We all know battery power runs out at the moment we need it most, whether on our smartphones, tablets or laptops. Now, if a power supply is readily available that’s fine, but what about those times when you’re on the move and there’s no power supply in sight? Fortunately a new line of solar panel chargers has hit the market in recent years that’s ultra-portable and uses the most eco-friendly energy source we have in the sun. There’s no need to worry if the sun doesn’t shine too often either, as the UV rays are what is important!
The selection of portable solar charges on the market is extensive and range from those that fit in your hand to those that roll out into mats to maximize the potential to receive solar energy.
Here we take a look at how to find the best portable solar panel chargers and some of the things you need to think about to make sure you get the right charger for your needs.
- The Best Solar Power Bank
- The Best Solar Power Chargers
- Q&A: Solar Power Charger and Solar Power Bank
- What do I need to know about ‘Watts’?
- What can I charge with my ‘Watts’?
- Does the size of the solar panel make a difference?
- What about the amount of sunlight available?
- What solar charger is right for me?
- What if I want portability?
- What if I am on a long trip away form the mains?
- If its solar, why do I need an external battery?
- Portable Solar Charger Factors
The Best Solar Power Bank
FKANT 10000mAh Solar Power Bank (best on budget)
At one of the cheapest on the market, this is the best solar charger for those on the move and on a budget. It has also received top marks for durability and is a good option for the more accident prone or those travelling in more rugged conditions.
Delivering 10,000mAh this charger can charge a smartphone three times over when the solar charger is at capacity and with two USB ports you can use it to charge two devices simultaneously. This solar charger is compact, around the same size as an iPhone 8, so will fit into your handbag or backpack without weighing you down or taking up much room.
It also comes fitted with a carabiner so you can attach it to your bag and can catch the rays as you move on to your next destination. There is also a handy flash-light on the solar panel charger, an added bonus to this bargain product and a useful addition for short camping trips or for when you can’t find your keys at the bottom of your bag.
The value of this product does not mean that it falls short of safety, the charger is fitted with multi-protections to protect itself from overload and overheating. A great all-rounder for those on a budget!
Q: Does it charge tablets?
A: Yes, this will charge most devices, so long as they can be charged through USB.
Q: Can I charge my device when it is collecting solar power?
A: Yes, indeed!
Q: Is it rain resistant?
A: It is both rain and dust resistant, just make sure to close the waterproof lips if it is likely to be getting wet.
Q: Can I take it on a plane?
A: Yes, ICAO provisions state power banks under 160Wh can be taken on planes.
Soluser 25000mAh Solar Power Bank (high end)
With a built-in 25000mAh polymer battery this portable solar bank is the most powerful of the handbag size models and for this, you pay twice the price. The robust outer packaging makes this device rain-proof, dustproof and shock-resistant so a great option for those going on an adventure outdoors. It also has a built-in powerful LED light which comes in handy for camping trips and can be relied upon to last throughout the night.
Its dual USB output allows you to charge two devices at once. While at the higher end of the market in terms of price, this solar power bank, with its powerful battery, will allow you to charge your smartphone six times and is capable of charging a tablet sufficiently also.
As with all of the portable solar power chargers in this category the small solar panel means that it takes a long time to charge through solely UV rays, however, it comes with a USB cable so you can still charge it the old-fashioned way.
Q: As it charges best with mains electricity why not just use a cheaper USB backup battery?
A: Although it charges best with mains electricity, if you have the time it can run purely on solar power, and the solar power functionality can also be useful to top up the energy on long trips.
Q: How long does it take to charge a smartphone?
A: In 1-2 hours, so pretty quickly!
Q: Where is it made?
A: It is made in China but the company have a warehouse in the US so it will only take 1-2 days for delivery.
Q: Is the internal battery replaceable?
A: It is possible to replace the battery if desired, but it might end up costing you as much as a replacement in time and effort!
The Best Solar Power Chargers
RAVPower 16W Solar Charger (Best Value)
If you’re looking to charge anything up to an iPad, then the super-efficient RAVPower Solar Charger 16W Solar Panel is the best portable solar charger for you. It is a great all-rounder, at a reasonable price to make sure you can stay juiced up no matter where you find yourself. These ultra-efficient solar cells convert up to 23.5% of solar power into energy for your own personal consumption!
