Best Portable Solar Chargers
Not everyone likes to be cut off from the world when camping. Additionally, when traveling cross-country, you need a portable source of energy to power the electricity of your RV. Instead of depending on a generator or being forced to stop at a campground, portable solar panels can provide all of the electricity that you need. These types of chargers convert energy from the sun to charge the devices that are connected to it. They are great accessories to have in your camping or emergency gear as you will always have the sun to provide you with energy and ensure your devices have power.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Due to its compact and foldable design, it is easily transportable
Coated with waterproof ETFE for extra durability
The included V72 battery, in full sunlight, takes around 6.5 hours to charge
Top 10 Picks
1. Voltaic Systems Arc 20
Due to its compact and foldable design, it is easily transportable
Coated with waterproof ETFE for extra durability
The included V72 battery, in full sunlight, takes around 6.5 hours to charge
The LED indicator lights are flawed as they signify the wrong amount of battery life for a specific device
The Arc 20 from Voltaic Systems is the embodiment of what all solar chargers aspire to be. It offers you fast charging, a waterproof exterior, and compatibility for any device you can think of.Read more
With 20 watts of power, the V72 battery that is included can charge most laptops in 6.5 hours and around one hour for smartphones (under direct sunlight). The Arc 20 is designed to charge thousands of USB devices.
Past the fact that it weighs only 3.25 pounds, you have a few carrying options. You can either choose to stash it inside of a pack or mount it on a backpack or bicycle with the sturdy metal grommets.
Utilizing ETFE coating, you are promised folding panels that are waterproof, UV, and scratch-resistant. With this type of coating, you can expect it to last around three times longer than the average weather coating.
For convenience, included with this panel is a USB-backup battery. So, even when the sun is not shining at all, you have a source of power as this battery will store its solar energy.
It is difficult to ask for much further than Voltaic Systems provides here. Outside of a minor issue with the LED lighting, as it does not properly signify how much power your device has, everything is as close to perfection as you can get.
2. Goal Zero Nomad 7
Includes carabiners to attach the charger to your backpack
Features a zippered pouch for storing accessories
Only 7 watts of power
The Goal Zero Nomad is, as you may have guessed, a great option for the nomadic lifestyle. It is made to charge small devices, such as phones, headlamps, portable batteries, and mp3 players. This is a great option for travelers, but not ideal for RV life.Read more
If there is one downside to these panels, it’s the wattage. The wattage of these panels is only seven. These panels can charge almost any device that is charged with a USB style charger, not including tablets. The smart technology integrated keeps track of the output. It recognizes if the device stops charging due to a 100% battery, or if it is because of a change in the weather or panels. If it is because of the weather, the panels will immediately start charging your device again when they receive energy.
This is one of the most portable panels on our list. It is easily folded up with dimensions of 6.5” x 9.5” x 1”. With the kickstand attached, it weighs 17-ounces. With the kickstand detached, it weighs only 12.5-ounces. The kickstand allows you to position the panels to receive maximum sun. Additionally, a set of carabiners are included, allowing you to easily attach the panels to anything.
These panels have proven their durability through many treks. They are weather-resistant and come with a twelve-month warranty. Many reviewers have commented on the strength of the panels, and are impressed by the amount of rain and abuse they can handle. Obviously, you don’t want to purposely leave them out in inclement weather for an extended period of time, but a rain shower won’t hurt.
There is a small zippered pocket on the outside that is great for storing cords or adapters. To easily charge your electronics without leaving them out in the sun, the panels fold into a tent shape, providing shade underneath. Additionally, when you are charging more than one item at a time, the energy output is evenly divided between each device.
For an extended jet-set, this is a great set of solar panels. They take up minimal space and weight and perform quite impressively. The integrated smart technology protects your devices from being over or undercharged. If you're looking for easy to use solar panels for your small electronics, this is a great choice.
3. Allpowers Sunpower
It is certified by FCC, RoHS, and CE
Includes eyeholes for an easy attachment to packs
The unique voltage regulator design manages to guarantee a stable voltage while charging
Takes a while to fully charge a battery
Slow and steady sometimes does win the race and this solar charger exemplifies that perfectly. While it can be a little slow-acting, it does a fantastic job od not only charging your devices but also protecting them against surges.Read more
The panel features dual-USB ports with iSolar Technology and also 18V DC output. This means you can charge 5V-powered gadgets and laptops alike. With 80-watts of power and a 22 percent efficiency rate, it will deliver the juice you need.
