Are Solar Backpacks Reliable?


In theory solar backpacks sound like a really great idea, but how do they perform in real world situation in real life? After all laboratory tests are great but they don’t matter compared to real world use.

Solar backpacks tend to be extremely reliable, charging consistently not only with direct sunlight but indirect light and UV light indoors, as well. The quality of the solar backpack and brand do matter as premium solar backpacks have a much smaller failure rate than cheap models.

So how do you know which solar backpacks are reliable and which ones are not? How are you stick with the long-lasting and reliable solar backpacks?

hiker norway mountains
Beautiful scenes like this are easier to capture when you have a charged smartphone or digital camera!

The good news is that there are ways to make sure you end up with a solar backpack that is reliable, charges your electronics quickly, and makes the most of whatever light source happens to be in the area.

What Does “Reliable” Mean for a Solar Powered Backpack?

There are several points that a good solar backpack should check-off. The simple truth is that a good solar backpack is going to be extremely durable and reliable. On the other side of things, a cheaply made solar backpack will be junk.

As most cheaply made outdoor gear is going to be.

Quality matters. The brand matters. This is especially true when it comes to finding a solar backpack that won’t let you down.

Test the solar panels early

Sunlight isn’t the only method of charging up solar gear. We covered this in our “Can I charge a solar battery with an LED light” article, and we stand by the answer there.

Good solar panels work best with sunlight, followed by indirect sunlight, but they should get some type of a charge from any type of indoor or outdoor light you’re likely to run into.

If you have a solar backpack from a reliable company you should be able to test the solar panels early to see how quickly they charge, how well they work, and how efficiently they charge your electronics when put into use.

Test this early because that’s the backbone of whether or not you have a good pack.

Your solar pack reliability checklist:

  • The backpack is weather proof or at least water resistant
  • The panels charge electronics at a reasonable rate
  • The panels last over time
  • The solar panels collect energy from multiple types of light
  • The backpack still functions well as a backpack (otherwise why bother with this as opposed to a solar charger?)

Watch Out for Signs of “The Switch”

This is a pattern that we don’t run into too often, but it happens enough in the online outdoor space that we need to address this. There is a sure fire sign that an outdoor product has gone from quality to cheap, and that you need to avoid it like the plague.

What you’re looking for are reviews that look something like this:

Warning, warning, DANGER!!!

We don’t know why the 8-12% mark (and especially that 10 mark) is such a common indicator of this, that’s just how we’ve noticed it works out a lot.

It’s common practice to buy positive reviews. Whether this is a direct exchange, giving your gear to family members or reviewers who promise a review, the first 10-15 five star ratings rarely mean anything.

When you see that 10% range for one star ratings despite there being many high rankings, it often means one of two things:

  • A lot is a product start out hot from fake reviews, then reality catches up causing that weird heavy 5/star-1/star relationship, or
  • The product actually did start off as a well-made high quality product that earned its good reviews…then it began outsourcing to cheaper factories or sweat shop type labor and the quality plummeted while they tried to squeeze more sales from those original good reviews

Either way, you don’t want anything to do with it at that point. There are some exceptions, but this pattern is a big red flag.

When you see this pattern, check the actual reviews and sort them by date reviewed.

If you notice the last 4-5 reviews are all one or two stars, cross this off the list completely and just move on. You don’t even need to read the reviews at this point to know it’s time to run.

Likewise, if all the most recent reviews are five stars but the descriptions are things like “Great product,” “Five stars,” or other short non-informational reviews then be suspicious.

This is a fast way to make sure you’re getting a product that actually is quality made. That increases your chances of getting a reliable solar backpack that you can trust.

Handy trick to know when shopping online that works with more than just outdoor gear on Amazon 🙂

Matching a Trustworthy Solar Backpack with Your Specific Needs

Picking out the best reliable solar backpack only starts with picking out the companies and brands you can actually trust. You also need to match the style/design of the backpack with what you will be using it for.

Best Premium Solar Backpack: XD Bobby Tech Anti-Theft Backpack w/ Solar Panel

Keeping in mind that for many people the consistent use in rugged outdoor conditions may actually be more important in this particular case than a premium all-purpose solar pack (and if you are looking for something for thru hiking or similar activities, scroll further down) when it comes to best all-around premium solar backpack it’s hard to argue with any being better or more reliable than the Bobby Tech Anti-Theft backpack.

To put it simply, there are few solar backpacks that are also designed to look professional, beautiful, and fit into a professional or semi-professional setting. The XD Bobby Tech backpack fills that niche admirably.

This solar backpack is reliable, the battery charged quickly when we tested it, the power is transferred to electronics smoothly, keeping them charged, while also keeping the high-level anti-theft design they are renowned for.

XD Bobby Solar Backpack

Beautiful, Premium, Reliable High-End Solar Backpack w/ Anti-Theft Measures Built In.

This is a brand of backpacks well-known for looking good, with a design that scares of the most basic of thieves or pickpockets. That is a good combination.

The pack itself is innovative, the solar panel infused into the pack is surprisingly effective (far more than we expected), and it is reliable. Rain doesn’t soak through, a little bit of bad weather doesn’t short out anything.

Just a well made pack worth the premium price. Reliable AF.

PROS:

  • Outstanding visual design – this pack looks really good
  • Anti-theft design and measures are a great touch
  • Eco-Friendly (made from recycled materials)
  • Clearly high quality in design, feel, touch, and appearance
  • Works in professional environments
  • Very reliable solar panel – they didn’t skimp at all on this one.

