Top Ultralight Solar Chargers Reviewed (3.6oz to 16oz)

Need an ultralight solar charger for backpacking or a thru-hiking trip? Here’s a thorough review of the best options based on overall weight, power-to-weight ratio, and features.

All of the backpacking solar panels here are: Under 1lb (the lightest is just 3.56oz), have USB ports, and are reliable for charging phones, GPS, and other devices when backpacking or hiking.

Quick Answer:

 

Comparison

*You want more watts per ounce with backpacking solar chargers.

 

Best Ultralight Solar Chargers for Backpacking

1: Anker PowerPort Solar Lite 21W

anker solr lite solar charger

Best For: Fantastic power-to-weight ratio plus great features

Specs:

  • Watts: 21
  • Weight: 14.7oz
  • Size:11 × 6.3 in. folded / 18.1 × 11 in open
  • Auto reset: Yes
  • Ports: 2 x USB-A
  • Amps: 2.4 each (3A max)
  • Cost: $$ – Buy here

Review:

In pretty much every list of the top portable solar chargers, the Anker PowerPort  takes the #1 spot.  There is good reason for this.  The solar charger is very reliable, durable, and is lightweight for its wattage.  It’s easy to use on the trail because there are elastic loops for attaching the solar charger to your pack and a pocket for holding your devices.

You can charge two devices at once. At 2.4A per port, it’s fairly fast – though note you’ll only get a max of 3A when charging two devices at once. The charging ports are locating inside a canvas pouch, which means the solar charger is (mostly) water resistant.

One slight annoying thing is that the charger closes with Velcro (which gets debris stuck in it).  I’d rather have a magnetic closure instead.

Buy Here


 

2. SunJack 15W Solar Charger

sunjack solar charger 15w for backpacking

Best For: Charging two devices at once

Specs:

  • Watts: 15W
  • Weight: 15.2oz
  • Size: Folded 10.5x 6.5 x 1.2, open 20×10.5
  • Auto Reset: Yes
  • Ports: 2 x USB-A
  • Amps: 4A (2 per port)
  • Cost:  $$ – Buy Here

While they don’t get as much attention as Anker or Goal Zero, SunJack is a very reputable brand of solar chargers.  The weight is pretty good, especially considering how durable the solar charger is.  It is (mostly) waterproof.

There’s a mesh pocket for protecting your devices and the charging port.  The elastic band for holding your device in place is a nice touch.  I also like that they use a magnetic closure instead of annoying Velcro.

The technology behind the solar charger also seems to deliver as promised. It will actually charge two devices at 2A each in good sunlight.  There is smart overcharge protection too.

Get It Here


 

3: Lixada 10W Solar Charger

lixada backpacking solar charger

Best For: Insanely cheap and lightweight solution for backpackers who understand solar

Specs:

  • Watts: 10W
  • Amps: 1.2
  • Weight: 3.5oz
  • Size: 10.2 x 5.5 inches
  • Auto Reset: No
  • Ports: 1 USB-A
  • Amps: 1A
  • Cost:  $ – Buy Here

Review: 

I first heard about Lixada in discussions about solar panels on Reddit and backpacking forums.  Lixada doesn’t have the name recognition as brands like Anker or Goal Zero, but they are starting to develop a huge fan base with ultralight backpackers.  Part of the reason is because the Lixada solar panels are stupidly cheap and amazingly lightweight.

Starting with weight: At 3.56oz, the 10W Lixada solar charger gives you the most power per weight of any of the backpacking solar chargers reviewed here.

Not surprisingly, the Lixada is lacking in a lot of features. It doesn’t have an auto-reset feature.  Nor does it have a blocking diode, so it could draw power from your device in low-light situations.  I wouldn’t ‘use the Lixada to directly charge devices.  It’s more reliable at charging a power bank and then using that to power your devices.

As one user pointed out though, the Lixada is great if you are willing to put the effort into understanding solar.  Get yourself a multi-meter and test the solar panel under different scenarios (weather, light, cables, device…).  Once you understand this info, you will be able to get away with using such a cheap and lightweight solar panel for backpacking trips.

Buy Here


 

4: Luminiser 15W Solar Charger

luminiser 15w solar charger

Best For: If you don’t mind buying from a lesser-known unproven brand

Specs:

  • Watts: 15W
  • Weight: 12.8 oz
  • Size: Folded 11.4×6.5×0.98, open 11.4×6.4×20.5
  • Auto Reset: Yes
  • Ports: 2 x USB-A
  • Amps: 2.4A (3 max)
  • Cost:  $ – Buy Here

Luminiser is a newer brand that only makes a few products.  I was skeptical about their solar charger (especially since it is really cheap) but it seems to perform quite well.  One user even said that it worked as well as the Goal Zero solar charger.

