Cell phone photography is a growing trend these days, especially with the emergence of high-end units with much-improved camera phones. However, imagine if you were hiking and you came across an amazing landscape you can use for the perfect nature photo only to realize that your cell phone’s battery juices have drained. Since you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s no available electrical outlet to plug your phone in and recharge. What are you going to do? Well, you’ll be glad to know you can power up your phone, or any electronic gadget for that matter, using the best hiking solar chargers even if you’re out communing with nature. Having a few AA batteries in your backpack will not cut it, seeing as how majority of electronic gadgets these days run on lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged when the need arises. If you want to keep on using your gadgets for the entirety of your hike, you’ll need an external charger that doesn’t require electrical current. This is where lightweight solar chargers come in handy, as these can power up gadgets with help from the sun. Here at Hiking Stud, our main objective is to get your properly geared up for your outdoor adventure. This handy guide will fill you in on what you need to keep in mind when purchasing a hiking solar charger and show you the best selection of models available in the market today. Do you want to find out what rounds up our highly-recommended top hiking gear? Check out some of these articles:
CHOOSING THE BEST HIKING SOLAR CHARGERS
There are three important factors that make a hiking solar charger the best one you’ll ever find – amperage, wattage, and voltage. Nevertheless, reading what the packaging of solar chargers say about these factors may seem like reading something in a foreign language. It’s important to know what each of these factors mean to make buying a breeze for you.
The dictionary defines wattage as the measure of operating power that is expressed in watts. GoalZero goes on to explain a watt-hour as the measure of flowing electrical power occurring in a one-hour period. Where a solar panel is concerned, wattage refers to the capacity of its power output.
Amperage, which is usually expressed in amperes or amps, is defined as the measure of the strength of electrical current needed to run electrical equipment. Incidentally, amp-hour refers to the length of time a battery is capable of supplying electrical current.
About.com identifies voltage (normally expressed as volts) as “electric potential energy per unit charge”, something that may sound like alien speak to an interested layman. Succinctly, it’s the “push” needed to make electrical charges move. There is a simple equation you can use to find out if the solar charger you have your eye on is good enough to power your gadget. It’s watt-hours = amp-hours X volts. Thus, if you have several gadgets you wish to charge using a solar charger, you may be able to determine the amp-hour and volt information by inputting those numbers into the above-mentioned formula. The answer you’ll arrive at will show you the wattage the solar charger must be able to supply.
A conventional solar panel works when the sun is out and shining in its full glory. However, daylight isn’t usually the best time for electronics to be recharged, which is why the external or internal battery that usually comes with solar panels is very handy. During the day, this extra battery pack charges from the solar panels. Consequently you can make use of energy from the solar panels at night. On a side note, you may come across another confusing term when perusing external batteries – mAh or milliamp-hour. It’s a unit that measures a battery’s capacity. Simply put, it refers to the current that the charger releases over a one-hour period. It’s best to choose an external or internal battery with a high mAh number, because according to Ubergizmo, your unit can store more energy if the battery’s mAh is high.
It usually takes 18 hours or more for some solar panels to power up an electronic gadget or external charger, and in most places, that length of time goes beyond daylight hours. So you’ll do well to choose a fast-charging solar panel especially if you’re required to recharge your electronics several times during the day. Another thing to keep in mind when choosing a solar charger is the weather in your area. More often than not, solar panels have a hard time charging when it is overcast. Solar panel efficiency can also suffer if you’re hiking during the rainy season.
When deciding on best hiking solar chargers, you will do well to consider how many devices you plan on charging, as well as the type of cords or cables you’ll be plugging into the charger. Solar chargers can have anywhere from one to several USB ports or connection points to allow you to charge several devices at the same time. Thus, it’s best to have the foresight to determine what devices you’ll need to charge while on a hiking trail before purchasing a solar charger.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
Here’s the thing, the larger the solar panel, the better its charging efficiency. However, that will mean allocating more space in your backpack for the charger alone, and you know that the size and weight of your hiking backpack matter a lot. For the most part, solar chargers are large and bulky, although there are newer models that fold up and don’t take up much space. The same goes for the weight. The weight of solar chargers can be anywhere between one to two pounds. Therefore, you’ll need to decide whether it’s worth carrying the extra weight if it means better charging efficiency or not. Consequently, if you require more electrical juice while hiking, you’ll do well to consider our helpful guide for the best solar backpacks.