Jackery Solar Generator 300 Review
The Jackery Solar Generator 300 is a combination package of the Jackery 300 and a SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel. The Jackery 300 is a 293Wh power bank weighing 7.1 lbs / 3.2 kg with one USB-C port, two USB-A ports, two Type B outlets, and a 12V car port.
It’s a power bank with enough capacity to reliably power larger devices like laptops, powered coolers, televisions, or drones, but not so large that you would want to rely on it as the sole source of power for an extended off-grid expedition. It’s designed to be portable, easily rechargeable, and practical.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Jackery Solar Generator 300.
I used the Jackery Solar Generator 300 for a month traveling through California, Nevada, and Utah – mostly living out of my car and camping along the way. I charged the Jackery Explorer 300 exclusively with a SolarSaga 100W solar panel during this time and exclusively used the 300 to charge all my devices (phone, camera, laptop, smaller power banks, headlamps, watch, etc.) during this time.
Pros and Cons
Lightweight and compact USB-C port with Quick Charge output Two USB-A ports and two Type B outlets Can be recharged via car, wall outlet, or solar Charges from 0 to 80% in 3.5 hours
– No measure of the time remaining on the charge– Pass-thru charging is not recommended– Dim display screen– No discount for buying bundled items
The following information reflects the Jackery Explorer 300 only. The SolarSaga 100W specs can be found here.
- Weight: 7.1 lbs / 3.2 kg
- Dimensions (in): 9.1 x 5.2 x 7.8
- Dimensions (cm): 23 x 13.3 x 19.9
- USB-C Ports: 1
- USB-A Ports: 2
- Type B Outlets: 2
- Operating Usage Temperature: 14-104°F (-10-40°C)
- Capacity: 293Wh (14.4V, 20.4Ah)
- Cell Chemistry: Li-ion NMC
- Lifecycle: 500 cycles to 80% capacity
- AC Output: 110V, 60Hz, 300W (500W Surge)
- USB-A Output: 5V, 2.4A
- Quick Charge 3.0 Output: 5-6.5V, 3A / 6.5-9V, 2A / 9-12V, 1.5A
- USB-C PD Output: 5V, 9V, 15V, 20V, 3A
- Car Output: 12V, 10A
- DC Input: 12V-30V (90W Max)
- Recharge via AC Adapter: 4.5 hours
- Recharge via 12V Car Adaptor: 5 hours
- Recharge via SolarSaga 100W: 5 hours
- Recharge via Electric Generator: 4.5 hours
- Country of Origin: China
- MSRP: 599.98 (Jackery 300 alone, 299.99)
- No gasoline, fumes, or noise during operation
- Compact, lightweight design, it’s easy to carry
- Emissions-free energy source and reliable battery management system make it safe enough for indoor use
- Can be recharged within 3.5 hours from 0-80% by a SolarSaga 100W solar panel.
- 2 AC outputs, 60W PD USB-C, QC3.0 USB-A, USB port, and 12V car port
The Portability: The Jackery Solar Generator 300 is easy to bring with you at just 7.1 lbs / 3.2 kg for the Jackery Explorer 300 and 10.33 lb / 4.69 kg for the SolorSaga 100 solar panel. They both have handles making them easy to carry and the Explorer 300 is small enough that you could fit it into a backpack (or under a table/next to you somewhere) if you wanted to.
The USB-C Port: The Jackery Solar Generator 300 has a single USB-C port which is good. I wouldn’t even want to consider a power bank without at least one USB-C port. Honestly, I wish there was a second one available. The USB-C port can be used as either an input (to charge the Jackery 300) or as an output (to charge a device). At 60W, it’s more than capable of powering USB-C devices – even laptops and tablets.
The Solar Charging: The SolorSaga 100 solar panel does an excellent job of charging the Jackery 300 – provided you have it out in direct sunlight. I was easily – and quickly – able to charge the Jackery 300 to 100% on mornings in the Utah desert and even when there’s Cloud cover, you can still get some juice from the solar panel. Charging from zero – in direct sunlight – the panel will take approximately 5 hours to charge the Jackery 300 to 100%. The solar panel is compatible with other Jackery units, as well.
The Operating Temperatures: One thing I worry about when traveling in and living out of my car is the temperatures my car (and therefore my gear) will experience. I often find myself in areas where temperatures are either exceeding 100°F / 38°C or dropping below freezing. Fortunately, the operating temperature range of the Jackery 300 is 14-104°F (-10-40°C). I’ve yet to have a problem with it in either the heat or the cold.
