Whether you’re an itinerant wanderer, a travelling business person, or a casual weekend hiker, cyclist, or camper, at some point in your travels you’ll have almost certainly come face-to-face with the very real, very annoying issue of having your electrical gadgets die on you. Whether you need your laptop to conduct business whilst on the go, your phone for navigation on a long, off-trail hike, or you brought your Bluetooth speakers with you to liven up your campsite, when electrical items run out of charge, it’s no fun for anyone – especially when you’re miles from the nearest plug socket.
Of course, we’ve all heard of portable phone chargers or USB chargers, maybe you’ve already invested in solar panels for your camper van, RV, or mobile home. And yet, neither of these options quite cuts it, when it comes to casual or solo travel. USB chargers still require charging themselves, and solar panels for RVs (for example) are often large, heavy, and not-readily portable. So what’s the solution?
The solution is the solar backpack. Solar backpacks have solar panels sewn into their exposed faces, which are in turn linked to internal charging devices allowing for the charging of any USB-charged gadget (from phones and speakers, to laptops and more). The innovative design of solar backpacks means that you can harness the natural, renewable power of the sun and charge your items at the same time, all whilst on the go.
Having reviewed the market, we’ve chosen the best solar backpacks to meet a variety of needs.
This panel from WISSBLUE is the only one on our list which isn’t already sewn into a backpack. Why? you may ask. Well, whilst buying a fully-fledged solar backpack might be why you’re here, there is always the chance you’ve already got a favourite backpack, and you’re not yet ready to upgrade it. If this is the case, then having the ability to attach this removable solar panel charger from WISSBLUE allows you to keep your current backpack, whilst still harnessing all the advantages of solar power. Just clip this solar panel charger onto the outward face of your favourite bag, and go!
If price is your sticking point – perhaps you’re an environmentally-conscious student – then you can’t do much better than to check out this supremely affordable, neat executive-style solar backpack from EnerPlex. Less than half the price of the next cheapest competitor backpack on the market, this product from EnerPlex offers a modest 3 watt, waterproof solar panel (American-made) which allows the wearer to charge their smartphone, camera, or speaker (etc.) in around only 5 hours, all thanks to the power of sunlight! Lightweight and with three compartments, this solar backpack is our best in budget.
On the other hand, if you’re less concerned with price, and more with quality, then we suggest you look no further than the Array Rapid Solar Backpack from Voltaic Systems. This solar backpack from Voltaic boasts a monocrystalline solar panel (if you’re new to solar technology, then know that monocrystalline is the industry’s leading technology), which is not only waterproof and durable, but also lightweight and incredibly powerful. With a battery pack included, wearing this backpack in sunlight will store electricity until needed, and can fully charge most smartphones in just an hour, and most laptops in only 5 hours. The backpack itself is built from recycled plastic, adding to its environmental design, and its solar panel and solar battery pack each come with a 1-year manufacturer warranty guarantee.
How Do Solar Backpacks Work?
Even those of us new to renewable energy know something about solar. It’s been around on the commercial market for over half a century at this point, and if we’ve not got solar panels installed at home quite just yet, we’ve most certainly seen them on other peoples’ homes, or in long rows in fields, linked up to the national grid. But when it comes to portable solar items, things get a little tricky. Like, how can solar technology be installed in something so small? How can it be portable, doesn’t it need a stable surface, or to be plugged into something? What’s it actually doing when it’s working? We’re here to answer all of those questions for you, and more.
A solar backpack is, generally speaking, a combination of regular, conventional backpack, and a solar array. That’s right, not just a solar panel, but a full array – battery pack, wiring and charging ports all included. Typically, solar backpacks have solar panels stitched into their surface, facing away from the user when worn. These solar panels harness the energy of the sun, converting it into usable electricity which is then stored in a battery in the panel, to be used at your leisure. Most solar backpacks come with USB ports (and sometimes other outlets too) which you can plug phones, tablets, laptops and cameras into (among other things) to charge them. The electricity generated by the solar panel and stored in the battery is used to do so. Some packs even comes with their own integral battery power bank, thus extending the electricity storage capacity of the product.