This exact same power output is 1/3 lighter than solar silicon. These panels weigh in just shy of four pounds. In addition to this, there are eyeholes that allow you to attach the solar charger to a backpack or other bag.
For outdoor use, the exterior is equipped with a dustproof, anti-shock, and water-resistant construction. But, these solar panels will also protect your connected devices from short circuits and surges.
Besides the solar charger itself, this also comes with carabiners, USB cables, a DC cable, an instruction manual, a clip line, and a cigarette lighter plug. Depending on the price, you can either select a 5, 7.5, 10, or an 80-watt version of the same charger.
The addition of multiple wattage sizes is a nice touch, as those looking to save money can sport for less. However, truly noteworthy here is the superb protection and rugged construction. Rest assured, both the panels and your device will be safe.
4. Voltaic Systems Amp
i>It is compatible with DSLR camera batteries and thousands of USB devices
The panels are UV and scratch-resistant
Under moderate sunlight, it can take a long time to charge
It did not take too long for Voltaic Systems to make another appearance on this list and their Amp Charger, while not quite as good as the last, is more than capable in its own right.Read more
With its wide range of compatibility, this bad boy will charge thousands of devices. But, as long as you are under good sunlight, it also succeeds in charging devices with a total peak of 4.4-watts at 6 to 12 volts.
With a weight of just over one pound, this will easily fit inside any bag you stuff it into. This could include dry bags, backpacks, duffle bags or any other travel bags.
To withstand abuse from the most rugged of environments, the folding panels are coated with a self-healing urethane to provide a scratch-resistant, UV-resistant, and waterproof construction.
In times when the sun is not shining, which is likely to happen at some point, there is an included V15 battery that will store solar power. This way, you still have the means to charge your devices. For the first time, there are actually different selections of colors. You can choose from charcoal, silver, and orange.
The solar panels themselves do not offer an immense amount of wattage, but the backup battery can be used for additional power. Plus, its rugged craftsmanship makes it ideal for any occasion you can imagine.
5. RavPower 16W Solar Phone Charger
Won't charge multiple devices at once
The RavPower 16W Solar Phone Charger is a great, moderately-priced option for those looking for a charger that will do the trick on those long nature hikes.Read more
With its solar power technology, this case delivers ultra-efficient solar cells (over 20 percent) to power your phone when it has access to direct sunlight.
At just 15 ounces, the RavPower 16W is lightweight especially for a three-panel design. While not the lightest on our list, it's definitely up there with the lightest. For its size that's especially impressive.
While there are some more durable chargers on the list, the RavPower 16W scores moderately. Most reviewers don't see any damage on normal use but also noted that the panels didn't seem quite as integrated as other options on the list.
You can choose between 16W or 20W of power. The smart technology that is integrated into each charging port detects to optimal current for each device. There are for carabiner clips included that allow you to attach the panels to almost any sun-receiving surface, including your pack.
While there are some drawbacks to this option, there is plenty to like. The fast charge, compact and portable design, and ease of use is something that many outdoors people enjoy when wanting to charge their devices.
6. SunJack Solar Charger
Charge 2 devices simultaneously
Can be bulky
The SunJack Solar Charger is a great option for those looking for a sturdy and durable solar charger to take out into the wilderness. It will help to keep your devices charged while on the go and won't leave you stranded.Read more
Being built with SunPower solar cells, this is able to achieve an efficiency percentage of 22 to 25. To achieve the maximum amount of power it can, which is 4A with two ports, it can automatically adjust the current-voltage.
While it can be a little bulky, the panels can be folded down and fit snugly in any pack. But, if you wish to attach it, the eyeholes allow you to do that. Depending on the wattage, these panels weigh between 1.15-pounds to 2.7-pounds.
For your protection, more specifically for your devices, this solar panel is certified by the FCC, RoHS, and CE. In addition, it has surge protection and short circuit technology to prevent your devices from potential electrical failures.
Three different wattages are available here, including 5W, 15W, and 25W. There are also two small power banks included that allows you to charge your items long after the sun goes down. When fully charged, each bank can typically charge a smartphone ten times.
Bulkiness aside, this solar panel would make a terrific addition to your arsenal of technology. Its solar technology, safety features, and foldable design truly do speak for themselves.
