Nekteck 21W Solar Charger Review
The Nekteck 21W Solar Charger comes with three high-efficiency solar panels for collecting power when hiking or camping. One important thing I’ll clear up early in the review is that the Nekteck 21W can’t store power, so you’ll need to connect the device to either a power bank or your phone. However, it works much better connected to a power bank than directly to the phone.
How Does The Nekteck 21W Solar Charger Work
The build on the Nekteck 21W is of high quality, waterproof and robust, which is perfect for outdoor adventure. The panels are straightforward to attach to a backpack using the bungee loops. To get the panels working, just unfold the system and expose the 21 watts solar panel to the power of the sun, each panel pumping out approximately 800~1000mA under intense sunlight. Bear in mind that it’s a solar panel. If in the shade or under Cloud covering, the charge rate will drop significantly – that’s not the products fault; it’s how solar charging works.
Dual USB Ports Smart IC Technology
The Nekteck 21W Solar Charger features Dual USB charging ports allowing you to charge two devices at one time at a maximum output current of 3 Amps total. However, it will work best if you FOCUS on just charging your power bank first.
Smart IC Technology is the latest charging solution. It has its own microchip that detects the type of device plugged in through USB PIN signals, which then supplies output on full power and fast charging speed. The Smart IC is much better than standard ports that only charge Apple OR Android devices at a maximum rate. With the Smart IC technology, each port cleverly recognizes your device and attempts to maximize its charging speed up to 2.0 amp per port or 3 amps overall.
Key Features Specs
- Ultra lightweight: (18 oz)
- Ultra compact: (6.3x 11.1x 1.06in folded or 26.3x 11.1in opened) design.
- Power input: 21W High-efficiency Panel
- Power output: 5V Standard USB port x 2
- Output current: Up to 3A (2 USB port used simultaneously) up to 2A (1USB port used)
Nekteck 21W Solar Charger Tip On Charging
Another tip if you choose to get this Nekteck solar charger is to make sure the charging devices are not directing underneath the solar panels. Hopefully, with the sun shining directly on the solar cell, the area directly underneath can get hot, and batteries and phones stop charging when they get too hot.
Nothing more annoying than hiking all day in the sun, thinking your device has charged, only to realize in the camp that it has over-heated and refusing to charge. I would suggest running the USB cord from the panel to your device and carry the device in your shirt or pants Doing so will also give you quick access to check on the progress of the charge.
Should You Buy The The Nekteck 21W Solar Charger?
This solar panel set-up is a must-have for any hiker or camper spending time away from cultivation. They say for a portable solar charger to work, you need to collect at a minimum of 14W for it to charge at a timely rate. The Nekteck is 21W and charges fast if you know how to use it.
Don’t expect miracles; you can’t just plug in your iPhone and expect a super-fast charge like you would at home. If you have realistic expectations and the weather conditions are decent, you’ll get on fine with the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger. Finally, remember to use it to charge your power bank first rather than your phone or camera, as it works much more efficiently that way.
I really hope you found this review useful. I suggest also taking a look at our other guides such as the Best Gas Canister Camp Stoves, Best Shock-Aborbing Trekking Poles, and our guide of the Best Self-Inflating Camping Mats.
A great backcountry companion for portable power and staying charged.
The Nekteck 21w solar charger is durable, water resistant, incredibly compact, and is super portable when folded.
Brand | NekteckWatts | 21Color | BlackOutputs | 2x 5V Standard USBOutput Current | 3A Max, 2A Max per USBOver Current Protection | Yes Over Voltage Protection | Yes Short Circuit Protection | Yes Overcharge Protection | Yes Weight | 18 ouncesSize Folded | 6.3
It’s difficult to keep multiple camera batteries, cellphones, and light batteries charged on backcountry adventures, so after a bunch of research, we purchased a Nekteck 21W solar charger and put it to the test in the field.
On the face of it all, a 21-watt solar charger with two 5v outputs that is able to produce up to 3 amps, all in a compact and backpacker-friendly package, seemed like a great value for 42 bucks. The Nekteck 21W solar charger is not just a single large panel, but instead is a 3 solar panel system, with a 4th identical sized panel that has a pouch housing the charge controller and protects the two USB outputs.
The Nekteck incorporates durable materials with good construction quality and practical design.
The materials all seem to be either heavy denier nylon or a PU-treated canvas. Either way, it’s a durable material, and stitching all around looks solid. There is also no frizz near the edge of the grommets, meaning they were installed properly, and with a good amount of attention to quality. The 4th panel houses the wire junction and USB output ports. It is also a nice place to keep the included 32″ micro USB charging cable, and two small carabiners for hanging the system off of a pack, tent, or tree.
