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Solar powered lights, heaters, fans and the like are all fantastic innovations. They help us to save energy, to reduce our carbon footprint and to generally make our lives easier and cleaner.
But while these are incredible technologies that will no doubt change the world given time, they haven’t quite caught on in a massive way just yet to the extent that they might have. It is my belief then, that it will actually be something else that serves as the catalyst for change. It is my belief that the true, most exciting application for solar power lies elsewhere.
I’m talking specifically about solar chargers and more interestingly still – solar backpacks.
A solar backpack is what it sounds like: it’s a backpack that includes a solar panel on the front and therefore is able to double up as a solar charger. This means that you can place your items in your bag and forget about them, knowing that they will be charging as you go.
The great thing about a solar backpack is that if you are someone who goes on long hikes or long walks, then your bag will be exposed to sunlight a lot of this time already. By placing a solar panel on your back, you are simply taking advantage of a resource that was already there and that you might have been squandering previously.
With the best solar backpacks then, you can simply leave your gadgets and devices in your bag and know that they will never run out of power.
The Huge Benefits of a Solar Panel Backpack
This is game changing. Sure, with a powerbank you can enjoy several recharges from your device. But you still need mains power and there is still a limit. You still need to be mindful and careful of listening to your music, of playing games and of using your satellite navigation. With the best solar backpack though, you can literally just forget all about power issues and never worry about them again.
This means you can now do things that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible: you can go backpacking and not have to take a power adaptor. You can explore the world and never be caught without a means of contacting your hotel, or your family back home. You’ll never miss a photo again.
The real difference between solar backpacks and solar lights are this.
One of these things is convenient and power saving. It’s a great additional feature that makes your home look a little more atmospheric. The other is something that allows you to do things you simply couldn’t have before. That is game changing.
Best Solar Panel Backpack Reviews
Solar Charger Backpack 6.5W Travel Bag Rucksack
If you’re looking at an all purpose backpack with solar panel that would work well for a backpacker, hiker or camper, then this option from Xlight is a great choice. It offers plenty of power thanks to its 6.5W panel, it has a practical and versatile design, it’s waterproof and it has a three direction ventilation system to prevent perspiration.
In short, this is a great travel companion that you can keep with you that will reliably store your items, top up your battery power and keep you independent as you travel around.
Voltaic Systems Array Rapid Charger for Laptops
This is a great solar charging backpack that offers a huge amount of power – enough to power whole laptops – and plenty of space as well.
Note that in order to power a laptop, you will need to ensure that it comes with a thunderbolt port or a USB Type-C input.
As long as you have the right ports though, this is a great choice that will also offer a battery to hold onto that charge for you to use at your convenience. It’s heavy duty, with lots of pockets and space and overall, it’s one of the best options out there.
Note though that this is too large to be considered as a basic solar book bag, and it’s also a bit on the pricey side.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Voltaic Systems Converter Rapid Charger
The next model down from Voltaic is also an impressive piece of kit. This solar backpack still offers more than enough power to run your smartphones and tablets and has a smaller, more svelte design making it suitable as a potential solar book bag.
It charges rapidly and it includes a very impressive 4,000mAh backup battery. This can also be removed so that you can charge your items on the go. It comes in multiple colors and is durable for when you do decide to take it out for a hike.
ECEEN Hydration Solar Bakcpack 7 Watts
This is a fantastic option for any backpacker, hiker or camper that loves trekking and being self-sufficient. That’s because it offers a powerful 7 watt solar panel charger that takes up the large front of the bag, while also including a large 2L water bladder and more. It’s a great design too (it comes in striking red) and is designed to stay snug against your back so you won’t feel it, even with a light load.
Good thing though, seeing as this doesn’t actually include a battery.
Voltaic 6W Charger
This is a solar charger that is aimed at hikers. It’s not actually a solar backpack itself, but rather a panel that is designed to be attacked to a rucksack. This has a lot of smart design features though which elevate it above that. For instance, there is a pocket for storing your gadgets in that will keep them safe and prevent them from getting too hot.
There’s a V15USB battery too and USB cable, so you’ll have everything you need to transform your regular backpack into a solar backpack.