The Panel Size: The Jackery Solar Generator 300 comes with a SolarSaga 100W which isn’t compact by any measure. The panel folds in half (with a handy magnetic closure) and measures 24 x 21 x 1.4 in (610 x 535 x 35 mm) folded or 48 x 21 x 0.2 in (1220 x 535 x 5 mm) unfolded. It is thin and does store nicely so long as you have somewhere flat to stick it (I’ve put it at the bottom of my roof box or between folded-down seats in the past. I’ve been pretty rough with it and it’s held up surprisingly well.
The Time Remaining: A drawback of the Jackery Explorer 300 is that despite having a battery percentage remaining on the unit, there’s no indication of time remaining until empty. This is to say, if you plug in your laptop to work, you’ll have to gauge the remaining time you have based on the time that elapses between checking to see what battery percentage is left.
The Buttons: To begin charging with the Jackery 300 you need to hit a button adjacent to the plugs you will be using to turn them on. I usually find myself having to do this either in the dark or while blindly reaching into my car and finding the buttons a tad annoying. Perhaps if they had small lights (when off – they have lights when on) or were embossed or texturized to make them easier to find/push – maybe switches instead? I don’t know.
The Bundle: One thing that stands out to me about the Jackery Solar Generator 300 is that despite buying what’s essentially a bundle of the Jackery Explorer 300 and the SolarSaga 100 solar panel, there’s no price break. The set is the same price as it would be were you to purchase the Explorer 300 and the SolarSaga 100 separately. Maybe there’s an incentive I’m missing here, but I never understand why when the combo price is the same as all its parts added together.
Who is it for?
The Jackery Solar Generator 300 is the ideal piece of gear if you want to keep your small to medium electronics charged while traveling or camping off the grid. If you’re a small group (maybe two or three people), the system should be able to provide you with all the power you need to keep your devices charged – particularly if you plan on taking full advantage of the solar panel.
If you’re looking for something to power a refrigerator, blender, or other large electronics that may be more associated with van life than car camping, then you’ll want something larger than the 300. That said, the 300 isn’t a bad thing to have around in case you need some power in a pinch.
I’ve also found the 300 incredibly useful for powering my laptop in places where power outlets aren’t readily available (i.e. now I can sit anywhere at any Starbucks to work).
The Jackery Solar Generator 300 strikes a nice balance between portability and battery size. I love that I can fit the Explorer 300 into my backpack or tuck it away discreetly in my car. It has more than enough power to keep all my small electronics charged and to keep my laptop functioning on the road.
The SolarSaga 100 works well and, in direct sunlight, can charge the Explorer 300 surprisingly quickly. I do wish it had one more USB-C port, but I’m grateful for the one for now.
Questions, Комментарии и мнения владельцев, or personal experience with the Jackery Solar Generator 300? Leave a comment below or get in touch and let me know!
Check out the Jackery Solar Generator 300 here.
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Solar USB Charger
About: Making and sharing are my two biggest passions! In total I’ve published hundreds of tutorials about everything from microcontrollers to knitting. I’m a New York City motorcyclist and unrepentant dog mom. My wo… About bekathwia »
Let’s make something super useful— your own solar powered USB backup battery! After some simple soldering, you’ll be ready to charge your phone and other portable electronics on the go while camping or during the next power outage. What follows is a basic recipe which you can follow exactly, or switch out the solar panel and battery size to match your desired capacity, charge speed, and budget.
This project is part of my free Solar Class, where you can learn more ways to harness the sun’s energy through engraving and solar panels.
To keep up with what I’m working on, follow me on YouTube, Instagram and subscribe to my newsletter.
Step 1: What You’ll Need
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First soldering project? No problem! This is a great project for beginners, and you’ll get a variety of types of solder practice while building it. You can learn how in the soldering lesson of Randy’s free Instructables Electronics Class, then come back here to assemble your solar charger.
Step 2: Circuit Diagram
The solar charger circuit board comes with a USB port, DC jack for the solar panel, and two JST ports already attached to the board. The battery comes with a JST plug and will attach to the JST port labeled BATT. The solar charger comes with a JST pigtail cable which will connect to the LOAD port and be soldered directly to the PowerBoost input terminals.
The power switch (at the top of the diagram above) should be attached to the PowerBoost pins labeled EN and GND. Flipping it will turn on and off the PowerBoost. This switch does not have to carry the circuit’s current load, so choose almost any on/off switch you like. I chose an illuminated on/off pushbutton, which also needs to be connected to the PowerBoost’s 5V and GND pins, with a 220ohm resistor in series. The illuminated portion of the switch is optional, but it is a nice indicator that the device is ready to charge your USB devices.
