Solar chargers are becoming more portable, lightweight, and undeniably handy. Perfect for camping, they’re also useful for emergency preparedness or just taking advantage of the windows on the sunny side of a house. These sunlight-sipping devices can charge a phone’s battery, power a small radio, or keep an emergency flashlight illuminated when the need arises.
The best solar chargers are easy to pack away, providing ample power when necessary. Some can even charge a few devices at a time. This guide will shed some light on how to choose the best solar charger for anyone’s lifestyle and needs. And to help simplify the shopping process, we embarked on an extensive product research and comparison process that led us to some of the best products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Riapow Solar Charger 26800mAh Solar Power Bank
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Blavor Solar Charger Power Bank, Qi Wireless Charger
- UPGRADE PICK: BigBlue 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Charger
- BEST FOR CAMPING: X-Dragon 20W Foldable Solar Panel Charger
- BEST COMBINATION: Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank
- BEST FAST-CHARGING: Superallure Solar Charger Power Bank Portable Charger
- BEST SOLAR CHARGING KIT: Blavor Solar Charger Five Panels Detachable
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Solar Charger
Finding the best solar battery bank or panels for a particular set of needs depends on a few factors, such as style, size, and number of charging ports, as well as wattage and milliamp ratings. For those new to the world of solar charging, don’t fret. This guide will plug in to the must-have features worth considering.
Solar Banks vs. Solar Panels
There are two main types of solar chargers on the market for filling rechargeable batteries: solar power banks and solar panels.
- Solar banks operate by absorbing sunlight and storing the energy in a built-in battery. When full, they can continue to charge devices regardless of the sky’s conditions or time of day. They also typically feature a small LED flashlight, and some have built-in charge level indicators.
- Solar panels will only charge devices while they’re in direct sunlight (although cloudy conditions can work as well). While this seems less convenient, solar panels are typically lighter to carry than solar banks. They’re also available in kits with battery banks, essentially operating as a solar-powered battery pack.
Wattage ratings quantify a solar panel’s potential output in ideal conditions, namely during bluebird skies in the middle of the day with no obstructions. The higher the wattage, the more efficiently the panel will use the available sunlight to power any plugged-in devices.
Diving further into this might require an electrical engineering degree, but shoppers should understand that the higher the rating, the higher the panel’s efficiency. The best portable solar charger options often exceed 16 or 20 watts.
Milliamp ratings, represented as “mAh,” describe a power bank’s capacity. For example, if a phone requires 100mAh to charge from zero to 100 percent, and a power bank has a battery capacity of 1,000mAh, then theoretically, that power bank could charge the phone 10 times.
Those are simple round numbers to make the point easy to digest. Still, the idea is that the higher the mAh rating, the larger the battery’s capacity, and the best portable battery charger options have ratings north of 20,000mAh.
The amount of time a solar-powered charger will take to charge from solar energy depends on several factors. The size of the solar panel will determine how much energy the device will be able to absorb at one time. Also, the amount of light energy available (such as sunny days vs. cloudy days) plays a major role.
Obviously, determining charging time can get a little complicated. However, many of the best portable phone charger options are able to charge in around 3 to 4 hours in ideal conditions. In cases where additional panels are an option, they might charge even faster.
Size is a significant consideration when choosing a mobile solar power device, and this is particularly true when selecting a panel charger. The larger the surface area of the solar panel, the more solar energy can be absorbed.
A bigger size means faster battery charging, whether for the onboard battery in a power bank or the device plugged into the panels. Choose the panel size based on what’s most convenient for the intended use.
Multiple Charging Ports
The ability to charge a few devices at the same time can be a lifesaver and a feature that many of the best solar power bank options offer. Charging both a phone and a flashlight simultaneously can mean the difference between getting home safely and disaster during an adventure gone sideways.
Also, the sheer convenience of having one solar charger for laptop and cell phone use means users can bring their office anywhere. Plug both devices into the charger, flip on the phone’s hot spot, and get to work.
Our Top Picks
That’s a lot of light shed on the best solar battery banks and panels, but shopping for one of these devices might still feel a bit intimidating. To help, reference the following selection of products, as it contains a solar charger for almost any scenario.
When it comes to blending convenience, capability, and innovation into one solar charging device, Riapow’s Solar Power Bank might check all the boxes. This charger has a high-capacity 26,800mAh battery that can charge an iPhone 11 completely in 1 hour 20 minutes and is able to recharge via USB-C wall power (wire not included) in 7 hours. Should an outlet not be available, it has a built-in photovoltaic panel on one side to take advantage of the sun’s rays.
The Riapow is water- and drop-resistant and features four convenient ways to charge a device: two USBs, one USB-C, and a wireless charging feature. It charges at full speed regardless of how many devices are plugged in. The wireless feature allows the user to place their phone on top of the charger for convenience. However, this may be a drawback as well, as the charger won’t be able to absorb the sun’s rays at the same time.
