February 12, 2018 Solar Energy Written by Greentumble Editorial Team
We all know the sudden drama that happens

during our outside pursuits when we see a “low battery” warning on our phone, tablet, digital camera or other device. Outdoors you’ll find yourself many times far from any power outlet to recharge your devices.

What will you do then? Have you ever considered carrying with you a solar powered phone charger?

Whether you’re on a camping trip, mountain biking, traveling the world or just walking around town a portable solar charger can help keep your devices powered up anywhere under the sun.

The idea of portable solar gear that uses free off-grid solar energy to power up our mobile lifestyle is pretty amazing. It’s surely one of the best inventions of this century.

Solar chargers come in many different shapes, sizes and efficiency ratings. We’ve done the hard work already and picked the top five solar powered chargers available right now for sale on Amazon that have the latest photovoltaic (PV) technology and the best charging performance.

We have also included a buyer’s guide at the end of the article where you’ll find everything you need to know about choosing the best solar charger, so make sure to check that out as well.

 

Best Overall: Anker PowerPort 21W Solar Powered Charger

 
Anker PowerPort 21W Solar Powered Phone Battery Charger
 

The Anker PowerPort 21W is our top pick for the best solar phone battery charger to buy in 2018 because it offers a remarkable combination of manufacturing quality, price, portability, and charging speed.

9.5/10 ★ Solar Charging Speed

8.5/10 ★ Charge Interruption Recovery

9.0/10 ★ Portability

9.0/10 ★ Price

It features highly efficient energy conversion SUNPOWER solar cells and PowerIQ technology which means that it will automatically recognize the charging protocol of your device so that it can deliver the most suitable and fastest charge possible.

What makes Anker the best portable solar charger for almost any kind of environment is also its charging performance in diverse weather conditions. It delivers a steady energy flow even in cloudy days so you can confidently plan your outdoor activities without having to worry about low battery devices.

The Anker PowerPort delivers 21 Watts under direct sunlight and it charged our iPhone 7 from zero to full in about two hours. During cloudy days the charging capacity varies according to the cloud exposure, but it should be able to charge anywhere from 20 percent and above which will be very useful especially in emergency situations.

The PowerPort is made of three polymer-faced solar panels sewn into a durable canvas and a fourth section that’s more like a small pouch for storing your iPhone or Android phone while charging.

Anker

Inside the pouch there are also two USB ports that deliver up to 2.4A per port or 3 amps overall (depending on how much direct sunlight hits the solar panels), and a small LED that indicates when there is power flowing from the panels.

What about portability? The Anker PowerPort 21W weighs just 14.7 ounces and the entire solar charger folds up to about an inch thick. This makes it perfect to carry around when traveling, backpacking, going to work, or school.

To get the most out of your portable solar gear, we highly recommend pairing the Anker with a USB battery pack. For example, the Anker PowerCore Elite 20,000 mAh power bank is fully compatible with the Anker PowerPort 21W solar charger and it can store enough energy to charge an iPhone 7 from zero to full six times. A portable battery pack like this one is a must-have since the solar chargers themselves cannot store energy and provide it during night time when the sun is not around. With a charged power bank, you are powered up 24/7.

Pros

What we like:

  • Great value for the price
  • The PowerIQ technology
  • Amazing charging speed
  • Two USB ports
  • High quality material
  • Very compacted when folded
  • 18-month warranty

Cons

What we don’t like:

  • Removable USB hub would make packing better
  • Some mini carabiners included would be useful


 
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Best for Price: X-Dragon 10,000 mAh Portable Solar Power Bank

 
X-dragon solar power bank
 

9.0/10 ★ Power Bank Charging Speed

4.5/10 ★ Solar Charging Speed (Very Poor)

8.5/10 ★ Charge Interruption Recovery

10/10 ★ Portability

10/10 ★ Price

The X-Dragon 10,000 mAh had the best performance in the solar power bank category. If you’re looking for a solar power bank, look no further than this one.

It features 4 small solar panels that deliver in total 4.8W under direct sun. That’s the most wattage output you can get out of a solar power bank at this moment. While the solar panels on the Anker PowerPort 21W perform four to five times better than the X-Dragon, the PowerPort doesn’t have its own power storage. When there is no sun, there is no power flowing, so an additional external battery is needed to keep devices charged up when the sun is not around.

