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Top Ultralight Solar Chargers Reviewed (3.6oz to 15.9oz)

best ultralight solar panels

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 these solar chargers are under 1lb (the lightest is just 3.56oz!) yet still reliable enough for charging phones, GPS, and other small devices while backpacking and hiking.


Quick Answer:

 

Comparison

*You want more watts per ounce with backpacking solar chargers.

ProductOverall WeightWatts Per OunceAuto Reset?
Anker PowerPort 21W13.2oz1.6Yes
Goal Zero 5W12.7oz0.4Yes
Suntactics 5W7oz0.7Yes
ECEEN 13W16oz0.8Yes
BioLite 5W13.8oz*
Weight includes battery
0.4No
RAVPower 16W15.9oz1No
Lixada 10W3.56oz2.8No

 

Best Ultralight Solar Chargers for Backpacking

1: Anker PowerPort Solar Lite 21W

anker solr lite solar charger

Best For: Fantastic power-to-weight ratio plus great features

Specs:

  • Watts: 21
  • Amps: 2
  • Weight: 13.2oz
  • Watts per oz: 1.6
  • Size:11 × 6.3 in. folded / 18.1 × 11 in open
  • Auto reset: Yes
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Connections: 2
  • Cost: $$ – Buy here

Review:

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 pocket for holding your devices.

The Anker PowerPort does have an auto-reset feature.  This means it will automatically stop charging when there is not enough light, so you don’t have to worry about the solar charger draining your batteries instead of charging them (anti feedback blocking diode).  The solar charger will turn back on automatically when there is enough sun.  Unfortunately though, some people reported there are problems with the auto-reset feature: they had to fold and reopen the solar panel to get it charging again.

Note that this solar charger does not have an integrated battery. You can use it for directly charging devices.  If you want to store power for later, I recommend pairing it with the ultralight Anker Astro power bank (4.2oz). The total setup weighs in at 17.4oz, which is still pretty damn lightweight at over 1 watt per oz.

Buy Here


 

2: Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Charger with Flip 12 Power Bank

Goal Zero Nomad 5 solar charger

Best For: Backpackers who don’t mind a higher weight-per-ounce in exchange for more reliability.

Specs:

  • Watts: 5w
  • Amps: 1
  • Weight: 12.7oz
  • Watts per oz: 0.4
  • Size: 9.5 x 7. X 1.1 inches
  • Auto Reset: Yes
  • Included Battery: 3500mAh
  • Connections: 1
  • Cost:  $$ – Buy here

Review:

Goal Zero is one of the most popular brands of solar chargers for backpacking and camping.  They have a lot of chargers which start at 5 watts and go up to 400 watts.  If weight is your primary concern, then the Nomad 5 watt solar panel is the best pick.

Compared to the Anker solar charger, the Goal Zero 5 is much heavier in terms of watts per ounce.  However, Goal Zero solar chargers are known for being more reliable. They have less issues with their auto-reset feature.

They are also great at directly charging most devices.  This is because they use a technology which automatically matches the charge output to the device.    The device can be used while charging via the Goal Zero, so you don’t need to wait for the solar panel to charge the device first.

The indicator light is a really nice feature since it lets you know when the solar panel is charging.  It really takes the guesswork out of solar charging, especially when the light is less than ideal.

Another major plus is that it’s waterproof rated to IPX6, which means you can fall in a stream and it will still work – not that I’m recommending you test that!

This setup comes with a mini powerbank which is only 2.5oz and has a capacity of 3,500mAh.  You can of course use it with other powerbanks too but this setup is great for backpackers who occasionally need to charge small devices.

Buy Here


 

3: Suntactics S14 Solar Charger

suntactics solar panel ultralight

Best For: Thru-hikers who want an incredibly lightweight solar charger which still works in cloudy weather

Specs:

  • Watts: 5w
  • Amps: 1.2
  • Weight: 7oz
  • Watts per oz: 0.7
  • Size: 6×6”folded, 6×11” open
  • Auto reset: Yes
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Connections: 2
  • Cost: $$$ – Buy here

Review:

The Suntactics solar charger is only 7 ounces, which makes it one of the lightest solar chargers available while still having advanced features.

The barebones design is meant to shave weight.  Yet, the solar charger still has all the features you’d need to charge devices while hiking.  There’s an auto-reset which ensures the panel will start charging again even if a cloud passes overhead.  The waterproof rating is high and the solar panel is sturdy enough to withstand some abuse.

Unlike some other solar chargers with auto-reset, the SunTactics will reset at set intervals.  This is meant to keep the device charging at full capacity.  However, the feature can cause some issues – like causing your phone’s screen to turn on and thus drain some battery.

