Hiking experience in modern times is advanced with all kinds of gadgets and apps that tend to help the hiker and make the whole experience easier and safer. But these products depend on electricity, and batteries aren’t as advanced as the technology they are supporting, so they last for relatively short amounts of time. When going places with no electricity to charge your electronics, the best solar phone charger comes in handy.
Solar chargers use sunlight to generate electricity. They can come with or without a battery. Pairing a charger with portable battery is, of course, more preferable, so that you can charge your phone when there’s no sunlight, from the portable battery that you charged during the day. So, how to choose the best solar charger for you, when there’s so much competition on the market?
We are here to help you with that. In this article we will be talking about the meaning of all terms surrounding solar panels, like mAh, amps, volts, conversion. We will also include some other features that are important to consider before buying, and we will finish with reviews of the best products currently available on the market. Stay with us and let us help you make an educated decision on the best solar phone charger you will need.
Our Top Picks
|Product Name||Weight||Capacity||Best Use||Price|
|PowerAdd Apollo Pro||2.6 lbs||23000mAh||Long road trips, camping, emergency||Check price on Amazon|
|Voltaic Systems Amp||1.1 lbs||4000mAh||Long road trips, camping, emergency||Check price on Amazon|
|Cobra Electronics CPP 300 SP||10.2 oz.||6000mAh||Camping||Check price on Amazon|
|Anker 8W Outdoor||13.8 oz.||5200mAh||Camping, emergency||Check price on Amazon|
|RavPower 16W||15.9 oz.||/||Long road trips, camping||Check price on Amazon|
|Nekteck Dual SunPower||4.96 oz.||6000mAh||Camping, emergency||Check price on Amazon|
|Goal Zero Venture 30||8.8 oz.||7800mAh||Camping, emergency||Check price on Amazon|
|EasyAcc 7W||14.1 oz.||/||Camping, emergency||Check price on Amazon|
|X-Dragon 20W||1.65 lbs||10000mAh||Long road trips, camping, emergency||Check price on Amazon|
|Allpowers 16W||1.36 lbs||/||Camping, emergency||Check price on Amazon|
Things to Consider Before Buying
A solar phone charger basically has a solar panel which uses sunlight or light energy which is converted into electrical energy to charge a rechargeable battery. This battery is responsible for charging your device even in the absence of sunlight.
If you have tried to shop around for the best solar cell phone charger, you must have come across terms like amps, watts, ports, mAh, which are confusing for a lot of people. Educating yourself on these terms and the most important features regarding solar chargers is the way to go when making your choice. Read on and let us help you make an educated decision!
Amps are a measure of the current in your charger. The amperage of the USB ports in a solar charger is not always obvious in the specifications. For example, 3A max. may mean a total of 3A across all the USB ports at a specific time. Or, it may mean a 3A max. in one USB port and 1A max. in another, which is the specification of a more powerful charger. So, be careful while noting all the specifications.
Choose a charger with output amps that can satisfy your requirements. For more efficient charging of devices like iPads, go for at least 2A ports.
Watts (Electrical Power)
Watts are a measure of the electrical power. This power is the output of the solar panel, and it determines the rate at which your internal battery can be charged, i.e., the higher the wattage, the quicker the solar panel can charge your battery. Note that this does not affect the speed at which your device is charged.
Watts are volts’ times amps. So, to efficiently charge a tablet, we need 5V (USB port) x 2A = 10 W. Considering other losses, it’s best to go for one with at least 12 – 15 W. Take a look at the following table to get a general idea of how much wattage you need:
|Devices to be charged||Panel Power Required|
|Simple cell phone/ MP3 player||3 – 4 W|
|iPad/multiple devices||15 W|
|Laptops||30 W or more ( some up to 60 W)|
|AC devices||25+ W + battery + DC-to-AC inverter|
Also, take into consideration the climatic conditions you are most likely to use your solar charger. If you want to use it in areas where you get just a few hours of good sunlight, you’d be better off with a higher wattage panel, so your charger can be charged quickly to take good use of the limited time of sunlight.
mAh (Battery Capacity)
The power required in watts that we derived above was for a single moment in time. If you multiply it by the number of hours you will use it, we get the battery capacity you require in amp-hours or milliamp-hours (1Ah = 1000mAh) – that is the mAh you see on the specifications of solar chargers. This number can give you an idea of how many times you can recharge your devices before the charger needs to be out in the sun for more power.