The X-Dragon on the other hand, has a built-in battery pack with a capacity of 10,000 mAh which can store enough energy to charge an iPhone 7 about three times and has two USB ports to charge your friend’s smartphone in the same time.

The built-in battery can be recharged by sunlight, but also by wall outlet. It comes with a built-in flashlight and four LEDs that indicate battery life. The casing is shock-proof, dust-proof and water resistant. Great for outdoors 🙂

The only drawback of this solar power bank is the charging speed from the small solar panels. In full sun, the X-Dragon built-in battery could reach just 15 percent battery after three hours. However, the charging speed from the built-in battery to our iPhone 7 was very similar to the Anker PowerPort 21W.

We recommend to always charge the power bank by wall outlet before heading outdoors. This way you’ll have enough power to recharge your devices several times, regardless of weather or time of the day. The solar panels on the X-Dragon are not designed as the primary source of charging, but they are a very good alternative to add extra power to the power bank anytime you’re under the sun.

Pros

What we like:

  • Great value for the price
  • High-capacity 10,000 mAh battery
  • Overcharge protection
  • Two USB ports
  • High quality material
  • Very compacted when folded
  • 18-month warranty

Cons

What we don’t like:

  • Slow charging speed from the solar panels


 
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Best Solar Phone Charger: OUTXE 20,000 mAh

 
Outxe solar power bank
 

10/10 ★ Power Bank Charging Speed

3.0/10 ★ Solar Charging Speed (Very Poor)

8.0/10 ★ Charge Interruption Recovery

9.5/10 ★ Portability

9.5/10 ★ Price

No matter what environment you’re dealing with, the OUTXE is the Range Rover of solar power banks. With an ultra-portable design, this solar charger is IP67 waterproof, dust-proof and shock-resistant.

It features a solid construction and a high-capacity 20,000 mAh battery that can hold enough power to charge an iPhone 7 more than six times. The integrated solar panel contains a single 2W crystal that can charge the battery under the sun for emergency purposes. The charging speed from the solar panel is very slow, so it’s recommended to always charge the battery from a wall outlet before heading outdoors.

The OUTXE solar charger comes with a built-in flashlight and has six LEDs that indicate battery life and solar panel charging.

An impressive feature unique to this solar charger is the ultra fast charging speed it provides. In less than 1 hour the OUTXE charged our iPhone 7 from empty battery to full. That’s two times faster than its competitors.

Pros

What we like:

  • Great value for the price
  • High-capacity 20,000 mAh battery
  • Fast charging speed from the battery pack
  • Two USB ports
  • High quality material
  • Great for charging smartphones and tablets

Cons

What we don’t like:

  • Slow charging speed from the solar panel
  • Could be more lightweight


 
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Best for Camping: RAVPower 24W Portable Solar Charger

 
RAVPower 24W Solar Charger
 

9.5/10 ★ Charging Speed

8.5/10 ★ Charge Interruption Recovery

8.0/10 ★ Portability

8.5/10 ★ Price

Designed with the outdoor camper in mind, the RAVPower 24W is a solar charging beast, performing very close to our award winner, the Anker PowerPort 21W. It delivers 24 Watts under direct sun and comes with three USB ports, which is more than enough to power up almost any power-hungry devices you bring outdoors. The SUNPOWER solar cells feature the latest photovoltaic technology and have an efficiency rating of up to 22-23 percent, similar to those found in residential solar systems.

With a solid weatherproof construction, the RAVPower can be easily folded and comes with four stainless steel hooks to attach it anywhere you want (on a backpack, tent, bike, etc.).

Weighing 26.4 ounces, the RAVPower 24W is a bit more heavy than the Anker. Other than that, the RAVPower proved to be very close to the Anker PowerPort 21W in all other metrics we tested.