The Nekteck 21W solar charger checked off all of the boxes on a spec sheet, but we obviously had to see if it can achieve anything near its claimed output performance ratings.
To test the actual output, we put the panels in direct sunlight and measure the voltage and current of a single output. We found the real amperage output to fluctuate from as low as 150 milliamps when snowing and cloudy, or placed at a bad angle to the sunlight, and peak at about 2.4 amps while the voltage of the USB output read just shy of 5 volts. We also got readings over 6 volts, at about 900 milliamps. All measured outputs and fluctuations considered, the solar charger, meets the demand of most devices and performs better than we actually expected.
Our field tests and measured tests verified performance close to the manufacturer specifications.
At 18 ounces, the Nekteck may not be the right pick for the modern ultralight backpacker, but it is great for a backpacker trying to do multiple days of photography, or the backcountry hunter trying to film a multi-day hunt. We paired the Nekteck with a 20,000mah power bank so we can use cameras during hunts, while the power bank charges all day. We are then able to charge cameras off of the battery bank at night.
The 2 outputs mean the solar charger is able to charge multiple electronic devices simultaneously, albeit at a reduced amperage. The reduced current when two items are being charged simultaneously is still good, not the max number specified by the manufacturer, but still respectable at just over 1 amp, and more than sufficient to charge many common devices in a few hours.
We really like the Nekteck 21W solar charger. It is a great backcountry companion, and perfect for our team to keep cameras, smartphones, smartwatches, GPS devices, and headlamps fully charged while in the field.
If you are trying to keep weight down, but want to have the option to charge your devices, then something like an all-in-one solar battery bank might be a better option. However, for anything that demands more than the occasional headlamp or cellphone recharge, the Nekteck 21W solar charger is a good balance of performance, weight, and size, without stepping up to larger, less portable solar charging systems.
Benjamin is an avid outdoorsman with a wide range of experience hunting, fishing, climbing, and backacking. He brings his knowledge and experience, to Sportsman’s Magazine, and is a major content contributor. Leave Ben a comment or question.
As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com.
Good To Go
A great backcountry companion that helps keep our Sportsman’s Magazine team, fully charged without picking up too much weight.
Nothing should get a free ride into the backcountry, meaning if it is not necessary, it can stay at home. The 21w charger is a good balance of size weight and performance and is worth carrying into the backcountry.
The 5 Best Solar Powered Chargers for Your Phone or Tablet
We all know the sudden drama that happens during our outside pursuits when we see a “low battery” warning on our phone, tablet, digital camera or other device. Outdoors you’ll find yourself many times far from any power outlet to recharge your devices.
What will you do then? Have you ever considered carrying with you a solar powered cell phone charger?
Whether you’re on a camping trip, mountain biking, traveling the world or just walking around town a portable solar charger can help keep your devices powered up anywhere under the sun.
The idea of portable solar gear that uses free off-grid solar energy to power up our mobile lifestyle is pretty amazing. It’s surely one of the best inventions of this century.
Solar battery chargers come in many different shapes, sizes and efficiency ratings. We’ve done the hard work already and picked the top five solar powered chargers available right now for sale on Amazon that have the latest photovoltaic (PV) technology and the best charging performance.
We have also included a buyer’s guide at the end of the article where you’ll find everything you need to know about choosing the best solar charger, so make sure to check that out as well.
Best Overall: BigBlue 24W Solar Powered Charger
The BigBlue 3 USB ports 24 Watts solar charger is our top pick for the best solar phone battery charger to buy in 2022 because it offers a remarkable combination of manufacturing quality, price, portability, and charging speed.
It features highly efficient energy conversion SUNPOWER solar cells (up to 23 percent efficiency) and SmartIC technology, which means that this charger will automatically recognize the charging protocol of your devices so that it can deliver the most suitable and fastest charge possible. Three USB ports allow you to plug in and split the current between 3 devices at once.
What makes BigBlue the best portable solar charger for almost any kind of environment is also its charging performance in diverse weather conditions. This charger delivers a steady energy flow even on cloudy days so you can confidently plan your outdoor activities without having to worry about low battery devices.
The BigBlue solar panels delivers 24 Watts under direct sunlight and it charged our iPhone 11 from zero to full in about two hours. During cloudy days the charging capacity varies according to the Cloud exposure, but it should be able to charge anywhere from 20 percent and above which will be very useful especially in emergency situations.