- Type: Solar bank
- Milliamp/wattage rating: 26,800mAh
- Outputs: (2) USB, (1) USB-C, (1) wireless
- High-capacity 26,800mAh battery
- 4 charging functions
- Built-in solar panel
- Wireless option will block solar panel while charging
Get the Riapow solar power bank on Amazon.
Anyone looking for a solar power bank that will fill up their phone or tablet without draining their bank account might consider the Solar Charger Power Bank from Blavor. This compact model features a 10,000mAh battery that will charge most iPhones about 2.2 times and charges in 6 hours via power from an electrical outlet.
This affordable solar charger features three ways to charge a device: a USB-C port, a USB port, and wireless charging. It also has two built-in LEDs that function as flashlights, as well as a compass for navigation. While it does have a built-in photovoltaic cell, the device won’t charge with a phone on top during wireless charging.
- Type: Solar bank
- Milliamp/wattage rating: 10,000mAh
- Outputs: USB, USB-C, and wireless
- Affordable price point
- 3 ways to charge devices
- Built-in flashlight and compass
- Solar panel won’t absorb energy while blocked during wireless charging
Get the Blavor solar power bank on Amazon and Walmart.
The BigBlue 28W Solar Charger might be a solid option for quickly charging multiple devices on a sunny day. This charger includes four large panels (approximately 11 inches tall by 6 inches wide) that fold out to absorb a lot of sunlight. BigBlue claims these highly efficient panels will convert 21 to 23 percent of solar energy into battery life, which explains how it can charge up to three devices at a time. This unit is also protected against occasional rain, fog, dirt, and dust thanks to rubber covers over the charging ports.
All four panels fold up into a compact, lightweight package that users can toss into a backpack. While the folding design is convenient, users should be careful folding and unfolding these panels to prevent possible wire damage between the panels.
- Type: Solar panel
- Milliamp/wattage rating: 28 watts
- Outputs: (3) USB
- 3 USB outputs to charge multiple devices
- Large folding panels can absorb a lot of sunlight
- Converts 21 to 23 percent of solar energy into usable power
- Unnecessary folding and unfolding can limit its lifespan
Get the BigBlue solar charger on Amazon and Walmart.
The X-Dragon 20W Folding Solar Panel Charger is ideal for those heading out into the wilderness for a few days. The three-panel model quickly unfolds to hang from a backpack using its many included loops, charging the user’s devices as they go. X-Dragon states that its panels are 22 to 25 percent efficient, so charging two devices at a time shouldn’t be a problem. Finally, it automatically adjusts the current and voltage to achieve maximum power at all times.
At 20 watts, this won’t be the fastest-charging set of panels on the list. Also, this is a basic unit, so there are no protections against overheating or overcharging, which is definitely something to consider before purchasing.
- Type: Solar panel
- Milliamp/wattage rating: 20W
- Outputs: (2) USB
- High efficiency
- Small, compact design
- Charges 2 devices at once
- Lower output compared to some larger panels
Get the X-Dragon solar panel charger on Amazon.
This portable solar charger by Hiluckey is a smart blend of the panel and bank styles. This charger has a higher-capacity (25,000mAh) onboard battery but also features four folding solar panels. Hiluckey states that this solar panel and bank combination charges itself in the sunlight four to six times faster than other power banks on the market. Considering the built-in LED flashlight, the fact that the device holds a charge for up to 9 days, and the fact that it charges two devices at once, and it’s easy to recognize this charger’s convenience. It can also operate through a USB adapter.
The Hiluckey can be hung from a backpack for hiking trips, but it doesn’t come with a way to attach it to a bag. There is a loop intended for this use, but it doesn’t include a clip to attach it to anything. Keep that in mind when purchasing it for backpacking use.
- Type: Combination kit
- Milliamp rating: 25,000mAh
- Outputs: (2) USB
- Built-in flashlight
- Combination bank and panel kit
- Large battery
- No clips for attaching it to a backpack
Get the Hiluckey power bank on Amazon and Sears.
For folks looking to take advantage of a lunch break on the trail, Superallure’s solar charger and power bank combination kit might be worth the purchase. This kit features a photovoltaic cell built into the bank, as well as four additional solar panels to charge the massive 43,800mAh battery.
This kit features a lightning charging mode that can charge a phone up to 75 percent in under an hour. The 16-watt solar panels also help fill the battery, allowing it to keep up on sunny days. The built-in solar panel won’t be able to absorb sunlight in wireless charging mode (it’ll be hidden under the phone), but the additional panels can keep things going.
