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Hiking, camping, and backpacking are relatively safe and enriching activities for everyone. For many, however, going completely off-grid on an extended hiking or camping trip isn’t an option. A portable solar charger is a must-have investment to enjoy the great outdoors while staying electrified and connected.
Solar panels capture clean, renewable sunlight to generate electricity, but not all solar chargers are suitable for backpacking. With solar panels and portable power stations, it’s essential to consider the AC output, battery storage, weight, portability, and wattage the solar panels can generate in tandem with the type of outdoor excursion you have in mind.
This article will recommend three solar chargers to meet your backpacking needs and what to look for when purchasing. That way, you can confidently head out into the wild, whether planning a day trip or a week-long excursion on the Pacific Coast Trail.
EcoFlow’s Top Solar Chargers for Backpacking in 2023
- Best for Short Trips: 110W Portable Solar Panel
- Best for Overnight Trips: 160W Portable Solar Panel
- Best for Maximum Output: 220W Bifacial Portable Solar Panel
Best for Short Trips: 110W Portable Solar Panel
If you’re seeking portability and something to power up your small electronic devices, consider the 110W EcoFlow Solar Panel. It’s compatible with the EcoFlow RIVER 2 series portable power stations as well as DELTA series solar generators. When paired with a compact charger like the RIVER 2, a 110W PV panel offers the right amount of wattage without weighing you down.
Made with monocrystalline silicon cells, these efficient panels can hook up to your solar charger with an XT60 charging cable and directly power your devices. These panels can take a beating despite how thin and lightweight they look. They’re also IP68 certified, so you can even submerge them in water. The 110W panels have been dunked into a lab tank for 72 hours and are still ready to soak up the sun.
As with all of EcoFlow’s Solar Panels, you can connect multiple panels. It will increase the speed at which your portable power station charges so you can get back to exploring the trail. For the RIVER 2 PPS, you’ll only need one 110W solar panel, while 3 to 4 is the right amount of panels for the more heavy-duty DELTA 2. Unless you’re car camping, though, the DELTA series solar chargers will be too heavy to carry.
Coming in at 8.8lbs (or 4kg), 110W solar panels won’t weigh you down on the trail or take up too much room. Completely folded, they measure 20.2×16.5×0.8 in (42.0 x 48.0 x 2.5cm), so you’ll still have plenty of space left for all your favorite snacks and gadgets.
Rated Power：110 Watts
Pairs Best With: RIVER 2 Portable Power Station
Folded Dimensions: 20.2 x 16.5 x 0.8 in
Unfolded Dimensions: 20.2 x 62.5 x 0.8 in
Warranty: 12 Months
- Most affordable EcoFlow PV panel for backpack solar chargers
- 23% conversion rate
- IP68 water/dustproof rating
- Low rated power wattage makes this panel most suitable for smartphones, laptops, and similar personal devices
- Not suitable for powering most appliances
Best for Overnight Trips: 160W Portable Solar Panel
Another portable option goes up just a few notches to 160W. It weighs in at 15.4lbs (7kg), which is a bit bulkier, though not enough for you to notice. With a folded dimension of 26.8 ×16.5 × 1.0 in (68 x 42 x 2.4 cm), you can still carry these panels with you.
Built with the same attention to detail as its 110W counterpart, this 160W Panel is dust and water-resistant and submersible in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. Equipped with an ETFE film, it’s also ultra-violet ray resistant.
When paired with a portable power station, these powerful sun sponges produce maximum power at any time of day. They unfold quickly, and with the built-in 0 to 45-degree angle kickstand, the 160W panel will have you storing energy in seconds. The 160W solar panels are perfect for the RIVER 2 Max.
Rated Power：160 Watts
Pairs Best With: RIVER 2 Max Portable Power Station
Folded Dimensions: 26.8 x 16.5 x 1.0 in
Unfolded Dimensions: 26.8 x 61.8 x 1.0 in
Warranty: 12 Months
- When paired with RIVER 2 Max, this solar charger can operate 80% of essential appliances
- Can also be used for essential home backup (30ms switch-over mode when the power goes out)
- Charges RIVER 2 Max in as little as three hours of direct sunlight
- 23% conversion rate
- IP68 water/dustproof rating
- Combined weight with RIVER 2 Max is close to 30lbs. It is still a portable solar charger but may be a bit heavy for some backpackers on long hikes.