Pros

What we like:

  • Great value for the price
  • Amazing charging speed
  • Three USB ports
  • High quality material
  • Comes with hooks
  • Portable

Cons

What we don’t like:

  • Could be more lightweight


 
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Best Portable Solar Kit: Voltaic Systems Arc 20W Solar Charger with Battery Pack

 
Voltaic Arc 20W solar charger kit
 

9.5/10 ★ Power Bank Charging Speed

10/10 ★ Solar Charging Speed

9.5/10 ★ Charge Interruption Recovery

8.0/10 ★ Portability

6.5/10 ★ Price

This amazing device boasts an impressive charging speed that performs very similar to the Anker PowerPort 21W and RAVPower 24W. It uses industry leading monocrystalline solar cells to offer a rapid charge and can bring a smartphone to full battery in less than two hours. It can even charge a laptop in just 6.5 hours when under direct sunlight.

The panels are waterproof, UV protected, and scratch-resistant, offering you a durable and reliable portable power station anywhere you go. Although the Voltaic Arc solar charger is a bit on the pricier side, it comes with a powerful 19,800 mAh battery that can hold enough power to charge a smartphone up to seven times, a DSLR battery three to four times or a laptop battery from zero to full (once).

The Voltaic Arc solar panels can power up the built-in battery, which has twice as much capacity than the X-Dragon‘s battery, in less than six hours in direct sunlight. When plugged in a wall outlet, the battery takes about three hours for a full charge.

Weighing 3.25 pounds, the Voltaic Arc is not as lightweight as the competition, but it’s still a compact charger that can fit just about anywhere. Because of its reliability and power, this portable solar charger kit is frequently used by mountaineers in their expeditions.

Pros

What we like:

  • Amazing charging speed
  • High-capacity 19,800 mAh battery
  • Overcharge protection
  • Compatible with laptops and DSLRs
  • High quality material
  • Very compacted when folded
  • 24-month warranty

Cons

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive
  • Could be more lightweight


 
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Most common uses of solar chargers

In the hectic world of today most of us cannot imagine our lives without gadgets. And the more advanced they get, the more power-hungry they become. That’s when a portable solar charger comes handy. Think of it like having your personal power supply, anywhere you go.

Complete freedom from power outlets!

Solar chargers are lightweight, foldable and easy to carry around. All you have to do is position the solar charger under the sun and it will immediately start recharging your devices. You can even strap it on your backpack and power up on the go. This way you can enjoy your daily activities without rushing to look for a power outlet somewhere inside.

Considering the fact that solar powered phone chargers are now so much more affordable and efficient, they can be a life-saver in many situations.

    • Everyday Use

    • Backpacking

    • Mountain Biking

    • Traveling

    • Boating and Sailing

    • Emergency Situations

Solar energy brings light to our unsustainable developing world and by going solar, be it portable or not, is a great way to join the climate change battle by reducing your carbon footprint.
 

Important solar charger considerations

The most important features you should look for when choosing a portable solar charger:

    • Charge Interruption Recovery

Chances are you won’t be able to use your portable solar charger in full sun all the time. Especially if you live in a place like the United Kingdom. Areas with shade or clouds will affect the performance of your solar phone charger to a certain extent. We measured the output power of each model in full sun, and then in fairly cloudy conditions for one hour each in order to see which solar charger recovers the fastest and gets back on track after being shaded.

The best performing models in this category were the chargers with the most wattage power like the Anker 21W Dual USB Solar Powered Charger. The OUTXE 20,000 mAh scored the lowest in this test because of the small wattage power. Larger solar chargers have more solar cells exposed to the sun simultaneously and this makes it easier to recover to maximum output after an interruption.

    • Charging Speed

Most of the time, portable solar chargers are being used to charge devices such as smartphones, tablets, camera batteries, etc. when a source of electricity is not available. This is the reason why we decided to test the charging speed of our solar chargers with an iPhone 7 and see how much it can charge from zero of full in direct sun.

To our surprise we found that the charging speed performance of our models was very different. This significant variability is clearly because of the wattage output power, but also due to type and quality of solar cells. The winner in this category, the Voltaic Systems Arc 20W, outperformed the competition with an impressive charging speed from zero to full in less than two hours.

Our advice: If you are looking for the fastest charging speed, choose a solar charger with at least 15 watts. While smaller panels are more lightweight, the charging speed of a 5W solar charger for example, is around three to four times slower than a 15 watts charger.