- Type: Combination kit
- Milliamp rating: 43,800mAh
- Outputs: Lightning output, USB-C, USB, and wireless
- Massive battery for fast charging (up to 75 percent in 55 minutes)
- Built-in lightning output
- 16W solar panel output
- Wireless charging will block solar panel
Get the Superallure solar charger on Amazon.
Those looking for a reliable combination solar bank and panel kit should give this solar charge five-panel kit some consideration. This kit comes with a 20,000mAh solar bank for storing energy, as well as a folding four-panel kit of solar panels. The additional kits easily attach and detach, allowing users to employ the whole kit or just take the bank on the go.
While this kit’s 20,000mAh battery might not be the largest on the market, it is capable of charging up to four devices at once (two USBs, wireless, and a USB-C port). One downside to this kit is the solar panels don’t have a loop to hang from a backpack, however.
- Type: Combination kit
- Milliamp rating: 20,000mAh
- Outputs: (2) USB, (1) USB-C, wireless charging
- 5 panels in total
- Wireless charging, USB, and USB-C ports
- Panels attach and detach for flexibility
- No built-in loops to hang panels from a backpack
Get the Blavor solar charger on Amazon and Walmart.
Anyone hunting for a high-output solar charger with plenty of frills and ports should consider the Riapow solar charger, with its four charging methods and 26,800mAh battery. But for folks who’d prefer to save a little money, the Blavor solar charger power bank offers 10,000mAh of battery life without running up the bill.
How We Chose the Best Solar Chargers
Putting together a list of the best solar chargers is tough work, but we took the task seriously. We wanted to make sure that the products we recommended had the features and capabilities that shoppers are looking for.
Once we knew which features to look for, we performed extensive product research to compile a list of products we felt hit the mark. Then, we compared their prices, battery sizes, and extra features to determine how much value they offered. This allowed us to cast some aside while narrowing in on the best products.
Finally, when we had our group of the best products, we assigned them each an award based on their strengths. With that, we had our completed list of the best solar chargers.
The Advantages of Owning a Solar Charger
Solar chargers aren’t just for trips into the woods. Like an old-school AM radio, they can be a literal lifesaver in emergency situations. Whether it’s a car broken down on the side of the road, bad weather, or even getting lost in a new city, having a solar charger that can easily juice up a dying phone can make all the difference.
Many solar chargers have built-in features like flashlights or permanently attached wires. These features can be a big boost of convenience or even help keep things light while traveling, as one item can do the job of several essential travel items.
Folks who’d prefer to rely on renewable energy might prefer solar chargers for the environmental benefit alone. Many of these devices are capable of taking a phone or computer entirely off the power grid, allowing users to scale back their dependency on electricity from the power grid.
- Solar chargers are helpful in emergency situations.
- Built-in features like a flashlight and charging wires help keep things light when traveling.
- Solar chargers can lessen one’s reliance on the power grid.
Tips for Using Your New Solar Charger
Most manufacturers recommend charging a solar power bank via a power outlet for the first few charges. In these cases, it’s believed that the battery will perform better moving forward, holding a larger charge for longer periods of time.
When on a backpacking trip, it’s a wise idea to charge the solar bank whenever possible. Weather can change from day to day, and a cloudy day may prevent the user from charging their device completely.
Heat can be the enemy of a battery, but it’s also tough to sidestep it altogether when dealing with solar devices. In general, don’t put a solar bank on a hot rock or pavement surface. Instead, place the bank on cooler rocks, grass, or other spaces that haven’t had the chance to heat up yet, and move it as necessary while charging.
- Charge the device via a wall outlet for the first few charges.
- Charge the solar bank whenever possible to ensure it’s ready in cloudy weather.
- Place the solar bank on cooler surfaces for efficient charging.
That might seem like an overwhelming amount of information on the best solar chargers, but some additional questions might still be hanging around. The following is a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about solar chargers, so be sure to check for an answer to your question listed below.
Q: Are solar chargers waterproof?
Many solar chargers feature water-resistant designs. In general, these chargers have silicone cases or plugs that block water from seeping into the device. While they’re rarely totally waterproof, they’re typically suitable for rugged outdoor environments.
Q: Do solar chargers work on cloudy days?
Solar chargers do operate on cloudy days, but the clouds will block the majority of the energy coming from the sun. For that reason, they typically charge slower on cloudy days.
Q: How long do solar power banks last?
It depends on the size of the battery, but many solar power banks can refill the average phone from zero to 100 percent between two and three times.
Q: What are the disadvantages of solar chargers?
Solar chargers are at the mercy of the weather. Cloudy days will impede the device’s ability to charge. Also, they rarely charge devices as fast as a wall charger.
Q: How long does it take to charge a 50,000mAh solar power bank?
It depends on the device charging it. For example, a 5-amp charger would be able to charge a 50,000mAh battery in 10 hours. However, in solar terms, it can take much, much longer—particularly in cloudy weather.