Going camping and in need of a reliable power source? Gone are the days when solar panels were limited to rooftops because you can now hang portable ones on your backpack, giving you a steady power output for devices even when you don't have access to an electrical outlet.
That's why we've searched for the best portable solar chargers and created a 6 best list of them. Our favorite was BigBlue's 28W Solar Charger, which releases up to 28 watts of power and can conveniently fold up for easy carrying. Read on for five other great options and our buying guide reviewed by an environmental scientist, which explains what you need to look for when shopping for one of these handy devices on your own.
28W Solar Charger
Solar Phone Charger
Portable Solar Panel
60W Portable Solar Panel
21W Solar Charger
Efficient and Reliable Solar Charger
A Versatile Battery With Solar Backup
100-Watt Charger for Heavy Duty Use
Charge Laptops and Generators With This Solar Panel
Compact Solar Panels With Smart Charging
A Powerful 50-Watt Solar Charger
|Efficiency rate||21.5-23.5%||Not specified||23.5%||23%||21-24%||Not specified|
|Number of ports||3 USB||2 USB, wireless charging||2 USB, 1 DC||USB, type C, DC||USB, micro USB||USB, 8mm chaining port, 8mm output port|
|Port power output||2.4A each, max. 4.8A||2.1A each, max. 3A||2.4A each||USB 24W, type C 18W||2A each, max. 3A||USB 2.4A, 8mm port 3.3A|
|Dimensions||11 × 6.3 × 1.3 in. folded||About 6 x 3.5 x 1.5 in. folded||12.6 x 7.5 x 3.6 in.||15 x 15 x 1 in. folded||6 x 11 x 1 in. folded||17 x 11.25 x 2.5 in. folded|
|Weight||1 lb. 5 oz.||About 2 lbs.||4 lbs. 12 oz.||About 6 lbs.||1 lb. 2 oz.||6 lbs. 14 oz.|
|Integrated battery||No||20,000 mAh||No||No||No||No|
Here are our top choices for portable solar chargers. We made our choices based on the points listed in the buying guide below, as well as reviewer comments when available.
*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Gwen Lynn. For more on our selection process, check out our editorial policy. Prices were gathered from respective EC sites on August 4, 2022.
|Number of ports||3 USB|
|Port power output||2.4A each, max. 4.8A|
|Dimensions||11 × 6.3 × 1.3 in. folded|
|Weight||1 lb. 5 oz.|
|Efficiency rate||Not specified|
|Number of ports||2 USB, wireless charging|
|Port power output||2.1A each, max. 3A|
|Dimensions||About 6 x 3.5 x 1.5 in. folded|
|Weight||About 2 lbs.|
|Integrated battery||20,000 mAh|
|Number of ports||2 USB, 1 DC|
|Port power output||2.4A each|
|Dimensions||12.6 x 7.5 x 3.6 in.|
|Weight||4 lbs. 12 oz.|
|Number of ports||USB, type C, DC|
|Port power output||USB 24W, type C 18W|
|Dimensions||15 x 15 x 1 in. folded|
|Weight||About 6 lbs.|
|Number of ports||USB, micro USB|
|Port power output||2A each, max. 3A|
|Dimensions||6 x 11 x 1 in. folded|
|Weight||1 lb. 2 oz.|
|Efficiency rate||Not specified|
|Number of ports||USB, 8mm chaining port, 8mm output port|
|Port power output||USB 2.4A, 8mm port 3.3A|
|Dimensions||17 x 11.25 x 2.5 in. folded|
|Weight||6 lbs. 14 oz.|
You might be at a loss as to which solar charger to include in your bag for outdoor trips. Given they vary in the number of panels, type, wattage, and dimensions, you should take the time to go through the details below to make sure you pick the right model for your charging needs.
Portable solar chargers are made of panels or cells that absorb solar energy. There are three types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. They differ in their efficiency rates, or how much solar energy is actually converted into usable electricity.
Monocrystalline panels are quite common and easy to recognize because the panels are black and thick. This type of solar charger has cells each cut from a single silicon crystal, hence the name. It can absorb high amounts of solar energy and most have an efficiency rate of over 20 percent.
The next type is polycrystalline, made of silicon crystal fragments and recognizable by its blue cells. It features an efficiency rate of about 17 percent. They're less expensive than monocrystalline but also have a lower energy output.
Thin-film panels are made of different non-crystal materials such as amorphous silicon (a-Si), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), and cadmium telluride (CdTe). These often have a layer of glass, aluminum, or steel and rank the lowest in terms of energy efficiency at about 11 percent.
When it comes to choosing which type of solar charger to get, it really depends on your usage. Monocrystalline types are known to be the most expensive, but if you are out on the road extensively or need a reliable power source, they would serve you best.
Meanwhile, thin-film chargers work great as a backup power source for keeping devices charged on shorter trips. They don't have the same efficiency rate as the others and can't be used as the sole power source.
The charger’s wattage is an important consideration because it affects how much power it will produce. The capacity refers to the maximum wattage produced by the device.
Most portable solar panels have around 20 watts of capacity. Some offer more, but in general, they get heavier as you go up. For reference, you need about two to six watts to charge fitness trackers, GPS units, or a phone up to 50 percent, while laptops and cameras need at least 20 watts, and equipment like video cameras about 30 watts.
Keep in mind that the charger’s power generation is limited. If you will be plugging multiple devices in simultaneously, you need to add their required consumption to ensure they get recharged.
Choosing a solar panel charger with a built-in battery means you can access power even when there’s no sun. You can pre-charge your charger during the day, then still have stored energy when the sun has set.
Having a solar charger with an integrated battery allows you to top up even on cloudy or low sunlight days using that power bank. However, note that these chargers' solar panels work best only as a backup power source and still need to be plugged in for full charging potential.
Portable solar chargers can be as small as a power bank, making them perfect for camping, or as bulky as a laptop for more heavy-duty use.
If you need to prioritize space, then a semi-flexible charger that can be folded or rolled up will let you pack the device conveniently and still get a lot of charging done thanks to the wider surface area.
Some chargers with larger storage capacities or integrated batteries can weigh up to 30 pounds, which isn’t feasible when hiking. These would be better kept in a vehicle. Meanwhile, more lightweight options are about two pounds and can charge while hanging on a backpack.
Not all portable solar chargers come with the same ports. Some cater to laptop charging, while others are for mobile devices. There are also multi-port solar chargers. We recommend checking if you need extra adaptors, different cords, or an external battery source such as a power bank to charge your devices.
You also need to check the port's output power because lower amperage like 1.3 amps means slower and less efficient charging than 2.1A, for example. Higher outputs mean faster charging, but also mean quicker energy storage depletion.
Take note that some manufacturers advertise the ports' output in total if there is more than one. So, if you have a 2.1A max output on two ports, two devices plugged in will split that number. Some have ports with different capacities, such as both a 1A port and a 2.1A port. You can plug a more power-hungry device on the 2.1A port.
When used for hiking or backpacking, your solar charger should be ready for all weather conditions. Going for a waterproof solar panel gives you time to pack it away without damaging the panels in case it suddenly rains.
In addition, a charger with hooks and carabiners lets you hang the panel on your backpack to absorb energy while you hike, and built-in compartments keep your electronics hooked up and protected.
We also recommend checking to see if the solar panel charger could drain your device's battery instead of charging it when clouds pass over. It's hard to keep checking the status of your device while you're doing other things. Look for chargers with blocking diodes to prevent this.
If you're outdoors often, you might need more essentials to add to your backpack. Here are a few suggestions worth considering to make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable.
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
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