Looking for the best solar charger or solar lighting options for your next backpacking or camping trip? We’re here to help.
The great outdoors. The grandeur of Mother Nature and wide-open expanses. Beautiful vistas… And no power outlets. Here’s an overview of solar charger options for backpacking or camping.
If you’re navigating using GPS, taking photos, or are bringing along other small electronics, you’ll need to carry extra batteries — or carry one of these devices.
Portable Solar Chargers
Sherpa 120 Adventure Kit – This charger and battery-pack combination offers 27 watts of output and stores 120 watt-hours of power. The collector will fully charge the battery pack in about eight hours of full sunlight. The Sherpa 120 features a fold-out solar collector fitted with metal grommets, so you can secure it to a tent or mount it between trees. You can also link up to three battery packs together. It comes with extra adapters and weighs in at just under four pounds. You can easily charge a laptop and a bevy of smaller electronics with this. It retails for about $560.
Solio Classic Hybrid Solar Charger – The “hybrid” in Solio’s Hybrid solar charger doesn’t mean that it has a gas engine. Rather, it refers to the fact that you can charge it by the sun, from a wall socket, or from your car’s cigarette lighter. The Hybrid features an internal battery pack inside three small, collapsible solar chargers that spread out in a fan shape. It is small and very portable. Their website features a solar calculator to help you determine your power needs. The Classic Hybrid will charge mp3 players, your cell phone, or a GPS receiver, but might have more difficulty with power-inefficient smart phones. It won’t charge a laptop. It weighs just 5.6 ounces and retails for about $100.
Restore Portable Power Device – Brunton’s solar charger features two small 100 mA solar panels which fold out compact-style and are attached to a 2200 mAh internal lithium polymer battery that offers 1,000 mAh output. It is micro USB-compatible, but does not come with additional adapters. It can be recharged from your laptop or DC power if the sun won’t show. It is water-resistant and features a rubberized shell and weighs in at 7 ounces. It offers similar performance to the Solio Classic and retails for about $90
Solar Powered Lighting
Solar lights are useful, too. While standard camping gear involves headlamps or flashlights, there are some options for solar-charged lights, or chargers that can power low-wattage lights.
Wagan EL2230 Solar Powered Outdoor Lantern – Wagan’s solar-powered lantern is great for camping. It recharges with a 1-watt mono-crystalline solar panel that is mounted to its handle. It also charges with 12-volt DC power (by plugging the lantern into the outlet of your car’s cigarette lighter, for instance). One full charge powers an LED lantern for 17 hours or an adjustable LED spotlight for 35 hours. Its dimensions are 9” x 4” x 5” and it weighs 2.4 pounds. It retails for around $32.
Hybrid Light Solar Flashlight – No gas engine in this, either. It’s just a name. The manufacturer claims that this flashlight will hold a charge for up to three years, so there’s no need to continuously store it in the sun. It’s a 1-watt LED light that will run for 16 hours on a full charge. It also comes with a backup battery pack. It is waterproof, it floats and retails for about $16.
Solar Rope Lights – These are woven strands of LED lights, powered by a battery which is charged by a small solar collector. You can use them to demarcate your campsite, or light the way if you need to use the bathroom at night. They’re lightweight and coil up, too.
A quick note: remember that with any solar-powered device, you need the sun to be present to charge your device. If you’re headed out into the back of beyond and aren’t going to say, the desert, please remember that having a backup, battery-powered device for redundancy’s sake is more safe and that no piece of equipment can substitute for sound skills and decision-making. Bring a map, some matches, the other eight essentials and your spirit of adventure. Happy camping.
Do you own any of this solar gear? Leave a comment and share your review or experience with it!