Best Solar Chargers for Backpacking in 2023
A solar charger is a very useful gadget for long backpacking trips because it allows you to easily recharge your electronic devices such as a handheld GPS device, hiking watch or a smartphone. Since many backpackers rely on these devices for navigation along the trails, solar chargers have become very popular. Especially those who use smartphones for navigation on trails (check out our test of the best hiking apps) appreciate solar chargers, because no smartphone with GPS turned on constantly runs for more than a day without being recharged.
Solar chargers absorb sunlight and convert it to electricity which charges your devices or the battery pack. Unlike regular power banks which get drained sooner or later, solar chargers are suitable for very long trips because they allow you to recharge your devices as long as you have sunlight available.
In the following we listed the best solar chargers currently available to make your buying decision a little easier. We only listed high-quality solar chargers that come for a good price and provide good durability.
We regularly update our reviews and selections to always recommend you the best products on the market.
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases at no extra cost to you.
Our Picks of Solar Chargers for Backpacking
Best Solar Chargers for Backpacking
Goal Zero Nomad 10
The Goal Zero Nomad 10 solar panel features built-in kickstand which clicks into place at multiple angles and allows you to position the solar panel perfectly towards the sun. It is made of rugged and durable materials, and can be strapped to your backpack, tent or other gear. The solar panel has an output of 10 watts and works perfectly with power banks from Goal Zero. The Goal Zero Nomad 10 solar panel is often combined with the Goal Zero Venture 30 power bank which has a capacity of 7800 mAh. The solar panel recharges this power bank in 4.5 to 9 hours. Nevertheless, the solar panel can also charge various devices such as cell phones, cameras etc. directly. The Goal Zero Nomad 10 is a powerful solar panel that is perfect for backpacking and other lengthy activities in the outdoors.
Where to buy?
BigBlue SolarPowa 28
The BigBlue SolarPowa 28 is a panels-only solar charger and thus it is a good option if you already have a battery pack/power bank. However, it is also suitable for charging electronic devices such as smartphones, headlamps etc. directly. The Big Blue SolarPowa 28 solar charger features advanced technology which discovers and replicates your device’s original charging protocol to provide the fastest possible charging speed via 3 USB ports. However, be aware that the solar panels will not generate enough electricity to match the device’s original charging protocol in case of cloudy or rainy weather. This BigBlue solar charger has attachment points, so you can easily attach it on a backpack. It is also water and dust resistant for good performance on hiking trails.
Where to buy?
Reviews and information on the best Solar panels, inverters and batteries from SMA, Fronius, SunPower, SolaX, Q Cells, Trina, Jinko, Selectronic, Tesla Powerwall, ABB. Plus hybrid inverters, battery sizing, Lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries, off-grid and on-grid power systems.
March 10, 2023 Jason Svarc
One of the big drawcards for those with rooftop solar is the ability to charge an EV using your own power. Charging with your own solar-generated electricity can essentially eliminate the ‘fuel’ cost of an EV altogether. However, in practice, this is not always as easy as it sounds. In this article, we discuss the various home EV chargers available, analyse different solar charging options, determine how long it will take to charge an EV using solar, and address some of the issues with using rooftop solar and batteries for charging. For those interested in Vehicle-to-load (V2L) technology, we have a separate detailed article about using V2L for backup power.
How to charge an EV at home using solar
Charging an EV using your own rooftop solar can be relatively easy, but it depends on several factors, the most obvious being the size of your solar system, the time of day, and the weather. If you want to charge an EV quickly using solar only, then you’ll need a large enough solar system and some help using a Smart charger which we will describe in more detail later.
How easy it is to charge an EV using solar depends on the following factors:
- Type of charger used. Charger speeds can range from 2kW to 22kW
- Your solar system size. Typical rooftop solar systems range from 5kW to 15kW
- The vehicle battery level. How much do you need to charge?
- How often do you travel, and how far do you drive?
This might sound complex, but fortunately, we have built a free solar and EV charging calculator so you can estimate how much solar you need to charge an EV based on your driving distance and charger type used.
If you don’t drive often, charging an EV at home using solar can be easy using a simple portable plug-in (level 1) charger and a relatively small 5kW solar system. However, as explained later, solar EV charging using a more powerful level 2 charger can be somewhat tricky, even with a much larger solar array. The problem arises as the solar system will often not generate enough to cover a level 2 charger at full power during cloudy or bad weather. Luckily, this is where Smart EV chargers can help, along with several other solar charging options explained below.