    • Weight and Portability

The ideal portable solar charger would be light, small and easy to carry around. The most lightweight model in our competition is the X-Dragon 10,000 mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, weighing just 11.8 oz. This is the only model to get a 10 out of 10 in this category. However, keep in mind that small wattage chargers are less powerful, so if weight is not extremely important to you, we highly recommend choosing a charger with a higher wattage than the X-Dragon model.

    • Durability

Since they are used mainly outdoors, solar chargers are constantly exposed to the elements, so durability is a very important factor. All the models we tested had more or less the same quality of material and stitching and all panels were weatherproof. Solar technology is advancing very fast and companies have already integrated the most advanced features found in residential solar systems into portable solar panels as well.
 

Watts, Amps, and Milliamp Hours (mAhs)

These are the three most common terms and features that are worth considering when when looking to buy a solar powered phone charger.

mAh – Milliamp hours is the easiest way to measure the strength or capacity of a power bank. This term is not used for the panels themselves, but just for batteries. The higher the mAh, the more power it can store and therefore the longer the power bank will last.

Amps – Amps on a solar charger will determine how fast the electric current flows in order to charge up your devices. The current drawn is different from device to device but in the case of portable solar chargers, you’ll get between one and three amps. The solar chargers we picked in our review test feature the highest amp power available on the market right now.

Watts – Watts are a measure of how much energy is being released to charge your devices. It’s the result of multiplying voltage by amps and they are the most frequently mentioned unit of power. Since USB ports operate at approximately 5 volts, a single 2 amp USB charger port (for comparison: a laptop usually has 1.5 amps in a single USB port) for example, would have a wattage rating of 10W (5 x 2) and therefore would require a 10W panel to charge at 2 amps. But in reality, a 10W solar charger won’t produce exactly 2 amps USB charge because of imperfect weather conditions (cloud cover) and type of solar cells.
 

Types of portable solar panels

Solar chargers can either feature monocrystalline, polycrystalline or the super lightweight CIGS panels.

Monocrystalline Panels
Monocrystalline technology is the one that started the photovoltaic revolution and it’s still the most efficient even today when it comes to converting solar energy into electricity. As the name suggests, monocrystalline panels are made from a single crystal of pure silicon. They have an efficiency rating of up to 22 percent and can be easily recognized by their black uniform cells.

Polycrystalline Panels
Unlike monocrystalline panels, the polycrystalline modules are made up of multiple crystals but still deliver a great efficiency of up to 17 percent.
Polycrystalline panels have a blue color and they usually cost less than monocrystalline panels.

CIGS Panels

CIGS panels consist of Copper, Indium, Gallium, and Selenide solar cells. They are very different than mono- and polycrystalline panels. They are the most flexible and lightweight, but also the less efficient out of the three types in converting sunlight into usable power. It’s a good option for backpackers or trekkers who want to travel ultra-light. These are not as durable as the monocrystalline modules but they still do a pretty good job in case of emergency.
 

Do you need an external battery, or is a solar charger sufficient?

Portable solar chargers can recharge your devices – but only in direct sun. If you want to recharge your smartphone during night time, or on a rainy day, the solar panels will not be of any help. On the other hand, a battery pack like the Anker PowerCore Elite 20,000 mAh, can store energy and provide continuous and steady power to recharge the same devices you would charge with solar chargers. Thanks to modern technology battery packs nowadays are very light and can be recharged by solar panels or wall outlet and they can store a lot of energy, enough to recharge a smartphone up to seven times in one go.

Since battery packs can be charged from solar panels as well, adding one to your solar kit means you can have power for your electronic devices available at any time – even when the sun is not there.
 

How to get the most from your solar charger

Simplicity makes solar power truly remarkable. The only care and maintenance most solar chargers require is making sure they’re clean and dust free. A moist cloth should get the job done most of the time.

To get the highest charging efficiency, it’s important to position your solar panels correctly. A good rule of thumb is that the angle, relative to flat ground, must be approximately the same as your latitude, with a few small adjustments according to the seasons (shallower in the summer and steeper in the winter time).