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Charging the Necessities: The 3 Best Solar Panels for Camping

Many of us work to support our next excursion into the wilderness. The excitement in hiking and camping is often in how much farther we can hike or how secluded we can camp. This type of minimalist camping does not come without its own set of challenges.

Staying Charged When You Disconnect

remote fishing

One significant challenge is how to keep your batteries charged in the backcountry. You don’t want to miss that picture of a lifetime or lose GPS because your batteries run down. Today’s portable solar panels are the answer, but what are the best solar panels for camping? The reviews and comparisons below can help you determine what solar panel will suit your camping style. 

Best Overall Portable Solar Charger

The Anker Powerport 21W is our recommendation for the best overall solar charger. It has all the same qualities as many 15W solar panels but with 6W more power. Its charging speed in full sun is just over three and half hours to charge a 6,000 mAh external battery — one of the fastest on the market. It’s incredible at charging multiple devices simultaneously and is also one of the better solar chargers at handling charge interruption.

Overall Performance Expectations

1. Charge Interruption Recovery: If you leave the Anker 21W in full sun for 30 minutes, it will charge a 6,000 MAh external battery pack up to 10 percent. If it loses the sun for 10 minutes and then recovers sunlight, it will resume charging in about five minutes.

2. Charging Speed: It takes just over three and half hours to fully charge a dead 6,000 mAh external battery. That’s incredible speed since it takes two hours to charge that same battery when plugged directly into the wall.

3. Multiple Device Charging Speed: This is where the Anker 21W shines. Despite its relatively small size, the 21W can charge two devices at the same time. It is capable of charging a phone while also charging a battery pack. 

anker portable solar charger

Anker Powerport 21W Summary

The Anker 21 has an excellent reputation for being well made and has been a favorite of adventure photographers for some time. At 17.6 ounces, it’s not the lightest, but it’s one of the most lightweight mono-crystalline solar panels rated 20+ watts and up. It’s more than fair on overcast days and outstanding in full sun. It has a trifold design that’s easy to store. It’s one of the very best in charging speed and the ability to charge multiple devices.

Best Inexpensive Portable Solar Charger

The Big Blue 3 is our recommendation for the best portable solar charger for the money. With this 28-watt model, you have auto-restart, great charging efficiency and durable construction. It continues to charge an external battery, even when the sun is not great. The Big Blue 3 may be less expensive, but you’re not compromising much.

Overall Performance Expectations

1. Charge Interruption Recovery: The Big Blue 3 does have a smooth interruption recovery function. The solar panel design does well at keeping you in the sun throughout the day but smoothly recovers if you lose the sun.

2. Charging Speed: It can charge a Pixel 3 (mAh Li-ion battery) to 9 percent in 30 minutes. Not top of the line, but in comparison is just under the very best. At base camp, it’s common for it to keep a satellite phone charged for weeks. Plus, the price is very acceptable. 

3. Multiple Device Charging Speed: This is where you get what you paid for with the Big Blue 3. Marketing material will tell you it has three USB ports but, in reality, you should use only one for reliable performance. 

Big Blue 3 Summary

At just over 20 ounces, it’s heavier than some 15-watt solar panels, but you are carrying a 28-watt solar panel. Big Blue is a durable, single port, efficient, fast-charging and affordable PET Polymer portable solar panel. When you compare the features, speed and durability with other top-of-the-line solar panels, you’re not losing much for this price.

packing hunting gear

Best Lightweight Portable Solar Charger

The BEARTWO 10,000mAh is our recommendation for the best lightweight solar charger. It is a 10,000mAh battery pack with a mono-crystalline solar panel on top. At just 7.52 ounces, it’s by far one of the very lightest solar panels on the market. Impressively, it can power two devices at a time and has charge interruption recovery capability. The BEARTWO is an excellent option for fast, light trips into the backcountry. 
Overall Performance Expectations

1. Charge Interruption Recovery: The BEARTWO does have interruption recovery but works best if there’s some power in the battery pack. As with most lightweight solar chargers, it struggles if entirely dead. Unlike others, the BEARTWO does hold a consistent charge on small devices even with the battery close to completely dead.

2. Charging Speed: Like many, the small size means a small battery. Unlike others, though, it does charge as fast as many 42-watt solar panels. You can expect it to charge a phone to 30 percent in 30 minutes.

3. Multiple Device Charging Speed: The BEARTWO has two USB ports and will charge at a remarkable 2.1 amp per port. Many who use this will be traveling light, but it is nice to know you can charge two devices at once.

This lightweight battery pack/solar panel won’t weigh you down if you’re on a quick hike or camping trip. With some of the latest technology in battery-pack/solar chargers, it can power through interruptions as long as you have some battery life left. Be sure to take the BEARTWO with a full charge, since it takes a decent amount of time to charge from the sun’s power alone, or as a backup for longer trips.
hunter with cell phone

Match Your Style to Your Solar Panel

Before deciding on a portable solar charger, determine what type of hiking and camping you do most. If you’re a hardcore camper and need to travel light, you will want the lightest solar panel you can get. Likewise, you’ll need a quality solar panel’s capacity if you have multiple batteries to charge and will be solo camping for a few days. Once you determine the type of camping you are more likely to do, you can choose from the list above and camp fully charged.

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