Types of Solar Panels
The three most common types are CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, selenide), monocrystalline panels, and polycrystalline panels. CIGS panels are flexible, cheaper, and lighter; however, they do not last very long.
Monocrystalline panels are the most expensive but are the well-performing among the three. If you want a reasonably priced option that lasts better than CIGS, polycrystalline ones are good to go for.
External Battery vs. Integrated battery vs. Just the Solar Panel
The best option is to use a combination of an external battery and a solar panel. For short trips, a powerful external battery that can be charged at home will suffice.
For longer camps where there would be no power for more than a couple of days, a solar panel will be of great help. A panel with an integrated battery may seem like a great option, but, unfortunately, these devices are not very efficient and can work just for emergency situations.
Some Other Factors to Consider
Also consider the number of USB ports available, the weight of the solar charger, the size, accessories included, and how portable it is. Look for panels with essential features like auto-restart technology which will save you from switching it on again and again after common interruptions like a passing cloud.
And then there’s the price to consider. The ideal price of a solar panel would be $10 – $15 per watt.
Best Products on Today’s Market
Time to take a look at a few of these solar chargers and their reviews!
Price: Approx. $90
Weight: 1.3 kg
Dimensions: 8.7 x 4.9 x 0.9 in
Specific features: 23000mAh, 1DC output for laptop, 1 5V USB port, connectors for popular laptops and phones; adjustable voltage of 12V/16V/19V, LED battery indicators, 2-year warranty
Best use: A powerful external battery that can charge multiple devices. Good for long road trips and camps.
Description: The PowerAdd Apollo Pro 23000mAh Panel has a whopping battery capacity of 23000mAh, which is enough to charge an iPad, a smartphone, and a simpler phone. It can be plugged into a wall socket to be charged. It has two easily accessible ports – 1 DC output for laptop and 1 5V USB port for phones.
The solar panel, however, is small and is not very reliable in that there have been many instances when customers have experienced it not solar charging as expected. It automatically starts charging in the sun and takes 24 to 36 hours in good sunlight to get fully charged. It can hold its charge for 90 days between full recharges. It has LED indicators to show the capacity left.
It is automatically turned off if it doesn’t detect a connected device for 30 seconds. It comes with many connectors for different laptops and phones. You can charge your MacBook with a separately purchased MagSafe adapter.
- 23000 mAh
- Comes with 1 DC and 1 USB port for charging
- Compatible with 12V, 16V and 19V
- Automatically turns off when not in used to conserve power
- It needs 24 to 36 hours’ sun exposure to get full charge
- It needs adapter to charge Apple products like MacBook
Related: Together with this product we recommend buying the T-Head Power Bank Male Connector to charge Apple products.
Price: Approx. $100
Weight: 1.1 lbs
Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 6.5 in
Specific features: Removable, universal battery – 4000mAh, 15Wh, voltage selection-6V/12V, 2 panels – monocrystalline, waterproof, urethane coated, charges smartphones, tablets, DSLR cameras, 2-year warranty for the panel and 1-year warranty for the battery.
Best use: Strong enough to be used in tough camping conditions; efficient solar panels and handy battery.
Description: The highly ranked Voltaic System Amp Portable Solar Charger has proved itself to be one of the best solar phone chargers available. Although a little expensive, it is well worth every penny. It includes a battery pack to store energy and power to charge your devices even when it is cloudy and the sun is not out.
It is built using rugged fabric and strong solar cells that can withstand the rigors of everyday use. It comes with 2 year warranty on solar panel and 1 year on the battery pack.
It can charge any 5V device through USB or micro-USB. An indicator shows how much it has charged. The solar panel is lightweight, UV-resistant, and waterproof. The urethane coating on the solar panel not only protects it from damage, but it also makes it easy to clean and maintain the panels. 4 hours of sunlight charges this fully.
