During your outside pursuits, you’re usually far from any power outlet to charge your devices. Yet for many activities, you rely on at least one piece of battery-powered electronic equipment, from GPS and smartphone to camera or flashlight.
Harnessing the power of the sun presents itself as the natural solution, at least in areas where you can rely on a couple of hours of sunshine per day.
Our guide to the top solar chargers will help you choose the right charger for you to stay powered up even in the middle of nowhere.
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Solar Chargers For 2017
- Anker 21W Dual USB Solar Charger
- Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit
- Nekteck 20W Solar Charger with 2-Port USB Charger
- X-Dragon 10000mAh Solar Charger
- Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer
- ECEEN 10W Folding Solar Panel
- Instapark Mercury 10W Portable Solar Charger
Best Portable Solar Chargers
Solar Charger Reviews
The Anker PowerPort is our top pick for best solar charger since it offers an amazing combination of price, portability, and charging speed. Its performance leaves most of the comparable competition behind and it delivers where it counts: reliable power output.
The Anker PowerPort delivers 21 Watts, however under real-world conditions, your average will vary depending on the sunlight, but this solar chargers can reliably provide a full charge for a tablet or up to two smartphone in one sunny day.
Key features of the Anker solar charger:
- Power output: DC 5V / 3A
- Two high amperage USB ports
- Weighs 14.7 ounces
- Only 1.1 inches thick
- Folded dimensions: 11.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
There is a small pouch for stowing your iPhone or Android phone while charging, but it won’t hold a tablet or many additional cables. When opened, it measures 26.4 x 11.1 x 0.2 inches, and there are stainless steel eye holes to easily attach it to almost anything.
The PowerPort is incredibly durable, thanks to its industrial-strength PET plastic faced solar panels, which are sewn into a high-wear polyester canvas.
Anker uses a fast charging technology called PowerIQ. The solar panel adjusts the amperage automatically to match your device, allowing the fastest charge possible under safe conditions.
It also goes back to the fastest speed after any interruption, such as brief shade. The PowerPort delivers up to 2.4A per port or up to 3A overall in direct sunlight with unmatched efficiency.
The device includes a 3 foot Micro USB cable and an 18-month warranty. If you’re convinced by the Anker PowerPort 21W but is overkill for your needs, you’ll be happy with the Anker PowerPort 15W.
This Solar Charging Kit by Goal Zero consists of two products, the Venture 30 battery pack and the Nomad 7 solar panel. The kit is ideal for charging phones, cameras, tablets while harnessing solar power in rough conditions.
The Venture 30 battery has a capacity of 7,800maH, while the solar output of the panel is 7W. With a weather rating of IPX6, the kit is able to withstand heavy rain, making it our most durable, rugged and weatherproof solar charger.
The Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit is waterproof while in use without the need for rubber plugs. You can charge one tablet or two to three phones at a time.
Key features of the Goal Zero solar charger:
- Two high speed USB ports with 4.8 ampere for fast charges,
- Combined weight of 1.56 pounds
- Built-in Micro USB tip for tangle-free charging and certified cables
- Unfolded size: 9 x 1.5 x 17 inches
A zippered pocket on the back holds three connectors: a USB port with 1A maximum, an 8mm plug for charging 12V devices, and a proprietary plug for chaining up several Nomad 7 panels.
The Nomad 7 comes with little magnets to hold the panels closed and two small carabiners for mounting. The Venture 30 battery pack has charging LEDs which can double as a flashlight, a rubberized exterior for grip even when wet, and a Smart Charge mode which delivers the fastest and safest charge possible for each device.
When charging stationary, the most effective way is to connect the battery to the solar panel and your devices to the battery, thus charging everything at once, although at a slower rate. On the go, simply charge the battery and use it to power up your device afterwards.
The Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit is for you if you want the best portable solar charger with the versatility of an included battery and need something rugged and durable because you expect rough and wet conditions.
This charger does not include a battery, so its lightweight at just 18 ounces and very portable. It consists of three fold-out solar panels with a combined output of 21W.
The highly efficient panels can reach a power conversion rate of up to 21% to 24%, allowing you to charge two devices at once over the dual USB ports.