There are also, however, solar ‘backpacks’ which are really just lightweight, foldable solar panels which can be attached to regular backpacks. These effectively transform your beloved everyday pack into a solar pack, and similarly tend to have USB ports so as to operate just like the other solar backpacks we described do. All solar backpack solar panels are designed to be water and weatherproof, lightweight and durable, ideal for camping, hiking, commuting to work, or travelling on holiday. Many solar backpacks are also deliberately ergonomic in their design, providing you the wearer a comfortable experience – one you wouldn’t be able to differentiate from how to feels to wear any other high-quality non-solar backpack.
But how exactly do solar panels work in the first place? The process is surprisingly simple. Solar panels are built up of many individual solar cells. These cells are made of silicon film (either polycrystalline or monocrystalline), which when exposed to the sun go through a chemical and physical reaction, converting sunlight into volts of electricity (this is known as the ‘photovoltaic effect’). Once the volts have been generated, they are fed through a transducer (to amplify them) before into the solar panel’s battery, where they are stored for future use. Since solar panels convert sunlight, they can only generate electricity when exposed to sunlight (i.e. they don’t work at night).
Pros and Cons of Solar Backpacks
Before investing in a solar backpack (since the very best of them can be quite expensive), it’s really worth taking a moment more to consider all of the fundamental positives and negatives surrounding the technology. Let’s take a brief look at the main pros and cons of solar backpacks.
- Access to power anytime, anywhere. With a solar backpack, provided you can access some sunlight during the day, you will never be far from a reliable energy source. In other words, no matter where you are, or when, you can keep your electrical devices fully charged – ideal for camping in case of emergencies, or just for entertainment on long journeys in the car or on public transport.
- Free electricity. Not only is this power portable, it’s also free. No more energy bills to charge your smartphone or run your laptop on the go – just plug into your backpack and off you go!
- Attractive. Whilst utility is the name of the game when it comes to solar backpacks, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. There are such a range of solar backpacks to choose from, everyone can find one to suit their tastes. What’s more, if you opt for a detachable, portable solar panel instead, you can attach it to your favourite current backpack.
- Green energy. Renewable energy is great for the planet, it replaces dirty, damaging, climate-crisis-fuelling, high-carbon energy sources, contributing toward the hopeful recovery of our world.
- Affordable price range. Whilst some of the bags on this list cost a pretty penny, there are plenty which are very affordable and equally attractive, meaning there’s something to suit everyone’s budget.
- Versatile. With external USB outlets, several compartments, integrated power banks, headphone holes, and more, solar backpacks are on the frontlines of backpack ingenuity.
- Durable. These backpacks are built to last.
- Bulky. Whilst lightweight and comfortable, there’s no denying that a solar panel in your backpack adds a little extra chunk. Not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly the bags can still look great, but something you might not immediately notice from the advertised pictures, but should be aware of.
- Sunlight dependent. Obvious right? Solar technology needs solar power (AKA sunlight) to function. Without it, solar panels cannot generate electricity, and your backpack will not reach its maximum potential. If you live in a low light or often-overcast area, it’s worth considering how beneficial a solar backpack would actually be.
- Slow charging. Not that we can really complain about free, environmentally-friendly, portable electricity, but still it’s worth noting that charging times for your devices will be noticeably slower when compared to the charging times you’d experience at home, with your device plugged into the wall.
- Only good for small devices. Laptops are at the top of the range when it comes to what a solar backpack can charge, but even there they’ll have to have been exposed to (or be exposed to) some strong direct sunlight, for a good number of hours. You can’t charge or power anything much bigger than a laptop: the solar panels used in these backpacks just aren’t strong enough!
