The best solar chargers do something quite magical. They enable you to attend a festival, head off camping, or go hiking in the wilderness without having to worry about the lack of power sockets. Instead you can keep your phone, tablet or laptop topped up, purely using sunlight.
There are two types of solar chargers. With the most basic, you simply connect it to your device, place it in view of the sky, and let it do its thing. Alternatively, you might prefer a solar charger power bank, which has an in-built battery. That way, you can fill it up with power via mains or USB before you leave home, and top up its battery as you go using solar power too.
We'll be honest; with the latter, the solar aspect is going to be quite limited. You're going to be mainly relying on the in-built battery, with the solar panels only really there as an added top-up in case of emergencies. But if that extra trickle of power makes the difference between your phone dying and staying alive, then really, what more do you need?
In this article, we look at both types of solar charger. We'll start with the best solar charger of the basic type, but if you want an in-built battery too, then skip ahead to the best solar power banks.
Solar panels: the best solar charger without a battery(opens in new tab)
If you're looking for a solar charger for your phone or tablet, then right now the BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger is the best on the market. Made up of four 7W solar panels, it's compact enough to take on long journeys, camping trips and festivals. Yet it folds out to quite a large size, which provides enough power for stable, reliable charging, whether you're in dazzling sunshine or under clouds. And the in-built Smart IC Technology means you get the maximum charging speed to your devices.
Stainless steel eye-holes on each corner make it easy to attach the charge to your backpack, tents or other places like a tree or fence. A digital ammeter shows you how many amps are present. And there are three USB ports, allowing you to charge multiple devices simultaneously.
When you're not charging your devices, a special PET polymer surface offers a IPX4 waterproof level to protect it from light rain or wet fog. And best of all, at time of writing it's available for a very reasonable price, making this a no-brainer for anyone wanting a solar charger.(opens in new tab)
Looking for a solar charger at a more affordable price than the BigBlue, number one on our list? The Ryno Tuff Portable Solar Charger is significantly cheaper, but still does a great job of charging your devices. It's lighter, too, at just 481g.
This solar charger is designed to be water-resistant, corrosion-resistant and treated to withstand high temperatures. There are two USB ports, hidden in a protective pocket. And there are two carabiner hooks for hanging it on your backpack, tent, bike or vehicle. So while its output of 21W isn't as powerful as the BigBlue's, it's still a worthy option, especially at this affordable price.(opens in new tab)
When you're out on the trial for days, weeks or even months, you want to keep your backpack as light as possible. And so you'll appreciate that the Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel weighs just 360g.
To achieve that, you're making a compromise on power: this charger doesn't fold out, and so can only provide a maximum 5W of juice for your devices; hence there's only one USB output. On the plus side, though, there's a built-in kickstand so you can angle it for optimal solar collection, there's an attachment point at each corner for strapping it to your rucksack, and it's nice and cheap, too.
The Goal Zero Nomad 20 is much heavier than its sibling, but a kilo isn't too much to carry on a camping trip, and you're basically getting three solar panels in one. It's rugged and durable, folds down nice and flat, and provides an impressive 20W of power in full sunshine.
When it comes to connectivity you have two choices: an attached 8mm cable that plugs directly into a portable power station (20W), or a USB-A port which lets you charge smartphones, camera batteries and the like at up to 10W. For more details, see our Goal Zero Nomad 20 solar panel charger review.
Solar power banks: the best solar charger with a battery(opens in new tab)
Want to a solar charger with its own battery? The Anker PowerCore Solar 20000 is our top recommendation. You get both a USB-A and USB-C port, and with a 20,000mAh capacity battery, you'll have plenty of onboard juice to keep your devices topped up. To put that in context, it's enough charge up an iPhone 12 around 4.7 times, a Galaxy S20 3.4 times, and an iPad mini 2.7 times.
Plus, while the battery is running down, you can be topping it up again via the solar panels. Don't expect miracles: it can take several days to fully charge in this way. But it does give you that extra bit of juice that will stop you worrying about running out.
This power bank is also dustproof and water-resistant to IP65 standards, comes with four-corner drop protection, a handle, and an in-built flashlight, making it a good choice for outdoor adventuring. You get a USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, too, along with a Handy-Carry wrist strap.(opens in new tab)
Want a solar charger power bank that's a bit cheaper than the Anker PowerCore Solar 20000, above? Addtop may be a less well-known brand, but its Solar Charger Power Bank is a great little device. It comes with four fold-out solar panels, two USB-C ports and an in-built flashlight, plus a generous 25,000mAh battery. Its solar power output is 5W, which isn't enormous, but it does the job well, and at this price it represents very good value.(opens in new tab)
If you want wireless charging from your solar power bank, here's our top recommendation. You can juice up any device that supports Qi charging simply by placing it on the power bank. Alternatively make a wired connection to any of three ports (one USB-C and two USB-A). Or you can use everything at once, and charge four devices simultaneously.
There's a generous 36,000mAh battery on board, which should be enough to charge an iPhone XS (opens in new tab) for seven times, Samsung Galaxy S10 (opens in new tab) five times, an iPad Pro (opens in new tab) twice, and a Huawei P30 up to five times. And then there's the added benefit of being able to top up your charger through solar energy. That said, the makers warn that you should not depend on this. In their own words: "Solar charging is for emergency use, do not take solar power as a primary charging source. It is highly recommend you fully charge via wall charger on first use."
On the plus side, this is a great power bank for outdoors, as it's IP66 rain-proof, dust-proof, shock-proof and splash-proof. It also comes with an LED flashlight with three modes: lighting, flashing and SOS. And at time of writing, it was the cheapest option on this entire list.
The BioLite SolarPanel10+ can be used to charge your laptop, smartphone or power bank directly from sunlight: our reviewer found it took six hours to put an 80% charge into a 10,000mAh portable battery. The charger works more effectively when aimed directly at the Sun, so there's a small sundial on the BioLite SolarPanel10+ to help you do that.
If you don't have blue skies and all day to spare, you can also use the onboard 3,200 mAh battery to charge your devices directly. Plus that battery, as you might have guessed, can be charged up from sunlight itself.
At just 3,200 mAh, though, it's the smallest on our list, though, and by itself won't even give your smartphone a full charge. But if you're going to be off-grid for a long time, it does provide a practical way to keep your devices juiced up without going near a power socket. For more details, see our BioLite SolarPanel10+ review.
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