EV battery capacity. Kilowatt-hours (KWh)
Before we get into too much detail about the different types of chargers and charge rates, it’s necessary to understand EV battery capacity and range. Battery capacity is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), and electric vehicles are available with a vast range of different battery sizes, from 24kWh up to 100kWh or more. Most common EVs have a battery capacity of around 65kWh, which generally provides a driving range of about 350km, depending on the conditions and how efficiently you drive. Each kWh of battery capacity will deliver around 5km to 8km of driving range. For a real-world comparison, lighter, more efficient EVs can use as little as 12kWh per 100km (1kWh = 8.2km), while larger, high-performance EVs can use 20kWh or more per 100km of driving (1kWh = 5km).
An average EV uses around 16kWh per 100km (1.0kWh = 6.0km)
Driving at higher speeds results in less driving range due to increased aerodynamic drag. However, most EVs also have regenerative braking, which recovers much of the energy which is typically lost during braking to slow the vehicle. Regenerative braking is particularly beneficial in city start-stop driving, where it improves efficiency and reduces brake dust and air pollution.
Home EV charging options
For those with solar installed, the first thing that comes to mind after purchasing an EV is what charging options are available and whether they are compatible with a rooftop solar system. Before we get into detail, it’s worth pointing out that most level 2 chargers, also called wallbox chargers, are relatively simple devices that can be installed on any home or business with or without rooftop solar. The main difficulty is whether your utility grid connection has enough spare capacity to support a level 2 charger, which generally requires a 32A supply.
Technically there are three levels of EV chargers, of which only the first two can be used at home. Level 1 is a basic portable (granny) charger that can be plugged into any ordinary 10A socket, or a larger 15A power socket. Most EVs come equipped with a small 10A charger as standard. Level 2 are compact wall-mounted chargers that are permanently installed on homes and businesses. Level 3 are very large, powerful, fast chargers generally found at dedicated roadside EV charging stations.
- Level 1.Portable 10A or 15A plug-in chargers from 1.4kW up to 3.6kW (10A to 15A)
- Level 2.Dedicated wall-mounted chargers from 5kW up to 22kW (Wallbox charger)
- Level 3.Roadside EV charging stations from 50kW up to 350kW (DC fast charger)
The 4 types of home EV chargers
Plug-in (socket) EV charger
Most EVs come equipped with a simple level 1 charger that can be used with any common 10A wall socket. These small, portable chargers generally require 12 to 36 hours to fully recharge an average EV, depending on the battery size and initial state of charge. Most 10A chargers can charge at a maximum rate of 2.2kW but typically draw from 1.7kW to 2.0kW, which adds around 10km to 14km of range per hour, depending on the vehicle. powerful 15A portable chargers are also available which are very affordable but will require a dedicated 15A outlet to be installed in the home or garage.
An average residential 6kW solar system can generate 2 to 3kW even during partly cloudy weather, so solar EV charging using a 10A level 1 plug-in socket charger is quite easy.
Single-phase Wallbox EV chargers
Level 2 single-phase EV chargers can be wall or post-mounted and come in a variety of options and designs. Most are rated at 32 Amp, which is the equivalent of 7.4kW of power, and can provide a vehicle with a range of 40 to 50km per hour at the full charge rate. Given that the average person drives less than 50km a day, in theory, you will only need an hour or two to recharge a vehicle daily. An average EV can be fully recharged in 8 to 10 hours using a regular single-phase 7kW Wallbox charger.
Solar EV charging using a single-phase EV charger (7kW) is possible using a large 10kW solar system during good weather. However, a Smart EV charger is the best option as it can dynamically adjust the charging rate to match your solar generation.
Three-phase Wallbox EV chargers
Level 2 three-phase home EV chargers generally look identical to single-phase wall-mounted devices and are typically rated at 32 Amps. However, due to having three supply phases, they can supply three times as much power as the single-phase version, which is roughly equivalent to 22kW of charging power. This can provide a vehicle with a range of 120 to 150km per hour at the maximum charge rate. So fully recharging an average EV can be done in less than 3 hours using a 3-phase Wallbox charger.
Solar-only EV charging using a powerful 3-phase charger (at 22kW) can be difficult, even with a very large 15kW solar system, especially during cloudy weather. Solution: A three-phase EV charger set at a lower charge rate (such as 12kW), or preferably a three-phase Smart EV charger, is the best option as it can dynamically adjust the charge rate to match the solar output.
