For a long-distance hike, a Trailblazer needs lightweight, durable, and dependable equipment, especially when you are all alone and you need it to charge devices that keep you in touch with the outside world. We picked the very popular BigBlue 28W Solar Backpack Charger as one source of solar power. How did we make out on a 375-mile, non-stop Hike on the Appalachian Trail with the Big blue solar charger?
We found that Big Blue was:
Slow at charging-but it got there
Lightweight & hangs comfortably on your backpack
The Ammeter was hard to see and hard to read in direct sunlight
Charged 2 devices at the same time
Good value for the weekend Hiker
Not for the Serious Trailblazer
My son, who readied himself for this long Hiking trip that would take him through 5 states from Wheeling West Virginia approximately 380 miles northeast towards the Delaware Water Gap on the New Jersey side prepared for the last 6 months or so with his dad, me. We purchase what we thought were the most appropriate equipment for a month-long Solo Hike including the highly praised Big Blue 28W Solar Backpack Charger. Here’s how it did.
Big Blue 28w Solar Charger
He has been training for a year for this long hike scheduled for Aug. 18th, 2020. One of the most important pieces of equipment we shopped for was the Best Solar Charger we could find in our price bracket. It was the BigBlue 28W Solar Backpack Charger.
The Hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail will take him from Wheeling West Virginia 380 miles north up to the Delaware Water Gap on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River.
He would be traveling alone on the Appalachian Trail through 5 states and it will take about 5 weeks. He was practicing to do around 10 miles per day with some higher elevations at different points. The Appalachian Trail was hiking with some moderate rough climbing. I would chart his progress through the Appalachian Trail Club. He needed to report to me his location at night by cell phone. Naturally, the Cell phone would need to be charged among some other things.
When planning for long hikes weight and functionality are of equal importance so everything he bought was added to his supplies then taken out then added again until he could get his Backpack down below 20 lbs. which was his target weight.
The BigBlue 28W Solar Backpack Charger has a lot of things going for and when we first turned it on it register the trickle charge on the unit. We tested it on my patio a few days before he left and it checked out and was very uncomplicated to use.
The weight felt right and the question he had about it being awkward wearing it when moving on the trail, especially when he needed to move up in higher elevation was answered after a day or so as he journeyed through West Virginia. The Solar Charger has 4 solar panels, each piece is 7w; so the power is 4*7w=28W.
- The unit was easy to carry just like its advertisement said. With compact size (11.1 × 6.3× 1.3in folded) and lightweight 20.6 oz design, and hung easily off the back of his Backpack.
- BigBlue foldable solar charger panel bag is small and light enough to fit into any camping backpack, hiking daypack, or emergency kit. They’re also good for stashing in an emergency kit.
- The 2 USB ports allow him to charge multiple devices at once. He used the pocket for his cell phone using both ports at the same time. Again the newer ones have 3 ports but people still use just 2 for better results with the 4-fold 28-watt Big Blue charger. It’s a slow ride but you get there.
- During the trip, it rained numerous times, keeping the air wet and soaking his equipment. Even though the panels got wet they were easy to wipe down with the PET polymer surface that protected them from the elements.
- Built-in Ammeter-The ammeter on the Solar Charger did its job measure the current in a circuit. The value of Amps of our 28W solar charger depends on your devices, sunlight intensity, and the cable used. The value of the Ammeter stayed around 0.4 when in direct sunlight.
- He was able to charge from both ports while on the move moving around 10- 12 miles per day for 30 days straight with no problems with the charging panels using both USB connectors or the carabiners that attached the Charger to the Backpack.
- The Big Blue Solar Charger- slowly did its job was and powered the small devices he brought along like his Cell phone, a Patriot Power Bank, & Camp Headlight
All in all with the heavy use he was putting through the BigBlue 28W Solar Backpack Charger held its own and worked well. I wouldn’t be truthful without some negatives issues my son experienced with this adventure he took. Many people that Hike don’t hike for 30 days straight and almost 400 miles but putting the equipment through this ultimate testing you can get a pretty fair evaluation of the product you are depending on. There were a few issues:
- The Ammeter rarely came up to the proper charging amps while charging and never moved
- The user manual says that the charge will start only when all 4 solar panels are exposed to the sunlight. If all 4 are not exposed fully to the sun then the unit won’t charge. Being in the wilderness, especially alone on the Appalachian Trail there were lots of covers which meant that the Solar Charger was almost always partially blocked from the sun. This prevented it from charging or slowed it down.
- There were a few times that with no sun the Charger pulled power from the device it was charging
- The Ammeter was hard to see and hard to read in direct sunlight
- BigBlue got a little heavy but (being fair the trip was 375 miles so anything would have felt heavy)
- For the weekend Hiker, we say Yes for the serious hiker No!
Best Solar Charger for Backpacking
For a Backpacker on the west coast or arid regions like Arizona where there is no tree canopy or tree cover or cloudy skies the Big Blue 28W Solar Backpack Charger is a better deal and might perform fine for the things, it does fairly reliable even faster. It is easy to use, operate, and built durable.
Take it to the beach or camping and use it for the weekend hike. We wouldn’t recommend it nor would my son for longer trailblazing or for doing hikes in greener regions that you would find in the eastern states. Mostly all Solar Chargers for Backpacking all do the same thing. The Best Solar Backpacking Charger should be:
- Should be water-resistant
- They should at the very least trickle charge your devices while on the move in skies with some clouds.
- The Solar Panels should charge directly to a Lithium Battery and then to your device
A solar panel for Backpacking needs to be lightweight but produce a little more power even at this price range. Backpack Solar Chargers should contain their own lithium battery that stores solar power. This is the better way to go. It takes one step out of the process. At the end of the day, you then power your devices directly from the battery after it’s filled.
Seems like more time is needed for these small Backpacking Solar Chargers and Solar Charging Banks to be able to be dependent enough for a serious Backpacker who needs dependable equipment. BigBlue 28W Solar Backpack Charger is well worth the money and you can find one right here on Amazon and a really good price. Solar Chargers for serious Backpacking and serious long-distance Hikers may not be quite ready yet.