Iâ€™ve had a soft spot for solar panels for a long time. It started over a decade ago, when I bought a solar panel to bring camping, using it to trickle charge our trailerâ€™s batteries when camping off the grid. It worked (slowly), but the technology clearly wasnâ€™t ready for mainstream adoption. Ever since that early experience, Iâ€™ve been waiting for the moment when solar charging for devices reached the point where it makes sense for more than diehards. Iâ€™ve been trying out the Jackery SolarSaga 100W portable solar panel, and for the first time, it feels as though Iâ€™m not making compromises by using a solar panel instead of a wall outlet.
The $299.99 SolarSaga unfolds into a panel thatâ€™s four feet across and 21-inches tall. There are two built-in kickstands that let you adjust the angle to maximize sun exposure, and they keep it quite stable. A large, zippered pocket is sewn into the back of the panel. Inside is a charging hub with a permanent, integrated 3-foot DC 8mm output cable. There is also a 2.5V/2A USB-A port and a 5V/3A USB-C port.
You can use the SolarSaga to charge a portable power bank like the Jackery Explorer 500 I reviewed earlier this year. Jackery includes an adapter ( 2 x DC to single 18V Anderson output) in the box that supports the use of two panels in parallelâ€”assuming you own a second oneâ€”to double-up the charging output for use with high capacity power banks.
You can also use the solar panel to directly charge your mobile devices. I plugged in a zero battery level iPad Mini and a smartphone and left the SolarSaga to do its thing on my back deck. It was a hazy day, not exactly blazing sunshine, and I made little effort to adjust the position of the panel through the day. I moved it once. After being outside for about eight hours, I brought the lot in. Both devices had been fully charged.
I tried it out with a high capacity 1,000Wh power station on an overcast day, and despite the cloud cover all day the solar panel was still able to boost the power stationâ€™s battery level by 10%. I used a Jackery power station, but you can use this panel with models from other manufacturers (although power cable adapters may be required).
The SolarSaga is portable, but that being said, itâ€™s not exactly something you slip in a backpack. The panel folds in two, into a very easy to carry black package (thereâ€™s durable fabric on the exterior) with handy magnetic connectors and an integrated handle. This brings it down to 22 x 24-inches, 1.8-inches thick, and it weighs 9.1 pounds. The kickstands fold down and stay in place with Velcro fasteners, and the charger and cable remain integrated into the external zip pocketâ€”which also has room to stow other cables.
The main constraint is that itâ€™s not meant to be exposed to water. Cloudy days are no problem (although efficiency obviously falls), but if rain is in the forecast, youâ€™ll want to fold it up and bring it indoors.
Using this solar panel was a night and day experience compared to the one I bought 12 years ago. That was roughly the same size, but far thicker. It had a metal frame, couldnâ€™t be folded, and weighed at least twice what the SolarSaga does. Despite the size, the cells at that time were far less efficient and it was able to produce a maximum output of 15W. In addition, it was far from plug-and-play. I had to wire it to a charge controller every time it was used.
The difference is pretty striking. The SolarSaga is so much more convenient and efficient that itâ€™s actually practical, and not a solution you use just because you want to embrace solar powerâ€¦
If youâ€™re interested in a green charging optionâ€”or one thatâ€™s not reliant on an electrical grid that could be offline during an emergency situationâ€”thereâ€™s a lot to like about the Jackery SolarSaga 100W portable solar panel.
Itâ€™s not cheap, itâ€™s not tiny, and you need to keep it dry. But it does the job when you need to directly charge your mobile devices, even on days when itâ€™s not perfectly sunny. One (or two) of these panels can be combined with a portable power station for a battery-powered emergency or camping power solution that doesnâ€™t need an electrical outlet, can safely be used indoors, and can keep devices running indefinitely.
Disclosure: Jackery provided a solar panel for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.