Combined solar inverter and EV charger
A recent technology is a combined solar inverter and EV charger that can charge directly from rooftop solar. Integrating a charger with a solar inverter is a clever solution that eliminates the need for a separate EV charger along with additional wiring and potential electrical upgrades. The only downside is the inverter must be installed in a garage or close to the vehicle.
SolarEdge is the first solar inverter manufacturer to produce a combined solar inverter and EV charger that can either charge from solar only or from solar and the grid simultaneously at a rate up to 7.4kW. This is ideal for those looking to add solar and an EV charger at the same time and have a preference for Smart home controls. Note, the SolarEdge energy meter is required to enable the Smart charging features.
How long does it take to charge an EV using solar?
This is an open-ended question as it depends on the EV battery capacity and the solar system size. Generally, it will take a long sunny day to charge an average EV from 20 to 80% using a standard 6.5kW rooftop solar system. Naturally, the more solar, the better when it comes to EV charging from home, especially in colder, less sunny locations. Unless you drive more than 80km per day, EV charging from rooftop solar will be relatively straightforward using a regular rooftop solar system provided you are home during the day. Try our solar and EV charging calculator to simulate EV charging using solar.
Average daily EV CHARGING TIMES using a rooftop solar system (Sydney, Australia).
- 6.5kW solar system = 7 hours to charge from 20 to 80% ( Hyundai Kona 64kWh)
- 10kW solar system = 5 hours to charge from 20 to 80% ( Hyundai Kona 64kWh)
The actual charge time can vary significantly depending on how low the EV battery is, the type of EV charger and weather conditions. A larger 10kW rooftop solar array with a more powerful 7kW Type 2 charger could charge an EV up to 80% in 6 to 8 hours on a sunny day, while a more powerful 3-phase charger and 15kW solar array could take as little as 5 hours. Many of these charging times assume the household load is low, and weather conditions are mostly sunny; however, things are not always ideal in practice. This is where a Smart EV charger can help if you want to avoid paying for grid power to charge your EV at home.
Average daily EV CHARGING RATES using a rooftop solar system (Sydney, Australia).
- 6.5kW solar system = 4.5kWh per hour = 22km of range per hour
- 10kW solar system = 7.5kWh per hour = 36km of range per hour
Note: Average solar levels in Sydney are similar to those in Spain or Southern California.
EV charging Efficiency
The charging efficiency of a typical EV, using a household EV charger, depends on a range of factors, including the charge rate, ambient temperature, battery temperature, charging cable length, and conversion efficiency of the vehicle’s power conversion system (AC to DC converter). Temperature can have a big effect on charging efficiency due to a number of reasons. High ambient temperature can mean a vehicle may need to run the battery cooling system while charging, while very low temperatures require the battery heating system to be running while charging. Additionally, any charger will operate less efficiently in very high temperatures due to increased electrical resistance.
Recent testing conducted by Clean Energy Reviews using a BYD Atto 3 electric vehicle compared the charging efficiency of a small portable 10A charger to a 7kW dedicated EV charger at various charging rates. The results, shown in the chart below, indicate that a portable 10A charger’s charging efficiency is lower than that of a dedicated EV charger due to the lower charging rate and losses in the charging cable and extension leads used with portable chargers.
Cable losses are a result of resistance and associated voltage drop as the electrical current travels through a cable. The amount of voltage drop depends on three main factors, the charging current, the cable length and the cable size; longer cables and higher currents result in greater losses. The cable resistance also increases with higher temperatures resulting in voltage drop and lower power (Note: Power (W) = Voltage x Current). As the test results above indicate, longer cables, especially extension leads used with portable chargers, result in higher losses. The losses can also be amplified in high temperatures, especially if the charging cable and extension leads are lying in the sun (on concrete).
Solution: Use a shorter cable or extension lead if possible. Or use a larger size cable. Most 10A extension leads use a 1.0mm2 copper core size, while 15A leads generally use a larger 1.5mm2 copper core. A 15A outlet and cable will help improve charging efficiency if you require a long extension lead.