Step 3: Test Fit Components
You’ll want to pick an enclosure that fits all your components snugly, without too much squishing. I had an extra Moo business card box that fits the length of the battery and the height of the solar charger perfectly, and even has a little extra space left over for business cards still.
It closes with magnets embedded in the layers of cardboard and paper. If you can’t find a stiff paper/cardboard box, you can choose an enclosure made from wood, plastic, or metal, however these harder materials will require different tools for creating port openings, such as a drill with a step bit.
In addition to physically fitting inside, you must also plan out where to create the openings so that your device is useable. I chose to put the illuminated power button next to the USB port, since the light indicates it’s ready to charge. This area of the box is recessed, making the button less likely to get accidentally triggered while the device is in my bag. Opposite the button and USB A port (PowerBoost) are the solar panel DC port and USB mini B port (solar charger).
Step 4: Solder Capacitor to Solar Charger
The solar charger board comes with most of the components soldered to the board already, with the exception of the large filtering capacitor. Look for the large circle on the circuit board, with holes matching the capacitor’s lead spacing.
The capacitor’s polarity is important! The negative side of the capacitor is labeled with a white stripe and minus symbol, and the negative lead is typically shorter. The positive side of the capacitor is not labeled, and the leg is typically longer.
Line up the positive lead to the hole marked. and the negative lead to the hole marked
If your enclosure doesn’t have enough space to fit the height of this large capacitor, you may bend it over slightly before soldering, or use wires (and heat shrink tubing) to move it to another part of your enclosure. According to the official assembly instructions, you should be careful to avoid contact with the hot chip in the center of the board.
To learn how to solder, check out the soldering lesson in Randy’s free Instructables Electronics Class.
Step 5: Assemble PowerBoost
Install the USB port to the PowerBoost circuit board, and be sure it is seated completely and evenly before soldering the terminals to the board on the underside.
The large clip joints connecting big areas of metal will require longer heating and more solder other solder joints. Allow to cool in your third hand tool for several minutes before attempting to handle the USB port, as it will get very hot.
Although the PowerBoost comes with two different connectors for its input power and ground terminals, we’re going to leave those off and solder the JST pigtail wire directly to the circuit board.
Heat up and tin the ends of the wires and the pads marked and Reheat the pad and wire as you bring them together: red to and black to
Step 6: Mark Cut Port Openings
Now that your circuit board elements have taken their final shapes, it’s time to mark and cut openings for the ports in your enclosure.
Arrange the components inside your enclosure as you did during test-fit, and trace around the ports and power button using a pencil or marker.
If you’re using double-stick foam tape instead of screws to secure your components, adjust the markings to accommodate for the width of the tape.
Carefully cut the openings with a sharp craft knife. If you’re not using a paper box (for example plastic, metal, or wood), you may need a drill with a step bit, rotary tool with cutoff wheel accessory, small hacksaw, or other cutting tools appropriate for the material. If you’re using a metal enclosure, line the inside with adhesive vinyl, thick tape, or other insulating material, to prevent short circuits.
Step 7: Connect Power Switch
My switch has a threaded plastic ring that will secure it to the enclosure, so I removed that first.
Tin and solder wires onto the leads of your power switch, and use heat shrink tubing to insulate the connections.
Since my switch has an internal LED, I’m also wiring up a 220ohm resistor to one of the leads (doesn’t matter which), then a wire onto the opposite resistor lead. The LED is optional— you can leave it off or use any on/off switch you like (such as a toggle, slide switch, or tactile on/off button).
This on/off switch must be installed from the exterior of the enclosure, and therefore must be installed before we can solder the other ends of the wires to anything.
Insert the switch with wires through the opening in the enclosure, and thread the nut back onto the switch and tighten it against the inside of the enclosure.
After the switch is in place, you can solder its wires to the various pins on the PowerBoost board as described in the circuit diagram. The LED is connected to 5V (LED ) and GND (LED.), and the switch leads are connected to EN and GND. To attach each wire, trim it a little longer than you think you’ll need, then strip off a bit of the insulation. Twist the wire strands together and lightly tin the wire so the strands stay together. Insert the tinned end into the hole on the circuit board, and apply heat and solder to connect. Trim the remaining wire end with flush snips, but be careful not to let bits of loose wire get stuck inside your enclosure.
Step 8: Secure Components Within Enclosure
Before securing the boards, let’s test out the circuit! Plug your PowerBoost’s JST pigtail cable into the LOAD port on the solar charger, and your battery into the BATT port.
