7 Incredible Portable Solar Panels for Backpacking in 2022

In this article, you will learn about portable solar panels for backpacking and hiking.

I love backpacking, there’s nothing more freeing than grabbing your bag of essentials and disappearing into the world.

Personally, I choose to travel very lightly, if it’s not useful it doesn’t make the list.

One thing I never leave home without is an extra power source like a portable solar panel for backpacking and hiking.

It’s a lifesaver to keep your phone charged and camera juiced up so you never miss an epic shot.

To be honest, I’ve been through several different power products over the past decade. Some have been awesome little sidekicks while others have been a complete waste of money.

That’s why I’ve written this guide to backpacking solar panels, to help you find the perfect complement to your journey. 



Best Portable Solar Panels for Backpacking and Hiking

Below I have selected and reviewed the top backpacking solar panels to keep your gadgets fully charged. Each product is selected for its quality and performance, along with unique handy features. You’ll find folding panels, solar power banks, and even a solar powered backpack!

1. BigBlue 28W Solar Charger

Easily taking the top spot is this 28W solar panel from BigBlue. It packs plenty of power and size while remaining portable plus has smart charging features.

Getting the balance of power and portability is key with these products and the Big Blue is just about manageable. When folded down it measures 11 by 6 inches so you can slide it into your pack. To start charging simply unfolded the four 7 watt solar panels to unleash its full capabilities. 

You can plug in your phone to the USB port which is monitored by an ammeter so you can always keep track of the current flow. You’ll notice this number change during cloud cover compared to direct sunlight. Hint: the higher the amps the more charge you are sending to your device.

You can either lay it out in the sun during a break or if you’re on the move you can use metal ringlets to hang the panel from your pack.

Big blue portable hiking solar panel

The panel also auto detects your device to regulate the fastest possible charging speed from the dual USB ports. You should be aware that the maximum voltage is 5V so you can’t charge more demanding devices like an iPad pro.

As for its durability, the solar cells are wrapped in PET plastic making them water-resistant so you’ll be protected from the odd splash. Although, don’t leave it out in the rain as the ammeter and USB ports aren’t waterproof.

It’s powerful and smart, ready to help you through your next adventure.

Pros:

  • 28 watts
  • Dual USB
  • Smart charging
  • Ammeter
  • Foldable
  • Metal eyelets
  • Phone storage pocket

Cons:

  • Not completely waterproof
  • Too large to hang from smaller backpacks
Check Price & Reviews on Amazon

2. SunJack 25 Watt Foldable Weatherproof ETFE

We’ve got a number of backpacking folding solar panels to look at but I wanted to include this as its durability is astounding. If you’re a rough and tumble traveler then this is your best buddy.

It comes with many of the usual features like dual USB charging and a decent 25 watts output (there’s also a smaller 15W option.) The performance is top notch with high speed 2A charging from each USB port.

Where this really stands out is the ETFE waterproof covering. This thin-film plastic is a step up from PET plastic and can withstand whatever weather you throw at it. In fact, ETFE is one of the most durable solar panel coverings and it’s even self cleaning. Just be aware that the junction box is water resistant and not waterproof, so don’t take it swimming…

You can lay this out in the sun or hang it from your bag via a carabiner. Although there’s a lack of metal eyelets for hanging, you’ll have to rely on the tough plastic casing. Plus size-wise when folded is larger than competitors at 12.5 by 8 inches.

hiking with solar panel

Pros:

  • ETFE covering and super durable
  • Dual USB charging
  • Folding
  • Waterproof
  • Smart charging chip

Cons:

  • No phone storage pocket
  • Large folded size
Check Price & Reviews on Amazon

3. Nekteck 21W Solar Charger

The Nekteck is very similar to the BigBlue but is more attractive to those on a budget. It’s slightly smaller and offers fewer smart features.

What you do still get is a decent solar panel you can plug your USB device into for extra juice. I love its lightweight ultrathin design making it easy to stow in your bag. In fact, it weighs no more than a couple of soda cans. You won’t even notice it hanging from your bag when on the move.

You’ll get efficient performance too with the inclusion of tightly packed monocrystalline cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Happily, it does include a smart chip to detect your phone and tailor charging accordingly. Dual USB ports mean you can plug into two items at once. 