As expected, the SunTactics doesn’t do great in cloudy conditions.  It is also pretty slow to charge devices. There isn’t a blocking diode built into the solar charger, which means it can cause devices to drain instead of charge when connected in low-light situations.  Because of this, I’d only recommend charging devices directly in high-light situations and to make sure you check on them regularly.  Otherwise, it’s better to charge a a power bank and use that to charge your devices.

Buy Here


 

4: ECEEN 13w Solar Charger

ECEEN solar charger

Best For: Hikers who want a cheap backpacking solar charger that works well enough

Specs:

  • Watts: 13
  • Amps: 2
  • Weight: 16oz
  • Watts per oz: 0.8
  • Size: 7×12.7” folded, 14×12.7” open
  • Auto Reset: Yes
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Connections: 2
  • Cost: $ – Buy Here

Review:

The ECEEN is one of the cheapest solar chargers you can get which is still lightweight enough for backpacking. The fact that it is 13 watts is also nice if you need to charge devices more frequently.

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.

Buy Here


 

5: BioLite SolarPanel 5+

Biolite solar panel with battery

Best For: Solar charger with a built-in battery

Specs:

  • Watts: 5w (10 watt model also available)
  • Amps: 1
  • Weight: 13.8oz
  • Watts per oz: 0.4
  • Size: 10.1 x 8.2 x 1.0 inches
  • Auto Reset: No
  • Integrated Battery: Yes – 2200 mAh
  • Connections: 1
  • Cost:  $$- Buy here

Review:

The company BioLite makes some really cool alternative-energy gear. Their solar charger is no exception.  It is very small and pretty lightweight (considering that the battery pack is integrated).  The little kickstand allows you to position the solar panel towards the sun easily. There is also a sundial so you can easily position it correctly to get the most sunlight.

Yes, it does take a while to charge with this tiny solar panel.  However, it has good reviews overall and does its job well. You’ll be able to clip the solar charger to your pack during the day and then use the battery to charge your phone/device at night.

The downside of the BioLite solar charger is that it doesn’t have a lot of the features you’ll find in newer solar chargers, like auto-reset.  The integrated battery is only 2200mAh, so it will only store enough power to charge your phone about 1 time.

Buy here


 

6. RAVPower 16W Solar Charger

Ravpower solar charger for backpacking

Best For: A cheap yet light backpacking solar charger, if you don’t mind monitoring it

Specs:

  • Watts: 16W
  • Amps: 3.2
  • Weight: 15.9oz
  • Watts per oz: 1
  • Size: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.2 inches
  • Auto Reset: No
  • Integrated Battery: No
  • Connections: 3
  • Cost:  $ – Buy Here

Review:

The RAVPower 16 watt is a very affordable solar charger that also has a good power-to-weight ratio. It’s a really popular product and overall gets good reviews from users.

As expected with such a cheap backpacking charger though, the RAVPower is far from perfect.  It is made from rather flimsy materials, so don’t count on holding devices in the built-in pocket.

The solar charger is also lacking some features you’d want for backpacking. Notably, it doesn’t have an auto-reset.  You will need to unplug/replug the charger to get it charging again if a cloud passes over.  Likewise, there is no blocking diode built into the panel, so it’s possible that the charger could drain your devices if left plugged in while there is no sun.

Another issue is that the solar charger overheats quickly, which will in turn affect how well it chargers.  They even warn you about this in the product description – a sign that it happens often.

If you only need a solar charger for backpacking in very sunny weather and don’t need to recharge often, then this is a good budget pick. If you need power more steadily, then choose a more reliable option.

Buy Here


 

7. Lixada 10W Solar Charger

lixada backpacking solar charger

Best For: Insanely cheap and lightweight solution for backpackers who understand solar

Specs:

  • Watts: 10W
  • Amps: 1.2
  • Weight: 3.56oz
  • Watts per oz: 2.8
  • Size: 10.2 x 5.5 inches
  • Auto Reset: No
  • Connections: 1
  • Cost:  $ – Buy Here

Review: 

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. It doesn’t have an auto-reset feature.  Nor does it have a blocking diode, so it could draw power from your device in low-light situations.  I wouldn’t ‘use the Lixada to directly charge devices.  It’s more reliable at 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.

Buy Here


 

Tips for Choosing Lightweight and Ultralight Solar Chargers for Backpacking

1. 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. A powerbank might be enough to recharge devices and batteries.

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.

See these top ultralight power banks for backpacking.

 

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.

In a nutshell?

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.

 

3. 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.

 

4. 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 10+oz more weight.  This will allow you to store power for later and many solar chargers simply perform better when used to charge power banks.

 

5. 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.

 

6. 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.

 

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Resources for this article:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Ultralight/comments/7q080z/true_ultralight_solar_solution/
https://www.reddit.com/r/Ultralight/comments/972ebp/ultralight_solar_panel_for_fomolov_a1/
https://www.reddit.com/r/PacificCrestTrail/comments/adnctm/which_goalzero_solar_panel_is_a_good_one_to_bring/

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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.

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