Toggle your power switch, and the PowerBoost’s onboard LED should light up, as well as your power switch LED if you have one. If yours doesn’t, toggle the power back off, disconnect the battery, and double check your wiring against the circuit diagram, as well as the integrity of your solder joints. Post a photo in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев if you still can’t get it to work after these troubleshooting steps.
Further check that plugging in a USB cable to the solar charger triggers the battery to start charging, as indicated by the amber CHRG LED on the circuit board, as well as the red DCIN LED when power is connected. Verify that the battery keeps charging even when you toggle off the PowerBoost’s switch. Rechargeable batteries usually ship charged, but if you’re using a battery from a previous project or unknown origin, you may need to let it charge for a while before use. When it’s finished charging, the green LED on the solar charging board will light up.
It’s better to find any wiring mistakes or cold solder joints now, before attaching everything inside the enclosure. After you’re sure the circuit is working properly, use screws or double stick foam tape to secure the circuit boards to the enclosure. I used double stick foam tape to hold the battery in place, too.
Step 9: Power Up!
Close up your enclosure and take it outside on a sunny day! Plug in your solar panel with a DC barrel jack adapter. The panel will charge up the battery and power the LOAD port at the same time, if it is getting enough direct sunlight.
You can put it into charge-only mode by powering down the PowerBoost. Later when your phone’s battery is getting low, you can plug in and power it up.
Consider mounting your solar panel on your backpack to charge the battery while you’re outside, or find a sunny spot outside a window at home. Be careful if you decide to mount a solar panel to the roof of your car (and consult a professional if you need help to mount it safely).
Step 10: Make It Your Own
You may wish to extend or change the connector on your solar panel’s wire. After all the soldering you already did to get this far, splicing the cable is no big deal. If you have the extra time, go for it! There’s a step-by-step guide in the Solar Panels lesson.
You can expand the capacity of this charger by using a bigger battery, and speed up its charge rate with a bigger 6V solar panel.
If your battery is above 1000mAh and you’re using a big panel, you can increase the max charge rate of the board by soldering a 2.2K resistor across PROG, as detailed in the official product guide.
If you want to charge your battery unattended, it’s Smart to install the solar charger’s optional thermistor. First clip off the surface mount resistor inside the marking labeled THERM.
Trim the probe wires to an appropriate length to reach your battery inside your enclosure, then strip, tin, and solder the wires to the holes marked THERM on the solar charger board.
Use tape to connect the probe to the surface of your battery. This prevents the device from charging while the battery is too hot or too cold.
I’d love to see your finished USB charger in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев! Are you taking it to the beach? Adding it to your hurricane kit? Tell us about your version and enclosure. Thanks for following along!
This project is part of my free Solar Class, where you can find another backyard project and several lessons on working with solar panels. Check it out and enroll so you can post photos of your builds!
Person Made This Project!
Did you make this project? Share it with us!
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.
The Best Portable Solar Chargers for Camping (15W to 100W)
While I’m a big fan of digital detoxing, there are plenty of good reasons to bring a portable solar panel camping, like being able to charge devices, photo equipment or even your laptop so you can work remotely while enjoying the outdoors.
There are a lot of options when it comes to solar panel chargers. In choosing the best solar chargers for camping, I only included ones which fit these requirements:
- 15 to 100 watts: Anything less than 15 watts won’t keep you reliably powered. And chargers larger than 100W aren’t very portable and are better suited for RVs.
- Portable: Don’t need to be mounted, are light enough to carry around camp and will easily fit in your car.
- USB out ports: So you can directly charge phones, tablets and other small devices without conversion cables.
- Durable: Ideally waterproof and able to handle falling over in bad conditions.
- Extra features: Like being chainable or compatible with power stations.
Note that the price-per-watt was based on at time of writing. may change!
Best Portable Camping Solar Panels
Anker 15W PowerPort Solar Panel
Verdict: Choose if you need a lightweight solar panel for occassionally charging small devices
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
- Weight: 12.5oz
- Folded Size: 11 x 6.3 inches
- Open Size: 18.1 x 11 inches
- Outlets: 2x USB-A (2.1A each, 2.1A max)
- Chainable: No
- Available At:Amazon
The Anker PowerPort is my top pick for ultralight backpacking solar panels. It is just 12.5oz, which means it has 1.2 watts per ounce. Few portable solar panels come close to offering that much power per weight.
While 15W is too low for campers who want to charge laptops or even tablets, it’s just right for keeping your phone, Kindle, or other small devices topped off during occasional use. You’ll probably want to use a power bank as it’s more reliable than direct charging. There are grommets so you can hang it from a tent, your car, backpack, etc. to capture sunlight.