Key features of the Nekteck solar charger:
- 3 highly efficient Monocrystalline panels
- 5V output over 2 USB ports
- 3A current output over both ports or up to 2A over one
- Folded dimensions of 6.3 x 11.1 x 1.06 inches
- Opened up, the charger covers an area of 26.3 x 11.1 inches
The panels are fitted neatly into a rugged, durable canvas to withstand outdoor use, and the panels won’t mind exposure to damp conditions such as morning dew or light rainfall.
Five steel eye holes in the canvas allow you to attach the panels to nearly anything. While the case has a small pouch for a device or cables, carabiner are not included, however.
Nekteck uses their own fast charging technology called SmartIC, which is a microchip that detect the devices plugged into the USB ports for full charging speed under safe conditions.
Each panel outputs approximately 800 to 1,000mA in strong sunlight for a total maximum of 3A. In real-world conditions, you can expect a maximum of 10,000mAh during one day, which is sufficient to charge a small battery pack.
The Nekteck Solar Charger is great for charging devices or a battery pack while camping or on the go in the great outdoors, and it comes with a 30 inch Micro USB cable and a 18-month warranty. With its light weight and ruggedness its the best solar charger for backpacking.
It comes with a built-in flashlight and emergency light, and the rugged exterior is made of leather sheath and ABS. The casing is padded to resist shocks and drops in rough conditions.
There is a seal to cover ports and make the pack water resistant, although the X-Dragon solar charger is not as robust as the Goal Zero Kit.
This solar charger is a good choice if you need a battery pack for heavy outdoor use. With the fast output charging technology, it can even be your everyday power bank. With a chip for each USB port, the charger automatically identifies the maximum charging speed for a device.
Key features of the X-Dragon solar charger:
- 10,000mAh Li-polymer battery
- Peak solar power of 3.6W (3 polycrystalline panels of 1.2W each)
- Two USB ports of 5V and 1A and 2.1A output
- Weighs 9.9 ounces
- Size: 6.1 x 3.34 x 0.79 inches
In conditions of strong sunlight, the X-Dragon solar charger can reach 30 percent battery after 7 hours. Four battery indicators will inform you about the remaining charge. An LED can be used as a flashlight, SOS or strobe signal.
The pack comes with a Micro USB cable and an 18-month warranty and my top pick for the best solar powered phone charger for a budget price.
The Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer is a slim and compact solar charger with a built-in battery and a clamshell neoprene case.
It is specifically designed for charging on the go while attached to a backpack or bike and can power up a wide range of devices, supporting smartphones, GPS, flashlights and other electronics.
For the Solarmonkey Adventurer, Powertraveller uses their feature called maximum power point tracker, so any device can be charged fast and secure with optimized parameters.
For most users, the best solution is to charge the battery by solar and connect any device directly to the battery.
Key features of the Solarmonkey Adventurer solar charger:
- Internal Lithium-ion Polymer battery with 2,500mAh
- Two Polysilicon solar panels with 3W output combined
- Weighs: 1.3 pounds
- Size: 8.4 x 4.8 x 2.4 inches.
The battery comes with safety features to protect from short-circuit, overload and low voltage as well as extreme temperatures.
It can operate between 14 and 194 degrees Fahrenheit. The highlight of the Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer is the fold-away carry case, which can easily be attached to any backpack with its own carabiner.
The case even as room for stowing cables and adapters, several of which are included. You’re ready to go out of the box and the rugged clamshell design makes it the Solarmonkey Adventurer the best solar charger for hiking or camping.
The ECEEN 10W Zip Pack Solar Panel Charger is light and compact option for camping, hiking, going to the beach or other outdoor activities.
It is portable, versatile, and durable, with two slightly flexible and scratch resistant solar panels in a zip pack design.
The solar charger opens and closes like a book, is easy to zipper up and can be attached to backpacks or tents with ribbon hooks and four included carabiners.
Key features of the ECEEN solar charger:
- Two efficient Monocrystalline solar panels with 10W
- Case includes a fabric pocket for stowing a cell phone and cables
- Weighs 12.8 ounces
- Folded dimensions are 11.5 x 6 x 0.5 inches
- Maximum output of 5V and 1.5A over two USB ports.