It is both lightweight and compact (at just 15.9oz and 9.41 × 6.3 × 0.2 in) and with a simple folding system has excellent portability. The sturdy nylon case also provides great protection for the dual USB charging ports which allow you to charge multiple items simultaneously no matter your environment. Even on an overcast day, you will get a decent amount of charge from the RAVPower, the best solar battery pack for your money.
Q: Does the RAVPower hold its charge?
A: No, you will need to plug your device in when the sun is shining or buy a battery pack.
Q: What is the difference between the 16W and the 9W?
A: The main difference is extra power for the two ports for dual charging.
Q: Will the RAVPower continue charging on its own after a sunlight interruption?
A: It can, it has an auto-restart function in case of any interruption.
Q: What is iSmart technology?
A: This means the RAVPower will automatically detect and deliver the optimal charge for whatever device you plug into it.
Anker 21W Solar Charger (Best on budget)
If you’re on a budget but need a solar power charger with a high wattage the Anker 21W Dual USB Solar Charger is the best solar panel charger for you. With the advantage of the dual USB port this charger allows you to charge two devices at the same time, it is also fitted with PowerIQ technology which means it can match your device’s charging speed up to 2.4 amps per port or 3 amps overall.
It has a compact and lightweight design (11.1 × 6.3in folded or 26.4 × 11.1in opened, 14.7 oz ) makes it a favourable travel companion and it also comes with stainless-steel eye-holes on each corner so that you can attach to your backpack, trees, and tends to allow for maximum sun exposure.
It’s durability is also an attraction for those using the solar power charger on treks or camping trips as the plastic covered panels and polyester canvas gives this product weather-resistant outdoor durability. Even in indirect sunlight, this solar charger performs so a good option for trips where sunshine may be in short supply.
Q: Does it need to charge in the sun before I can use it?
A: It does not have a battery pack so you will have to plug your device in to charge it directly. You can charge battery packs with it though.
Q: Is this product rain resistant?
A: It can take a dive in a lake and will still work!
Q: How do I know if it is working?
A: When there is enough sun a red LED light will come on.
Q: Should I leave it in the car so it is hotter?
A: Although this is very durable it is not advisable to increase the heat to any battery. Also, solar panels actually perform best in the cold, so best to leave it on top of the car.
Suaoki 100W Solar Charger: Best for power (and to splash the cash)
If budget is not an issue and you are looking for extra power the Suaoki 100W 18V 12V Solar Panel Charger is the best portable solar charger for you. The 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel has a conversion efficiency of up to 22% and is equipped with both USB and DC ports enabling it to charge smartphones, tablets and laptops.
The solar panel is protected with a waterproof layer and weighs a not excessive 7.7lbs making it easy to transport and safe to take out without whatever the weather, while the built-in smart IC for each port means it automatically identifies the current of your equipment to speed up charging times.
Included is not just the well designed, easily foldable dual port charger, but also a DC to DC cable, a 10 in 1 connector cable for laptops and a whopping 24-month warranty. So although at the higher end of the market, you get decent value for your money with these added accessories and security.
Q: How many milliamps does this charger have?
A: This charger is packed with 1000 milliamps
Q: If you don’t use it frequently, will it still work?
A: As it does not contain a battery it can be stored for long periods without causing any damage. Just make sure to store it in a cool and DARK place!
Q: How many USB outputs does this have?
A: This particular device only has one USB output.
Q: Can this be charged through a window?
A: It gets the best results when placed in direct sunlight.
Q&A: Solar Power Charger and Solar Power Bank
What do I need to know about ‘Watts’?
As mentioned, one of the first considerations you need to make when trying to pick the best solar battery pack for your needs is what you are going to be charging with it. Some phones charge at twice the speed of others, so if your phone has a sluggish charge you’ll want to check the Watt output of the solar charger is quicker, but watch out for companies which make exaggerated claims about power to mislead customers. To help spot this you need to understand about Watt output.
Watt output indicates the ratio of power to the battery life of the charger – meaning the amount of use that can be gotten out of the charger. For example, 12 watts would take close to 2 hours to charge a smartphone. If the device your charging requires more energy, you’ll need a bigger output.
What can I charge with my ‘Watts’?
Solar panels are rated in watts and, to put it simply, the higher the number of watts the more electricity is generated. Generally for smaller devices such as an mp3 player or a simple cell phone (not a smartphone) a 4 or 5-watt panel would be fine, however, when it comes to smartphones this would be insufficient and a 7-watt panel would be needed.