What Should Go Into Your Solar Panel Backpack?
Travelling the world is a fantastic goal and a brilliant experience. With cheap flights and technology making the world smaller than ever before, there’s now every reason to sling on a backpack and take to the skies in search of adventure.
If you take that solar power backpack, then all the better: you’ll be able to charge your devices as you go and never run out of fuel. There’s literally nothing stopping you from exploring and seizing every opportunity as it arrives.
But if this is your first time travelling (by which I mean travelling – not lying around a pool) then you might be a little apprehensive about what you can expect. You’re going to be far from home in strange lands and with none of your usual creature comforts or safety nets.
The solar backpack is a useful charging tool then, but for any backpacker, the backpack is also the lifeline. As important as the bag itself is what goes inside it. Here are some of the most important things to bring with you and the most important tips and changes to follow.
1 Get a microfiber towel
Microfiber towels are incredibly thin towels that can fold up very tightly into a small ball. These are perfect for bringing with you when you’re travelling, as they take up no space in your bag and dry in minutes.
This has now freed you up for even more adventure and travel: not only can you now charge your devices indefinitely as you travel, you can also dry yourself off after a swim and not worry about a big heavy towel with nowhere to store it without getting your things wet!
2 Take a notepad and pen
A notepad and pen has countless benefits when travelling – from drawing out maps of your locations to writing down emergency numbers. One of the smartest uses of all though is to use it for communication. If Google Translate is playing up you can simply draw what it is you’re trying to say!
Sure, fancy technology will get you so far. But sometimes, the old tech is still very useful too!
3 Liberate the soap
Nicking things from hotels is just par for the course. One of the best things worth nicking is a bar of soap, which you can slip into your dirty laundry to keep it smelling fresh! And the same goes for your solar backpack in general.
4 Wear a fanny pack
You’ll look like the ultimate tourist but it’s 100% worth it. Fanny packs don’t get counted as hand luggage by most airlines and they let you keep your money and other essentials close to your person where they can’t get stolen.
This isn’t for your solar power – and you will want to keep your devices in the solar rucksack so they are close enough to the panel – but for other valuables, a fanny pack is a must.
5 Take a fake wallet
If you’re heading to a rough part of town, then grab and old wallet and stuff it with old/fake cards. If you get attacked, you can hand this over instead of your real one!
6 Use an old sunglasses case
This is the perfect place to store power cords to prevent them getting lost or tangled.
7 Use a power brick
A portable phone charger is an absolute must for travelling in the 21st century. This is even truer for those that have a solar backpack. That’s because many solar backpacks don’t actually come with a built in solar battery (see the solar backpack reviews). If you want to use the energy later then, when the sun has gone down, topping up a battery as you go is a very good idea. And note that you can also use a powerbank even when your solar panel backpack has one – this way you can store twice as much power!
8 Wear your heaviest clothes
When travelling, make sure you’re wearing your heaviest shoes and thickest jumpers to save space. Your aim is to keep as much as possible out from that bag!
9 Roll your clothes
Packing them this way saves space and it also helps you to keep things looking less crumpled. It can also help to keep your other items locked in position.
10 Mark your bag as fragile
If you’ve ever looked out the window on a plane and seen how the bags get loaded on, then you’ll know why this is important. Better yet, this little trick means that your bag will be added to the top of the pile which means it’s the first out on the carousel.
Of course, better yet is to avoid bringing luggage at all. If you can store everything in one small solar backpack then everything will be quicker and easier.
With solar power, a microfiber towel, a few rolled clothes and a powerbank… you’ve pretty much got an entirely self-sufficient work and play station right on your back now!
Choosing Your Bag
Finally, when choosing a solar panel backpack, make sure to consider all the factors.
The panel is of course a big selling point. You want to ensure it delivers enough power to charge your items. Better yet, look for a backpack with a built-in power bank.
You should also consider the other features though too. Does it have other ‘self efficiency’ features like a water bladder? How about its design as an actual backpack? If you’re going travelling for a while, you’ll need space for all your belongings and you’ll also want something that is comfortable to wear every day. Make sure that it is breathable and that your items won’t get wet inside.