This solar charger is made of four SunPower solar panels sewn into a durable canvas and a fifth section that’s more like a small pouch for storing your iPhone or Android phone while charging and thus protecting them from the direct sun exposure and overheating – however, if you have a cable long enough, it’s always better to move your devices into the shade. You can also easily store all the cables in this department.
Inside the pouch there are three USB ports that deliver up to 2.4A per port or 5V/4A overall (depending on how much direct sunlight hits the solar panels), and a small LED that indicates when there is power flowing from the panels.
What about portability? The BigBlue solar powered charger weighs 754 grams or 26.6 ounces and the entire solar charger folds up to about 14 millimeters or 0.55 inches thick. This makes it perfect to carry around when traveling, backpacking, going to work, or school.
To get the most out of your portable solar gear, we highly recommend pairing the BigBlue charger with a USB battery pack. For example, the Anker PowerCore Elite 20,000 mAh power bank is fully compatible with the BigBlue 24W solar charger and it can store enough energy to charge an iPhone 11 from zero to full six times. A portable battery pack like this one is a must-have since the solar chargers themselves cannot store energy and provide it during night time when the sun is not around. With a charged power bank, you are powered up 24/7.
What we like:
- Great value for the price
- The SmartIC technology
- Amazing charging speed
- Three USB ports
- High quality material
- Very compacted when folded
What we don’t like:
- Removable USB hub would make packing better
- A charging cable for iOS devices could be included
The Lightest and Most Flexible: Portable Solar Panel Sunslice Fusion Flex 12
Sunslice Fusion Flex 12 Watts with two USB ports (5V) each with max output of 2.4A is a perfect option for those who like to FOCUS on their outdoor experience without worrying about maintenance of the devices they bring along.
Two portable solar panels are extremely lightweight (just 270 grams/9.5 ounces) and easy to fold into a thin A4 like shape. That’s it, you can head out now! Then you just open the pack for solar cells to face the sun and use right away on the go by plugging in your USB devices like a smartphone and/or tablet. Additional plus are two elastic fasteners and two carabiners you receive with the product to easily attach the charger to your backpack.
The solar panel is made off CIGS thin film solar cells, which are a versatile option when it comes to application and practical use of photovoltaic technology. The thin film is flexible, you do not have to worry about bending the panels to fit better in your backpack. According to the manufacturer, the solar cells reach up to 16.5% efficiency in the perfect sunny conditions. Thin film solar cells perform better than crystalline solar cells when exposed to the strong summer sun, they maintain better power production when their surface heats up – this happens quickly on hot days. On the other hand, in colder weather, their performance drops compared to monocrystalline cells.
When it comes to performance under cloudy conditions or during the days when clouds come and go, you may need to carry a power bank with you rather than relying solely on this solar charger. The current drops pretty fast when shaded and takes couple minutes to restart once again. This means it may not provide enough power to charge your phone on cloudy days.
The manufacturer thought of the practical use for adventurers by designing the product with the protective and light transmitting EFTE coating – therefore, it doesn’t affect the efficiency of solar cells. The coating feels to the touch pretty much the same as a material of your backpack, yet it is scratch proof and has somewhat self-cleaning properties. Additional advantage is water resistance.
Sunslice Fusion Flex 12 is a practical and durable solution for spontaneous, short trips when you don’t know where and through which terrain your steps will lead you. On a sunny day, all you have to care about is your experience, meanwhile, this solar charger will be there to give you a bit of extra power to use your devices when they are running low of battery.
What we like:
- Scratchproof CIGS solar cells
- Great charging speed
- Easy to attach
What we don’t like:
Best for Price: Hiluckey 25,000 mAh Outdoor Portable Solar Power Bank
The Hiluckey 25,000 mAh had the best performance in the solar power bank category. If you’re looking for a solar power bank, look no further than this one.
It features 4 small solar panels that deliver in total 4.8W under direct sun. That’s the most wattage output you can get out of a solar power bank at this moment. While the solar panels on the BigBlue perform four to five times better than the Hiluckey, the PowerPort doesn’t have its own power storage. When there is no sun, there is no power flowing, so an additional external battery is needed to keep devices charged up when the sun is not around.
The Hiluckey Outdoor Power Bank on the other hand, has a built-in battery pack with a capacity of 25,000 mAh which can store enough energy to charge an iPhone 7 about three times and has two USB ports to charge your friend’s smartphone in the same time.
The built-in battery can be recharged by sunlight, but also by wall outlet. It comes with a built-in flashlight and four LEDs that indicate battery life. The casing is shock-proof, dust-proof and water resistant. Great for outdoors
The only drawback of this solar power bank is the charging speed from the small solar panels. In full sun, the Hiluckey built-in battery could reach just 15 percent battery after three hours. However, the charging speed from the built-in battery to our iPhone 7 was very similar to the BigBlue.
