A New Look at Solar Panels

When considering a solar panel it is important to understand your power needs in the wilderness. By understanding your power needs you will be able to address the best battery bank and solar panel solution.

Chart of Solar Panel Weight per watt versus year

Each Year Solar Panels Get Lighter

We looked at three lightweight solar panels we purchased in 2015, 2018 and 2021 and were surprised by how they consistently got lighter. Because of this lightweight trend carrying a solar panel is now a lightweight option over carrying a heavier external battery pack.

10 Watt Lixada Solar Panel 96 grams (3.4 ounces) $22 in 2021

5 Watt Solarpad Solar Panel  122 grams (4.3 ounces) $35 in 2018

7 Watt AP Solar Panel  276 grams (9.7 ounces) $16 in 2015

Battery banks charging on a bunch of power strips

Charging Battery Bank in Town

When getting to town it is important to charge up your electronics. However, it can take five hours or more to charge up your external battery pack. This means you don’t have an option but wait around until things are charged up. If you have a solar panel you can keep your electronic battery pack charged up while hiking and not be reliant on charging up in towns.

On my recent John Muir Trail hike we quickly went in and out of resupply locations because we didn’t need to wait hours for everything to recharge. This made it possible to hike more miles and finish our JMT hike a day early.

  • 10 Watt Solar Panel 96 grams (3.4 ounces)

  • 5,000 mAh External Battery 100 grams (3.5 ounces)

  • 10,000 mAh External Battery 174 grams (6.1 ounces)

  • 10,000 mAh External Battery & Solar Panel 270 grams (9.5 ounces)

  • 20,000 mAh External Battery 335 grams (11.8 ounces)

Summary

Solar panels are now lighter and more affordable than ever. You can now purchase a 10-Watt solar panel for $22 (2021 price) that weighs 3.4 ounces (96 grams). Because of the lightweight and affordability of new solar panels it is now possible to carry a lighter external battery pack with a solar panel instead of carrying a heavy external battery pack. So, if you are considering a heavy 20,000 mAh external battery to power your electronic needs you might want to consider a smaller external battery pack and a solar charger.