It always happens — when you need your phones or tablet the most, it is teetering on the edge of shutting down because you drained the battery. It’s even worse when you don’t have access to a power outlet right away. Fortunately, the sun is always on (at least during the day), so why not harness the power of solar energy to keep your devices running even when you’re trekking through the middle of nowhere? Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best solar chargers available, especially when it comes to performance and value. Most of them can juice up several of your devices with a single charge — as long as there are clear skies, of course.
Many solar chargers are marketed as ultra-portable solar options, however, few measure up to the Fuse 6W Solar Charger. The unit comes with a universal attachment system, complete with a set of interlocking clips. This allows you to fasten the charger to the back of your current pack and adjust the straps for a firmer fit. The Fuse 6W charges an external battery, though you can also charge the latter component via a traditional wall outlet or USB. Either way, once charged, the device should provide enough juice to fully charge your smartphone at least once. We tested the Voltaic’s panel-equipped backpack earlier this year, so if you’re in the market for a dedicated solar pack, we suggest giving our Voltaic OffGrid Solar Backpack review a gander.
At a beastly 25,000mAh capacity, RAVPower’s Outdoor Portable Charger has the biggest capacity of any of the solar chargers in our list. It also has the most outputs, allowing for the charging of up to three devices at once, with Quick Charge , USB-C, and iSmart charging ports. It even includes a LED emergency light which has three lighting modes: strong, probe, and SOS. If you’re in a rush, RAVPower does give you the option to charge the power pack via USB. That’s probably a smart idea: RAVPower says it would take 80+ hours to charge your portable battery on sunlight alone!
Unlike some of the clunkier, hard-shell builds on the market, the Arc 20 Watt Solar Charger easily fastens to a variety of awnings, packs, and tents, allowing for consistent charging throughout your adventure. This kit also includes Voltaic‘s V72 Universal Laptop Battery, which is designed with a DC Output, meaning you can charge most laptops at least once. The external battery also includes protection against short circuits and overcharging, so you don’t have to worry about frying your devices.
While the Renogy E.Flex has no battery backup (meaning it’s only useful when the sun’s out), it is one of the cheapest panel-only options that gets both high marks for durability and charging capability. A 1.92A USB port should give you enough amperage to charge your phone in about the same time as you would via traditional power, and even power your phone without draining the battery in full sunlight, something many other panel-only options — most more expensive — cannot do. There is a 5 watt model available on Amazon for only $24, but it produces less than an amp of power to the USB ports, insufficient for many applications.
Solar Paper is the thinnest solar charger available. It measures a mere 0.45 inches at its thickest point, and though it doesn’t contain a built-in battery, a display on the top of the unit will let you know if the charger is receiving enough energy to charge your device. In theory, with no battery to worry about, this particular solar charger could last a long time. There are several different options available, from the basic 5W version ($148) up to a 15W version ($348). Just keep in mind that you’ll need the 5W model if you want to charge your phone, or the 10W or greate if you want to charge tablets or more than one device at a time.
Despite having no battery storage capabilities, Necktek’s solar charge wows us with up to 21 watts of power production, which is more than enough to charge any portable device quickly. Unlike most solar-only chargers (ones without a battery), Necktek’s model does allow for up to two devices to be charged at once. Just keep in mind you’re limited to 3 amps total, so charging two devices will take a good deal longer. Another nice feature is SmartIC, which will intelligently detect the type of device and deliver just the right amount of power to charge the device as quickly as possible.
The ECEEN 13W 2-Port is one of the best 13W chargers we’ve seen. The entire unit weights a mere 9 ounces and measures an inch thick, rendering it exceptionally light and compact. A convenient pouch on the back of the charger also allows you to stow your mobile phone, iPad Mini, and other mobile accessories while charging or on the move. A simple stand on the back of the device extends functionality even further, giving you a means for positioning the solar charger in direct sunlight. And at under $40, ECEEN’s model is currently one of the more affordable solar chargers on the market.