Best Solar Backpacks Reviewed
We’ve now taken a look at some of our very favourite solar charger backpacks on the market, but there are still many great products available outwith these three. Let’s take a more in-depth, pros and cons look at the very best solar backpacks the market has to offer.
#1. ECEEN Solar Powered Backpack
- Brand: ECEEN
- Color: Messenger Bag Green
- High Efficiency solar panel
- Perfect as a daypacks during the day, weekend trips
- Protect your gear
The only messenger bag on our list, we really love this solar bag from ECEEN. It’s built with highly durable canvas, designed to withstand everyday weather conditions, though remains lightweight whilst doing so. With a 7 watt solar panel, the ECEEN messenger bag can fit up to a 14″ laptop, and can complete the charging of most smartphones in just 3-4 hours.
This particular product is fitted with a 22% high-efficiency SUNPOWER (American-brand) solar cell, designed to charge throughout the day. Pop a backup power bank in there, or charge your camera, speaker, phone or even laptop on the go, whilst you cycle to the office, hop on the bus, or stroll through your city. This solar backpack from ECEEN has a super attractive price point, too.
- Nice, unique messenger bag design
- Heavy duty canvas makes it sturdy and durable
- 7 watt solar cell not as strong as some of its competitors
- Only fits up to a 14″ laptop
- Fewer compartments than the other backpacks on this list
#2. LifePod Backpack with Solar Panel and USB Port
- Brand: LifePod
- Made with the highest quality and very durable materials
- Ultra Light materials will ensure your comfort throughout the day
- Easily charge your device without opening up the backpack
This all-grey, unisex backpack from LifePod is the second most affordable bag on our list, though you wouldn’t tell it to look at it. This bag has a really attractive design, including one of our favourite features, which is the external (yet neatly concealed) USB port, allowing you to charge your device without needing to open up the bag.
The LifePod solar panel backpack is lightweight and yet constructed of durable materials, meaning that what it has in the way of comfort, it doesn’t lose in longevity. Our main criticism, however is that there’s almost no information on the product page pertaining to the power, wattage, or type of the built-in solar panel, leaving us guessing at its strength. Given its price point, however, we can presume that it will be a fairly low wattage solar panel (perhaps around 3 watts), meaning your smartphone could take anywhere up to 6 hours to fully charge.
- Attractive design
- External USB port means charging without opening the bag
- No specific solar panel specifications from manufacturer
- Presumably quite low-powered
- Fewer compartments than some of its competitors
#3. WISSBLUE Solar Backpack Panel Charger
- Brand: WISSBLUE
- 2.1A Simultaneous fast charging
- Portable/ Lightweight
- Rugged material
- Conveniently Foldable Carrying
We first looked at the WISSBLUE solar backpack detachable panel charger back in our Editor’s Picks section, where we praised it for its unique design – a solar panel made to be easily attachable and detachable. What this means is that the WISSBLUE solar panel can be clipped onto any of your current backpacks, allowing you the versatility to keep your bag as it is, or change it up to a renewable energy source at your whim.
With a one-year manufacturer warranty, the WISSBLUE panel boasts an impressive 21 watts (much more than many of the backpacks on our list, presumably due to the fact its size is not constrained by the need to fit inside the bag). This means that most smartphones can charge in just 1.5-2 hours; and in fact, most 5v devices are compatible, and recognised by the solar panel’s in-built smart technology, maximising the voltage output whilst ensuring the safety of the connected device.
- Detachable solar panel gives you greater choice
- 21 watts is a super powerful panel, relative to the solar backpack market
- One-year warranty
- Two USB ports
- Since it’s not factored into the design of a bag, it is inarguably less attractive than its competitors
- Bulkier and larger than built-in solar panel backpacks
#4. Kingsons Beam Solar Backpack
- Brand: Kingsons
- Unique USB Ports
- Ergonomic Design
- Miasolé Solar Cells
- Water resistant and durable fabric with metal zippers
One of the more expensive products on our list, the extra money gets you something pretty special with the Beam solar backpack from Kingsons. Designed ergonomically to provide you with optimal back support – helping maintain proper posture, and spreading the weight of the bag’s contents – the Beam backpack is also anti theft, thanks to its cleverly designed buckle system.
