Solar-powered camping technology has made huge leaps over the past few years with successful crowdfunding campaigns for all sorts of gadgets, including a solar-powered cooker and water boiler and a solar-powered cooler that can actually make ice.
When you’re exploring the great outdoors, there’s only so much battery power you can count on and only so much you can carry with you. Solar power is a valuable and often untapped resource for campers, hikers, and other nature lovers.
It’s also a resource that never runs out. The best solar gear is able to charge even in rainy or cloudy weather, just as long as there’s some daylight available.
An unlimited source of power is invaluable for people who travel alone or go on longer journeys off-grid. If something should go wrong, you’ll always have a power source available to let you see, cook, or call for help.
Solar-powered gadgets can also provide a unique party trick for backyard events, picnics, tailgating, or long days at the beach. You’ll make a lot of friends with a cooler that guarantees cold drinks even on the hottest summer days.
Solar-Powered Camping Lantern
Since they don’t require a very large solar panel, there are plenty of quality solar-powered lights and lanterns on the market. They’re a low-cost safety measure for anybody spending time under canvas, whether you’re camping from your car or backpacking on foot.
The KYNG Solar Rechargeable LED Lantern does it all, with a minuscule price tag that makes it well worth the small investment. An internal 800mAh battery powers the expandable lantern for up to 10 hours, and you can use the USB port to provide a small extra charge to mobile devices in an emergency.
The lantern has high and low-power options, along with an emergency SOS mode. The low-light feature is ideal for reading or moving around in your tent at night when you don’t need or want the extra brightness. There’s a carabiner in the box, letting you hang the lantern from a tree or your tent as needed.
It’s not as durable as the more rugged solar-powered lights, but is much smaller and lighter as a result. The lantern weight around six ounces and collapses down to approximately 2×3 inches when not in use, a bit larger than a hockey puck.Buy on Amazon
Solar-Powered Battery Pack
A solar-powered battery has a place on nearly any outdoor adventure. They don’t cost much and provide a guaranteed lifeline in an emergency.
We recommend the BLAVOR Solar Power Bank, which has five magnetic solar panels that can charge an iPhone X more than five times or an iPad 2-4 times depending on the model. Unlike single panel solar power banks that only have solar power as a backup option, the five-panel model is designed specifically for this purpose.
Qi-compatible devices can be charged wirelessly, or you can use a USB cable. Dual USB-A ports mean you can charge two devices at once, and the power bank also has a clip-on compass ring and a built-in flashlight with continuous, SOS, and strobe settings.
The 20,000mAh capacity is impressively large, but it also means the battery requires 18+ hours of sunlight to go from empty to full. Fortunately, you can also charge it from a wall socket using the included USB C cable before you leave home, then keep it topped up using the sun’s rays after that.Buy on Amazon
Portable Solar Generator For Camping
For extra comfort out in the wilderness, invest in a solar-powered generator. A generator and solar panel combo will run you at least a couple hundred dollars, but can power just about anything you’d think to bring on a camping trip.
The AIMTOM 155Wh Portable Power Station charges in 7-9 hours by solar panel, car, or wall outlet to provide 155 Watt-hours of portable power. That’s 24 iPhone X charges, 3 laptop charges, or 4 hours of runtime for a car fridge.
The 110V AC outlet can power small home appliances requiring less than 100W such as fans, laptops, portable televisions, or CPAP machines. The three 5V USB outputs can charge phones, tablets, and cameras, while the three 12V DC outputs are for devices you’d normally power through your vehicle such as lights, air compressors, and car coolers.
It’s surprisingly portable for what it offers, weighing 3.5 pounds with a convenient handle. If you need even more power, several other variants are available with even greater battery capacity and higher maximum output. The unsurprising trade-off is that they’re noticeably larger and heavier as well.Buy on Amazon
A solar-powered speaker is a fun novelty item ideal for camping or days at the beach. Unlike similar models, ABFOCE’s Solar Bluetooth Speaker has an outer casing that’s IPX6 rated against shock, dust, and water. It’ll happily take splashes and rain in its stride, but can’t be fully submerged in water.
Every 10 minutes of solar charging on a sunny day equals about half an hour of music, and it will continue to charge even while playing. After being fully charged from either the sun or a wall socket, the speaker can play music for up to 60 hours from its 5000mAh battery.
Weighing just over a pound, the 10W speaker includes a built-in LED flashlight, and can function as a power bank for small USB devices. The 1-amp maximum output means it won’t charge your phone especially quickly, but should still be able to top it up without a problem.Buy on Amazon
Solar-Powered Camping Cooker
GOSUN has been paving the way in solar camping technology over the past few years with successful Indiegogo campaigns and more than a dozen solar powered products.
The GOSUN Solar Oven Portable Stove is designed for solo campers and backpackers, and packs away into a compact hardshell case. It weighs two pounds (0.9kg) and is approximately 14x7x3 inches when folded up for transport.
The portable oven reaches 550°F (290°C) to cook meals in as little as 20-30 minutes, depending on the amount of sunlight available. You can also use it to boil water for warm beverages or dried foods, with the cooking chamber holding up to 13.5oz/400ml at a time.
GOSUN also makes a larger unit for couples, families, or groups of friends. It’s not nearly as portable, though: at 14 pounds, it’s really designed for car camping rather than carrying on your back.Buy on Amazon
Solar-Powered Cool Box
GOSUN also makes an impressive solar-powered cooler that can actually produce ice on the go. The GOSUN Chill Solar Cooler is a spacious 40L cool box with touchscreen temperature control that’s adjustable between -4 and 68F. The cooler has two rugged wheels and a pullout handle, and includes a bottle opener on the side so you’re never caught short.
It’s able to be powered directly from a wall outlet or DC power cord using a vehicle accessory socket, or its power bank can be charged using solar power via the bundled panels. The detachable power bank lasts 14 hours at fridge-like temperatures or 6 hours if used as a freezer.
The ice-less design offers a number of benefits. You don’t need to make or track down ice before using the cooler, and no internal space is wasted on ice so there’s more room for drinks and food.
No ice also means less mess and no risk of finding soggy sandwiches. If you do want ice, the cooler gets cold enough to freeze water, so you can always fill a few ice trays if you need to.Buy on Amazon
Solar-Powered Camping Shower Bag
There’s probably a shower nearby if you’re at a campground, but when you’re deep in the woods, warm showers are hard to come by. That’s where solar showers come in.
The Advanced Elements 2.5 Gallon Summer Shower is our favorite for a few reasons. The 2.5-gallon/12-litre capacity bag weighs just 12 ounces and comes with a temperature gauge on the side that lets you know when your water is ready.
Other handy extras include a small mirror, built-in pockets for your shampoo and soap, and velcro straps for hanging a washcloth. To use it, simply fill the flexible bag with water from a tap or river and put it in the sun for a couple of hours.
When you’re ready to use it, hang the shower bag up at a height above your head to enjoy a warm shower in the middle of nowhere. A larger size is also available for couples and groups.Buy on Amazon
Solar-powered gear can set you back quite a bit, especially for unusual options like cookers and coolers. That being said, it can also revolutionize the way you camp, backpack, or go to the beach.
At a minimum, invest in some solar safety gear to ensure you’re never left stranded. A solar-powered light and battery pack should accompany any lengthy or solo outdoor adventure.
Main image via Daan Weijers, product images via Amazon