We recommend to always charge the power bank by wall outlet before heading outdoors. This way you’ll have enough power to recharge your devices several times, regardless of weather or time of the day. The solar panels on the Hiluckey are not designed as the primary source of charging, but they are a very good alternative to add extra power to the power bank anytime you’re under the sun.
What we like:
- Great value for the price
- High-capacity 25,000 mAh battery
- Overcharge protection
- Two USB ports
- High quality material
- Very compacted when folded
- 12-month warranty
What we don’t like:
Versatile Solar Phone Charger: Neckteck 21W
No matter what environment you’re dealing with, the Neckteck 21W is the Range Rover of solar power chargers. With an ultra-portable design, this solar charger with two USB ports is IPX4 waterproof, dust-proof and shock-resistant. The whole pack weights a little over 17 ounces (approx. 480 grams) and is super easy to use without any worries about your devices.
This charger features a solid construction and three monocrystalline solar panels based on innovative SunPower Maxeon technology that reach the maximum efficiency of up to 23 percent. The solar panels provide 2.0A per port or 3.0A max in total to charge your devices on the go. As other good quality solar chargers, it protects your devices from over current and overcharge, which could damage them if this feature were absent.
A great advantage of this handy solar charger is its compatibility with the most USB devices. It charges great variety of smartphones, which is not always the case with portable chargers. The package doesn’t come with cables. Do not forget to bring your own.
We would recommend it for charging your phone on a sunny day. An impressive feature unique to this solar charger is quite nice charging speed it provides when in the direct sun. In good sunny conditions it works flawlessly and can charge your phone as needed.
However, to get the best outcome when the weather is not perfect or when hiking through shady areas like in a forest, you should consider using this solar charger to charge a portable power bank and use the power bank to charge your phone later. The results are better this way, as the charge interruption recovery is on a slower side.
What we like:
- Great value for the price
- Monocrystalline solar cells
- Two USB ports
- High quality material
- Great for charging variety of smartphones, tablets power banks
What we don’t like:
Best Solar Panel to Charge a Power Station: Goal Zero Nomad 20
This amazing device boasts an impressive charging speed that performs very similar to the BigBlue Solar Charger.
Goal Zero Nomad 20W uses industry leading monocrystalline photovoltaic solar cells to offer a Rapid and steady charge during unobstructed sunny conditions and can bring a smartphone to full battery in less than two hours. This 20 watt solar charger is compatible with most small and medium devices, but can even charge a laptop in approximately 6.5 hours when under direct sunlight (the time is dependent upon the conditions).
The three solar panels are waterproof, UV protected, and scratch-resistant, offering you a durable and reliable portable power anywhere you go. The set comes even with a kickstand, allowing you to position the panels to reach their best potential when you need them to. Although the Goal Zero solar chargers are a bit on the pricier side, they do well when you need to charge smaller portable stations for storing extra power. It is compatible with a reliable Goal Zero 200x power station, which will safely charge your laptop, camera and other latest USB-C devices.
Weighing 2.26 pounds (1,000 grams), the Goal Zero Nomad is not as lightweight as other solar chargers we mentioned earlier, but it’s still a compact charger that can fit just about anywhere. When folded, it occupies pretty much the same space like a small laptop. Because of its reliability and power, this portable solar charger is frequently used by mountaineers in their expeditions.
What we like:
- Amazing charging speed
- Overcharge protection
- Compatible with laptops
- High quality material
- Very compacted when folded
- 12-month warranty
What we don’t like:
Most common uses of solar chargers
In the hectic world of today most of us cannot imagine our lives without gadgets. And the more advanced they get, the more power-hungry they become. That’s when a portable solar charger comes handy. Think of it like having your personal power supply, anywhere you go.
Complete freedom from power outlets!
Solar chargers are lightweight, foldable and easy to carry around. All you have to do is position the solar charger under the sun and it will immediately start recharging your devices. You can even strap it on your backpack and power up on the go. This way you can enjoy your daily activities without rushing to look for a power outlet somewhere inside.
Considering the fact that solar powered phone chargers are now so much more affordable and efficient, they can be a life-saver in many situations.
Solar energy brings light to our unsustainable developing world and by going solar, be it portable or not, is a great way to join the climate change battle by reducing your carbon footprint.
Important solar charger considerations
The most important features you should look for when choosing a portable solar charger are:
#1 Charge Interruption Recovery
Chances are you won’t be able to use your portable solar charger in full sun all the time. Especially if you live in a place like the United Kingdom. Areas with shade or clouds will affect the performance of your solar phone charger to a certain extent. We measured the output power of each model in full sun, and then in fairly cloudy conditions for one hour each in order to see which solar charger recovers the fastest and gets back on track after being shaded.