With black solar panels built into a sleek, leather-look black design, Kingsons’ solar backpack can put out an impressive 11 volts from its panels, and has plenty enough space for a 15.6″ laptop, a 10.1″ tablet, and all of your daily essentials (stationery, water bottle, umbrella, etc.). With a USB port on the outside (whilst remaining fully waterproof), you can charge any device on the go, without having to unzip or take off the bag.
- Powerful solar panels
- Sleek all-black design
- External USB port
- Large storage area
- Ergonomic, thoughtful design
- Only 1 USB port
- Relatively expensive
#5. EnerPlex Packr Executive Solar Powered Backpack
- Brand: EnerPlex
- Color: Grey
- Solar integrated
- water resistant & designed for the harshest conditions
Last we saw of the EnerPlex Executive solar backpack, it was topping our lists as our ‘Best Budget’ backpack, and yet with this one, budget does not mean shoddy. The design might not be the most attractive on our list, but it is one of the more practical, with three large compartments and many more internal pockets. (One of the main compartments is actually directed toward the wearers back, making it effectively anti theft – perfect for storing (and charging) your laptop or tablet.)
The solar panels used in EnerPlex’s backpacks are 100% engineered and made in Denver, CO, USA, and are award-winning. Thus, whilst they are relatively weak (at only 3 watts) you can rest easy knowing they’re built to last. Compatible with most backpacks up to 15″, this solar backpack is able to charge most smartphones and cameras in around 5 hours.
- Most affordable backpack on our list (‘Best Budget’)
- American-made, award-winning solar technology
- Versatile and spacious bag design
- Not a particularly attractive aesthetic
- Relatively weak solar panels mean long charging times
#6. HAWEEL 14W Solar Panel Power Backpack
- Brand: HAWEEL
- Color: Black
- Luggage Belt
- Large Capacity Design
- Breathable and Relieve the Stress
- Water Resistant Material
When you’ve got in-built 14 watt solar panels, why wouldn’t you advertise them in the name? We’re big fans of this solar backpack from HAWEEL, and if we had a ‘Best Middle-of-the-Road’ category, then this pack would have bagged the top spot (excuse the pun). the HAWEEL solar backpack is designed with breathable and cooling technology, making it super comfortable to wear. What’s more, it has specially-designed pockets to hold multiple smartphones, tablets, and a laptop (up to an impressive 15.6″)
Totally waterproof, the HAWEEL has a built-in luggage belt, an external USB port (so you can charge without opening the bag), and (one of our favourite elements) an external earphone port, so that you can charge and secure your smartphone internally, whilst listening to your music externally. 14 watts makes the HAWEEL one of the more powerful solar powered backpacks on the market, too, and at a fairly middle-of-the-road price point, we seriously recommend you check this one out.
- Powerful 14 watt solar panels
- External USB port and earphone port
- Breathable and cooling material means optimal comfort
- Lots of well thought-out storage space
- Few, if any!
#7. Voltaic Systems Array Rapid Solar Backpack
- Brand: Voltaic Systems
- Color: Gray, Charcoal
- Charge Laptops On-The-Go
- More Storage for Your Gear
- Durable, PET Fabric
Last, but most certainly not least, we come to the Array Rapid Solar Backpack from Voltaic Systems, the same product which we awarded our ‘Best Deluxe’ solar backpack back in our Editor’s Picks. If you’ve the cash to spare, then you should absolutely be considering this item from Voltaic Systems. With a 2 year warranty, 25 litres of storage, an included battery pack, and staggeringly strong in-built solar panels, this backpack is the crème de la crème of the solar backpack world.