Low charge rates = Lower efficiency
Most power conversion equipment (inverters or chargers) will operate more efficiently when working close to the rated power output, and EVs are no different. An electric vehicle’s built-in charger needs to convert AC power from the grid to high-voltage DC power to charge the battery system. This process requires power conversion (via transistors) and powering auxiliary controls like battery cell balancing and temperature regulation. If the charger is rated at 7kW and the charge rate is set to only 2kW, then the losses will be greater. Charging at closer to 50% of the charge rating or higher will help improve charging efficiency.
Smart EV Chargers
Smart EV chargers offer various Smart charging modes to optimise when and how your EV is charged. Charging options include scheduled charging to charge during off-peak times automatically or when electricity are low, boost charging and solar-only charging. If you have rooftop solar installed, you can use a Smart EV charger to maximise your self-use of solar. These Smart app-controlled chargers can monitor your solar generation and divert it to your EV charger instead of exporting excess solar to the electricity grid. This way, you don’t end up drawing power from the grid to charge your EV, even during poor or intermittent weather.
How do Smart EV chargers work
A standard home EV charger will draw at a fixed rate, typically 3.5kW to 7.4kW, depending on the type of charger and settings used. However, when charging from rooftop solar, the energy generated may be far less, especially during cloudy or poor weather. Smart EV chargers overcome this problem by using an energy metering device called a CT clamp mounted near the main electrical supply connection to monitor the energy flow to and from the grid. Once it detects excess energy flowing out to the grid from your solar, it will charge the EV at that specific amount. However, this can constantly vary due to changes in power consumption and solar generation, so the Smart EV charger continuously adjusts the charge rate to match the excess solar generation. See our Smart EV chargers article for more information.
Off-grid solar EV charging
Charging an EV using an off-grid solar system can be challenging since the battery capacity of an EV can be far greater than the battery capacity of a residential off-grid system. For instance, an average EV has a 60kWh battery, while an off-grid household may only have a 35kWh battery. In this situation, the high power consumption rate using a Level 2 EV charger (up to 7kW) could completely drain an off-grid battery in 5 hours if it is not monitored or controlled correctly, resulting in system shutdown or excess backup generator runtime. To compound this problem, most Smart EV chargers cannot be used to charge using solar only in an off-grid system, as there is no grid export for the charger to reference, even in an AC-coupled off-grid system. However, Smart EV chargers can still be used as regular EV chargers in an off-grid system as long as you monitor the consumption or use timers to prevent draining the off-grid battery.
Currently, only one dedicated off-grid EV charger is available from Victron Energy. Victron specialises in off-grid power equipment, so it’s not surprising they developed a Smart EV charger with off-grid functionality that can be programmed not to discharge the household battery below a pre-set level (min SOC). However, for it to operate, the charger must be connected to a Victron off-grid system containing a Victron GX device (Smart control hub).
For those more technically inclined, there are alternative methods to ensure the off-grid battery system is not discharged too low using a regular EV charger together with a contactor (relay) controlled by either an off-grid inverter, Smart shunt or MPPT.
Charge HQ. Smart charging using OPCC
A recent technology currently in the trial phase in Australia is a Smart app-based control system that integrates with an existing solar system to charge an EV. A startup company called Charge HQ has developed the software, which is compatible with a number of popular solar inverters and energy storage systems, including Fronius, SolarEdge, Tesla, and Sungrow, plus energy monitoring platforms like Solar Analytics.
To function, Charge HQ needs to be able to control the EV charging over the Internet. It can either talk directly to your electric vehicle or to the Smart charger installed in your home. However, the EV charger must be an Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) compatible charger with support for external power control. If it does not support power control, the system can still start charging when there is enough solar and stop when the available solar is below the set charge rate. EV chargers with OPCC compatibility can also be incorporated into Smart home control software.
Bidirectional chargers. V2G V2H
A new technology that will become more popular in the future is vehicle-to-grid or V2G, using what’s known as a bidirectional charger. This might sound complex, but it simply allows two-way energy flow from your electric vehicle. Ordinary EV chargers send energy in one direction during charging, whereas bidirectional chargers can also draw power from your vehicle, if required, to power your home or help balance the electricity grid in times of high demand.
Another emerging technology is vehicle-to-home or V2H. This is similar to the V2G, but the energy is used locally to power a home and enables the EV to function much like a large household storage battery to help increase self-sufficiency using solar.
For V2G to work, the EV must be able to accept two-way charging and there are only a few V2G compatible EVs on the market including the latest Nissan Leaf. This technology will become a game-changer in the near future and can offer a wide range of services including powering your home and storing excess solar energy. Learn more in our detailed bidirectional chargers explained article.
