Who doesn’t enjoy having the ability to charge their devices on the go? Technological advancements allow us to use solar chargers on the go, to collect electricity and use it as we like. It’s truly a gift to be able to go out in nature and venture outdoors. However, when we’re wandering around the woods, we need to be properly prepared. We always need to have a source of energy, especially for our phones, as they’re our main tool in getting out of an emergency. Solar chargers have proven to be a great option for that.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at portable solar chargers, comparing them to one another, and pointing out the best you can buy for your needs.
First, let’s take a look at the way these chargers work. We’ll also look at what you’ll need to keep an eye on and how to adjust your charger to your needs. Let’s get started.
Solar chargers work on a very simple principle. The surface is created from specific materials that use the sunlight and transform it into electric energy. That is definitely an oversimplification, but that’s everything we need to know in this context. Now, the sacred principle of solar chargers is that the larger the area covered by the charger, the more energy it will collect.
Solar chargers are great to use, since they can collect energy almost anywhere. As long as there’s sunlight, they’ll be collecting energy. On top of that, there are even chargers with batteries included, so they can collect energy and store it. That way, even when it’s not sunny outside, you’ll still be able to charge your phone and other devices. You can also hook them up with your rechargeable battery packs, so that you can have power even during the night.
Solar chargers allow us to travel to remote areas where electricity isn’t accessible. Since this source of power is completely renewable, you’re keeping the planet healthy. This will also help you save money, as you won’t have to spend anything for power site fees.
The most important thing to know about solar chargers is that they can charge your devices almost anywhere. It’s important to keep the both the temperature and the material in mind when you’re buying as well. Although most people may logically assume the opposite, solar chargers actually work better at cooler temperatures (20 degrees Celsius or less). That doesn’t mean that they won’t work when it’s hot, just that they’re less efficient.
Also, different chargers have different limitations regarding temperature. Some can function on the North Pole, while others can’t be used if it’s colder than -5 degrees Celsius.
Regarding materials, there are three main differences we see when we examine solar chargers.
First, we have crystalline panels, which are used in both off-grid and on-grid solar panel systems. We can then differentiate polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels. Models that use monocrystalline are usually more efficient than models that use polycrystalline, since they get more energy from equal exposure to sunlight. These models are also more expensive.
The third material used in solar chargers is amorphous silicon. These chargers are usually far less efficient than crystalline chargers, but they’re very flexible, portable, and mobile. You can pack them however you like, and they’re great if you don’t have much room. However, because of their low efficiency, they’re cheaper.
Efficiency is the second most important quality, following size, when we’re discussing solar chargers. Efficiency is telling us how much direct sunlight the charger actually collecting in the form of electricity. Solar chargers definitely aren’t perfect machines that collect absolutely all of the sunlight they face. In fact, they’re all rather ineffective, as they only collect about a fifth of all sunlight. The highest-end chargers usually collect 23% or more. While this technology is sure to develop over time, know that an efficient panel is one that collects anything from 21.5% to 23% or more (which is very rare).
We’ll also be talking a lot about weight. This shouldn’t be a concern if you’re travelling by car, but if you’re hiking, then it could be a problem. These panels usually don’t exceed the limit of 30 pounds, aside from the really large and bulky ones, which are rare. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t buy a heavier charger if you’ll be walking a lot on an upcoming trip.
A lot of chargers have foldable panels, and a lot of them have multiple panels. This depends solely on the charger. There are designs that are foldable, and there are designs where there are multiple panels that don’t fold. The latter is usually more difficult to move around.
Portability is an important element to the story of portable chargers. It’s pointless to buy a solar panel for camping if you won’t be able to move it around properly. There’s a major difference between portable and static chargers, with static chargers usually being bulkier and heavier. These are also more expensive.
You need to think about your needs before you make a purchase. A charger that you’re planning to mount to the roof of your RV varies greatly from a charger that you’re planning to use when camping. Placement is absolutely crucial when it comes to solar chargers, and keeping your charger in the sunlight is important. For this reason, make sure you don’t buy a charger that isn’t suited to your needs.
Also, keep your USB ports in mind. Most chargers only have two ports, with the occasional charger having one or three ports. If you’re going to have to charge multiple devices simultaneously, then you’re going to have to take that into account.
Now, let’s move on to our chargers!
1. BigBlue Foldable Solar Charger – Best Overall
If you’re browsing the internet looking for the best portable chargers, you’ve probably seen this name come up a few times, and that’s not without good reason. This charger is a great choice for you if you’re looking for something portable yet powerful. This charger hosts three USB ports, ensuring that you can charge all of your devices at the same time. You won’t have to worry about short circuiting, overcharging, or overheating with this charger.
This charger is also protected from moisture and light rain, and this is because of the polymer cover it uses. We still strongly urge you to clean it from dust regularly, as dust is a real killer of solar chargers. All the USB ports are covered by a cloth flap, which will surely protect them from dust or water damage. The charger uses a 28-Watt panel, which doesn’t add a lot to its weight of 20.6 ounces. It’s only 11 inches by 6 inches in size, so it won’t be a hassle to carry it.
