Camping is such a great way to take a break from our busy work lives, but sometimes it isn’t practical to completely disconnect. Do you rely on your phone for GPS location information? Perhaps you need to be in reach in the case of an emergency? Technology to keep your devices charged has improved remarkably in recent years, but with that has come a lot of baffling technical jargon. Are you confident that you could select the best solar panels for camping?

When it comes to camping gear, here at The Adventure Junkies we are passionate about helping you make the best investment possible. Whether it’s portability, price or power that matter most to you, we’ve identified and reviewed the ten best solar panels for camping to help you make the right decision.

For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out the Best Camping Hammocks

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Quick Answer - The Best Solar Panels for Camping

  1. BioLite SolarPanel 10+
  2. Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus
  3. Biolite Solar Panel 5+
  4. Nekteck 21W
  5. Goal Zero Nomad 7
  6. Sunjack 14W

 

Comparison Table - The Best Camping Solar Panels

PictureNamePowerWeightUSB OutputsPriceRating
BioLite SolarPanel 10+10 W19.4 oz1$$$4.1
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus7 W12.8 oz1$$$3.9
Biolite Solar Panel 5+5 W13.8 oz1$4.1
Nekteck 21W20 W20.0 oz2$4.6
Anker 21W21 W14.7 oz2$$$4.4
Goal Zero Nomad 77 W16.2 oz1$$4.3
Sunjack 14W14W19.2 oz2$$4.6
PictureNamePowerWeightUSB OutputsPriceRating

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Reviews - The Best Solar Panels for Camping

BioLite SolarPanel 10+

Specs
  • Power: 10 W
  • USB Outputs: 1
  • Weight: 19.4 oz

BEST FOR: ALL-AROUND USE

PROS: Internal battery

CONS: Single USB output, heavy

BATTERY DESIGN: Internal

Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus

Specs
  • Power: 7 W
  • USB Outputs: 1
  • Weight: 12.8 oz

BEST FOR: CAMPERS NEEDING A WATERPROOF, LIGHTWEIGHT PANEL

PROS: Light, waterproof, good power output, high quality

CONS: Single USB output, no internal battery

BATTERY DESIGN: None included

Biolite Solar Panel 5+

Specs
  • Power: 5 W
  • USB Outputs: 1
  • Weight: 13.8 oz

BEST FOR: CAMPERS LOOKING FOR A PANEL WITH AN INTERNAL BATTERY

PROS: Light, compact, internal battery

CONS: Low power, single USB output

BATTERY DESIGN: Internal

Nekteck 21W

Specs
  • Power: 20 W
  • USB Outputs: 2
  • Weight: 20.0 oz

BEST FOR: CAMPERS ON A BUDGET

PROS: Powerful, can charge multiple devices, easily attached to backpack or bike

CONS: Heavy, no internal battery

BATTERY DESIGN: None included

Anker 21W

Specs
  • Power: 21 W
  • USB Outputs: 2
  • Weight: 14.7 oz

BEST FOR: CHARGING MULTIPLE DEVICES

PROS: Very light, high power, charge multiple devices, very high quality

CONS: No internal battery

BATTERY DESIGN: None included

Goal Zero Nomad 7

Specs
  • Power: 7 W
  • USB Outputs: 1
  • Weight: 16.2 oz

BEST FOR: WATER RESISTANCE 

PROS: Very high quality, water resistance

CONS: Low power, no internal battery

BATTERY DESIGN: None included

Sunjack 14W

Specs
  • Power: 14W
  • USB Outputs: 2
  • Weight: 19.2 oz

BEST FOR: CAMPERS NEEDING A POWERFUL CHARGER

PROS: High power, charge multiple devices

CONS: Heavy, no internal battery

BATTERY DESIGN: None included

 

LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE HIKING GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST SOLAR PANELS FOR CAMPING

POWER RATING

Without getting into too much electrical theory, it’s enough to know that the power rating of a solar panel is one of its most critical features. Measured in watts (‘W’), it tells you how much energy the solar panel can send to the connected device, such as your mobile phone or tablet. The higher the power, the better!

It’s only a rough rule-of-thumb, but a charger which has a power rating of less than 7W is only going to be suitable for charging small devices like an MP3 player, older mobile phones, or a hiking watch. To charge your new mobile phone you really should be looking at a charger rated at 7W or greater.

