The best solar chargers are both environmentally friendly and super-useful. They mean that when you're away from a socket on a camping trip, at a festival or hiking through the wilderness, you can keep your devices topped up, purely from the energy emitted by the sun.
There are two broad types of solar chargers. With the most basic type, you simply connect it to your device, place it in view of the sky, and let it do its magic. 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 hey, if that extra trickle of power makes the difference between your phone dying and staying online, then won't you feel smug?
In this article, we look at both types of solar charger. We'll start with the best solar charger without an in-built battery, but if you're only interested in the other type, then skip ahead to the best solar power banks.
Solar panels: the best solar charger without a battery
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.
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.
Based on three fold-out solar panels, SunJack 25W delivers consistent performance, in both sunshine and cloudy conditions. And on average, it charges faster than any other battery-free solar charger on our list, even though it's not the most powerful overall.
You get two USB outputs, and two carabiners are perfect for attaching it to your backpack. It's also got a rugged and waterproof ETFE-coated design that makes it great for camping, boating, festivals and other outdoor activities. On the downside, it's also the heaviest and most expensive on our list... but at least you can see what you're getting for the extra weight and cost.
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.
Solar power banks: the best solar charger with a battery
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.
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.
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 for seven times, Samsung Galaxy S10 five times, an iPad Pro 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.
Like the DJRoll Power Bank above, the Hiluckey Wireless Solar Charger can charge Qi-enabled devices wirelessly, and charge four devices simultaneously, using its two USB-A and one USB-C ports. It also has a flashlight.
The onboard battery is a generous 26,800mAh, which is enough to charge an iPhone 11 eight times, a Samsung S10 six times and an iPad three times. And this is the lightest solar power bank on our list. The solar panel is, in truth, not going to add a huge amount of charging capacity, but does provide some added peace of mind for when you're getting close to draining your onboard battery.