Adequate amperage to charge multiple devices fast. Works in partly cloudy conditions. Included ammeter provides instant output reading.
Clips for attaching to backpack are a bit flimsy. Reports of charger failing after a few weeks/months of use. Carrying case is weather-resistant, not waterproof.
Lightweight and portable thanks to its folding storage case. Charges smartphones and small electronic devices well, users report.
Charges too slowly for some users, even in direct sunlight. Storage pocket in charger case can hold heat from charging devices stored there.
Reliable power bank. Solar panel helps keep battery charged when away from an outlet. Attached flashlight works well.
Solar charger alone won’t fully charge the power bank. Reports of device failing after a few weeks of use.
Excellent power bank that charges fast; decent solar charging for its size. Most users see 4-5 phone charges before power bank depletes. Attached flashlight is bright/sips power.
Solar panel charges much more slowly than advertised. Some reports of units not working at all.
Easy to set up. Alligator clamps attach to car batteries. In full sun, outputs full wattage advertised.
LED charging indicator is dim. Won’t keep car batteries fully charged. Any shadow on the solar panel will drop its output precipitously. No mounting hardware included.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We live in a world where we rely heavily on our phones and other electronic devices. We use them to communicate, to enjoy entertainment, to get directions from point A to point B. One way to make sure you never run out of juice, no matter how far you are from a power outlet, is to invest in a solar charger.
Some solar chargers are better than others, so at BestReviews, we set out to discover which products are worth the money. It’s our mission to create fair, thorough product guides and reviews that help readers find what they need. To do so, we test products in our labs, gather input from customers, and talk to experts. If you’re puzzling over which solar charger to purchase, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, you’ll find our full guide to solar chargers. Read on to discover the benefits of solar chargers, the different types available, and important tips to help you maximize your investment. When you’re ready to buy, scroll on up to the top of this screen to view our most esteemed recommendations.
Why should you buy a solar charger? What are the benefits of owning one? We answer these questions below.
Solar chargers are useful for faraway excursions in which you won’t have access to electricity. Campers, hikers, and other outdoor fans can benefit from a solar charger.
Many modern solar chargers are extremely lightweight and portable. It’s easy to pack a solar charger and take it with you wherever you go.
Solar power is a completely renewable energy source. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to power your electronics, this is it.
If you like to spend a lot of time outdoors, you can charge your devices for free while doing something you enjoy.
Some solar chargers have loops, grommets, or straps that attach to a backpack so you can charge your devices while walking.
You can find three main types of solar chargers on the market: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and CIGS (which stands for "copper, indium, gallium and selenide") solar chargers.
Monocrystalline solar chargers are rugged and durable. They tend to last longer than CIGS models.
As long as it's sunny out, monocrystalline solar chargers are the most effective variety.
Newer foldable monocrystalline solar chargers are fairly light and portable.
Monocrystalline solar chargers aren't as lightweight or compact as CIGS chargers.
In partially shaded conditions, monocrystalline solar chargers aren't very effective.
Price: Basic low-power monocrystalline solar chargers start at less than $20. Powerful high-end models tend to cost $175 to $200.
While solar chargers are generally designed for use on the go, you can also take advantage of their eco-friendly benefits at home. Of course, the solar panel would have to be placed outside.
Polycrystalline solar chargers tend to be the most inexpensive option.
Most polycrystalline solar chargers are very durable and long-lasting.
Polycrystalline solar chargers are similar to monocrystalline models, albeit slightly less efficient.
Price: We found basic micro polycrystalline solar panels for as little as $5 to $7, but they're not extremely powerful. You can get a stronger 40-watt model for around $50, though some powerful high-end options cost over $100.
Some solar chargers have integrated batteries that allow them to store the sun’s energy and use it at a later time. This is useful if you're somewhere with fickle weather.
CIGS solar chargers are the most lightweight option available.
Since CIGS solar chargers are made from flexible fabric, they can be rolled up like a poster and put in a bag when not in use, making them very portable.
CIGS solar chargers are significantly more effective than monocrystalline and polycrystalline models in overcast and partially shady conditions.
Due to their thinness, CIGS solar chargers aren't as durable or long-lasting as either crystalline type.
CIGS aren't as efficient as monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar chargers in sunny conditions.
Price: CIGS solar chargers can cost anywhere from $50 to $300, depending on their power and quality.
A good solar charger should have "auto-restart technology.” If it stops charging because the sun disappears behind a cloud, it will automatically start charging again once the sun returns.
The wattage of a solar charger dictates how powerful it is and how quickly it will charge your devices. Basic solar chargers may pack less than five watts of power, whereas the most powerful units can yield 100 watts.
While a four- or five-watt charger can tackle your average smartphone, it will take three to four hours to get it to a full charge. Ideally, you should opt for at least a seven-watt charger for a single phone to speed up the charging time. If you plan to charge multiple smartphones at the same time, or if you're charging a power-hungry device like a tablet, consider a 15-watt charger. For a laptop, DSLR camera, or video-recording equipment, we recommend a solar charger with a minimum of a 30 watts.
Solar chargers generally charge devices that come with a USB (or micro USB) connection. If you want to charge a laptop, you'll need a battery as well as a DC-to-AC inverter.
The output power of a solar charger is measured in amps. Find out the best amperage for the devices you want to charge, and choose accordingly. If your charger has more than one port, the manufacturer may list the output power for all the ports combined or for each port individually. Be sure to double-check this spec to make sure you know what the manufacturer is referring to.
If you'll be using your solar charger in all types of weather or taking it near water, we recommend investing in a waterproof model.
How important is the weight of your solar charger to you? If you'll only be using it on camping trips where you can drive right up to your pitching site, weight may not be of huge importance. But if you'll be taking it on multi-day hiking trips where you really want to keep the weight of your pack down, a lightweight solar charger would be the best option.
Most manufacturers give a rough idea of how long a solar charger needs to power an average device. Of course, the charge time will vary depending on a number of factors, including the battery size, the power requirements of the device you're charging, and how sunny it is.
If you'll be using your solar charger in an area that’s not overly sunny, opt for the most powerful model you can afford. The extra power will help you take advantage of any fleeting minutes of sunshine.
Most solar chargers have a USB port (or several USB ports) for your charging cable, so you'll need a charging cable that plugs into a USB port on one end and into your device on the other. If this kind of charging cable isn't available for your device, you'll need an adaptor.
As a rule, the larger the surface area of your solar charger, the quicker and more powerful it will be.
Consider the durability of your chosen solar charger. If you'll be using yours often or exposing it to rugged conditions, look for a hardy one that can withstand some abuse.
Not all solar chargers require direct sunlight to work. CIGS chargers are still relatively effective on bright overcast days and in partial shade.
Q. Is a solar charger capable of charging multiple devices at once?
A. Many solar chargers come with multiple USB ports so you can charge several devices at the same time. This is ideal if you're going on a family trip and want just one charger for the whole party. However, be sure to consider the wattage of your chosen charger; a low-power charger will take a long time to charge more than one device.
Q. Can I recharge a device that uses a 12V cigarette port with a solar charger?
A. While you can get adaptors to charge a range of different devices that don't use a USB port, most solar chargers aren't capable of tackling items that charge from a 12V cigarette port.
Q. Does the listed weight of a solar charger include all cables, batteries, and other accessories?
A. The listed weight of a solar charger can sometimes be misleading. While you'd expect the listed weight to include all essential accessories, some manufacturers only list the weight of the panel itself. If weight is important to you, be sure to check what the listed weight includes.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.