The charger can be changed to 12V to facilitate charging of DSLR camera batteries and other such devices. However, it is important to change it back to 6V when charging the battery to avoid damage.
- Compatible with 12V and 16V devices
- Can be used to charge all kinds of gadgets including DSLR batteries
- Urethra coating for added durability especially for outdoor lovers
- Lightweight at 1.1 pound
- It can be charged under the sun or connect it to a USB port to charge
- Low power capacity with only 4000mAh
- It needs to be put back on 6V settings all the time to prevent damaging the battery itself
Related: The Voltaic Amp only comes with the solar panel and the battery, hence if you need to charge your Android phone, we recommend purchasing the Rampow Braided Micro-USB Cable for Samsung, Sony, etc.
Price: Approx. $20
Weight: 10.2 oz.
Dimensions: 0.8 x 3.6 x 6 in
Specific features: 2.1A, dual solar panels, USB or solar chargeable, charge 3 devices at a time, Lithium Polymer battery – 6000mAh, LCD.
Best use: Camping, hiking
Description: The Cobra Electronics CPP 300 SP Solar Charger comes with dual high efficiency solar panels for rapid charging times and fold up design for portability. It provides 2.1 Amp rapid charging to quickly charge your cell phone, smartphone, tablet and other mobile devices.
It has a lightweight 3.7V/6,000mAh lithium-ion battery, which can efficiently charge a device multiple times. Getting two to three smartphone charges is not uncommon. It has illuminated LCD display to indicate battery level.
It has multiple outputs to help to charge up to three devices simultaneously. The CPP 300 can be charged by a USB connection or in the sunlight. However, it takes a long time of around 8 to 12 hours to get fully charged in strong sunlight, and sometimes even longer. It is compact in design and can easily be carried like a handheld device.
- Good for camping with 6000mAh power
- Can be charged with via its solar panel or with a USB port
- Allows charging of 3 devices at the same time
- Very light at 10 ounces
- Comes with an LCD that shows battery status
- Not durable
Related: You can charge up to three smartphones with your Cobra Electronics CPP 300 SP only if you have available USB cables. Always bring your BrexLink USB Certified Type C Cable and avoid having a phone with a dead batt.
Price: Approx. $70
Weight: 13.8 oz.
Dimensions: 19.2 x 9.1 in
Specific features: 8W, monocrystalline panel, foldable, PowerIQ Technology, 18-month warranty
Best use: Can be used to charge external batteries or charge a device live with the panel in sunlight.
Description: The Anker 8W Outdoor Solar Charger is a monocrystalline panel that can be attached to tents, trees or backpacks to charge a USB device. It is light in weight and can be folded so it is compact enough to be packed. It can charge any USB device except the Asus Transformer and iPod Classic.
The port on this solar charger is of a unique PowerIQ technology, by which it detects the device connected charges accordingly, thus charging all devices at optimal speed. A heavy duty canvas binds the panels together, making them weatherproof, though it is advised to keep the device out of water to protect electrical elements.
This charger, however, does not come with a battery and hence, it is capable of charging your device when out in the sun. You may purchase external batteries and charge them with it if you want an option for charging devices at night or low light.
- Not just a charger, it also works as a speaker
- IP67 waterproof (1 m depth)
- Only charges 5V devices
- It is not meant for charging so you can’t expect fast charging when in used
Related: The Anker 8W Outdoor Solar Charger is a speaker and a charger in one. Connect a Rampow USB Cable to charge your phone anytime you’re low on watt.
Price: Approx. $70
Weight: 15.9 oz.
Dimensions: 9.41 x 6.3 x 0.2 in
Specific features: Total 3A across 2 USB ports, high conversion solar charging, iSmart and Smart IC technologies, weatherproof, 2 USB iSmart cables, four hooks for most sunlight capture.
Best use: Camping and trips to charge devices on the go.
Description: The RAVPower 16W Solar Charger uses a high conversion SUNPOWER solar charging technology to receive the maximum power it can get for the weather conditions on a particular day. It also has four hooks to catch the maximum sunlight that it possibly can.