The ECEEN solar charger is also equipped with a unique voltage regulator to guarantee a stable voltage and current, protecting your devices while charging quickly.
The efficiency of the solar panels is around 22 %, allowing you to charge a regular smartphone in roughly 6 hours of strong sunshine. The real-world output is of course lower than the specifications, averaging around 1.2A and just below 4.5V.
Practically, this means that depending on sunshine and panel orientation, you might only be ably to charge one device at a time. With a budget price, small size and lightweight design of the ECEEN solar charger and you still get a good deal.
The charger includes four carabiners and a 40cm Micro USB cable.
The Instapark Mercury 10W portable solar charger is an inexpensive and lightweight option that is still efficient enough to charge two devices at once if needed.
Given its low cost price range, this solar charger surprises in terms of durability, reliability, and efficiency. While it can’t compete with panels with higher wattage, it can still hold its own charging smartphones and devices.
The solar charger consists of three high efficiency panels in a foldable case with a large external pocket for electronics and cables as well as loops to attach it to gear, a tent or a backpack.
Key features of the Istapark solar charger:
- 3 efficient Monocrystalline solar panels with a combined output of 10W
- Two 5V USB port with a maximum output of 2A
- Weighs 18 ounces
- Folded size of 9 x 6 x 2 inches
The unfolded size is 9 x 22 inches, and for a panel of this size, weight, and bulk, the Instapark delivers less wattage and amperage than the more costly Anker PowerPort.
Yet under realistic conditions, you can charge a battery pack or two devices in a day with strong sunlight with the Instapark Mercury.
Each panel can be expected to deliver 600mA for a total of 1,200mA. There is no battery included, so make sure to bring your own power bank.
With its low price, these are the best portable solar panels that are a great value.
Image source: Wikimedia.
How to Choose the Best Solar Charger For You
- Considerations for Solar Chargers
- Solar Panel
- Technical Specifications
- Ease of Use
- Size & Weight
Solar chargers come in a wide range of sizes, prices and types. Small differences like the material and the efficiency of the solar panels can have great impact and result in benefits or disadvantages.
Your usage, terrain and charging needs will also influence your decision. In the following, we’ll explain key factors to help you pick the best portable solar charger for you.
Considerations for Solar Chargers
When picking a solar charger for your outdoor activities, let yourself be guided by the following questions:
Which devices will you bring?
For a small phone or GPS, a panel with low specifications can suffice. If you’re charging power-hungry electronics two at a time, you need something with a little more steam.
Pay attention to the connectors: most chargers will offer you a USB port, which work well for most modern electronics, but your particular device might need an adapter.
Where and how will you charge?
Solar chargers can be attached to a backpack, bicycle or motorbike to collect sunshine while you move, but they shouldn’t weigh or slow you down.
Compare weight and pack size and consider the surface area over which you can spread solar panels during your particular application.
If you’re charging in your camp, you might have a large area available, but on the go, compact could be better. And if you’re really roughing it in harsh conditions while wild water rafting or ice climbing, a more rugged model might be for you.
Do you need an internal battery?
Some solar chargers come with an integrated battery, giving you the option to charge your device from that.
This setup can give you greater ease-of-use or be ideal for situation where you need your device during sunshine hours and prefer to tether it with charging cables. You can power up a battery during the day and charge your electronics at night.
As you will have noted from our reviews above, some solar chargers come with an integrated battery, giving you more charging options.
Any solar charger without a battery can of course be paired with an additional power bank. The downside of bringing a battery is weight and bulk, but it frees up your device during sunshine hours when you have the option of charging the battery instead.
Keep in mind that with batteries becoming more powerful and more efficient, your solar charger might be overkill. If you’re going on a two-day hike or a weekend camping trip, a battery pack of 10,000mAh and beyond is enough to top off your smartphone twice.
There are three different types of solar panels used in solar chargers. CIGS panels are the most flexible ones, as they’re made of a thin film of copper, indium, gallium and selenide.