You’ll get a micro USB cable for all 5V Android devices, but you’ll need to buy another cable for Apple devices. And according to the manufacturer, the BigBlue foldable solar charger panel bag works best with this charger. It’s small and light enough to fit into any camping backpack, hiking daypack, or emergency kit.
This charger is also one of the most efficient chargers on the market, with an efficiency percentage of 23.5%.
Within the packaging, you’ll get the solar charger, a 50cm micro USB Cable, a user manual, 24-month Worry Free Card, and friendly customer service. The four-panel charger has buckles that allow it to suspend from your backpack. This makes it really easy to charge your devices on the go. You can use the charger at your camping site as well.
It’s important to note that the charger doesn’t have a battery, so it can’t store power. You can only use it during the daylight and while it’s working. To use it, all you have to do is unfold it and expose it to direct sunlight. Make sure to connect your devices to it, and then wait for the red LED light to go on. This means that the charger is working properly.
The manufacturer also offers a two-year warranty period in case there’s any trouble. This is definitely the model we’d recommend if you’re looking for something that’s good all around. The only flaw we can point out is the fact that this charger doesn’t have a way to store power. It’s useless once it’s dark, but aside from that, it’s perfect.
You can check it out here.
2. ECEEN 13W – Budget Pick
This charger is sure to draw your attention with its price tag. It dons a very simple design, reminiscent of a small blanket, and it’s so light that you can hang it on your backpack and charge your devices as you walk.
It weighs less than a pound, 0.85 pounds to be exact, and it’s only 14 by 7 inches in size. Although we’re going with another charger for our Best Compact choice, this charger could have made that easily. The design behind it is very simple, the performances are great, and the small and smooth design makes it a great addition if you’re going camping and your storage is limited.
The panel is very easy to use, and it’s very compact. It has two USB ports, so you can charge two devices simultaneously, and it’s very efficient. This charger is able to collect 22% of sunlight, so it definitely falls in the category of highly-efficient chargers. The charger provides a 2A output, and it has a unique voltage regulator design to ensure stable voltage and current, which protects your device while charging.
This charger captures more sun than conventional solar panels, which means that it generates more electricity per panel. You don’t need to worry about your devices dying out if you’re using this charger. In fact, according to the manufacturer, the monocrystalline panels in combination with the output can charge an iPhone in less than four hours.
It uses polyester of high quality to make itself durable and weather-resistant. It also has many hooks you can use to attach it to your backpack, and you’ll receive four carabiners in the pack. The charger has a net pocket in which you can place your phone or any other device you’re charging.
The monocrystalline used for the panels guarantees its quality, and it won’t break even if you bend it (up to 40 degrees). It’s very simple to use, all you have to do is unfold the charger under direct sunlight, connect your device to the USB port, and keep your device out of the sunshine to protect it.
You can even use this in cloudy conditions, since direct sunlight won’t always be available. Sure, it will work less efficiently, but this charger will still collect sunlight even if it isn’t directly exposed to it.
In the packaging, you’ll receive: the charger, 4 carabiners, a user manual, and a 40-centimeter-long micro USB cable.
If you’re interested in the product, you can check it out here.
- GoerTek Solar Power Bank – Best Compact
So, you don’t have too much room with the rest of your camping gear, but you need a way to charge all your devices? No worries, GoerTek has the solution for you. Their Solar Power Bank with a 25000mAh battery will surely keep you going, and it won’t take too much room.
This unit weighs just over a single pound, and it’s only 7 by 4 inches in size. This charger also has a battery built in, meaning that it has a way of storing power. You can charge your devices during the day, directly, and once it goes dark, you can still use this charger (until you deplete the battery).
According to the manufacturer, the energy output is strong enough to charge an iPhone XS 7.4 times, a Galaxy S9 Plus 5.7 times, and an iPad Pro 1.6 times! Also, this device gives you the option of charging in two different ways. You can charge with the 5V/2A adapter (take note though, that the adapter isn’t included within this offer), or you can charge solar. This is great because it acts like a power bank, as well as a solar panel – you can simply charge it with the adapter before you leave home, and only switch to solar once the battery’s depleted. The blue indicator light is on when you’re charging with the adapter, and the green indicator light is on when you’re charging with the solar panel.
This device also has three USB ports, so you’re surely not going to lack any room for your devices. The USB power bank uses ABS environmentally friendly material, which is also stylish and sleek. There’s also a light function to this charger, as it has 36 LED lights built in. If your lantern dies out and you still have juice in this charger, you can simply use it as a light.
This charger is also waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof – according to the manufacturer. You shouldn’t completely rely on this, though, as we’ve already said that dust is enemy number one for solar panels. It’s important to clean your charger, even if the manufacturer claims that it’s completely dustproof. Always check your charger once you’re done using it, and make sure to clean it if it’s dirty or dusty.