It is designed in a way so the solar panel folds down quite compact but still delivers enough surface area for capturing sunlight. There are Smart built-in features like auto-reset so you don’t have to worry about the charger stopping because of passing clouds. There’s also a blocking diode so the charge won’t drain your batteries instead of charging them in low-light situations.
The brand Anker is also highly reputable and known for producing quality power banks and other portable power solutions. If you pair this solar panel with a lightweight power bank, you will have a very efficient, lightweight solar setup for camping or backpacking.
- High quality solar panel
- Lightweight setup
- Very portable
- Auto reset and blocking diode
Check Price At Amazon
Goal Zero Nomad 50
Verdict: Still the best camping solar panel but has a very high price-per-watt
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
- Weight: 6.85lbs
- Folded Size: 17 x 11.25 x 2.5 inches
- Open Size: 53 x 17 x 1.5 inches
- Outlets: USB-A (5V, 2.4amp) and 8mm (14-22V, 3.5A)
- Chainable: Yes
- Available At:Amazon, REI
Goal Zero is by far the leader when it comes to portable solar chargers and panels. They make various types. Their small wattage chargers honestly aren’t great compared to the competition. However, their 50W solar charger is perfect for camping.
The Nomad 50W has USB-A ports (5V, 2.4A) and a solar port (blue, 8mm, male). The solar port allows you to charge a power station.
Note the Nomad 100W does NOT have a USB out port. Since the Nomad 50W chargers can be chained together (they can also be chained with the Nomad 100W or Boulder 100W). Even with cables, it almost costs the same two buy two Nomad 50s as one Nomad 100. Thus, I’d go with the Nomad 50 even if you think you might need more power later on.
As for performance, the Goal Zero consistently does well on tests. They also are also very good at handling the elements. Several people have reported that the glue turns liquid in high heat, but not enough for the charger to come apart.
- Very reliable brand
- High-quality panels
- Rugged build
- Lightweight and compact for its class
- Mostly waterproof
- Can chain them with other Goal Zero panels
- Pricier than lesser-known brands
- Stupidly popular; the 50W panels are often out of stock
- No USB-C outlet
Check Price at Amazon and REI
Jackery SolarSaga (60W and 100W)
Verdict: All-around great solar panel for camping that is a fraction of the cost of Goal Zero
Specs(for 60w solar panel):
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
- Weight: 6.6lbs
- Folded Size: 16.8 x 11.4 inches
- Open Size: 35.2 x 16.8 x 0.2 inches
- Outlets: USB-A (5V, 2.4amp), USB-C (5V, 3amp) and DC Output (22V, 3.09A, 68W)
- Chainable: Up to 2 panels parallel
- Available At:Amazon
Jackery released the SolarSaga in 2020 to compete with the Goal Zero Nomad panels. They are available in 60, 100 and 200 watt sizes.
Like the Nomad, the SolarSaga series are designed to be portable. They have a really nice folding design with a built-in rubberized orange handle. It looks sleek and professional and the hinges between the panels feels sturdy.
There are two USB outlets so you can directly charge devices simultaneously. One of the ports is USB-C, which means you can get a faster charge.
As for the DV outlet: The 60W has an Anderson connection and includes an Anderson-to-8mm cable to be used with the Jackery power station. Their 8mm cable isn’t the same as the Goal Zero cable; it doesn’t fit well in the Yeti power station. If you want to charge a Yeti with the SolarSaga, then you’ll need to get Goal Zero’s adapter cable.
On the Gen 3 update, Jackery got rid of the Anderson on the SolarSaga 100W. Now it has an 8mmm adapter.
While the ultralight design is appealing for portability, it does mean the SolarSaga panels aren’t that durable or tough. You won’t want to leave them unattended; even a slight breeze could send them toppling over. They are water-resistant to IP65, so don’t leave them in the rain either.
How Does It Compare to Goal Zero Solar Chargers?
Compared to the Goal Zero Nomad solar panels, Jackery’s SolarSaga panels are much lighter and thinner. They are half the weight and a fraction of the thickness (2.5 inches compared to 0.2 inches!). There is a built-in kickstand which can be adjusted to preset angles. Another plus is that the SolarSaga chargers support USB-C whereas Goal Zero does not.
While Jackery solar chargers do perform well, the technology doesn’t seem to be as good as with Goal Zero. Some users have reported issues with the blocking diodes: in low light, the SolarSaga actually drained device batteries instead of charging them.