EVs with vehicle-to-load or V2L technology are much simpler and do not require a bidirectional charger to operate. V2L gives the ability to plug-in electric appliances directly into standard (10A) AC outlets built into the vehicle. EVs with V2L technology can supply AC power and are used as a backup power supply in the event of a blackout or an emergency. Considering the average EV has a 60kWh battery, a fully charged EV could, in theory, supply a regular household for several days non-stop. Another useful feature of V2L is it can be used to top-up other electric vehicles if they happen to be stranded due to a flat battery.
EV charging using a battery
If you are away most of the day, charging an EV using rooftop solar can be challenging. However, this is where battery storage can help. Most average home battery systems are 10kWh in size, which can provide up to 80km of driving range, provided you can use the total battery capacity for charging. In reality, only half of the battery may be available due to household consumption requirements, so this may only provide 30 to 40km of driving range. However, considering the majority of the population (who live in cities) drive short distances on average, this may be suitable. For those who drive longer distances, a larger battery or off-peak charging will be required to recharge the vehicle. Smart EV charging systems such as the SolarEdge inverter EV charger can help manage and optimise your EV charging using solar and battery storage.
Single-Phase Vs 3-Phase grid supply
Two main grid connection types are available for homes, single-phase and 3-phase. Single-phase electricity connections are generally limited to a maximum of 20kW or 80A, while a 3-phase residential connection can supply up to 45kW (3 x 63A).
Most homes in Australia, Asia, the UK and North America have a single-phase, 220 to 240V supply. The maximum energy that can be supplied from the electricity grid is typically 12kW to 20kW (50A to 80A). However, you cannot utilise the full grid capacity to charge an EV, or you will not be able to use any other appliances at the same time. If you did, every time you use a toaster or microwave, the grid supply switch would trip off due to overload. For this reason, most single-phase EV chargers are limited to 32A or around 7kW. This is not bad unless you really need to fast-charge at home. However, higher charging rates can be enabled using an EV charger with a load-balancing function that monitors household consumption and adjusts the charging rate accordingly. Learn more about load-balancing in our Smart EV chargers article.
Most commercial businesses have a 3-phase supply, so installing one or more high-power 22kW EV chargers is possible, depending on the capacity of the building’s electrical connection. However, multiple level-2 EV chargers could also overload a commercial grid supply, so Smart load-balancing EV chargers are also recommended.
Ready Hour Wireless Solar PowerBank Charger 20 LED Room Light
This wireless solar charger is rugged and dependable, perfect for emergencies, natural disasters and power outages. It’s waterproof too. Take it camping or on a hunting trip. Keep in your RV or cabin.
Any time you’re outdoors and need to charge your devices or gear, you’ll want a powerful device like this.
A TRUE POWERHOUSE
High-Powered Charging : Stay connected with sustainable power to carry you through the unexpected! No sub-standard power here. With 20,000 mAh power capacity (triple lesser competitor units. be sure to compare).
Power the devices you depend on, anytime and anywhere—three devices at once with 2 USB ports 1 USB-C port or a single device like a cell phone four times before recharging.
Whole-Room Light : Or count on the bright, long-lasting LED bank of lights. Once you see this unit, you’ll want every member of your family to have one.
Fast Charging : Two of the three USB ports on this device are fast chargers, so you won’t have to sit around and wait for hours. Or, set your device or cell phone on the wireless charging surface!
BUILT TO LAST LONGER
Water Drop-Proof Casing : Carefully crafted with a premium silicon protective case. a durable build with side grips that makes it easy to hold or use the lanyard clip. waterproof and shockproof.
High-Energy Density Lithium Ion Battery : Put through rigorous testing to ensure durability
Charge on the Go. 3 USB Cable Outputs. Output 1: 5V/3A; Output 2: 5V/3A, 9V/2A, 12V/1.5A; TYPE-C Output 3: 5V/3A, 9V/2A, 12V/1.5A.
Fast Charging. Solar Panel, Micro-USB USB Type-C input to charge, charge and discharge more than 800 times; include a 4-stage power-level indicator; can recharge in approximately 60-90 minutes by wall outlet, depending on power adapter block.