7. Acopower 12V 105W
Small and easy to store
Good customer service
Instruction manual could be improved
Use with caution in high-wind areas
Versatility is the name of the game here. Acopower's panels can be used as solar panels or as part of a kit. They still manage to stay lightweight and portable, while providing maximum output for a variety of electronics and batteries. With a clearer instruction manual, these panels could make their way to the number one spot.Read more
The Acopower is a highly versatile panel, offering 150W from monocrystalline photovoltaic panels. These panels increase the conversion efficiency by 21.6%. At 5V, you can use the panels for small devices, such as phones, headlamps, or an mp3 player. At 12V, you can charge acid batteries used for many cars, boats, and RVs.
Considering the power that this panel holds, it is incredibly portable. It weighs only 7.9-pounds. It comes in its own “suitcase” and when folded up, it measures 22” by 17” and has an attached carrying handle. When unfolded, it measures 50” x 22”. Reviewers love the fact that the panels all fold into themselves easily and it is easy to store.
Use these panels anywhere you wish. They are weather and water-resistant. Keeping them strong, they are made from industrial-strength PET polymer laminate. One reviewer commented that it would be useful if the panels came with stakes to put in the ground during high-wind situations. There is a 12-month guarantee included with your purchase.
There are a few accessories included with these solar panels. You’ll get alligator clamps that can be used when charging batteries, as well as two pairs of MC4 connectors. Additionally, there controller and wires are pre-installed.
This is a great set for the cross-country travelers or for a bug-out kit. These panels can charge phones and small electronics, as well as car batteries. Despite their great power, they still manage to remain portable and lightweight.
8. Anker Charger
Crafted from industrial-strength PET polymer
Compatible with several USB devices
Dual-USB ports can charge simultaneously
Even in full sunlight, does not reach maximum power
Compared to the rest, you may not see anything new and innovative here. But, what you will see is pure-quality and a solar charger that anyone should be proud to own and use.Read more
With dual-USB ports, the Anker Solar Charger can charge two devices simultaneously. Sporting 21-watts of power and an efficiency rate that ranges from 21.5 to 23.5 percent, you can rest assured that it succeeds where it matters the most.
Besides the fact that it is highly portable in its own right, with a foldable design, it features stainless-steel eye-holes that allow for easy attachment to backpacks and other objects.
Anker ensures that the solar panel itself and your devices will both be perfectly safe and secure. For the panel, it is crafted from an industrial-strength PET polymer with weather-resistant properties. Meanwhile, short circuit and surge protection technology protects your electronic devices.
Included with the solar power charger are an 18-month warranty, a micro-USB cable, and a welcome guide.
When you have access to direct sunlight, it is hard to beat this solar panel. However, as soon as cloud cover arises the unit will power down. But, as you have already seen, this is more than worth an investment.
9. Zamp Solar 120P
25-year output guarantee
Pre-compatible with many RVs
Large digital display
Additional accessory needed to charge small USB devices
For life on the road, this is a great kit. It provides a punch of power and there are plenty of available accessories to customize the output to your liking. Zamp has become so popular in recent years that many RVs include Zamp Solar Ports. If you are looking for something to keep the comforts your moving-home going strong, this is a great choice.Read more
Generating 120 watts at 6.84 amps, you can expect about 30-40 amps per day. The panels are made to pair with dual six-volt batteries or twelve-volt battery systems. The main use of these panels will be to keep everything in your RV up and running. For smaller devices, such as phones, you will need to purchase a 12V to USB converter.
This is definitely a kit that you’ll want to keep in RV. It is heavier than most of our other additions, but in turn, it packs a punch. It weighs about 32-pounds. It is also quite large. When zipped up, the dimensions are 32” by 20”.
Yes, this kit costs a bit more, but it also provides you with more. It is weather-resistant and highly durable. It comes with a 25-year output warranty, allowing you to buy with confidence.
Alligator clips are included with this kit, making it easy to connect to your RV. However, many RVs are already outfitted with Zamp Solar Ports, eliminating the need for alligator clips. One of our favorite features of this solar panel kit is the large digital display that shows you how much power you are using.
While this isn't a kit that you would want to carry in a backpack or fly with, for the amount of power it holds, it is still quite portable. This is a great solar panel kit to keep in your RV or as an emergency kit.
