; battery is rechargeable via solar, USB, or hand crank,can be used as a flashlight, integrated charging cable, rugged
CONS: Bulky, battery is slow to recharge, crank is inefficient, solar panel is small and can be inefficient in areas with less sunlight
Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit
- Weight: 1.5 lbs
- Output Capacity: 7 Watts
- Battery: Yes
- Built-in micro USB
- Charges in 4 hours via USB
- Charges in 9 hours via sunlight
- 7,800mAh power pack
- 2 high-speed USB ports
BEST FOR: HIKING, CAMPING, AND BACKPACKING
PROS: Solar panel + rechargeable battery pack, charges electronics quickly, foldable, weather-resistant, battery pack can recharge via solar or USB, built-in micro USB cable, two USB ports to power two devices at once, attachments to hang solar panels
CONS: Expensive, can be sensitive to salt water, charges best when facing the sun, battery pack is slow to recharge
Nekteck Solar Charger
- Weight: 1.4 lbs
- Output Capacity: 20 Watts
- Battery: No
- Three solar Monocrystalline panels
- USB ports for charging two devices simultaneously
- Included attachment hook
BEST FOR: ALL-AROUND USE
PROS: Inexpensive, charges electronics quickly, foldable, weather-resistant, two USB ports to power two devices at once, comes with micro USB cable, does well in less sunny conditions
CON: Doesn’t include external/internal battery, heavy, panels become very hot in sunlight, can warp in heat
ECEEN Solar Charger
- Weight: 0.8 lbs
- Output Capacity: 10 Watts
- Battery: No
- USB smart output
- Compact size
- Zipper pack design
BEST FOR: LIGHTWEIGHT GEAR LOVERS
PROS: Inexpensive, charges electronics quickly, foldable, weather-resistant, comes with micro USB cable, attachments and carabiners to hang solar panels, built-in stand to adjust panel direction, does well in less sunny conditions
CONS: Doesn’t include external/internal battery, built-in stand isn’t flexible
X-Dragon Solar Charger
- Weight: 1.1 lbs
- Output Capacity: 14 Watts
- Battery: No
- Built-in smart IC chip
- Dual-USB power
- High efficiency
- Water resistant
BEST FOR: VALUE
PROS: Inexpensive, charges electronics quickly, foldable, two USB ports to power two devices at once, comes with micro USB cable, attachments to hang solar panels
CONS: Doesn’t include external/internal battery, not weather-resistant, not durable
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST HIKING SOLAR CHARGERS
AMPERAGE, WATTAGE, AND VOLTAGE
Look at the packaging for solar chargers, and you’ll see a lot of language about amps, watts, and volts. To understand what you’re getting, you need to know what these words mean.
Wattage (watts) is a measure of power. As Goal Zero explains it, a watt-hour measures the power flow that occurs over one hour. Wattage is the measure of the solar panel’s power output capacity.
Amperage (amps) measures electrical current. The amp-hour is the amount of time a battery can supply that current.
Voltage (volts) is defined by About.com as the “electric potential energy per unit charge.” If you aren’t science minded that definition probably sounds abstract. Essentially, it’s the charge stored in a battery.
What does this mean? You want to know if your solar charger can supply the power you need. To get there, you can use a simple equation: watt – hours = amp – hours x volts
If there are devices you want to keep charged, find out their amp-hour and volt information. Plug those numbers into the formula. The answer will help you find what kind of wattage you need your solar charger to supply.
Some solar panels include an external or internal battery. A traditional solar panel only works when the sun is out. Daylight may not be the best time for you to repower your electronics. This additional battery charges from the solar panels during the day. This lets you harness the energy from your solar panels at night.
For external batteries, there’s one more confusing abbreviation you need to learn: mAh. A mAh is a milliamp-hour, which measures battery capacity. This is the current that’s discharged by your charger over the course of an hour.
According to Ubergizmo, the bigger the number, the more energy your unit can store. If you’re going to use charger paired with an external or internal battery, select one with a large mAh number.
Some solar panels can take 18 hours or more to power an external charger or electronic device. That amount of time exceeds daylight hours in most places. If you need to recharge your electronics a lot, choose a solar panel that can charge faster.
You should also consider the weather in your region when you select a solar charger. Most solar panels struggle to charge in cloudy weather. However, some fare worse than others. If you’re hiking in the rainy season, solar panel efficiency can make all the difference.
How many devices will you be charging? What kind of cords will you need to plug into your charger?
Most solar chargers have at least one USB port to connect your electronics. Some even have multiple connection points to charge several devices at once. Before you choose your solar charge, think about what you’ll need to charge while on the trail.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
Anytime you’re hiking or backpacking, size and weight is an important factor. The larger your solar panels, the more efficient they will be at charging. However, they’ll also take up more space in your backpack. Some solar chargers fold and take up very little space. Others are larger and bulkier.
You’ll also need to consider the weight of your solar charger. There are some devices that are less than a pound. Others are between one to two pounds. You’ll have to choose whether the benefits of the larger devices are worth the tradeoff of extra weight.
Need even more power while you hike? Check out our guide to the best solar backpacks.