Solar chargers are suitable for camping and hiking. However, you can also use them at home to charge your devices for free.
Solar chargers have come a long way in the past few years. Once just a novelty, the best solar chargers can now charge your phone in an afternoon – not as fast as a power adapter, but certainly good enough for outdoor activities like hiking and camping trips, or just charging your mobile gear near a window instead of too To add to your electricity bill.
Not only are they good for your phone. Usually equipped with one or two USB ports, you can fill up an energy bank with a solar charger to draw this power after sunset. You can also connect any other USB-equipped device such as GPS, tablets, flashlights, and more.
If portability is a priority, pay attention to size and weight. As the solar panels unfold make sure you can live with their overall size. You might want to clip it to your backpack for a day hike, for example, and a charger that unfolds to four feet is likely too much to handle, but a two-foot panel might be ideal. And charger performance is the most important specification – the higher the power, the faster your equipment will charge or fill a battery. Here are the 7 best solar chargers you can buy today.
Best solar charger
BigBlue 28W solar charger
The higher the power of a solar charger, the faster it can charge a device. BigBlue's 28 watts offer the best value for money of any solar charger we've ever seen. Yes, there are chargers with more than 28 watts of power – the Goal Zero Nomad 50, which is also on this list, delivers 50 watts, for example. But it is significantly more expensive.
With 28 watts from BigBlue, it's handy to charge a phone in just a few hours – provided you have a bright, unobstructed sky and can hand out the charger for optimal coverage. And BigBlue takes up a lot of space and unfolds into four solar panels that are almost a meter long. You can also use eyelets to hang it on a tree or even attach it to your backpack when hiking.
BigBlue doesn't have a built-in battery, but it does have three USB ports (two 2.4 amp and one 1 amp) for connecting up to three devices at the same time – this is one of the few chargers we've seen can accommodate more than two devices. It is made of a robust polymer fabric, is IPX4 waterproof and can be folded up to 30 cm for easy storage in a backpack.
Best solar charger
Anker 21W 2-Port USB Portable Solar Charger
Anker's 21-watt portable solar charger looks like BigBlue's younger sibling. It's made from the same industrial grade polymer fabric, has the same hooks for hanging on your backpack, and folds up to 11 x 6 inches for travel and storage. But it opens with just three panels, which means it's more compact 26 inches long (and delivers a slightly more modest 21 watts of charging power). It also has two USB charging ports, not three, but that's not a huge compromise as the BigBlue's third 1-amp port is of limited use anyway.
But Anker typically sells this solar charger for about $ 30 less than BigBlue, which makes it solid value. And the smaller size makes it a great choice, especially since the performance is similar.
Best solar power bank
BioLite SolarPanel 5+
The BioLite SolarPanel 5+ has its own stand with which it can be aligned on the floor for charging. If necessary, you can also use the stand to hang it up. The special thing about the design of the BioLite – and unique among the solar chargers for end users – is the small sundial with which you can find the optimal angle for sucking up the sun's rays. The dirty little secret is that the angle of the panel can make a big difference in how much energy you accumulate, and that all solar chargers should have a widget like BioLite's sundial so you can find the right angle.
There is also a 2,200 mAh battery built in so that the solar array can store power even when no device is connected. Would you like to charge devices directly? There is a USB port for connecting your phone or other device. However, you only get 5 watts of charging power, which is only a fraction of what you get with a model like BigBlue. However, you can upgrade to BioLite's 10-watt solar charger, which includes a fold-out second solar panel and a larger 3,000 mAh battery.
Best budget solar charger
Blavor Solar Power Bank
Blavors Solar Power Bank does a little bit of everything for a very affordable price. However, let's be clear: the solar cells on top of this power bank aren't big or efficient enough to charge your phone in an afternoon. The focus here is on the power bank – a powerful 10,000 mAh battery. The solar charge is complementary at best; Blavor doesn't even state performance. So think of it as a fallback when you have no other option. However, if there is enough time (several days), the built-in battery or your mobile devices will be charged.
This means that this device works best when you start your outdoor adventure with a fully charged battery. Not only does it have two USB ports (one USB-A and one USB-C port), it also has Qi wireless charging. It's waterproof with an IPX4 rating and includes two flashlights for a very bright beam. It would be great if solar charging was more effective, but the device would likely be more expensive too. As it is, accomplishing a lot on a budget is a great exercise.
Best sturdy solar charger
SunJack 15W solar charger
This three-part solar charger is rugged, weatherproof and extremely portable. It folds down to just 10.5 x 6.5 inches and is only an inch thick, but unfolds to deliver a reasonable 15 watts of power. When unfolded, it is still pretty compact at 20 x 10 inches. It attaches easily to your backpack so you can soak it in the sunlight while hiking. It should withstand a significant amount of abuse outdoors. It is coated with ETFE, a fluorine-based plastic that has a longer lifespan than many other materials. It's waterproof so you can't see it even in the rain (although you don't expect a charge during the rainstorm).
Unlike models like BigBlue, you don't have to add a battery to catch the sunlight. It includes a 10,000 mAh power bank so you can refill it or use the USB-C and USB-A QuickC Charge 3.0 ports directly to turn your devices on.
Fastest solar charger
Goal Zero Nomad 50
Goal Zero's Nomad 50 is one of the largest portable solar chargers you will come across. It weighs just under 7 pounds and is bulky even when folded – 11x17x2.5 inches. Open it uo to expose all four solar panels, and it's 17×53 inches, which is about 4.5 feet long. The bottom line is that this is barely portable and is not a good travel companion for hiking or anytime when you need to move around a lot.
However, if you're camping or have an established base somewhere, few portable chargers will generate more power or charge your devices that quickly. You get an output of 50 watts, with which in good lighting conditions a 20,000 mAh power bank with high capacity can be charged in just 3-5 hours. Few other solar chargers can make this claim.
You only get a single USB port and it's just a solar charger – there is no built-in battery. That means you won't be able to maintain multiple devices at the same time using it all by yourself, but the best way to do it is to use the Nomad to plug it into a power bank and then put all the devices you need to charge on it to connect. That way, it's a great alternative to lugging around a portable generator.
Don't you need that much strength? Goal Zero sells a number of similar solar chargers, including a 10-watt and a 20-watt 2-panel model.
Best solar flashlight
Renogy E.Lumen 500 multifunctional flashlight
With the Renogy E. Lumen you always have access to a working flashlight. This high-tech flashlight has a built-in 2,600 mAh battery that powers the LED lamps. It can also be used to charge or operate your mobile devices via the USB port in the rear of the flashlight. The result is that you get a small power bank that is rechargeable. However, a small set of cells on the side wall of the flashlight won't charge it quickly.
The flashlight emits 500 lumens, but there are also LED lights on this side that you can turn on in various floodlight and flash modes. With white and red lighting for these functions, Renogy clearly envisions this as a flashlight that you normally keep in your car. There is a small, pointed hammer built into the end that you can use to break your window in an emergency. A seat belt cutter is also integrated.