If you’re traveling with family or friends and need to charge multiple devices, we recommend you look for a charger with at least 15W. Also, it’s worth noting laptops have a completely different design, and solar chargers will be of no use without an inverter and a battery pack.

A larger power rating unfortunately does come with increased size, and a trade-off between power and portability is sometimes needed.

 

PORTABILITY

When all you have is the pack on your back and the trail before you, the last thing you need is a bulky, heavy, awkwardly shaped solar charger slowing you down.

Most manufacturers understand this and have designed their solar charges with the highly mobile camper in mind. The smallest chargers consist of a single lightweight solar panel often no larger than a tablet. Larger models consist of between two and four hinged solar panels, allowing them to be packed flat with a minimal footprint. However, the dimensions will vary. We encourage you to compare the size of the panels while they are closed with the size of your backpack.

Keep in mind the lighter and smaller you go, the less power you will have to charge your device and the longer it will take to reach full charge.

 

BATTERY STORAGE

Solar panel chargers for camping are available in three configurations; as a charger only, as a charger with an inbuilt battery, or as a charger attached to an external battery. Don’t bother with adding an external battery. Instead, focus on the first two considerations and keeping yourself as mobile as possible.

 

SOLAR PANEL CHARGER ONLY

Consisting of solar panels and a connection port for you to plug in your device, this is the lightest and smallest of the two configurations. This is because the manufacturer doesn’t need to worry about incorporating a battery into the solar panel charger design.

There are two trade-offs. One is charging your device is dependent on sunny conditions. The other is the speed at which the solar panels can provide a charge. If there’s only a single solar panel or the solar panels are small, then it could take days to provide a full charge. This might be fine if you simply need to charge a GPS unit or a headlamp, but for other applications it will be limiting.

 

SOLAR PANEL CHARGER WITH INBUILT BATTERY

While relying on sunshine might be enough to keep your device charged, you can’t guarantee there isn’t a rainy day just around the corner! The inclusion of a battery inside the solar panel charger opens up a number of additional options which can be very convenient.

First of all, it allows you to pre-charge your battery before you leave your home. When fully charged, the battery will be large enough to provide at least a single charge for your phone. Even better, a larger battery will provide multiple charges, meaning you could go for days without sunlight and still have the ability to keep your devices topped up.

The second benefit is that you can charge the battery during the day, and then plug in at night to recharge your device. This can be so much more convenient than trying to keep your charger connected to your device while hiking during the day.

Of course, these benefits do come at an additional cost, and they will also be both larger and heavier than a solar panel charger without an inbuilt battery.

 

CONNECTIVITY

A solar panel charger is not going to be of any use to you if you it doesn’t connect to your device! In the past we saw many manufacturers trying to cater to every type of charging cable. This had two downsides. One was they would raise the price to account for the extra hardware. The other was increasing the risk of adaptors going missing and making the charger unusable.

Now we see most manufacturers focusing on USB as the primary connection type. Some even provide micro-USB. If you need to charge multiple devices then it’s worth investigating whether the solar panel charger includes two or more USB ports.

 

DESIGN

When you’re in the outdoors you need to be prepared for anything. Rain, snow, blazing sun, scrambling over rocks; it’s all possible and you need to know that your gear will be up to the challenge.

If you’re going to go down the route of a small solar panel charger or one without an inbuilt battery, then you need to know that you can maximise the time your charger spends in the sun. At base camp this isn’t so difficult. You can set your charger up in full sun and only make adjustments as the sun changes position. A kick-stand could be handy, which is an option provided by some manufacturers. However, if you’re on the move it’s important the charger has attachment points which can be easily tied to your pack. A secure pouch to store your device while it’s charging would also be a smart idea.

Another consideration is the level of water resistance offered by the charger design. While protection against full immersion isn’t required, some level of protection against the elements will give you peace of mind. When reviewing the specifications, look for the ‘IP’ rating of the charger, with a rating of IP4 or greater providing a good level of protection.

Last of all, take the time to browse the manufacturer’s website and try to determine how easy it is to set up and use the solar panel charger. If their user guides aren’t clear, or if their connection diagrams look like a bowl of spaghetti, then you may want to look elsewhere for a simpler design! When it comes to technology like this, simplicity will almost always result in a longer life.

 

 

READ MORE

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