Able to charge most laptops fully in just 5 hours (that’s the same as the time it takes its competitors to charge a single smartphone), the Voltaic Systems backpack can charge your smartphone fully in just an hour. We’re particularly fond of the fact that this backpack is doubly environmentally-conscious, thanks to the use of recycled plastics in its breathable, cooling material design.
- Tonnes of storage room
- 2 year warranty
- Super fast-charging (best on the market in this regard)
- Ergonomic and sustainably-sourced material design
- Relatively expensive
- Fewer compartments than competitor products (though makes up for it with storage space)
When looking to invest in a solar backpack, there are a few things we recommend you take into consideration. Let’s have a look.
Removable Solar Panel or Built-In
Depending upon your answer to this question, your choices will either narrow or widen, quite considerably. When looking to buy a solar backpack, you’re probably imagining a backpack with solar panels sewn into it, and in most cases, you’d be right. However, there also exists the option to buy a detachable backpack solar panel, which allows you to clip a renewable energy charger onto your existing backpack, without having to buy a completely new one. It’s worth considering whether this would suit you better than a fully-integrated solar backpack, before you start shopping.
An obvious consideration, maybe, but an important one nonetheless. Buying budget, thanks to the high-quality products on our solar backpack list, does not have to mean buying poor quality. Indeed, our ‘Best Budget’ backpack has more (and more practical) storage space than many of its more expensive cousins. However, when it comes to solar power, budget does mean a considerable difference in energy output. The most affordable solar backpacks tend to have the weakest solar panels, and can take up to 5 or 6 times the time it takes more expensive models to charge the same gadget.
What do you need or want a solar backpack for? If you’re an avid hiker and camper, you’ll need something that’s highly-durable, waterproof, with lots of space, and with a strong enough solar cell to charge all of your devices, potentially several times over during the duration of your camping trip. If you’re a business person who needs to keep their laptop charged and safe, then heavy-duty material, lots of space, and weatherproofing isn’t going to be as important to you as anti theft design, and bag dimensions (depending upon the size in inches of your laptop).
We covered this a little in the ‘Purpose’ section above, but size – when it comes to solar power backpacks – is very important. Some solar powered backpacks can have really impressive wattage panels, handy external USB ports, earphone ports, and more, but are ultimately too small to carry a 15″ laptop, say. Likewise, unless you’re a minimalist business woman carrying only her files and laptop, you’re going to need more space (for water bottles, umbrellas, various daily necessities, books and stationery) than a humble messenger bag or ‘executive’ bag will provide.
Taking into account budget, design, strength of solar panels, versatility of compartments, and security, we’ve determined that the very best all-rounder solar power backpack on the market today has to be the HAWEEL 14W Solar Panel Power Backpack. With thoughtfully-designed storage space and multiple voluminous compartments, super-strong 14 watt solar panels built-in, an external USB and earphone port, and a breathable, cooling material design, we’re hard pressed to find any faults with this solar power backpack.
Check out our updated Pinterest board with the best solar backpacks:
Of course, this depends on the specific bag and charger technology. However, generally speaking you can expect any solar backpack on this list to charge and be compatible with any 5V device (that includes just about any smartphone, camera, handheld gaming console, laptop, or power bank).
Typically not, no. The only backpack on this list which does straight out of the box is the one from Voltaic Systems, since it comes with a power bank/battery pack included. Most solar powered backpacks, however, only work when plugged into the device they are intended to charge (unless of course you plug them into your separately-purchased power bank).
This again depends upon the specific backpack and its solar panel features, but typically you can expect most solar backpacks to take an average of 2.5 hours to charge a smartphone (based on fastest charging times of 1 hour, and slowest of 5 hours).
Believe it or not, yes! Water and electricity don’t typically mix, but since solar panels are designed to charge under sunlight (and thus will be outside during bad weather too), and since backpacks are expected to be worn in any weather, these particular solar panels should hold up in all but the most extreme of weather conditions.
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