10. BigBlue Solar Charger, 28W Solar Panel
Very convenient to carry
Easy to set up and use
Can be used on the go
Price is a little higher than some other brands
The Big Blue features a very wide compatibility capability with regards to using environmentally kind green energy for charging up all types of devices. This outdoor solar charger is good for hiking, exploring, camping, outward bound activities, wherever you are, if you want to create green energy this is the way to do it.Read more
The smart tech charging system gives a very good performance, when you plug in a device it is automatically detected and given the fastest charge-up speed while the panels remain under direct sunlight. Sunpower transformation is very efficient at around 21.5% - 23.5%, this means charge-up time is halved compared to many other traditional panels. High tech designed in Chip & Ammeter, the Solar Charger system is Big Blue 28W which reads out the number of amps and the internal chip which ensures a stable consistent charge.
This is very easy to carry and can easily be folded and stashed away in a holdall or backpack. This means you can take it anywhere without any difficulty. If you want to use it to charge your phone while on the move, you can use the provided straps to string the panels down your back and connected to your phone to keep it charged.
Constructed with a durable Polymer material which ensures the charger is weatherproof against light rain, fog or damp mist, the key construction material is industrial grade (PET) Polymer Fabric which comes with a full 24-month guarantee.
The solar charger is compatible with iPad, iPhones, iPods, Andriod operated phones from Samsung Sony, Nexus and comes with a micro USB cable (1x). It is compatible with all USB devices which can run with a 5volt input. Generally, by obtaining an extra cable, this will charge all phones/devices. The attachment for transferring the charge is via a micro-sized USB cabling which works with the majority of Android operated devices.
This system opens the door to being able to use green energy with minimal environmental impact, through using this we all play our part in being environmentally friendly.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When discussing solar panels, the conversation should always start here. The power they produce and the efficiency at which they do it is important, but compatibility also comes into play. One of the first specifications you will notice in solar panels is the wattage that they are capable of producing. Obviously, the higher the number the more power it can handle. However, for whatever reason, it seems to be a universal ploy for manufacturers to exaggerate the actual wattage capacity their panels have. If you find that the solar panel you invest in is not performing at the power it was advertised as it does not become defective and many others have the same issue.
The efficiency, which usually ranges in the 20s (in terms of percent), refers to the amount of energy that the panels can convert from the sun. Again, the higher the rate, the more efficiently the panels will operate. But, also take special note to solar chargers that can work under moderate sunlight. Some will be inoperable when the slightest cloud covers a portion of the sun. Finally, there is the factor of computability. Check for USB ports and DC outputs for thousands of devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops, batteries, etc.
Given that this guide is for portable solar chargers, which most are anyway, portability does come to the forefront. For this section, it all comes down to the chargers’ compactness and carrying options. As solar panels can convert energy from the sun anywhere, chances are you will utilize this convenient technology on the go. As such, if you plan on storing it in your backpack or travel bag you do not want it to be too heavy or bulky. Solar panels that fold up, or even ones that can come apart, are a nice addition as you can pack them tightly.
But, perhaps even more important than this is integrating either carabiners or eyeholes to allow you to mount the solar charger on your backpack. This is so important because you may want to charge your device without feeling the need to stop. For example, with it mounted on your back and indirect access to the sunlight you can charge your smartphone while you are hiking or walking. Of course, this is also where the issue of cloudiness can come back to the forefront.
With any type of technology that is designed to flow voltage into electronic devices, safety will always be important. However, because these types of chargers will be used outdoors manufacturers also should add durability and protection to the solar panels themselves. For instance, you may see some with a waterproof and scratch-resistant coating. Even though you probably will not get much power when it is raining, this type of coating can be useful as it adds durability to the panels. This type of weather coating can also provide a sense of protection in accidental scenarios where water is poured on the panels.
But, more important than this is the protection that the manufacturers integrate for your electronic devices. In specific, protection against surges, short circuits, and stabilizing the voltage to prevent circuit damage. Without this protection, for example in the instance of a short circuit, your device is prone to many detrimental events. Such as the device overheating and causing a fire. This will not only fry your battery and render it useless but could also affect the solar charger itself.
Truthfully, the best of the best have already been documented. But, that does not mean that there are no additional features that you can look out for. After all, hiding in the shadows may be a design implementation that puts it over the top for you. Or, it could be something as simple as a backup feature. No matter, here are some other features to keep an eye out for.
Anytime you receive a manufacturer’s warranty on a product it is a bonus and solar chargers are certainly no exception. If you find that it is not performing up to the standards you expected, with a warranty you can simply return it. Also, when developers provide you with a backup battery it gives you the means to charge your devices when the sunlight is not shining bright enough. Of course, to get the best access to the sun, it is helpful when the panels are designed to stand-up at an angle. With a built-in stand or pegs, this is possible. Lastly, you may see some sellers provide you with additional accessories such as DC cables, USB cables or carabiners.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Even though you may plan on taking your portable solar charger with you on perilous journeys and outdoor adventures, you still may want to use them inside yours. This begs the question; can you utilize the energy of solar panels through a window? The iron content that is used in glass windows will block some of the light; in addition to the already lost light that is being reflected. While it can vary, through a glass window, you could see in excess of a 50 percent power loss.