- Very lightweight and compact
- USB-A and USB-C ports
- Built-in adjustable kickstand
- Rubberized carrying cable
- Comes with adapters
- Not very waterproof
- Easily toppled by wind
- Not compatible with all power stations
Renogy E. Flex 50W
Verdict: Despite some performance issues, it’s still a great value and does its job well enough
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
- Weight: 5.25lbs
- Folded Size: 19.9 x 16.1 x 0.8 inch
- Open Size: 32.5 x 19.9 x 0.2 inch
- Outlets: USB A (5V, 2.4amp), USB-C (5V, 3amp), switchable DC (19V/2.4amp and 16V/2.8amp) and solar connector output (18V, 2.77amp)
- Chainable: Yes
- Available At:Amazon
Renogy is well known for their affordable solar panels. Most of the Renogy solar panels are not very portable. However, their E. Flex panels are the exception. In particular, their 21, 30 and 50 watt solar panels are portable and light enough to use at camp. Because of some performance issues (they don’t seem to be as efficient as Goal Zero or Jackery), you’ll definitely want to get the higher wattage version.
Before buying this solar charger, make sure it is compatible with your devices. Even though it has an USB-C port, it won’t charge USB-C laptops. You can only charge laptops with 16V or 19V.
The E. Flex 50W does have auto-reset, so you don’t have to worry that the charging will stop if a Cloud passes overhead. However, some users did report problems with it and had to unplug/replug devices to get them charging again. Likewise, it doesn’t do great at charging multiple devices at once because of amp drops.
- Some issues with the auto reset feature
- Not great at charging multiple devices simultaneously
Check Price At Amazon
RockPals Portable Solar Panel 60W and 100W
Verdict: Okay choice if you will monitor devices while they charge. Otherwise, spend a bit more to get a SolarSaga.
Specs (for 60W Upgrade):
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
- Weight: 7.3lbs
- Folded Size: 13.8 x 13.39 x 2.36 inches
- Open Size: 58.2 x 13.8 x 0.2 inches
- Outlets: 1x USB QC3.0 (3.3A), 1x USB-C (18W max), DC 18V/3.3A
- Chainable: Yes
- Available At: Amazon
At first glance, RockPals solar chargers look great. They are very popular and get good reviews. The RockPals chargers also have multiple charging options, including USB-C, and are compatible with most power stations.
Yet, there is a reason that RockPals solar chargers are cheaper than brands like Jackery and Goal Zero: they tech isn’t nearly as good.
The main issue is that RockPals chargers don’t have a blocking diode. This means the solar charger could actually cause your device battery to drain instead of charge. Trickle charging is almost impossible because of this.
Another issue is that the RockPals solar chargers don’t withstand high temperatures as well as some other camping solar panels. It has a max operating temperature of 120F. The panel can easily reach that temperature in summer, so you’ll need to place a white cloth (or similar) underneath the panel to reduce heat absorption into the panel.
TogoPower 60W and 100W
Verdict: Good choice if you are on a tight budget and know which cables you need
Specs (for 60W panel):
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
- Weight: 6.5lbs
- Folded Size: 16×14.5×1.9″
- Open Size: 50.7 x 16 x 1 inches
- Outlets: USB QC3.0 (5-12V 3.4A max), USB-C (5-15V, 4.5A max), DC (18V/5.5A max)
- Chainable: Yes
- Available At:Amazon
Togo is a Chinese brand which makes cheap solar panels. I’m wary of buying from no-name Chinese brands but Togo is one which actually is of a good quality. Of course you won’t get nearly as much efficiency as the most popular brands, but it’s pretty good for a cheap solar charger.
My main complaint about the TogoPower for camping is that it is very bulky. It only folds three times so it won’t fit in a backpack. You’ll have to carry it along your side like a briefcase.
Also be warned that the Togo Power chargers don’t come with all of the cables you need. There may also be compatibility issues. Make sure you check if it will work with your power station and that you have the right cables.
- Bulky even when folded
- Not compatible with all power stations
- Doesn’t include all cables
TopSolar SolaryFairy 100W
Verdict: Okay if you primarily care about price and don’t mind some glitches and compatibility issues
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
- Weight: 5.1lbs
- Folded Size: 11.2×7.8×2.3″
- Open Size: 52 x 22.4”
- Outlets: USB-A 5V/3A max, USB-C PD 5V/3A max, DC 19V, DC 14.4V
- Chainable: No
- Available At: Amazon
The TP-Solar chargers come in various sizes. Their 100W solar charger is great for camping because it folds down into a very compact package. It’s one of the few camping solar panels of this wattage that can easily fit in a daypack.