It is foldable, compact, and lightweight for its features. With iSmart and Smart IC technologies, it detects the devices connected to its two USB ports and distributes the output power such that both devices are charged as fast as possible.
You can use it to directly charge your devices when it is sunny or charge separately purchased external batteries with it to use later for charging your devices. Simply attach it to trees, tents, backpacks, or place it on other convenient locations and let it start charging. The panel is compatible with all USB devices. Moreover, it is designed to be weatherproof and can protect itself from water, mold, and other elements.
- Fast charging
- Smart IC technology
- Weatherproof design
- Comes with ISmart USB cables for charging
- A bit heavy at 2.2 pounds
- Large size, not advisable to be carried when traveling
Related: For extra power reserves, together with this product you can purchase the Anker PowerCore Portable Charger that can store whooping 20100mAh.
Price: Approx. $20
Weight: 4.96 oz.
Dimensions: 6.2 x 3.3 x 1.6 in
Specific features: 2.2W SUNPOWER dual panel, built-in lithium polymer battery with 6000mAh capacity, 2.1A output, 2 USB ports, LED indicators, 1-year warranty.
Best use: Anywhere to charge devices – flights, long trips, camping, etc.
Description: The Nekteck Dual Sunpower Solar Panel Power Bank is one of the first portable solar chargers with dual panels. The panels are powerful with 2.2W power. It uses SunPower technology for a high conversion of 21% to 24% to achieve maximum power. Its compact design facilitates ease of carrying, and anti-skid football grain texture facilitates ease of use.
Its output power of 2.1A across two USB ports helps to charge USB devices efficiently. The internal battery is lithium polymer and comes with a capacity of 6000mAh. It can be charged from a wall socket or left to charge in the sunlight. You can hang it at a convenient place with the provided hook.
It is weatherproof with environmentally friendly silicone that protects from rain, dirt, and shock/drops, and so, is versatile enough to be used in tough weather conditions like rain. It comes equipped with over-charge protection system and it has 1000+ recharge lifecycle.
The package includes: Nekteck 6000mAh dual panel solar charger, micro USB cable, carabiner, user manual, and 12 months warranty.
- Small and easy to carry
- Can charge to gadgets at the same time
- Comes with LED status indicator
- Features a LED flashlight
- Not durable
Related: This product comes with 1 free USB cable for charging, but it would be safe to have a backup like the Anker PowerLine Micro USB in case you need to charge two devices at the same time.
Price: Approx. $170
Weight: 8.8 oz.
Dimensions: 4.5 x 3.2 x 1 in
Specific features: IPX6 weatherproof rating, USB & micro USB, 4.8A across two ports, Venture 30 battery pack with 7800mAh capacity, Nomad 7 solar panel, certified cables
Best use: Hiking in all weather conditions
Description: The Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit is undoubtedly one of the most well-performing all-in-one solar chargers. Weatherproof from snow, rain, dust, etc., it cannot even be damaged when submerged in water, in the same time being more efficient than most small solar panels.
The battery can be fully charged in 9 hours in sunlight and 4 hours from a USB. You can charge phones, tablets, cameras, and other devices, two at the same time. You can charge your devices either by connecting them to the Venture 30 battery or the Nomad 7 solar panel. You can also connect your devices to the battery while the battery is charging from the solar panel.
It has built-in Micro USB tip for tangle-free charging for phones and tablets, and the 7,800mAh power pack can power phones (2-3x), tablets (1x) and more. It is lightweight and packable and you can use it from the airport to the trail. The Integrated Flood Charge optimizes your charging time, and the high-speed USB ports have 4.8A capable of dishing out the fastest charge possible.
- Very light at 8.8 ounces
- IPX6 waterproof
- Dual charging options (solar or through USB charger)
- 8A high-speed USB ports
- Little capacity for the price
Related: During seasons when the sun is hiding, you can charge your Goal Zero Venture 30 via USB. Use a Ombrace Dual USB Wall Charger and charge it in as fast as 4 hours.
Price: Approx. $20
Weight: 14.1 oz.
