Most backpackers who are in the midst of planning their next trek are likely preparing to be on foot for multiple days at a time. Nowadays, nearly all backpackers carry technology with them that is powered by the delivery of a USB connection with no adequate process to successfully recharge while on trail. When I am out backpacking I tend to carry my GoPro Hero 6 Black along with its rechargeable packs for photos and video, a cell phone in case of emergency situations and a JBL speaker to keep the tunes rolling. Ultimately, all of these pieces of technology are powered and operated by rechargeable batteries.
Solar energy, both a renewable and environmentally friendly energy source, is a backpacker’s best friend especially when it comes to keeping those vital pieces of technology fully charged. Solar chargers allow for the conversion of light energy to electrical energy using solar cells. I purchased the Nekteck Solar Charger last year for a backpacking trip I was planning. I knew I was going to be trekking through a remote area with no plug-ins for 10+ kilometers in either direction. The Nekteck Solar Charger did not disappoint.
As Snap! would say back in the early 90s: “I’ve got the power!” Now picture me saying that in the middle of nowhere while plugging my GoPro into my solar charger.
Solar Charger Key Features
- This 18 ounce (0.5 kg, 1.13 lbs) solar charger packs 21 watts of power and has the ability of charging two devices (at 3A maximum output) with its two 5V USB ports, especially on a bright, sunny day.
- The USB output ports are located with a pouch at the end of one of the folds. The USB junction box does not contain any battery. This item is completely powered by solar. The pouch can act as a storage area for small devices, such as a phone.
- A built-in mart IC chip allows for each USB port to identify your device and looks to maximize charging speeds.
- The solar charger contains 3 water resistant solar panels that can be unfolded and exposed to the sun’s light. When finished, the solar panel can be folded back up and made portable once again. Measurements when folded are: 6.3″ x 11.1″ x 1.06″ and 26.3″ x 11.1″ when opened.
- Two carbiners are looped through two grommets on the end of the solar charger for hanging purposes.
- The canvas covering the outer portions of the solar charger are durable and can withstand outdoor conditions.
Functionality of the NekTeck
The Nekteck Solar Charger is such a useful piece of equipment that I don’t believe I will be excluding it from my gear list anytime soon. When folded, this lightweight item can fit just about anywhere within the confines of my backpack and without sacrificing any room. The USB ports function properly and act like any charging port you would find at home or in public. Although likely assumed, USB cords are sold separately but most of the devices you own will likely have the proper cords, anyways. There is a small light that shines red when the solar panels are exposed to light. This is a great indicator that the panels are ready to charge.
Personally, I sooner take the time to connect one device and have it charge quick and efficiently rather than having two devices charging at once. I had the time to test this out while stopping to rest on multiple occasions. My GoPro batteries tend to charge faster without having the cell phone charge at the exact same time. But, if you are in no rush, having both devices connected will most definitely charge, just not as quick.
The 3 solar panels itself are made up of 12 solar cells each leading to high efficiency in converting and conserving solar energy. The panels are also water and dust resistant and can withstand dampness and other exposure to wet precipitation. What I did notice was that the functionality of the solar charger was hindered during overcast skies. The solar charger would still run power to my devices but at much slower pace. But, this is to be expected because of the lack of sunlight. Try to find an area where sunlight is exposed to maximum the charging potential of your devices. I highly recommend having a portable power bank or two to use and charge in case of the possibility of being exposed to overcast weather for days at a time.
Carbiners on the grommets of the end fold are a convenient feature of the solar charger. I found this feature notably useful for clipping on to the front of my backpack. That way I could keep moving while my devices charged at the same time.
Overall, the NekTeck solar charger is a functional piece of equipment that I have had no issues with since I purchased it in May 2018. This solar panel retails for an inexpensive price of $49.99 USD and has a rating of 4.5 / 5 stars based off 500+ online reviews on Amazon.
Solar Panels on the Market
Along with most items for sale in today’s market, there is competition. The NekTeck Solar Charger is not the only backpacking friendly solar panel on the market but it is one of the most reliable and durable of its kind. Here is a list of other solar chargers around the same price as the NekTeck:
- BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger with Digital Ammeter: shares many similar features of the Nekteck; dual USB ports, retails for $59.99 USD on Amazon.
- Hiluckey 25000mAh Solar Charger: shares many similar features of the Nekteck; dual USB ports; 4 panels, retails for $46.99 USD on Amazon.
- RAVPower 24W Solar Panel: shares many similar features of the Nekteck; 3 USB ports; 4 panels, retails for $69.99 USD on Amazon.
There you have it. The savior to all your technology problems in the great outdoors (well, almost). Whether you decide to go with NekTeck or the other similar solar panels on the market, I don’t think you can go wrong. But, I can attest that Nekteck’s solar panel is a reliable piece of equipment that will be making its way into your backpack for many adventures to come.