The best performing models in this category were the chargers with the most wattage power like the BigBlue. The Neckteck 21W scored the lowest in this test because of the small wattage power.
Larger solar chargers have more solar cells exposed to the sun simultaneously and this makes it easier to recover to maximum output after an interruption.
#2 Charging Speed
Most of the time, portable solar chargers are being used to charge devices such as smartphones, tablets, camera batteries, etc. when source of electricity is not available. This is the reason why we decided to test the charging speed of our solar chargers with an iPhone 7 and see how much it can charge from zero of full in direct sun.
To our surprise we found that the charging speed performance of our models was very different. This significant variability is clearly because of the wattage output power, but also due to type and quality of solar cells.
The winner in this category, the Goal Zero Nomad 20, outperformed the competition with an impressive charging speed.
Our advice: If you are looking for the fastest charging speed, choose a solar charger with at least 15 watts. While smaller panels are more lightweight, the charging speed of a 5W solar charger for example, is around three to four times slower than a 15 watts charger.
#3 Weight and Portability
The ideal portable solar charger would be light, small and easy to carry around. The most lightweight model in our competition is the Hiluckey 25,000 mAh Outdoor Portable Solar Power Bank, weighing just 11.8 oz. This is the only model to get a 10 out of 10 in this category.
However, keep in mind that small wattage chargers are less powerful, so if weight is not extremely important to you, we highly recommend choosing a charger with a higher wattage than the Hiluckey model.
Since they are used mainly outdoors, solar chargers are constantly exposed to the elements, so durability is a very important factor. All the models we tested had more or less the same quality of material and stitching and all panels were weatherproof.
Solar technology is advancing very fast and companies have already integrated the most advanced features found in residential solar systems into portable solar panels as well.
Watts, Amps, and Milliamp Hours (mAhs)
These are the three most common terms and features that are worth considering when when looking to buy a solar powered phone charger.
mAh – Milliamp hours is the easiest way to measure the strength or capacity of a power bank. This term is not used for the panels themselves, but just for batteries. The higher the mAh, the more power it can store and therefore the longer the power bank will last.
Amps – Amps on a solar charger will determine how fast the electric current flows in order to charge up your devices. The current drawn is different from device to device but in the case of portable solar chargers, you’ll get between one and three amps. The solar chargers we picked in our review test feature the highest amp power available on the market right now.
Watts – Watts are a measure of how much energy is being released to charge your devices. It’s the result of multiplying voltage by amps and they are the most frequently mentioned unit of power. Since USB ports operate at approximately 5 volts, a single 2 amp USB charger port (for comparison: a laptop usually has 1.5 amps in a single USB port) for example, would have a wattage rating of 10W (5 x 2) and therefore would require a 10W panel to charge at 2 amps. But in reality, a 10W solar charger won’t produce exactly 2 amps USB charge because of imperfect weather conditions (Cloud cover) and type of solar cells.
Types of portable solar panels
Solar chargers can either feature monocrystalline, polycrystalline or the super lightweight CIGS panels.
Monocrystalline PanelsMonocrystalline technology is the one that started the photovoltaic revolution and it’s still the most efficient even today when it comes to converting solar energy into electricity. As the name suggests, monocrystalline panels are made from a single crystal of pure silicon. They have an efficiency rating of up to 22 percent and can be easily recognized by their black uniform cells.
Polycrystalline PanelsUnlike monocrystalline panels, the polycrystalline modules are made up of multiple crystals but still deliver a great efficiency of up to 17 percent. Polycrystalline panels have a blue color and they usually cost less than monocrystalline panels.CIGS PanelsCIGS panels consist of Copper, Indium, Gallium, and Selenide solar cells. They are very different than mono- and polycrystalline panels. These panels are the most flexible and lightweight, but also the less efficient out of the three types in converting sunlight into usable power. It’s a good option for backpackers or trekkers who want to travel ultra-light. These are not as durable as the monocrystalline modules but they still do a pretty good job in case of emergency.
Do you need an external battery, or is a solar charger sufficient?
Portable solar chargers can recharge your devices – but only in direct sun. If you want to recharge your smartphone during night time, or on a rainy day, the solar panels will not be of any help.
On the other hand, a battery pack like the Anker PowerCore Elite 20,000 mAh, can store energy and provide continuous and steady power to recharge the same devices you would charge with solar chargers.