Best for Maximum Output: 220W Bifacial Portable Solar Panel
Here’s where things get interesting!
Imagine a solar panel with two sides, allowing you to soak up a primary solar source at 220W and an ambient light source with a 150W panel on the back.
Luckily, EcoFlow has already imagined it and created an innovative, portable solar panel that generates up to 25% more solar energy.
Built with a thin, one-piece tempered glass design, this Bifacial Solar Panel is durable and made to last. It can withstand heat up to 300 degrees, and with the same IP68 waterproof rating, it can also endure a cold splash down.
Coming in at 20.9lbs (9.5kg), this panel might seem to be a bit on the heavy side. But considering the significant upgrade in wattage, you won’t need more than one to keep your solar charger running and power your chosen devices.
While these cutting-edge panels are chainable, most portable EcoFlow solar generators have a maximum current rating of 12A, the same rating that our 220W Solar Panel has. That means, in most cases, one of these panels is more than enough. For example, you only need one 220W panel to pair with the EcoFlow RIVER 2 Pro.
Rated Power：220W Front Side/155W Rear Side
Pairs Best With: RIVER 2 Pro Portable Power Station
Folded Dimensions: 20 x 32 x 1.2 in
Unfolded Dimensions: 32.3 x 72.0 x 1.0 in
Warranty: 12 Months
- Bifacial design maximizes electricity generation from ambient sunlight
- Highest rated power output for a backpacking solar charger
- 10% smaller than comparable 220W PV panels
- IP68 water/dustproof rating for durability in all conditions
- 23% conversion rate
- Heaviest/largest PV panel for backpacking solar chargers. It may be a struggle for some campers to carry
- Most expensive option
How Do Solar Chargers Work?
Solar panels don’t work alone. You can’t just plug your devices and camping appliances directly into a PV panel. Solar panels capture photons from sunlight and convert them into DC electricity using the photovoltaic effect. But it takes a portable power station to store and convert that electricity into standard AC to work with your devices and appliances. Solar panels plus a portable power station equals a complete solar charger solution.
Every off-grid solar solution must include the following components:
- Solar panel(s)
- Solar battery
- Charge controller
- Battery Management System (BMS)
An EcoFlow portable power station provides all the components required for a solar charger in a compact all-in-one device (minus the solar panels). The RIVER 2 series was designed with outdoor activities like backpacking and camping in mind. Paired with a portable solar panel, a RIVER 2 solar charger can keep you powered off-grid indefinitely.
What to Look for When Buying Solar Panels for Backpacking
It can feel overwhelming to research solar panels if you’re not an expert on the technology.
Below, we’ll discuss six key specifications to consider when purchasing solar panels to ensure you’re investing in a high-quality product. Wattage, weight, dimensions, efficiency percentage, durability, and warranty are the most important factors to consider when shopping. These six specs will help pair your specific needs to the right panel.
What are you powering, and for how long? Are you planning on calling into your work’s Zoom call, or would you just like to keep your smartphone and laptop working? Are you a digital nomad or just taking a weekend to get out into the wild and reset your system?
To determine what solar charger is right for you, consider what devices you want to operate — and for how long. Add up the total wattage or amperage of the devices you want to run or charge simultaneously. Then, estimate how long you want to run or charge the devices off-grid. Make sure that the RIVER 2 series portable power station you choose has sufficient AC output and storage capacity to meet your needs.
Next, consider how much electricity you need to generate with your solar panel and decide which one to purchase based on its rated power wattage.
Realistically, the RIVER 2 Pro with 220W Bifacial Solar Panel is the most powerful solar charger you’ll be able to carry when backpacking. It should be more than enough to meet your electricity needs when you’re hiking off-grid.
Studies have shown that backpack weight and back pain go hand in hand, so it’s essential to consider how much weight you’ll carry and for how long. Since you won’t have the luxury of a car to bring your things, you’ll have to bear all that weight on your back.
The question of weight is intertwined with the previous point about electricity consumption and how much power you need. Generally, the greater the wattage, the more solar panel surface area required to capture it. The bigger the PV panel, the bigger the portable power station needed to complete your solar charger setup.
It all means more weight.