Within the pack, you’ll get the charger, a single carabiner, a single USB cable, and a user manual.
Now, when we’re talking about this charger, there is both an advantage and a disadvantage to having such a massive battery. The advantage is that it’s capable of charging your smartphone several times before dying. However, it takes very long to charge fully. This isn’t necessary, though, as you can simply charge it for a while and then hook your phone up, or connect it to your phone as the charger’s in the sun. It takes literally more than a day to charge the battery on this charger (to charge it fully), but we’d like to stress once again that it’s not necessary to charge it fully.
The best thing to do, when using this in the outdoors, is to charge it home via an adapter, and charge it whenever you can in the wilderness. The good thing is that you can easily hang it on your backpack, so it can charge even when you’re not using it. The battery is absolutely massive, and it really doesn’t need to be fully charged all the time.
If you want to learn more about this device, you can check it out here.
- BioLite SolarPanel 10+ – Best Durability
This portable solar charger is particularly interesting for its durability and portability. It’s very strongly constructed, and that makes it very reliable.
This charger uses a highly-efficient monocrystalline solar panel to charge. We’ve already said that monocrystalline is the best option when it comes to materials for solar panels. It uses a 10-Watt USB output to charge the connected devices, and it can charge phones, tablets, cameras, and other gear in less than three hours – according to the manufacturer.
What’s very interesting about this charger is that it has integrated sundials, which align the panel with the sunlight in order to capture as much sunlight as possible. This always ensures maximum charge.
This charger also has a battery, in fact a 3000mAh battery, so you can feel free to charge your devices even during the night, as this charger will act as a power bank. Similar to our previous entry, this charger can be connected to a power outlet with an adapter, so you can get ahead of the problem while you’re home and charge it there. You also have a battery status indicator and charge strength indicator – you can always see the strength of the Sun and measure your panel capacity, and the battery status indicator lets you know how much juice you still have.
Double panels with minimalist materials keep it super thin and increase efficiency through heat dissipation. This is very important – panels lose efficiency when they heat up, and the fact that this charger has a method of cooling the panels down is a big, big plus.
On top of that, this charger uses a 360-degree kickstand – this way, you can capture the sun wherever it is, and it also keeps your charger stable on uneven terrain.
The only downside we can notice with this charger is its price. BioLite doesn’t shy away when it comes to pricing, and if you want this durable charger – you’re going to have to pay for it. We definitely believe that durability should be more important than the price for that durability, but this is definitely something that should be considered.
However, take note that this is both a solar charger and a power bank at the same time, and that it can charge most phones up to 60% with its 3000mAh battery.
If you want to learn more about this charger, follow the link here.
- SunJack 25W – Best Speed
SunJack 25W will definitely impress you with its speed and performance. It is the quickest charger on this list, and it will charge your phones, cameras, battery packs, etc. very quickly. This is an extremely powerful panel, and if you’re looking for speed, then this is exactly what you need.
This charger employs 20 Watts of high efficiency monocrystalline solar cells to collect power, and it achieves the same charging speed as a wall outlet with its 5V/2A USB ports.
According to the manufacturer, this charger is the world’s most powerful, weather resistant 20W USB solar charger, and to prove it – it’s backed by a one-year warranty.
Another great thing about this charger is its size. When folded, it’s just 12.5 by 8 inches, and when you unfold it it’s 24.5 by 12.5 inches. Its surface is large enough to collect enough sunlight to power all of your devices without a problem. It also weighs just under two pounds.
It’s great to hook this charger up with several power banks and ensure that you have multiple sources of power, even when the Sun sets.
The charger uses rugged, ETFE-coated panels to collect as much sunlight as possible, and it’s durable enough to withstand desert sun, dirt, and dust – which is also very impressive, especially when you think about how damaging dust is to solar panels.
You also get a mesh storage pouch on the back of the charger, and you can fit SunJack’s battery packs in there, as well as your phone, power cords, etc.
The biggest disadvantage we can find when we take an objective look at this charger is its price. It doesn’t come cheap, and on top of that, it’s very large when you unfold it (it’s a bit large when it’s folded, as well, but nothing too much). However, if you’re tired of solar chargers that take forever to charge your phone or your camera – then you won’t mind spending money on this.
It’s most impressive that this charger can work in partially shady and cloudy conditions – it does not require direct exposure to sunlight, unlike a large chunk of its competition. There are a lot of chargers that are completely useless unless there’s direct sunlight, this isn’t one of those chargers.
If you’re interested in finding more about this charger, follow this link.
There are many solar chargers out there and this list doesn’t even cut close to mentioning them all, and it’s important to think about what you need them for before you go out buying one. If your storage is restricted – don’t buy a large one. If you need a lot of power – buy a charger with a battery for storage. Make sure to think before you buy, and try to buy products with a warranty period. That’s the best way to make sure you’re not throwing your money away.