The wattage requirements get higher for electrical items such as tablets (like an iPad) which would need at least a 15-watt panel and when it comes to laptops 20 watts + are required. In summary the larger the wattage the faster your device will charge, and more power-hungry devices require panels with a higher wattage of power.
Does the size of the solar panel make a difference?
Yes, it is important to consider the size of the solar panel on the solar battery pack. The larger the solar panel the more energy it generates and it will be able to charge devices faster than a smaller device. So if you are planning on using the solar charger for multiple/or larger devices, or need your gadgets to charge quickly, it would be best to buy a portable solar panel with the maximum surface area – one that you can roll out and allow to soak up those UV rays.
What about the amount of sunlight available?
It is important to consider how much exposure to sunlight you will have when needing to use your portable solar charger. Solar panel ratings are calculated in bright and direct sunlight, so when they are at their most effective. While the solar panel will still charge when not in direct sunlight, the output will not be as high and so conditions such as overcast, partial shade and indirect sunlight will decrease the output.
It is, therefore, important to consider where and at what time of year you will be using your portable solar charger and look into its performance in indirect sunlight. If you are going to be in less sunny parts of the world a fast-charging, powerful panel with a high wattage is recommended so that you can charge your device quickly when the sun makes an appearance.
In a nutshell, the amount of electricity a portable solar panel charger can generate depends on the panel’s efficiency, it’s exposure to sunlight, and the size of the solar panel – the bigger the better!
What solar charger is right for me?
The type of portable solar charger you need will be influenced by the scenarios you will be using it in. Some portable solar chargers come with integrated batteries, so the solar panel and the battery are in one pack – great for portability. These are the types that are useful for an emergency charge of your cell phone or mp3 player when you are making a short trip, have no other means of electricity, and want to stay connected.
These chargers are lightweight and can fit in your bag along with your other everyday essentials. The word ‘emergency’ is key here with this type of portable solar charger, they would not be suitable if solar power was your sole energy source on a trip, as the solar panels are small so do not generate a lot of energy and generally take a long time to charge a device.
What if I want portability?
If keeping connected on the go while out and about on a day to day basis is your main aim the portable solar chargers with integrated batteries are a good option as you can charge the solar panel whenever the sun breaks through the clouds and then use it when your cell phone is in the red.
What if I am on a long trip away form the mains?
If you are planning a longer trip with little access to mains electricity a solar charging device with an external battery is recommended. This means that the solar panel charges up a battery that you can then use to charge up your devices – so your device does not need to be connected to the solar panel to charge. This is useful as you can leave the solar panel to charge in the daytime to allow maximum exposure to UV rays and as the battery is external the solar panel is generally a lot bigger than those with integrated batteries, so can soak up more energy.
If its solar, why do I need an external battery?
If you are needing to keep your cell phone charged for a trip that lasts 3-4 days and solar is your only energy source, a portable solar charger with an external battery would be required rather than one with an integrated battery. For devices such as tablets and laptops, this type of portable solar charger is essential to keep the juice flowing in these gadgets.
In summary, these are the factors you need to think about when choosing your portable solar charger:
Portable Solar Charger Factors
What device you want to charge
the higher the wattage the more powerful the device will be, so it is important to consider what gadgets you will be charging to help you pick the best solar panel charger.
Where you will be
solar panels charge most effectively when in direct sunlight, and will charge slower in cloudy and overcast conditions. If you are likely to be somewhere where direct sunlight is rare it is likely a larger charger will be the best portable solar charger for you. The larger the solar panel the more UV rays it can soak up, more energy generated and the more effective the device will be.
How long you need to use it for
the length of time you need to rely on the portable solar charger for your energy needs, is an important point to consider. If you just need some extra charge on your cell phone on a short trip or day out a solar charger with an internal battery will be the best solar phone charger to do the job. However, if you need to rely on solar power for a long period of time a portable solar charger with an external battery will be required. Solar chargers with external batteries will also be necessary if you are needing to charge tablets, laptops, and cameras.
It’s important to remember that we can run out of power at the moment we most need it. With more and more powerful devices available there is a concomitant increasing need for power on the go, meaning solar power chargers are a growing market, but you have to do your research!
From the best solar power chargers above you will be able to find the charger to suit whatever your needs. Remember, if its power you’re after, then make sure to pick a portable solar charger that contains larger, preferably mono-crystalline, panels, that can take in the most light to convert rapidly into the energy you need to juice up your devices. With the increasing need to use greener energy, what better device is there to ensure you can use more energy at less cost for both you and the planet?