LED Bank of Lights. Hold on/off button to turn on a bright panel of LED lights with a flashing red light S.O.S signal mode, puts out 520 lumens
Dimensions. 4 x 1.2 x 7.38 and weighs 1.55 pounds
What’s in the Box. Wireless Solar PowerBank Charging Unit, micro-USB cord, manual
Storage: Optimal storage conditions range from 30-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not expose to temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Battery Care: As with all battery-run devices, proper upkeep is critical for the prolonged function of this unit. If the unit is left to sit for long periods, the battery can drain and even become inoperable. Make sure to charge the battery every few months to extend its life and performance.
The solar panel with this unit is primarily intended to power your LED flashlight. A couple hours of intense sunlight equals a couple hours of LED flashlight power.
Although the power bank will charge via solar panel, that is not the primary intent on having the solar panel. The conversion rate for this size of solar panel under optimal, full sun conditions is 550 mAh per hour. It would take on average about 40 hours to fully recharge the 20,000 mAh battery once the sun’s rays are intense enough to reach the maximum conversion rate. On a full battery, the LED flashlight can last up to 72 hour. It is recommended to have this unit standing by, fully charged by by an electrical outlet, ready for use during emergencies.
Solar charging unit
Use exclusively green energy to charge your car. Full-Green mode will detect when there is enough surplus green energy available at your home to meet the minimum requirements needed to power your car. That’s when your car will begin charging, meaning every charge is 100% green.
Minimize the use of grid power while charging your EV by combining it with any surplus green energy available. Eco mode detects the green energy that is not being used elsewhere in your home in real-time and mixes it with energy from the grid to ensure a fast, efficient charge.
Want to switch back to all grid power? No problem!
Disable Eco-Smart or manually schedule or start a new charging session. Your charger will begin using solely grid energy, as with any standard EV charger.
Start using Eco-Smart via myWallbox
If you have a Pulsar Plus 40A or 48A, you’re ready to start using Eco-Smart—at no additional cost. Just download the free myWallbox app to access Eco-Smart once it’s available, along with existing Smart charging features like scheduling, real-time statistics, and more. Don’t have a solar or wind system yet? Your charger will continue to work as it always has, and Eco-Smart is there for you whenever your system is ready!
Connected energy meter required
The 5 Best Portable Solar Laptop Chargers
Amber Nolan is a freelance writer for Treehugger who is passionate about sustainable living, nature, and outdoor adventure.
Working remotely using a laptop is becoming more and more common, and with it comes the challenge of keeping a computer powered up when electric outlets are scarce. Whether camping in the wilderness, on a road trip, living off-grid, or in a sudden power-outage situation, a portable solar laptop charger is a handy device to have.
Most portable solar laptop chargers function as mini power stations capable of charging other electronics like cell phones, cameras, drones, and tablets—to name a few. Now, with more options than ever to choose from, we’ve sorted through the latest solar devices to find our favorites.
Here are the best portable solar laptop chargers.
Jackery 1000W Peak Solar Generator SG550 with 100W Solar Panel
Founded by a former Apple battery engineer in Silicon Valley, Jackery Power Outdoors is one of the most well-recognized names in off-grid power supplies. The Solar Generator SG290 comes with a whopping 90-watt panel that folds shut and can easily be toted away using the carry handle. The 400-watt output can charge a MacBook four times before the power station requires a recharge, making it our top overall choice.
Another stand-out feature is the built in MPPT module that monitors voltage and output of the solar panel, adding up to 23% more solar recharging efficiency. There’s also an automatic power-saving setting to power down when not in use. The Jackery can charge up to four devices at one time.
Price at time of publish: 679
Solar Panel Capacity: 400 watts | Battery Capacity: 290 watt hours | Weight: 7.5 pounds | Output Ports: AC Output, Car Port Output, USB Outputs
Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC Nomad 20 Solar Kit
For an ultraportable laptop charger than can easily pack up and fit into luggage or a hiking pack, the Sherpa 100AC by Goal Zero weighs just over four pounds – for both the charger and the 20-watt solar panel. The Sherpa is ideal for charging laptops, cameras, tablets, and phones, plus it even has a wireless charging option.
The Nomad 20 panel can fold shut and comes with a kickstand to get the proper angle in the sun. It takes about 7.5 to 15 hours to recharge (so a full day in the sun), however, it can also recharge from another USB source (in eight to 10 hours) or from the car adapter or wall charger in about three hours.