The 15W panel weighs just 12.8oz. There’s also a 28W panel which weighs 22.4oz.  Note that only the 15W charger has the digital ammeter which helps with positioning the panel for optimal sunlight.

Luminiser claims their charger is IPX4 “waterproof” but it is really just water-resistant.  The charging port isn’t protected (not in a pocket like some chargers) so you need to keep it dry.  There is a pocket for keeping your devices while charging though.

I might choose this as the best backpacking solar charger but the brand is still too new.  Let’s see how it holds up for backpackers first.

Buy It Here


 

5:  Voltaic Arc 10W Solar Charger

Voltaic Arc 10W solar charger for backpacking

Best For: When you’ll mostly be charging in sunny weather

Specs:

  • Watts: 10W
  • Weight: 10.9oz
  • Size: Folded 10×6.4”, Open 10×13”
  • Auto Reset: Yes
  • Ports: 1 x USB-A
  • Amps: 1.8
  • Cost:  $ – Buy Here

The Voltaic Arc 10W solar charger seems fantastic at first glance.  10W is perfect if you only need to occasionally charge small devices when backpacking.  The watts-per-ounce is good and it’s a nice compact size.

In clear skies and bright sun, the charging is actually very good.   But, as soon as the weather gets a bit cloudy, the performance on the Arc 10W charger gets VERY slow.

I also don’t like that the charging port is completely exposed.  You’ll need to be careful that it doesn’t get wet or dirty. There’s also no pocket for holding your device while charging.

Get It Here


 

6: ECEEN 13w Solar Charger

ECEEN solar charger

Best For: Hikers who want a cheap solar charger that works well enough in good weather

Specs:

  • Watts: 13
  • Amps: 2
  • Weight: 16oz
  • Size: 7×12.7” folded, 14×12.7” open
  • Auto Reset: Yes
  • Ports: 2x USB-A
  • Amps: 2A each (3A max)
  • Connections: 2
  • Cost: $ – Buy Here

Review:

The ECEEN is one of the cheapest solar chargers you can get which is still lightweight enough for backpacking.

Considering how cheap this backpacking solar charger is, it surprisingly has a (mostly) reliable auto-reset feature.  It’s also waterproof, durable, and easily straps to your pack.

Now for the bad.  The ECEEN does charge in full sun but won’t charge at all – not even a trickle – in low light. It’s also unrealistic to expect to charge two devices at once.  The 2amps is only for ideal conditions and even then it won’t charge at a full 1amp per connection. Don’t bother with this solar panel for backpacking trips in fall, spring, or which will take you through shady forests.

Buy Here


 

7: Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Charger + Flip 12 Power Bank

Goal Zero Nomad 5 solar charger

Best For: Backpackers who don’t mind a higher weight-per-ounce in exchange for more reliability.

Best For: Backpackers who don’t mind a higher weight in exchange for more reliability.

Specs:

  • Watts: 5w
  • Weight: 12.7oz
  • Size: 9.5 x 7. X 1.1 inches
  • Auto Reset: Yes
  • Ports: 1x USB-A
  • Amps: 1A
  • Cost:  $$ – Get it on Amazon or REI.

Review:

The Goal Zero Nomad 5 used to be one of the best backpacking solar chargers.  Now there are many other better options in terms of weight, features and reliability. It is actually pretty heavy when you calculate the watts per ounce.  Charging is slow at 1A. And there’s not much in terms of features.

There is some good though.  Goal Zero Nomad chargers are very reliable.  The tech does a good job of matching charge output to device.  It’s also waterproof to IPX6.

If you are set on getting a Goal Zero Nomad charger, than I’d get the 10W or 20W.  They aren’t lightweight enough for most backpackers but deliver more power and are chainable.

The picture shows the Nomad 5W with the Flip 12 power bank (Amazon, REI) which is only 2.5oz and has a capacity of 3,500mAh.  You can of course use it with other powerbanks too but this setup is great for backpackers who occasionally need to charge small devices.

Get it on Amazon or REI


 

8: BioLite SolarPanel 5+

Biolite solar panel with battery

Best For: Ease of use

Specs:

  • Watts: 5w (10 watt model also available)
  • Amps: 1
  • Weight: 13.8oz
  • Size: 10.1 x 8.2 x 1.0 inches
  • Auto Reset: Yes
  • Integrated Battery: 2200 mAh
  • Ports: 1 x USB-A
  • Amps: 1A
  • Cost:  $$- Buy here

Review:

The company BioLite makes some really cool alternative-energy gear. Their solar charger is no exception. It is actually very lightweight when you consider it has a built-in battery.  That means you won’t have to bring a power bank with you.

