From camp stoves and camp lights to portable tables and folding chairs, there are plenty of ways to bring creature comforts to the campsite. Being able to enjoy electric conveniences while being completely off-the-grid is one of them. While a portable power station lets you do that pretty easily, even a large battery can only hold a finite amount of energy and you’ll need to rely on solar charging to help you out the rest of the way.
Good news is, there are plenty of solar panel systems designed specifically for recharging those portable power stations. Not only that, there are smaller solar chargers for replenishing various consumer electronics that you might find indispensable in the wild, along with standalone solar-powered outdoor gear that harness all those sun-soaked rays to let you enjoy various conveniences all on their own.
These are the best solar-powered outdoor gear.
HybridLight Solar Head Lamp
This headlamp straps around your noggin and gives you a 75-lumen LED to light up your way in the dark, allowing you to use it for getting stuff done around the campsite or making your way around the trail when the sun goes down. The light can tilt up or down 120 degrees, allowing you to adjust the angle, depending on what you’re doing, while an included mini solar panel can be plugged into the microUSB slot to keep the whole thing juiced throughout the day.
This camp lantern has a collapsible design that flattens to 4.75 x 4.75 x 1 inches (height x width x thickness), while deploying into a handy light measuring 4.75 x 4.75 x 4.75 inches. A solar panel on top allows it to draw power during the day, which goes straight to the integrated 1,000 mAh battery module. The onboard warm white LEDs deliver 75 lumens of brightness across a 125-square foot area, which can run for up to five hours of light when fully charged at max power, although you can extend that to 14 hours if you turn it down to 25 lumens. According to LuminAID, it can fully replenish the battery from around 10 to 12 hours of sunlight exposure, so you should be able to get a decent charge throughout the day.
These string lights spread out 100 lumens of LED lighting across an 18-foot cord, allowing you to illuminate a wide patch of space in your camp. The cord is connected to a round box on one end, which contains the battery module inside and a solar panel on top. According to the outfit, the lights can run for up to 20 hours on a full charge and recharge completely from drained via direct sunlight in 16 hours, so it’s possible you can keep using this without plugging in, so long as you use it for a few hours a night and leave it out in the sun during the day. It comes with four light modes, two-second quick shutoff, and a battery level indicator.
This three-liter bag offers an easy and natural way of purifying water using the sun. To use, simply fill it up with water, place it under sunlight for two hours (four hours on overcast days), and you’re set – ready to drink safe potable water. It uses a process called photocatalysis that uses sunlight and a proprietary nanomesh to eliminate bacteria, viruses, pesticides, herbicides, petrochemicals, arsenic, lead, mercury, and protozoa, turning even the sketchiest water scooped up in the wild perfectly safe to drink.
Goal Zero’s portable Bluetooth speaker comes with an integrated solar panel in the back, which you can use to continuously replenish its built-in 800mAh battery. The battery holds enough charge to keep the speaker running for up to eight hours between charges, with on-the-fly solar charging allowing you to extend a substantial amount. It’s pretty loud for its small size, too, allowing you to enjoy satisfying sound outdoors. Only problem is figuring out how to set it up during the day, so it can get sunlight while letting you enjoy your music.
This portable shower doesn’t use solar charging to pressurize or heat the water. Instead, it lets you pressurize the tank using a foot pump, while using good, old sun exposure to heat up the water inside it. That’s right, you simply fill up the tank and put it on the roof rack, allowing the sun’s rays to heat up the water in the tank in the most natural way possible. After a long day out of getting yourself covered in sweat and grime, you can come back to camp and clean up with a warm, relaxing shower.
This 10-watt solar panel is compact enough to fit in any pack, all while producing just enough charge to power up your smartphone, GPS watch, or whatever other pocket gadgets you like having in the backcountry. It has an integrated 3,200 mAh battery where it stores all that juice on the fly, so you can still charge your devices even you come back to camp later at night. It comes a 360-degree kickstand to let you stand it upright on any terrain, while an analog sundial makes it easy to direct the solar panels towards the sun’s exact direction. Features include an IPX4 rating for water resistance, battery and charge strength indicator, and a collapsible design that lets you fold it down flat for squeezing into tight spaces.
A few years ago, GoSun burst onto the scene with a highly original idea: an oven that cooked your food inside a vacuum tube that took in and amplified heat from the sun. The newest iteration of that solar-powered oven can reach temperatures of up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit by combining both sunlight and a 150W heating element, allowing you to roast, bake, fry, and steam deep in the heart of the backcountry. This particular model has enough room to fit up to six servings of food in one go, so you can prepare a family size meal, all while collapsing into a compact tube measuring just 24 x 8.5 inches (length x diameter). Do note, it requires you to hook up a power bank or a solar charger to run the heating element, although it will still cook using just sunlight without it (albeit, at a much slower pace, since it won’t heat up quite as fast).
This bundle gets you three of GoSun’s products that work hand in hand: a portable fridge, a 144Wh power bank, and a camp table with an integrated solar panel on the tabletop. The fridge is designed to run on the power bank’s battery, with a full charge allowing it to keep its contents cold for up to 14 hours. To extend that, you can hook up the power bank to the SolarTable 60, which can keep continuously feeding it juice. Granted, you’ll probably want a backup power bank and a larger solar array if you want to keep the portable fridge running for an extended period, but it definitely seems like a nice starter set.