Price at time of publish: 450
Solar Panel Capacity: 20 watts | Battery Capacity: 94.7 watt hours | Weight: Power bank 2 pounds, solar panel 2.28 pounds | Output Ports: Wireless Qi, USB-C PD ports, USB-A, AC inverter
Best for RVing
Patriot Power Sidekick
Specializing in emergency equipment such as water filters and ready-to-eat survival meals, the outdoor company 4 Patriots also makes must-have solar devices. The Power Sidekick is a reliable and efficient solar charger that’s designed for sudden power-outages, and is also a good addition to camping or RV gear.
Although it’s lightweight, the Sidekick can charge phones, laptops, medical devices, Wi-Fi routers, radios, and more with a capacity of 300 watts. The four foldable solar panels (connected) provide total 40 watts of power to recharge the Sidekick and can also directly charge any device that has a USB port. There’s a light on the back that’s useful in a tent or on the picnic table, and the clear digital display shows the charging levels and how many watts the laptop being charged is using.
The company supports active-duty military and veterans’ charities.
Price at time of publish: 497
Solar Panel Capacity: 40 watts | Battery Capacity: 300 watt hours | Weight: 8 pounds | Output Ports: Two USB, USB Type C, two pure sine wave AC output
Best Backpack Charger
Voltaic Systems Array Rapid Solar Backpack Charger for Laptops
A solar-charging backpack allows you to charge a laptop on the go, and the redesigned Array Rapid Solar Backpack Charger by Voltaic Systems is lightweight (5.4 pounds), durable, and powerful. UV and water resistant, the backpack is made from 33 recycled plastic soda bottles (recycled PET fabric). Inside is 25 liters of storage, a dedicated padded 15-inch laptop sleeve for added protection, and plenty of interior s.
The new larger capacity, 88-watt hour battery comes with USB-C to charge the latest devices. The battery can be recharged with the AC adapter or with the 10-watt solar panel that’s built into the rear of the backpack. It takes about six hours to fully charge a laptop.
Price at time of publish: 249
Solar Panel Capacity: 9 watts | Battery Capacity: 88.8 watt hours | Weight: 5.4 pounds | Output Ports: USB, USB Type C, and Hi-Voltage Laptop Output
SunJack 25W Portable Solar Charger Panel 2 Powerbanks
This portable solar panel and battery kit is designed for phones, tablets, and other smaller devices, but if your laptop uses a USB-C power cable, you can also connect it. The kit includes a folding, three-panel portable solar charger, and two 10,000mAh batteries, plus two fast-charging cables and carabiners.
This setup might not be ideal for powering work on your laptop for an extended period of time, but it can supplement your laptop’s internal battery enough to get it to boot up and check or send messages in the case of an emergency. At under 200, it’s a great value and considerably less expensive than setups with higher capacities.
Sunjack is a trusted name is solar panels, and its durable design is back by a one year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 120
Solar Panel Capacity: 25 watts | Battery Capacity: 90 watt hours each | Weight: 3 pounds total | Output Ports: One USB-A, one USB-C
Our top pick for a portable solar laptop charger is the Jackery Power Outdoors unit for its reasonable price and high functionality, but if you’re looking for a cost-friendly option, the SunJack Solar Panel and Power Bank set is an affordable, lightweight choice for charging laptops and cell phones in emergency situations.
What to Consider When Shopping for a Solar Laptop Charger
While some portable solar panel manufacturers claim they can charge laptops by connecting directly to the panel, it’s not a good idea. Voltage fluctuations can potentially damage devices, and portable solar panels are slower to charge devices than battery power packs. Not to mention, solar panels can only be utilized during daylight hours, while a combination of both (battery and panel) allows you to maximize power generation by using the battery in the evenings and recharging it on the panel during the day.
Although solar panels and batteries have both gotten way lighter in recent years, a battery system that’s large enough to keep a laptop charged for a meaningful amount of time is not going to fit in your Generally speaking, bigger, heavier batteries are going to charge a laptop for longer. These steps tend to be best suited for off-grid homes, car camping, or RVing. If you need a super lightweight system, you may want to consider if tablet and smaller battery pack can suit your needs.
Make sure the battery has output ports that you can plug your laptop’s power cable into. Many newer laptops, like the MacBook Pro, use a power cable with a USB-C connector. Older laptops will need an AC output port, the kind you find on a wall outlet.
Why Trust Treehugger?
The author, Amber Nolan, lives off-grid (most of the year) on a houseboat using almost entirely solar power, but she also relies on the Jackery portable solar generator when she’s traveling.