The downside of the compact size is that the charger has a lot of hinges. Hinges are often a fail point for folding solar panels, so it might not survive extensive use.
One of the benefits of the SolarFairy charger is that it has four out ports for charging multiple devices, including car or boat batteries. It also supports USB-C PD charging devices. The downside is that the tech behind the solar charger can be a bit glitchy.
Some users reported issues with the auto-rest (if a Cloud passes over, the SolarFairy might not start charging again without you resetting it). There are also several compatibility issues: it won’t work with all laptops or Goal Zero power stations. You can usually work around this by buying the right adapters yourself though.
- Very compact when folded
- Lots of charging options
- Actually works with car and boat batteries
Specs (for 100W charger):
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
- Weight: 8.8lbs
- Folded Size: 15.16×8.23×3.15″
- Outlets: 2x USB-A (5V, 4.8A total), DC 12-19V, PD Type-C 60W
- Chainable: Yes
- Available At:Amazon
BigBlue solar chargers come in various sizes. The best ones for camping trips are: 42w, 63w and 100w. When you break down the cost-per-watt, BigBlue actually is one of the cheapest solar chargers available. The 100W charger is an insanely good value and costs almost half the price of the Jackery SolarSaga 100W.
All of the larger wattage BigBlue solar chargers are feature-rich. The tech prevents overheating, supports fast charging, and works even in cloudy weather. They also have multiple out ports (which vary depending on the wattage of the product). Make sure you check the features before you buy.
While it isn’t recommended, you can use the larger BigBlue chargers to charge a car battery (according to the company though, it’s better to just use it for jump starting). It is possible to chain multiple BigBlue solar chargers together. You’ll need an MC4 cable which doesn’t come with the kit.
I’d recommend getting the BigBlue 100W as it is the best value and compatible with the most devices. The 28W charger is good if you only want to charge small devices like phones on camping trips.
I do NOT recommend the 28W BigBlue solar charger. It does not have a blocking diode, which means it will drain batteries instead of charge them in shady conditions. If you need a smaller solar charger, get the Anker 21W instead.
Do You Really Need a Solar Charger when Camping?
Don’t get me wrong: portable solar chargers are awesome and have come a long way. They’ve gotten smaller, more durable, and much more reliable.
But you need to be realistic about what solar chargers can do.
You aren’t going to be able bring a small, cheap solar charger camping and expect it to keep all devices reliably charged. In cloudy or rainy conditions, you might not be able to charge anything with solar.
For this reason, a power bank or power station (which you pre-charge at home) may be a better solution for charging your devices while camping.
What Size Solar Charger Do I Need for Camping?
As a general rule, you’ll need at least a:
- 10W solar panel to charge your smartphone
- 50W to use a laptop a few hours per day
- 100W to run a small camping fridge
- 300-500W to run multiple appliances throughout the day, such as a fridge, lights, game console, and other devices
Note that these are just generalizations. Calculating how much solar power you need for camping is actually pretty complicated. It will vary drastically depending on factors like the efficiency of the solar panels, how much peak light you get, and how your panels are angled.
To calculate camping solar needs:
- List all the devices you want to use
- Calculate how many watts they use per hour
- Multiply the watts by how many hours you will use the device per day
- This gives you your watt hours per day
- Divide the watt hours by how many hours of peak daylight you expect to get per day.
- This is the minimum size in watts your solar panel setup needs to be
- Multiply by 2-5x to account for inefficiency and to have a margin of error
You’ll Need Battery Storage If You Want Reliable Power
If you have high power needs or cannot let your devices die, then you will need battery storage. For small devices, this can be a small backpacking power bank. For larger devices and appliances, you’ll need to invest in a power station like the Goal Zero Yeti.
How to Charge Devices with Solar while Camping
There are two main ways you can use portable solar panels when camping.
Option 1: Directly Charge Devices from the Solar Panel
Almost all portable solar panels have USB outlets. To use them, you simply plug your device into the solar panel, put the solar panel in the sun, and let it charge the device.
The main benefit of directly charging is that it is more efficient. When you use the solar panel to charge a battery and then charge a device, you lose some of the power. It’s lost through the cables, conversion, and through the battery. By directly charging your devices, you will get the most power from the solar panel.
- No way of storing power: If you need to charge your device and it’s a cloudy day, you are out of luck.
- Compatibility: You may not be able to directly charge some devices with certain solar chargers.
- Overheat devices: If you don’t disconnect your device from the solar charger, it might overheat your device and damage it. Good solar chargers have overheat protection but even this won’t completely save your devices from harm.