There are some cool features on the charger which make it easier to use.  The little kickstand allows you to position the solar panel towards the sun easily. There is also a sundial so you can easily position it correctly to get the most sunlight. I also like that there’s a “sun strength indicator”.

There are a lot of downsides to the BioLite though.  The main one being that the integrated battery can get too hot in strong sun.  Heat also reduces the capacity of batteries over time. You can’t replace the battery, so the charger will eventually become useless.

Buy Here


 

Tips for Choosing Lightweight and Ultralight Solar Chargers for Backpacking

1. Do You Even Need a Solar Charger?

Backpacking solar chargers are cool devices but, for most short trips, you really don’t need one – especially if you aren’t using many devices.  As David Roberts of Solargenerator.guide says, “If you aren’t going to be in a place where you can count on at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day, then don’t waste your money.  Opt for a less-expensive power bank, instead.”

For example, on a 7-day backpacking trip, I might need to recharge my headlamp batteries, camera battery, and/or Kindle.   A lightweight 10,000mAh powerbank is more than enough to do this.  Further, a powerbank is a lot more reliable than a solar panel when it comes to charging.

See these top ultralight power banks for backpacking.

 

2: Inadequate Wattage = Dead Weight

Want a backpacking solar charger which weighs under 12oz? You’ll be hard pressed to find a setup which offers more than 5 watts of power.

As a general rule, you will need at least 10 watts in order to reliably charge phones and other small devices while backpacking.  Anything less than 10 watts means it will take forever to charge a device – even in ideal conditions!

Also note that some devices won’t charge at low power.  Nokia phones, for example, require 120mAh to start charging.  If the low-watt solar panel can’t produce this amount, then the phone won’t charge at all.

In a nutshell?

An ultralight solar panel might not meet your power needs. It’s better to carry a few more ounces for gear which actually works than lug around dead weight.

 

3. Look At Watts Per Ounce

Don’t make the mistake of just looking at the overall weight of a solar charger. Instead, you need to look at the watts per ounce. The more watts per ounce, the lighter the solar charger really is.

For example, the Anker PowerPort is 13.7oz but has 21 watts.  The Goal Zero Nomad 5 is lighter at 12.7oz, but only is 5 watts.  As talked about above, it’s usually better to carry a few extra ounces and have a charger capable of doing the job.

 

4. Don’t Forget the Weight of Extras

It’s worth noting that most manufacturers only list the weight for their solar panels.  This weight does NOT include accessories like cables, 12volt-to-USB adapters, or charge controllers.  These can add a few ounces to the setup.

Likewise, you’ll probably also want a powerbank to use with your solar charger – which means anywhere from 2.5oz to 10+oz more weight.  This will allow you to store power for later and many solar chargers simply perform better when used to charge power banks.

 

5. Reduce Your Power Needs

The best way to reduce your solar charger weight is to reduce your power needs.

The less you use your devices, the smaller of a solar panel you can get away with.  Normally you shouldn’t get less than a 10 watt solar panel, and that’s in ideal conditions.  To get away with a low watt solar panel, you’ll need to:

  • Keep your phone turned off or in flight mode (if you are using it for photos)
  • Download LUX to control screen background
  • Use Greenify app to turn off background apps without having to uninstall 
  • Keep phone GPS off until you need it
  • If you listen to music on your phone, use earbuds instead of the speakers
  • Keep devices at “room temperature” Sleep with them on cold nights if you must.
  • Be stingy about taking photos and videos.
  • Set up camp on time so you don’t have to rely on headlamps at night.

 

6. Be Realistic About What Ultralight Solar Chargers Can Do

Don’t get me wrong: backpacking solar chargers are awesome and have come a long way.  They’ve gotten smaller, more durable, and much more reliable.

But they still aren’t perfect.

You aren’t going to be able to strap a small charger to your backpacking, hike through a shady forest, and expect your devices to get fully charged.

 

Want to really cut weight from your pack? Check out my eBook!

dehydrator backpacking recipes

Oftne, the most effective way to cut weight from your pack is to start with your food. My eBook has over 50 dehydrator backpacking recipes — most which have over 130 calories per ounce! Plus there’s tons of info on planning backpacking meals. I’ll even give it to you for half off.

Get the book for 50% off.

 


Resources for this article:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Ultralight/comments/7q080z/true_ultralight_solar_solution/
https://www.reddit.com/r/Ultralight/comments/972ebp/ultralight_solar_panel_for_fomolov_a1/
https://www.reddit.com/r/PacificCrestTrail/comments/adnctm/which_goalzero_solar_panel_is_a_good_one_to_bring/

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button