If you’re heading out on a weekend trip, a 220W solar panel might be just fine, but if you’re hiking for longer, it may weigh you down.
Two 110W solar panels may be a better option if you’re out for a long haul — especially if you’re traveling with a friend. Weighing only 8.8lb (4kg), two 110W solar panels are easier to carry than one 20.9 lb (9.5kg) 220W PV panel — especially if you take one each!
It’s also important to consider the dimensions of your pack and the panels. Be sure to look up the foldable dimensions of the panels and take a tape measure to your bag.
EcoFlow’s durable, water and dust-proof panels come with a portable carrying case that you can strap to the outside of your pack or carry it by hand if need be. They’ll be the first thing out (or off, in this case) of the bag when you set up camp with your solar charger.
Just as crucial as the foldable dimensions are its unfolded ones. The surface area directly correlates with how much sun a panel can soak up. Be sure to compare the size of the product you’re considering and the promised wattage.
Efficiency (Conversion) Percentage
Quality solar chargers aren’t cheap. You need to get your money’s worth with your solar panel and portable power station. EcoFlow’s monocrystalline solar panels have an industry-leading efficiency rating of 23%.
With PV panels, efficiency measures the amount of sunlight that hits the panel’s photovoltaic surface that gets converted into electricity. The higher the efficiency, the more electricity you can generate with a smaller panel. For a strenuous activity like backpacking, the industry average efficiency of 15 to 18% just won’t cut it. Not without breaking your back.
Even if you’ve only been once, you know backpacking is no picnic. So it makes sense you don’t want to buy the first solar charger you see on the market. Some panels may look thin — perhaps even flimsy. But they should be anything but that. Be sure they are dust and waterproof — and ready to withstand high and low temperatures.
Beyond withstanding the elements, check the estimated lifespan of your solar panels. You’ll want something that will give you years of usage. Make sure your PV panel can keep your solar charger and personal devices juiced up with the same speed and efficiency with every charge.
Most well-built products are well-tested and come with a warranty. EcoFlow comes with a minimum 12-month warranty for solar panels — for some products, this extends to 36 months! RIVER 2 portable power stations carry a 5-year warranty. Now that’s a solar charger that lasts!
A warranty is a telltale sign that the company believes in the longevity of its product.
If you’re considering a product without a warranty, think again. Not only will it likely leave you powerless after waking up in the wet grass of a first-morning mist, but the money you invested in an inferior product will be gone forever.
An extended warranty indicates that you’re purchasing a quality product that will last you for years.
You should accept nothing less.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you go backpacking frequently, a solar charger is one of the best investments you can make. Depending on the size of the solar panel and portable power station you purchase, you can charge everything from smartphones and other consumer electronic devices to household appliances. Level up your backpacking experience with off-grid electricity.
A solar charger is a far superior alternative to a power bank if you plan on backpacking or camping for extended periods. Just need to keep a couple of smartphones charged for a day or two? A power bank may be all you need. If you want to run anything larger — or backpack for more than a day or two, a solar charger can provide off-grid electricity indefinitely.
There are so many options for solar chargers out there.
To find the right one, buying from a company that has done the research, development, and testing to create a superior product is critical.
You don’t want to find yourself stranded in the woods without power on your first day backpacking.
When buying through EcoFlow, you know the solar panels have gone through rigorous testing to pair with a wide array of portable power stations to meet your solar charger needs. You won’t encounter compatibility issues as we built all our devices with cross-functionality.
That said, they can also pair with competing technology. So, if you’ve already invested in another brand’s solar charger but want to try out an EcoFlow solar panel, nothing should stop you.
With EcoFlow, there are so many quality options that give you the flexibility to choose the solar charger that meets your needs.
If you don’t want your solar charger weighing you down, select our lightest option, the 110W Panel and RIVER 2 portable power station. You can rely on its compact yet dependable technology to keep you charged. It’s an excellent option for a day hike.
For experienced backpackers on heavy-duty excursions, a RIVER 2 Pro with 220W Bifacial Solar Panel is the best solar charger for you.
Ready to hit the trails with a reliable solar charger?
Shop our selection of EcoFlow portable solar panels and RIVER 2 series portable power stations today. Pick the right combination for your off-grid electricity needs, and you’ll have the ultimate backpacking solar charger solution!