Like others, we go camping to get away from the city and the busy lifestyle. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we want a break from technology. We still want our phones for emergency situations, a Kindle to read or a tablet to watch movies on a rainy day camping. But these need to be charged and currently tents don’t come equipped with electrical plugins. Solar chargers can be really handy when camping, hiking or just spending a longer period of time outdoors. So what are the best solar chargers for camping? We have tested a few solar chargers in our day and have found that these 5 really do the trick. Each one is a bit different, making it unique for the type of camping you are doing.
Solio Classic2 Solar Charger
The Solio Classic2 is one of the coolest products on the market for charging multiple devices while on the go. It can power anything that uses a USB to charge. A day of direct sunlight on the Classic2 captures enough energy for three charges for most smart phones or tops-off most tablets from half-depleted to a full battery. The best part of the battery pack and charger is that it has a full-sized USB port which allows thousands of devices to connect to it. It is great for campers who need to charge headlamps, GPS watches or water purifiers. Plus it fits in the palm of your hand making it super easy to travel with.
The Solio Classic2 charges your electronics fast, one full day of capturing sun and the Solio can charge your smart phone up to 3 times and only takes about 90 minutes for a full charge. The design of the Solio Classic2 allows it to receive maximum sunlight by creating a sundial. The Solio spreads out like a fan with a pencil in the middle that acts as a turning point. Move the charger until there is no shadow being cast by the pencil and it is receiving maximum sun. Keep rotating throughout the day and the Solio will easily power your devices.
Goal Zero Switch 8 Solar Recharging Kit
Goal Zero has been a leader in portable power for a long time and the cutting edge Switch 8 with Nomad 7 Solar Charger is no different. This kit is a 2 for 1 power supply. The Switch 8 is a highly compact portable solar charger with a USB port to plug any device in. This small tube-like charger can easily fit in a backpack and can fully charge a phone in 1-2 hours. Being compact it can charge your iPod around 3 times but your smartphone only 1 time. Once charged the Switch 8 can go anywhere with you and does not need sunlight to stay powered.
But for longer trips with out the ability to plug in to a wall to charge the Switch 8, the Nomad 7 Solar Charger from Goal Zero will be a life saver. These two devices work together to give you power any where you are at. The Nomad 7 Solar Charger is a compact yet powerful solar panel that allows you to charge your devices directly from the panel. This solar panel is unique in that it has USB and 12 Volt DC charging ports. It also has the ability to split its power to charge a USB and 12V at the same time. The Nomad is foldable, rugged and weather resistant and is perfect for camping. Just lay it out on the picnic table and let it soak up the sun as it charges your devices. From the Nomad charge the Switch 8 and give yourself portable power on the go.
Price: $119.98 ($39.99 Switcher 8, $79.99 Nomad 7)
Birksun Solar Backpacks
If you’re camping, hiking or spending any time out in the woods most likely you have a backpack on you to hold water bottles, keys, and phone. Why not let your backpack charge your devices? Genius! Birksun has the Atlas and the Levels backpack. The Atlas is more of a messenger style bag while the Levels is a traditional backpack. The Birksun solar backpacks have a large solar panel on the front which charges an on board poly lithium battery that can then charge any of your USB powered devices. The battery in the backpack can be charged from either the sun or by being plugged directly in to the wall allowing easy charge up before heading out on a trip. Although it doesn’t charge give as fast of a charge compared to other solar panels it will give you about a 19% increase in battery for every hour of sunlight.
The greatest thing about these backpacks is the design. Sometimes you have a great invention but the design isn’t up to par and no one wants it. The Birksun backpacks are stylish, comfortable and highly useful. They have minimal compartments but allow a separate compartment for a laptop and an outside compartment to house your water bottle. The cord and battery that come out to charge your devices is well hidden and does not leave cords everywhere. The feel of the backpack is different like a cotton blend, it feels breathable. The backpacks are highly durable and a great investment for anyone who wants an easy solar charger that they will always have with them!
The JOOS Orange solar charger has been getting a lot of attention lately and rightfully so. The JOOS Orange is a highly durable solar charger that works in real life weather conditions. It really isn’t to big at about 8″ long and 6″ wide. It has a flat panel on front with legs that click out in the back to help easily adjust so the panel is getting the best sung light. The JOOS really is unique in that it works anywhere, even under water. The device is waterproof and will capture sun light in low light, shade and even light rain. It also is able to be charged through a wall outlet or your computer if you are not outside much.
The reason we truly love this portable solar charger is that it charges fast. Let’s face it our world is fast paced and being patient isn’t a strong suit. With a 5,400 mAH replaceable battery pack it can capture 20 times more energy than most solar chargers. For example 1 hour in the direct sun gives you around 2 hours of 3G talk time. It has a USB port to plug any of your electronic devices in to and is great for car campers. It is definitely not the most compact solar USB charger available but it really gets the job done. If you truly need to pack light and save space the JOOS may not be your best option. It is slightly pricier than the other chargers reviewed but is worth the money.
EnerPlex Kickr IV
The EnerPlex Kickr is like most solar panels, expect for the fact that you can drive a car over this one and it won’t break! The solar panel is extremely flexible and compact folding down in to a small square weighing less then 1 pound. It provides a robust charging solution for portable electronic devices allowing most small devices to charge as fast as they would if they were plugged in to the wall. It can charge most smart phones in less than an hour and a half.
The Kickr IV has grommets on the sides that allow you to connect the panel to almost anything, making it more portable than some of the solar panel solutions on the market. The Kickr IV collects over 6 watts of power from the sun which gives it the ability to charge your devices quickly. The one draw back to the Kickr IV is there is not a way to charge it via a wall outlet. Unlike some of the other devices it does not have an internal battery that stores a charge. The Kickr IV has been super reliable for us and is a great device to set out while camping to collect sun and power those precious electronic devices.