When backpacking or traveling with your panels, having a safe and protective place to store them is important. Obviously, they will not be receiving sunlight when they are stored away, so work that into your charging/sunlight schedule. If you are using the panels in an RV, a drawer or a cabinet is a great place to keep them safe. If you can wrap them in a towel to keep them from moving around, that's even better. If you're out on the trail, a cushioned laptop case is a great way to keep them safe without taking up much extra room in your pack.
Other Factors to Consider
While seller options may prove more beneficial for other consumer products, they still matter in the world of solar panels. Even though some sellers will provide you with additional color options, which have no bearing on performance, the more important one to note is further wattage options. If the current solar charger you are looking into does not have the wattage that you want, taking into consideration that many exaggerate the actual amount, to begin with, you may want to spring for one with a larger wattage capacity. But, you may fall in love with a particular version and not want to steer away from it. In these types of situations, further options can prove to be very helpful.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How are portable solar chargers designed to be used?
This may have been a question you thought of the minute you clicked on this guide. How exactly are you supposed to use these types of chargers? As opposed to solar panels that you install on your roof or outside your home, it is not a good idea to leave your portable solar charger exposed to the inclement weather outdoors. Even though some are coated to provide protection from water and scratches, leaving the panels outdoors at all times may end up degrading their performance and lifespan.
But, they are designed to be used outside in all types of weather conditions. That is, depending on how efficient the panels are under light cloud cover. As far as how frequently you use them, as long as they have the ability to gather light rays from the sun and convert it into usable energy you can utilize it as long as you wish.
q: Can you run a device straight from the solar charger?
Up until now, you may have been under the belief that to charge and use your electronic devices, you must plug them into the USB or other port. However, in some cases, depending on the type of device that you are using, you may be able to navigate on your device without the battery (using the power straight from the solar charger). Though, there are a few caveats that you need to be concerned with. First of all, if the device is voltage-sensitive or requires an initial surge of power on it is best to veer away from running it straight from the solar panels.
Secondly, some solar chargers will shut down when they do not have access to sunlight. If you do not have a battery in your device and the charger shuts down or loses its ability to deliver power for even a moment, your device will perform a hard shut-down which is not good for the hardware.
q: Will a solar panel collect energy on a cloudy day?
When discussing solar chargers, panels or anything to do with the technology of solar energy, possibly the most frequently asked question alludes to its effectiveness on cloudy days. Although it has alluded to a few times in this guide, it is important to fully understand their usefulness on cloudy days. To provide optimal performance, solar panels need the rays from the sun. This is not something you can get around, but they are not rendered useless on cloudy days (depending on the model). They will still produce power but at a less efficient and powerful rate.
To be honest, it does not matter if it is clouds or even a roof or massive tree cover, without direct access to sunlight solar panels does not perform to their maximum capacity.
q: What is the ideal temperature for portable solar chargers?
Alright, so it is promised that you will not hear another reference to clouds in this guide! But, what about the temperature outside? Do solar chargers work better or need to be exposed to a certain climate outside? Well, the reality is temperature actually does make a difference in terms of performance. Optimally, most solar technologies will work best when the temperature is warm but not hot outside. One particular company, P3 Solar, states that an optimal degree would be around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is worth noting, also, that this falls under normal atmospheric conditions.
But, do not think that solar panels are inoperable in other climates. The reality is most are rated to withstand bitterly cold days and excessively hot climates. But, in these types of climates, the power output will drop for most solar technologies.
q: Can you connect solar chargers in a parallel fashion?
One of the best solar chargers in the world, which made its way onto this list, manages to use a magnet design to allow you to daisy chain panels together for enhanced power. However, is this possible with multiple solar chargers? The short answer is yes, but if you do so in a parallel fashion. What happens when you do so is the power output and current are doubled, but the individual solar charger ratings are kept the same.
If you do plan on partaking in this to achieve a greater power output, you may want to do so with panels that have equal wattage capacities. Doing so will provide you with the most efficient charging capability possible, as there is no worry about half of the solar panels having a higher voltage than the others.
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