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 panel and generator is a must-have investment if you want to enjoy the great outdoors while staying electric and connected.
While they draw on natural, renewable resources to generate energy, not all solar panels are suitable for backpacking. With solar panels, it’s essential to consider the energy rating, weight, flexibility, portability, and the amount of wattage they can generate in tandem with the type of outdoor excursion you have in mind.
This article will recommend three solar panels 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.
3 Best Backpacking Portable Solar Panels
110W 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 portable power station as well as DELTA portable solar generators. When paired with a more compact generator such as the River 2, these panels offer the right amount of wattage without weighing you down.
Made with monocrystalline silicon cells, these efficient panels can hook up to your generator with a solar power to 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, which means you can 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 power generator charges, so you can get back to exploring the trail. For the River 2 generator, you’ll only need one 110W solar panel, while 3 to 4 is the right amount of panels for the more heavy-duty DELTA.
Coming in at 8.8lbs (or 4kg), 110W solar panels won’t wear 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.
160W 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 (68x42x2.4 cm), you’ll still be able to 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 an EcoFlow Solar Generator, 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.
220 W Bifacial 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 for you, EcoFlow has already imagined it and created an innovative product that remains portable while generating 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 charge your solar generator and 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, all you need is one 220W panel to pair with the EcoFlow River 2 Pro.
Buy the Best Solar Generator
Solar panels are only as good as the power generator they’re connected to. You’ll probably want to plug into more than one device when you hit the campsite. Having a solar generator that can get powered up quickly and spread the juice to whatever gadgets you’ve brought is essential.
Purchasing the right power generator in tandem with your choice of solar panels is paramount for efficiency. You’ll want a generator with stable battery life, so the power you’re absorbing is retained inside the generator while you’re not charging. The last thing you want is a generator that leaks energy.
Consider the River 2 series portable solar generators from EcoFlow combined with a 110W, 160W, or 220W Panel, depending on the model selected. River 2 pairs with one 110W solar panel, while River 2 Max pairs with a 160W panel, and the River 2 Pro pairs with one 220W panel.
The River 2 Max offers 512Wh capacity and is the mid-range option of this series, while the River 2 Pro has an impressive 768Wh capacity as the largest of the series. The River 2 Pro does weigh more, at 17.2 lbs, while the River 2 Max is just 13.4 pounds. Neither of these generators will break your back or the bank. If you need less power or are looking for a lighter generator, the River 2 is 7.7 lbs and offers 256 capacity and 300W output. With only one 110W solar panel, you can have this little generator powered up for as little as one hour.
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 look for 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 phone and air compressor working? Are you a digital nomad or just taking a weekend to get out into the wild and reset your system?
When you start with why you need a solar panel, it’s easier to determine how much battery capacity you’ll need. Look for the power rating, which corresponds directly to how much power the product can generate.
If you want your devices to recharge lickety-split, go with a higher rating. If you don’t mind sitting in the sunrise and taking your time before you hit the dusty trail, a more average power rating will likely do just fine.
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 carry your things, you’ll have to bear all that weight on your back.
The question of weight is intertwined with the previous point of wattage and how much power you want. Generally, the greater the wattage, the more panel surface area required to create it. It all means more weight.
If you’re heading out on a weekend trip, a 200+ watt panel might be just fine, but if you’re hiking for longer, those panels will start to weigh on you.
Two 110W solar panels are a great addition to your pack if you’re out for a long haul. Weighing together at roughly 16lbs (7.25kg), you won’t break your back to keep yourself powered up while carrying two panels.
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 the outside of your pack and carry if need be. They’ll be the first thing out (or off, in this case) of the bag when you set up camp.
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, then check the panels.
You want to get your money’s worth with every charge. So it’s a great idea to investigate the efficiency percentage of the models you’re considering.
The efficiency percentage is the amount of power per square foot your panel can handle. It directly correlates to the device’s dimensions.
The industry average efficiency percentage comes in at about 15 to 18%, but EcoFlow’s panels clock in at around 22%!
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 panels and generator 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 lifespan of your solar panels. You’ll want something that will give you years of usage and have your solar generator 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 some products, this extends to 36 months!
A warranty is a telltale sign that the company believes in the longevity of its product.
If you’re considering a product without one, 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.
A warranty indicates that you’re purchasing a quality product that will last you for years of your life. You should accept nothing less.
There are so many options for solar technology out there. When finding 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 solar generators to meet your needs. You won’t encounter pairing 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 generator but want to try out an EcoFlow Panel, nothing should stop you.
With EcoFlow, there are so many quality options, so you have the flexibility to choose the solar panel that meets your needs. If you don’t want your product weighing you down, you can select our lightest option, the 110W Panel, and still rely on its dependable technology to keep you charged. It’s an excellent option for a day hike.
For more heavy-duty excursions for our experienced backpackers, a powerful solar generator and a 220W Bifacial Solar Panel will keep you going longer while staying connected.
Ready to hit the trails and have a reliable power source? Shop the selection of EcoFlow portable solar panels and solar generators today. With a 12-month warranty, you can confidently take it anywhere and harness the sun’s energy.
Power your off-grid world with innovative, clean energy!