Once again, the exterior is finished with PET plastic which gives basic protection to water and dust. But don’t leave it out in the rain (it won’t charge much anyway!)

Save money and weight with this beauty from Nekteck.

Pros:

  • 21 watts
  • Dual USB
  • Smart charging
  • Foldable
  • Metal eyelets
  • Phone storage pocket

Cons:

  • Not completely waterproof
  • Seems to work better for charging a battery than a phone
Check Price & Reviews on Amazon

4. Topsolar SolarFairy 30S Foldable Solar Panel 30W

Time for maximum power while still remaining packable. This bad boy delivers 30 watts output while still folding down to 11 by 6 inches. That’s just a little bit bigger than an iPad. And at just over 1 inch thick you can easily slide it into your backpack.

When unfolded the four solar panels hang down the length of your bag from metal eyelets at the top. Or you can simply lie it out in the sun wherever you stop. 

When it comes to charging it packs a punch too and offers you multiple connections. Hook up phones, iPads, tablets, and cameras via USB, type-C, and DC 12V port. You can even use the accessories to charge bigger deep cycle batteries with alligator clips. 

The high-performing monocrystalline solar cells deliver top efficiency and when combined with the laminate shell can last for over 15 years. So this one is around for the long haul.

Power, performance, and versatility. 

Pros:

  • 30 watts
  • Dual USB
  • Smart charging
  • Hang from pack
  • Versatile with accessories
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Large when unfolded
  • Alligator clips low quality
Check Price & Reviews on Amazon

5. ECEEN Backpack 68L with 20 Watts Solar Charger Panel

This is an epic all-in-one solution. If you’re in the market for a new backpack then this will solve all of your problems. Yes, it’s a backpack with an in-built solar panel! What a world we live in…

The backpack itself has all the basic features you’d expect with a stellar 68 liter capacity, padded straps, various pockets, and an external frame. Buckles and straps allow you to pack everything down neatly.

As for the solar panel, there is a dedicated flat area on the backside. The panel is removable so you can use it with or without the bag. Simply hook it on or whip it off via the provided carabiner clips and in-built loops. The panel is designed to complement the size of the bag nicely so you won’t even notice you’re a walking power station.

Charging performance is not too bad with a 20 watt solar panel built from monocrystalline cells. Nearby pockets allow you to plug in your devices and store them for charging on the move. 

Pros:

  • Backpack with included solar panel
  • Ripstop nylon
  • Efficient charging
  • Use panel with or without bag

Cons:

  • Lowered powered panel
  • Looks better in pictures than real life
  • Not very durable quality
Check Price & Reviews on Amazon

6. BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank 18W

The problem with solar panels is that they will only be able to charge during daylight. In fact, the size of these portable options means you’ll need direct sunlight for decent performance. 

If you need reliable charging capabilities then you should look at a solar power bank. These are battery banks you can precharge and keep topped up with in-built solar panels.

This Blavor power bank is the best of the bunch for a compact backpacking option. It’s got a 20000mAh capacity which can fully charge the newest smartphones in a couple of hours. Plus dual USB ports allow you to power multiple devices at one time. 

Adding to this a nifty torch and compass are built into the unit for the ultimate emergency backup on your travels.

On one side there’s an in-built solar panel for extra charge when laid in the sun. You should be aware that you won’t get a full charge by just relying on the small panel. It’s more of a trickle charger to gently add power to the battery over time.

Pros:

  • Large power bank
  • Charge phones anytime (no sun needed)
  • Small and compact
  • Fast charging
  • Compass and flashlight

Cons:

  • Solar panel is only trickle charger
  • Takes a day to full recharge power bank
Check Price & Reviews on Amazon

7. BigBlue Power Bank with 10W Detachable Solar Panel

We’ve nearly come full circle from where we started as we finish up with another offering from BigBlue. This is a power bank with extra oomph from a 10W solar panel. 

You can use this power boost with or without the detachable solar panel. The battery is a chunky 25000mAh capacity which can deliver 18 watts through USB fast charging. It’ll have your devices fully charged in an hour or two.