CONS:

  • Definitely meant more for student/professional use versus outdoors
  • Premium option means premium pricing – might be too much for many people’s budget

Click Here to check up to date pricing on Amazon.com

Best Budget Solar Backpack: XTPower Xplorer Camouflage Solar Backpack

I have to be 100% honest: I was STUNNED that we actually found a reasonably priced solar backpack that wasn’t complete trash. Reliable outdoor solar gear and “Budget” or “Inexpensive” unfortunately almost never go together.

In this case, the XTPower Xplorer Camouflage Solar Backpack proves us wrong, and we’re glad to hear it.

Ignore the clear over-dedication to “90’s-style edgy marketing” and if you’re looking for a good solar pack then make sure to give this one a chance.

budget camo solar backpack

Surprisingly affordable solar backpack option that is surprisingly sturdy & reliable!

This is a backpack built around a solid ruck sack design so its going to be familiar to a lot of our readers. This makes for great outside and camping use.

This is a budget model although it is surprisingly well put together and one of the main reasons that we have this as our most reliable budget solar pack is because you can tell they spent money on the solar panel side of things.

The solar panels here are truly outstanding and will take and keep a charge. While the backpack is solid, there are some reports of weaknesses in areas including cheap zippers needing to be replaced or reinforcing the waterproof sealant, especially around the seams.

PROS:

  • Very affordable, especially compared to other solar backpacks out there
  • Lots of storage space
  • Clearly meant for camping and outdoor use
  • Surprisingly good solar panel charging considering the affordable price
  • Solid modern camo design

CONS:

  • Heavy pack for outdoor use, but not designed for long-range backpacking or thru hiking
  • The savings seems to be in the pack – you may need to look at replacing cheap zippers with better ones
  • Although not wide spread a couple of reports of seam issues make us think going over the seams with a waterproof sealant before first use is a good idea

Click Here to check up to date pricing on Amazon.com

Best Solar Backpack for Long-Term Outdoor Use: ECEEN Solar Backpack

This was a tough one because honestly there are a lot of good solar backpacks designed for extended outdoor use. In fact, this is one of the pieces of gear that seem to understand their target audience and are aimed at the outdoor crowd.

hiker wearing outdoor backpack

An excellent outdoor option meant for backpacking and extended outdoor use!

The sheer size and spread of the solar panels on this back are designed for maximum energy storage and makes this a favorite choice of many outdoor bloggers, YouTubers, and influencers.

Or just those of us who go on a lot of once in a lifetime trips and want to capture every single amazing moment.

This is a full-sized backpacker’s pack, and so it’s worth noting that for backpackers this is great, but this is a reliable solar backpack that is designed just for these types of trips and moments.

PROS:

  • Large number of pockets for specialized storage
  • Wide solar panel cover to charge up more/faster
  • Very impressive 20W charger
  • Built for long-distance and long-term outdoor use
  • Very reasonably priced

CONS:

  • Solely an outdoor pack
  • Solid, not spectacular pack for long distance hiking

Click Here to check up to date pricing on Amazon.com

How Do Solar Backpacks Work (FAQ)?

Q: Do solar backpacks work?

A: Yes. Solar backpacks have come a long way and are designed to store energy in a battery to keep power on hand to charge your laptop, smartphone, or other electronics when you are a long way from a plug-in.

If you want more on the technical side of how reliable solar backpacks work, check out this great article on the topic.

Q: Are solar backpacks reliable?

A: Yes. Good solar backpacks are 100% reliable and will even take charges from indoor incandescent or LED lights. Not as quickly as direct sunlight, but it’s worth knowing these are options.

Q: Do solar backpacks charge electronics quickly?

A: Depends on the pack, the number of things being charged, and how much power is needed for charging them to full. Generally packs are best for maintaining power amounts of slowly recharging over time. These are built for reliability and power options where there are none – not for high speed.

That being said, some of the recharge times are pretty reasonable, especially from high end solar backpacks.

Q: Are solar backpacks worth it?

A: This is a question that is going to depend on the individual. If making sure your laptop and/or smartphone is charged at all times is important while you may have to do a lot of traveling, then a good solar backpack can be a great investment and solid insurance policy.

For some people, this is extraneous and they aren’t really necessary. So the answer to this question comes on a case by case basis but there’s no denying the extra convenience.

Q: Why were solar backpacks invented?

A: One of the major reasons for solar backpacks was creating a way that children in underdeveloped communities in Africa could use the natural environment to get power for computers, electronics, and thus give them access to information and education that otherwise would be out of reach.

For them, reliable solar backpacks is far more than just convenience, it’s life changing.

There’s a great story on the inventor which can be found in this Forbes article.

Do Solar Backpacks Work? The Verdict

You still need to be wary of cheap solar backpacks. Mass produced solar backpacks made from cheap materials and dropshipped from China are going to be crap.

Every single bad thing you hear about solar packs are going to be true if you go that level of cheap and unreliable mass produced dropshipped packs.

But good solar backpacks are going to be very reliable and work great for the outdoorsman who loves to be able to live in the moment and then capture a picture or video of the memory.

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Shane

Hi, I'm Shane! I've always felt a passion for two worlds: one in technology and one for the great oudoors away from it. The amazing advances in solar power in my lifetime have really opened up the possibilities, and both my brother and I are deeply passionate about where solar power meets outdoor gear!

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