Solar chargers have come a long way in recent years, becoming more portable, lightweight, and undeniably handy. Perfect for camping, theyâ€™re also useful for emergency preparedness, or just taking advantage of the windows on the sunny side of your house. These sunlight-sipping devices can charge your phoneâ€™s battery, power a small radio, or keep an emergency flashlight illuminated when you need it most.
The best solar chargers are easy to pack away, providing ample power when needed. 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 your lifestyle and needs.
Finding the best solar charger for your needs depends on a few factors, such as style, size, and number of charging ports, as well as wattage and milliamp ratings. If youâ€™re new to the world of solar charging, donâ€™t fret. This guide will plug you into the must-have features you should consider.
There are two main types of solar chargers on the market; solar power banks and solar panels.
Wattage ratings quantify a solar panelâ€™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 you should understand that the higher the rating, the higher the panelâ€™s efficiency.
Milliamp ratings, represented as â€śmAh,â€ť describe a power bankâ€™s capacity. For example, if your phone requires 100mAh to charge from zero to 100 percent, and your power bank has a battery capacity of 1000mAh, then theoretically, that power bank could charge your phone ten 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 batteryâ€™s capacity.
Size is a significant consideration when choosing a solar charger, 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 whatâ€™s most convenient for your intended use.
The ability to charge a few devices at the same time can be a lifesaver. Charging both a phone and a flashlight simultaneously can mean the difference between getting home safely or disaster during an adventure gone sideways. Also, the sheer convenience of being able to charge a laptop and cellphone together means you can bring your office anywhere. Plug both devices into the charger, flip on your phoneâ€™s hotspot, and get to work.
The GoerTek is a versatile charger with some standout features. To start, its compact size is appealing for anyone who might need to keep a charger in a bag for work or a hiking trip. It features a 25000 mAh battery and can charge three devices at once. The bank can be charged at home with the included adapter. It features a 36-LED flashlight with three lighting modes (low, medium, and high). The GoerTek also includes a handy carabiner, so snapping it onto a backpack or belt loop is no problem.
Solar charging, for which itâ€™s intended, is probably the weakest part of the GoerTekâ€™s game. Using solar power alone will keep the unit charged, but not to its maximum capacity. Sunlight will only yield about a 50 percent charge. It needs to be charged by USB input from an outlet to reach 100 percent capacity.
The BigBlue 28W Solar Charger is an excellent option for quickly charging multiple devices on a sunny day. This charger includes four large panels (approximately 11Ă—6 inches) 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.
As with most folding solar panels, durability can become an issue. The fact that wires need to fold between the panels makes them susceptible to breaking. As such, users should take care when folding and storing the BigBlue to ensure its longevity.
The F.Dorla 20000mAh Portable Outdoor Waterproof Solar Power Bank is durable and reliableâ€”and available at a wallet-friendly price point. It has a built-in solar panel and a silicone-based shell. This design makes it shock, dust, and water-resistant. The 20000mAh battery can be charged via solar power or by plugging into an outlet. It also features a built-in LED flashlight. The F.Dorla accommodates up to two USB devices at a time, and is small enough to be thrown in or hooked onto a backpack.
F.Dorla suggests this unit be charged by outlet before heading out on a camping trip. The reason being the relatively compact size and lack of folding panels make this a slower-charging unit if relying on sunlight only.
The X-DRAGON 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 your devices as you go. X-DRAGON states that its panels are 22 to 25 percent efficient, so charging two devices at a time shouldnâ€™t be a problem. Finally, it automatically adjusts the current and voltage to achieve maximum power at all times.
At 20 watts, this wonâ€™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 overchargingâ€”definitely something to consider before purchasing.
This portable solar charger by Hiluckey is an excellent blend of the panel and bank styles. This charger has a higher-capacity (25000mAh) onboard battery, but also features four folding solar panels. Hiluckey states that this solar panel/bank combination charges itself in the sunlight four- to six-times faster than other power banks on the market. The built-in LED flashlight is also a nice feature. Factor in that it holds a charge for up to nine days and charges two devices at once, and itâ€™s easy to recognize this chargerâ€™s convenience. It can also operate through a USB adapter.
The Hiluckey can be hung from a backpack for hiking trips, but it doesnâ€™t come with a way to attach it to a bag. There is a loop intended for this use, but it doesnâ€™t include a clip to attach it to anything. Keep that in mind if youâ€™re purchasing it for backpacking use.