Thanks to modern technology battery packs nowadays are very light and can be recharged by solar panels or wall outlet and they can store a lot of energy, enough to recharge a smartphone up to seven times in one go.
Since battery packs can be charged from solar panels as well, adding one to your solar kit means you can have power for your electronic devices available at any time – even when the sun is not there.
How to get the most from your solar charger
Simplicity makes solar power truly remarkable. The only care and maintenance most solar chargers require is making sure they’re clean and dust free. A moist cloth should get the job done most of the time.
To get the highest charging efficiency, it’s important to position your solar panels correctly. A good rule of thumb is that the angle, relative to flat ground, must be approximately the same as your latitude, with a few small adjustments according to the seasons (shallower in the summer and steeper in the winter time).
Top Ultralight Solar Chargers Reviewed (From 3.6oz)
Need an ultralight solar charger for backpacking or a thru-hiking trip? Here’s a thorough review of the best options based on overall weight, power-to-weight ratio, and features.
Most of the backpacking solar panels here are under 1lb. Honestly, it’s hard to find a charger lighter than 1lb but which will still reliably charge your devices (if it doesn’t work, it’s just dead weight!). I’ve also included some solar chargers which are heavier but more powerful. These could still be considered ultralight if you are backpacking in group and will share the weight between members.
You want more watts per ounce with backpacking solar chargers.
Best Ultralight Solar Chargers for Backpacking
Anker PowerPort Solar Lite
Best For: Fantastic power-to-weight ratio plus great features
In pretty much every list of the top portable solar chargers, the Anker PowerPort takes the #1 spot. There is good reason for this. The solar charger is very reliable, durable, and is lightweight for its wattage. It’s easy to use on the trail because there are elastic loops for attaching the solar charger to your pack and a for holding your devices.
There are two versions of the charger which are good for backpacking: 15W and 21W. Of the two, the 21W is definitely superior. It only weighs a tiny bit more but will actually charge two devices at the same time. At 2.4A per port, it’s fairly fast – though note you’ll only get a max of 3A when charging two devices at once. Unfortunately, it is often unavailable.
If you have perfect sunlight and angle it well, then you maybe could charge two devices at once with the 15W. But it’s a lot faster with the 21W charger.
Unfortunately, the 21W solar charger is often out of stock — which is why the Anker 15W gets the #1 position.
The charging ports are locating inside a canvas pouch, which means the solar charger is (mostly) water resistant.
One slight annoying thing is that the Anker PowerPort charger closes with Velcro (which gets debris stuck in it). I’d rather have a magnetic closure instead.
Lixada 10W Solar Charger
Best For: Insanely cheap and lightweight solution for backpackers who understand solar
I first heard about Lixada in discussions about solar panels on Reddit and backpacking forums. Lixada doesn’t have the name recognition as brands like Anker or Goal Zero, but they are starting to develop a huge fan base with ultralight backpackers. Part of the reason is because the Lixada solar panels are stupidly cheap and amazingly lightweight.
Starting with weight: At 3.56oz, the 10W Lixada solar charger gives you the most power per weight of any of the backpacking solar chargers reviewed here.
Not surprisingly, the Lixada is lacking in a lot of features. Most noteably, it doesn’t have an auto-reset feature – which means it will stop charging if a Cloud passes over it. You’ll have to unplug the device and replug to get it to start charging again.
It also doesn’t have a blocking diode, so it could actually draw power from your device in low-light situations. I wouldn’t ‘use the Lixada to directly charge devices. It’s more reliable for charging a power bank and then using that to power your devices.
As one user pointed out though, the Lixada is great if you are willing to put the effort into understanding solar. Get yourself a multi-meter and test the solar panel under different scenarios (weather, light, cables, device…). Once you understand this info, you will be able to get away with using such a cheap and lightweight solar panel for backpacking trips.
Goal Zero Nomad Solar Chargers
Best For: Backpackers who don’t mind a higher weight-per-ounce in exchange for more reliability.
- Watts: 5w/10W/20W
- Weight: 12.7oz/17.6oz/33.6oz
- Size: 9.5 x 7. X 1.1 inches (5w)
- Auto Reset: Yes
- Ports: 1x1A/1×1.5A/1×2.1A 8mm 1.3A solar port
- Cost: – See price here at Amazon and here at REI.
The Goal Zero Nomad used to be considered the best backpacking solar chargers. Now there are many other better options when it comes to weight. When you look at the amount of watts per ounce, the Goal Zero chargers are actually really heavy. The 5W and 10W chargers are also very slow.