They’re lightweight and cheap to manufacture, but they degrade quicker and have a lower efficiency. None of the chargers above therefore use CIGS panels, so that it comes down to Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline panels.
As the name suggests, the former uses multiple crystal ingots, whereas the latter is made of a single crystal ingot. In other words, Monocrystalline panels are “purer” with less energy loss and higher efficiency, whereas Polycrystalline panels are slightly cheaper to manufacture.
This percentage specifies how effectively the solar panels can convert sunlight into electricity. A higher efficiency value is therefore better.
Just what exactly do the technical terms associated with solar chargers mean? Wattage and amperage are the two values to which you need to pay attention when looking at the performance potential of solar chargers.
Electric current (the “flow rate”) is measured in amperes, whereas electrical power is measured in Watts. Panels with 3W to 5W are sufficient to charge smaller devices and older smartphones as well as batteries.
Even a full day of sunshine might not give you enough power to charge a hungry device such as a tablet or flagship smartphone.
With a 5W panel, a full charge could be 3 to 6 hours. Charging two devices at once is only possible with 10W and beyond. Amperage will tell you how efficiently a device can be charged.
Values here will top out at 2A or 2.5A. Pay attention to dual port chargers, as manufacturers use different specifications.
Some will tell you the output of both ports combined, while others specify output for each port, leaving it up to you to add these values up.
As you can see, USB ports are the de facto standard for solar chargers, making it straightforward to charge smartphones and similar devices. Of our picks, only the Goal Zero was able to charge a 12V device out of the box.
Ease of Use
Solar chargers seem to be an easy thing to set up: hook up your device, expose the charger to the sun, and harness free power.
Most panels are cleaned easily by wiping away dust or moisture with a cloth. But look out for smart charging technology, which any good solar charger should feature.
This microchip will not only adjust the charging automatically to the connected device for safety and efficiency, it will also re-start the charging after an interruption.
This could be a passing cloud, shade from a tree or a person blocking the sun. Devices without this technology can get stuck in a slow charging mode, requiring a manual reset by unplugging the replugging your setup.
Also think of how you will be charging mostly: with a stationary setup outside your tent, or with the charger on your backpack, bike or motorcycle? A panel’s correct angle helps to greatly increase efficiency.
The rule of thumb is that your panel needs to be facing towards the sun at an angle roughly equivalent to your latitude.
Generally, this will result in shallower angles in the summer and steeper ones in winter. If you can make adjustments throughout the day, you can speed up the charging. Consult Solarpaneltilt for more specifics.
A panel strapped to a backpack is easy to carry but usually results in two thirds of a foldable charger to be hanging down more or less vertically, which only works if you’re hiking with the sun at your back.
If strapping the charger to your pack is your setup, learn the best angle for your terrain through experimenting. Many chargers also include a pocket for cables and devices, but pay attention to how hot they can become inside. You don’t want to be roasting your device while you charge it.
Size & Weight
Of course, the ideal solar charger would be light and small, but due to the nature of solar panels, this is hardly an option.
The more power you need, the bigger the surface area of the panel has to be, making foldable chargers with efficient panels a sure bet for charging more than one piece of electronics.
An integrated battery adds significantly to the weight, whereas a battery pack with a small panel is relatively compact at the cost of slower and less powerful charging.
Know your paint points for bringing extra bulk on your outdoor activities. The combination of a foldable panel with a separate, external battery pack gives you liberty in stowing them apart and picking the power bank of your size, weight and need.
The variety of different solar chargers can make it an intimidating task to pick the right one, so start with the absolutely essential devices you need to bring on most of your outdoor trips.
What will your typical charging situation and setup look like, and are you just using a single GPS, or do you need to charge a phone, battery pack and more? Then match your needs to our picks above with the help of our guide.
Solar chargers with less Watts are cheaper, yet less powerful. A more expensive model will not necessarily make you happier, depending on your need. The more you’ll be charging, the higher the output and efficiency needs to be.
I hope this guide was helpful in picking the best solar charger to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a model I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Enjoy your outdoor adventures and remember to only bring the devices you really need!