Dimensions: 10.2 x 8 x 1.4 in
Specific features: 7W solar panel, 1.2, monocrystalline, provides up to 5V, 18% efficiency
Best use: Anywhere with strong sunlight
Description: The EasyAcc 7W Solar Panel is a lightweight, compact, and portable solar panel charger that can charge phones and small devices that need to be charged through USB or micro USB. This panel can be used to charge your devices or an external battery. It is made of two square panels that fold thin and can be put in any bag for transport.
The cell type is monocrystalline and it provides up to 5V. It has 18% efficiency. Unfortunately, it only works well under strong sunlight, so you might want to consider using it on summer hikes out of the woods.
The panel can be hooked on your backpack for exposure to the sun. It charges very fast when there is proper sunlight. However, the charging gets slow even with slight interruptions and inside. Overall, good value for the price.
- Charges anywhere where there is strong sunlight
- Able to charge an iPad
- No USB option for charging
- Requires optimal conditions in order to charge
Related: Although the EasyAcc 7w Portable Solar Panel comes with free USB cables for android and Apple, it often doesn’t work properly, hence having your own AmazonBasics Lightning to USB Cable for charging is highly advisable.
Price: Approx. $50
Weight: 1.65 lbs
Dimensions: 13.2 x 7.8 x 1.5 in
Specific features: 20W, iSolar Technology, SUNPOWER, foldable, 2.4A
Best use: Powerful solar panel with efficient features, great to use when hiking, camping, and even indoors.
Description: The X-Dragon 20W Solar Panel is a powerful charger that makes use of technologies like the iSolar technology which can help attain the highest power by adjusting the current and voltage automatically. The high performance of this panel is also because of the SUNPOWER technology which derives the maximum power from sunlight.
The panel is capable of charging any device that is USB compatible including smartphones, tablets, cameras, Google glass, etc. What’s more! All this power of the panel is contained in a slim and relatively lightweight, foldable, and portable package!
- Foldable and easy to transport
- Made of high-quality sunpower solar cells from the us
- Can charge two devices at the same time
- Common feedback was that the solar panel doesn’t get fully charge even after being exposed towards the sun for a long period of time
Related: Keep your X-Dragon 20W Solar Panel Charger protected from dust and scratches when not in use by putting it in a CLC 1100 Clip-on Zippered Poly Bags. Just choose the bag that will fit your X-Dragon.
Price: Approx. $50
Weight: 21.8 oz.
Dimensions: 31.5 x 9.1 x 0.04 in
Specific features: 16W, 2A, iSolar Technology, portable
Best use: Can be used in bright sunlight to charge all USB devices, any outdoor trips and activities
Description: The Allpowers 16W Solar Panel Charger is yet another powerful charger that makes use of iSolar technology for maximum efficiency. It comes with exclusive iSolar and Fast Charging Technology, so it can automatically adjust the current and voltage to achieve maximum power, delivering its fastest possible current up to 2A.
It has high conversion rate of 19% and it is protected with PET Anti-scratch hardened technology. Regarding capacity, the 16 watt monocrystalline PET solar panel provides enough power to charge cellphone and ipad at the same time.
It is easy to use with the provided hook and the compact design that includes eyeholes for easy attachment to backpacks. The solar panels are PET laminated and are sewn into high-wear PVC fabric for great weather resistance. This device is compatible with all 5V USB devices like video games, tablets, smartphones, digital cameras, and others.
- Automatic adjustment of volt/current depending on device being charge
- Made of pet anti-scratch hardened technology
- Can charge two items at the same time
- Compact design, foldable
- The free USB cables are too short
- Only works when under the sun
Related: Charge your phone and stay where you want to be with longer USB cords. Use the SOCW Micro USB Cable and continue whatever you are doing while charging.
To sum it all up, choose a solar panel charger that is capable of charging the devices you would like to use. If you are an extensive user of DSLRs and other high-power-hungry devices, you may want to go for a solar panel charger with more wattage and a suitable battery. If all you want to charge is a seldom used smartphone on short trips in sunny weather, you can get away with a simple solar panel charger without a battery.
If you found this analysis of solar power chargers and their features helpful, don’t forget to let us know in the comments. We would also love to hear your experiences with using sunlight to power your favorite devices.