There is some good though. Goal Zero Nomad chargers are very reliable. The tech does a good job of matching charge output to device. You won’t have to worry about the auto-reset not workingn or the charger draining your device if you let it sit too long. It’s also waterproof to IPX6.
If you are set on getting a Goal Zero Nomad charger, than I’d get the 10W or 20W. They aren’t lightweight enough for most backpackers but deliver more power and are chainable.
Get it Amazon or REI
ECEEN 13w Solar Charger
Best For: Hikers who want a very cheap solar charger that works well enough in good weather
The ECEEN is one of the cheapest solar chargers you can get which is still lightweight enough for backpacking.
Considering how cheap this backpacking solar charger is, it surprisingly has a (mostly) reliable auto-reset feature. It’s also waterproof, durable, and easily straps to your pack.
Now for the bad. The ECEEN does charge in full sun but won’t charge at all – not even a trickle – in low light. It’s also unrealistic to expect to charge two devices at once. The 2amps is only for ideal conditions and even then it won’t charge at a full 1amp per connection. Don’t bother with this solar panel for backpacking trips in fall, spring, or which will take you through shady forests.
Voltaic Arc 10W Solar Charger
Best For: Another budget solar charge for charging in sunny weather
The Voltaic Arc 10W solar charger seems fantastic at first glance. 10W is perfect if you only need to occasionally charge small devices when backpacking. The watts-per-ounce is good and it’s a nice compact size.
In clear skies and bright sun, the charging is actually very good. But, as soon as the weather gets a bit cloudy, the performance on the Arc 10W charger gets VERY slow.
I also don’t like that the charging port is completely exposed. You’ll need to be careful that it doesn’t get wet or dirty. There’s also no for holding your device while charging.
BigBlue 28W Solar Charger
Best For: Backpackers with high energy demands or traveling in a group
At 28W, the Big Blue solar charger is probably too large for most backpackers. But, if you have high power needs or there are multiple people in your group to share the weight, this is one of the best solar chargers you can get.
It has a lot of nice tech features like overcharge protection and the auto-reset features works. The solar panels are actually efficient. And, while you will never get 100% of the advertised charging amount, it performs better than most other solar chargers.
Do note that there doesn’t seem to be a blocking diode on the charger. If you leave a device attached to the charger in low-light conditions, it will drain your battery instead of charging it. You’ll need to unplug it in overcast weather, especially if multiple devices are attached.
Note: This charger is not compatible with the iPod Pro.
NekTeck 28W Solar Charger
Best For: If you don’t mind taking a risk with a generic brand
If this solar charger seems too good to be true, you are right. It doesn’t perform as well as some of its more well-known competitors and a lot of people were sent faulty chargers. Don’t expect to get a full 28W worth of charging power. The auto-reset feature can be finnicky and you might need to unplug/replug to get it to charge in cloudy conditions. The pouch is tiny and can barely fit many devices. And a lot of those 5-star reviews on Amazon seem to be fakes.
Still, there are a lot of people who like this solar charger. It’s rugged enough to withstand abuse and the price is pretty cheap. So, if you don’t mind taking a risk on a generic brand, go for it — but please test it to make sure it’s working before you take it backpacking! The brand is pretty good about issuing refunds if yours is faulty.
SunJack 15W Solar Charger
Best For: Overall great solution for charging two devices at once
While they don’t get as much attention as Anker or Goal Zero, SunJack is a very reputable brand of solar chargers. The weight is pretty good, especially considering how durable the solar charger is. It is (mostly) waterproof.
There’s a mesh for protecting your devices and the charging port. The elastic Band for holding your device in place is a nice touch. I also like that they use a magnetic closure instead of annoying Velcro.
The technology behind the solar charger also seems to deliver as promised. It will actually charge two devices at 2A each in good sunlight. There is Smart overcharge protection too. I would have listed this higher in my picks but it is often out of stock.
Tips for Choosing Lightweight and Ultralight Solar Chargers for Backpacking
Do You Even Need a Solar Charger?
Backpacking solar chargers are cool devices but, for most short trips, you really don’t need one – especially if you aren’t using many devices. As David Roberts of Solargenerator.guide says, “If you aren’t going to be in a place where you can count on at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day, then don’t waste your money. Opt for a less-expensive power bank, instead.”
For example, on a 7-day backpacking trip, I might need to recharge my headlamp batteries, camera battery, and/or Kindle. A lightweight 10,000mAh powerbank is more than enough to do this. Further, a powerbank is a lot more reliable than a solar panel when it comes to charging.
2: Inadequate Wattage = Dead Weight
Want a backpacking solar charger which weighs under 12oz? You’ll be hard pressed to find a setup which offers more than 5 watts of power.