What’s unique is the removable solar panel. At 10 watts you’ll get a nice bit of extra juice to keep things powered up when the sun shines. You can charge the average phone 5 – 10 times with the power bank and the solar panel only adds to this ongoing capabilities. 

Like most solar power banks, you can’t rely 100% on solar you’re best to precharge the battery before traveling. Then use the solar panel for top-ups and emergencies. 

Pros:

  • Extra large capacity power bank
  • Charge phones anytime (no sun needed)
  • Removable solar panel
  • Fast charging
  • Compass and flashlight

Cons:

  • Solar panel is only 10W
  • Takes a day to recharge power bank
Check Price & Reviews on Amazon

What Can You Charge with a Backpacking Portable Solar Panel?

A good backpacking solar panel will be lightweight and foldable, these key features also dictate what you can expect to run or charge. These products are best suited to charging small battery powered devices like phones, digital cameras, tablets, flashlights, and headphones. 

You also need to bear in mind that a stand-alone solar panel without a power bank will only work in the day in direct sunlight. Solar panels don’t work at night and perform poorly during cloud cover or shade. 

Although you might find panels with all sorts of features and accessories you should bear in mind it will likely have a power of 20-30 watts which is not huge. In addition, it is unlikely to charge a phone as quickly as plugging into a wall socket.

That being said, a solar panel rated over 20 watts can still deliver more than 50% charge over a couple hours of direct sunlight.


How to Choose a Portable Solar Panel for Backpacking

If you’re still a little unsure about what to go for then keep reading. Below we’ll look at the important factors to consider before making your purchase.

Power

The first thing I always look at is the power rating of the solar panel. Quite simply, the higher the wattage the more energy it will deliver to your device. The number of watts might not mean a lot to you. So as a general rule you should look for at least 20 watts if you want to charge smartphones or similar. This will give you a pleasing amount of performance in direct sunlight.

Anything less than 20 watts is going to take a long time to charge a device and you can get frustrated. The low-powered options should be treated as trickle chargers and a little boost rather than a standalone charger.

Size

You’re going to be carrying this around so don’t get too greedy. While you might want as much power as possible, check the size and weight of the equipment. You should look for panels weighing less than 20oz that you can fit in your backpack when folded down. 

portable solar panel for backpacking

Thankfully, the best options are all foldable (as you can see above). This means you can store it easily. Then unravel it to hang from your backpack while hiking or layout in the sun.

Durability

It’s a sensible idea to check the quality of the product you are buying, not just in performance and durability too. Remember, you’ll be traveling around with this solar panel so you need it to stand the rigors including bumps and drops. Always check the waterproofing levels and materials used in construction. PET plastic is often used which gives a basic level of water resistance while ETFE coverings give you a waterproof and self-cleaning finish.

Plus you should check the warranty period and customer reviews for the final verdict on quality. 

Solar Panel vs Power Bank

You will have noticed the inclusion of solar power banks above. This is because they allow you a power backup at any time. Money people opt for a power bank as it allows them to store power and even combine them with their solar panel. 

With a power bank, you’ll benefit from quickly and more reliable charging at any time of day. But once it runs out you’ll struggle to get a good charge from the in-built solar panel.

A standalone solar panel is still preferred by many as they are higher powered and give free and clean access to electricity whenever the sun is shining. If you’re thinking of going for a large portable solar panel and a separate power bank then this might work nicely. Just think about the weight carrying both items around though!

Connections

It seems like every device has a different charging port these days. I do miss the days of the humble USB port. Now we have to contend with Type-C, mini-USB, wireless, DC, and much more. Take the time to assess when charging ports you require and what the solar panel offers. Usually, you will get a regular USB port which can be tailored to charge most devices with the right cable.


Are Backpacking Solar Panels Worth It?

I hope this article helps you choose the perfect solar panel for backpacking.

They are very useful gadgets to keep your electronics charged up while you’re hiking. All you need is sunlight! You can’t expect them to charge as quickly as a wall socket but you’ll certainly get decent battery power if you’re patient. 

In my experience, look for at least 20 watts of power for a solid performance. It’s then pretty satisfying to hang it from your backpack while you walk. Then you can enjoy the results during breaks and rest stops.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your travels.