- Might draw power from your device! If a device is plugged into a solar charger and there isn’t much sunlight, the charger might drain the device battery instead of charge it. Good solar chargers have a blocking diode feature which prevents power from draining out of the device.
Option 2: Solar Panel Power Bank or Power Station
If you need a more reliable source of power, then you’ll need a battery for your solar panels. This can be a small power bank or a large deep cyclic battery. You connect the solar panel to the battery to let it charge. Then you charge your devices from the battery.
- Can store power for later
- flexibility: You can choose the size of the battery, type of outlets, and number of outlets to suit your needs.
- Pre-charge battery: Charge the battery at home before your camping trip so you have power when you arrive and just use solar for topping it off.
- complicated: You may need a more complex solar setup for camping, including a regulator and invertor.
- Less Efficient: Some power is lost when it is stored in the battery and also as it passes through the cables en route to the device.
- Power stations are expensive: If you need to power lots of devices, you’ll need a large power station. These are not cheap.
Solar Charger Terms
Before choosing a portable solar charger for camping, you’ll need to understand the basics of power.
Solar panels are rated in watts. It essentially is a measure of how much power the panels are able to produce. Most portable solar panels range from 5 to 100 watts. Anything bigger than 100 watts is probably too large to consider “portable.” Watts are calculated as Volts x Amps.
Volts is the energy potential of the solar panel. All USB cables run at 5 volts (thus anything that charges via USB takes 5 volts). Laptop charger cables can be as high as 25 volts.
If you were to try charging your cell phone on a 12 volt solar charger, it wouldn’t be able to handle that much electricity. You’d see sparks and melting plastic! This is why we use invertors with high-power solar panel setups.
The amount of electricity that can flow at once is measured in amps. Older cell phones will handle about 1 amp. Newer fast-charge phones will handle upwards of 2 amps. Devices which use more power (such as tablets) usually handle around 2 to 2.5 amps. Laptops might have 5 amps.
Higher amperage means you can charge devices more quickly. For example, it will take longer to charge a laptop at 1amp than at 5 amps.
Confused? A good way to think about watts, volts and amps is using a metaphor of water going through a pipe:
If you have high water pressure (volts) and big pipes (amps), then you are going to have a lot of water (watts) going through the pipes.
Watt hours (Wh) is how much power you need over time. It is measured as Wh = W x time in hours. This is especially important for calculating power needs of devices you will be running frequently, like camping fridges.
The amount of power a battery can hold is listed as amp hours (Ah). It is calculated as Ah = Wh/voltage. Amp hours is important because it represents the amount of power being used over time.
Choosing a Portable Solar Panel for Camping
Solar Charger vs. Solar Panel
A solar charger is a solar panel which has a USB outlet. It won’t be able to charge anything which uses 12v plugs. By contrast, portable solar panels may only have a DC outlet. Many 100-200W solar panels have both USB and DC.
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Panels
Mono crystalline are considered the best type of solar panel. By comparison, poly-crystalline panels have boundaries between their crystals; these boundaries reduce efficiency. You’d need a slightly larger poly-crystalline panel to get the same power as a mono one.
Good brands of portable solar chargers will list their efficiency rating. Anything above 22% is a fairly good efficiency. Yes, just 22%. Solar chargers will lose some efficiency over time.
A blocking diode only allows power to run in one direction. Without a blocking diode, energy from your device battery might run towards the solar panel, causing it to drain instead of charge. This is very important when charging in cloudy or low-light conditions.
Almost all solar chargers have blocking diodes but some of the smaller or cheaper solar chargers do not.
Price Per Watt
To figure out the value of a solar charger, look at the price per watt instead of the overall price.
Total price divided by watts = price per watt.
Portable solar chargers are getting cheaper all of the time. It used to be that 10 per watt was a good deal. Now you can find quality portable solar chargers that cost less than 3 per watt. As a general rule, larger solar panels are cheaper per watt.
Pay attention to whether the panel is monocrystalline or polycrystalline when comparing prices: poly is cheaper but not as efficient.
Rigid vs. Flexible Solar Chargers
Portable solar chargers are either rigid or flexible. As a general rule, rigid solar chargers are easier to set up but they might crack. Flexible solar panels can withstand some bending but are harder to prop open and blow away easier.
Now that you’ve got power taken care of, what are you going to eat on the trail?
Check out my eBook with over 50 trail recipes and lots of info about meal planning and nutrition for backpacking. Since you made it all the way to the end of this post, I’ll even give you 50% off.
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About the author /
Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.