As a general rule, you will need at least 10 watts in order to reliably charge phones and other small devices while backpacking. Anything less than 10 watts means it will take forever to charge a device – even in ideal conditions!
Also note that some devices won’t charge at low power. Nokia phones, for example, require 120mAh to start charging. If the low-watt solar panel can’t produce this amount, then the phone won’t charge at all.
An ultralight solar panel might not meet your power needs. It’s better to carry a few more ounces for gear which actually works than lug around dead weight.
Look At Watts Per Ounce
Don’t make the mistake of just looking at the overall weight of a solar charger. Instead, you need to look at the watts per ounce. The more watts per ounce, the lighter the solar charger really is.
For example, the Anker PowerPort is 13.7oz but has 21 watts. The Goal Zero Nomad 5 is lighter at 12.7oz, but only is 5 watts. As talked about above, it’s usually better to carry a few extra ounces and have a charger capable of doing the job.
Don’t Forget the Weight of Extras
It’s worth noting that most manufacturers only list the weight for their solar panels. This weight does NOT include accessories like cables, 12volt-to-USB adapters, or charge controllers. These can add a few ounces to the setup.
Likewise, you’ll probably also want a powerbank to use with your solar charger – which means anywhere from 2.5oz to 10oz more weight. This will allow you to store power for later and many solar chargers simply perform better when used to charge power banks.
Reduce Your Power Needs
The best way to reduce your solar charger weight is to reduce your power needs.
The less you use your devices, the smaller of a solar panel you can get away with. Normally you shouldn’t get less than a 10 watt solar panel, and that’s in ideal conditions. To get away with a low watt solar panel, you’ll need to:
- Keep your phone turned off or in flight mode (if you are using it for photos)
- Download LUX to control screen background
- Use Greenify app to turn off background apps without having to uninstall
- Keep phone GPS off until you need it
- If you listen to music on your phone, use earbuds instead of the speakers
- Keep devices at “room temperature” Sleep with them on cold nights if you must.
- Be stingy about taking photos and videos.
- Set up camp on time so you don’t have to rely on headlamps at night.
Be Realistic About What Ultralight Solar Chargers Can Do
Don’t get me wrong: backpacking solar chargers are awesome and have come a long way. They’ve gotten smaller, more durable, and much more reliable.
But they still aren’t perfect.
You aren’t going to be able to strap a small charger to your backpacking, hike through a shady forest, and expect your devices to get fully charged.
Want to really cut weight from your pack? Check out my eBook!
Oftne, the most effective way to cut weight from your pack is to start with your food. My eBook has over 50 dehydrator backpacking recipes — most which have over 130 calories per ounce! Plus there’s tons of info on planning backpacking meals. I’ll even give it to you for half off.
w solar charger
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This 21 Watts SolarBooster enables you to easily use solar energy to charge your devices, anywhere you go.
High yieldThis SolarBooster uses high yield SunPower® cells to charges your devices extra fast. Thanks to these very efficient cells there is minimal loss of energy during the charging process, and they even function on a cloudy day! The LCD display shows the current Ampere output of the solar panel.
Easy chargingMobile devices can be connected directly to the solar panel via USB and USB-C. It’s even possible to use the SolarBooster 21 Watts to charge two devices, such as a smartphone and an Xtorm power bank, at the same time. Because the SolarBooster has a high output it’s able to charge devices extra quickly.
Practical designThanks to the practical design and the carabiner that’s included, the SolarBooster 21 Watts panel can be easily fixed on a backpack, tent or bicycle. When the solar panel is not is use it’s easy to fold up and take with you. The material that’s used is strong, flexible and waterproof.
Features of the Xtorm 21 Watts Solar Booster
First-rate Solar Panels Xtorm incorporates the latest SunPower® technology, these are the best solar panels available on the consumer market.
Solar efficiency This Xtorm Solar Booster is provided with SunPower® solar panels boasting the industry’s highest solar efficiency ensuring the least possible loss of energy during the charging process.
Auto Power Management The Xtorm 21 Watts Solar Charger is provided with the APM-chip. This means that this Solar Booster automatically balances the correct charging speed and efficiently divides the power between the attached devices.
Xtorm safety check
Overload protection Xtorm mobile chargers protect the battery of the attached mobile device from overcharging.
Temperature control All Xtorm Solar Boosters are provided with a temperature control chip that prevents overheating.
Auto Power Management The Xtorm APM-chip automatically balances the power over the attached devices to prevent overcharging or overheating.
Note: The wattage of the device you want to charge must be lower than the wattage of the product you are using to charge it. Devices with higher wattage, cannot be charged with this.