Portable solar chargers are a great way to keep your gadgets powered while you’re on a long camping trip away from any other power source. They’re useful gadgets for those with an adventurous bone in their body.
Portable solar chargers also come in handy in emergency cases as well. After all, no one wants to be stuck in a 127 Hours situation without a way to call for help.
Best Portable Solar Chargers Reviewed
Portable solar chargers need to be expansive with a wide surface area to capture the sun efficiently. This does limit the choices to a handful of products in the market, but even so there’s no telling which one performs well, and which one doesn’t.
We’ve handpicked the 5 best portable solar chargers that are known for their performance and reliability. These portable chargers work far better than the rest and provide enough power to charge multiple gadgets with ease.
To help you make a prudent decision, we also have a buyer’s guide after the reviews to know what to look for in your portable solar charger.
Lots of Connections, Lots of Power
The BigBlue 28W portable solar charger is a high efficiency charger that is unique due to its 3 USB ports construction. It utilizes multiple panels to power these three sockets, which provide a different range of amperes to charge your devices with. It also has a smart shut-off system, and is incredibly portable and lightweight.
You won’t find many portable solar chargers that combine great connectivity, great portability, and great performance like the BigBlue does. These factors, along with the price, make this the best portable solar charger on the market.
Anker PowerPort 21W
Great Value and Very Lightweight
Anker’s PowerPort 21 W portable solar charger delivers its juice through powerful cells that run two USB ports at 2.1 amperes. The highlight of this solar charger is how incredibly lightweight it is, weighing less than a pound and folding to less than an inch thick.
When it comes to being lightweight and portable without compromising on efficiency, there are no portable chargers better than the Anker PowerPort.
With the BigBlue 28W, you’re getting lots of power in a form factor that won’t need an entirely separate backpack. It is lightweight and small, weighing just over a pound and can be folded into a size that is only just an inch in thickness.
The BigBlue is one of the higher efficiency portable solar chargers available in the market. It offers a power efficiency of around 21.5 to 23.5 percent. Two 2.4 ampere ports and one 1 ampere port utilize this power production, giving users plenty of connectivity options. Each port is covered by a flap of cloth and a rubber cover to protect them from any type of damage.
When weather becomes a bit unwelcoming, there’s a polymer surface that protects the entire charger from rain, dust, and fog. The device also has a smart detection system that switches its charging system off when it is in shade. It restarts automatically when it is back in the sun.
The amount of power output offered and the efficiency with which it operates makes the BigBlue, in our opinion, the best portable solar charger in the market at the moment.
- Compact and lightweight
- Great power output
- Plenty of connectivity options
- Smart solar detection
- Expansive area to capture lots of sunlight
- Velcro cover is flimsy
One of the most popular portable solar chargers out there, Anker’s PowerPort is the success to its previous line of portable solar chargers with improved function.
Anker is a reputable name in the world of battery and power electronics, and it’s no surprise that they know what they’re doing when it comes to solar chargers.
The solar charger utilizes Anker’s specialized PowerIQ technology to deliver a fast charge that can deliver 2.1amps/15 watts under direct sunlight. When in shade, the Anker PowerPort doesn’t turn off, but lowers its efficiency and continues providing 8 watts of power, quickly returning to power once the shade has passed.
The Anker PowerPort is one of the lightest portable solar chargers around, weighing in at just under 15 ounces – that’s less than a pound. When folded, this solar charger is less than an inch thick. This combination makes the Anker one of the lightest portable solar chargers in the market, ideal for backpackers and hikers.
The Anker PowerPort Solar Charger comes with an 18-month warranty. It also includes a decently sized 3 feet micro USB cable.
- Great build
- Great value
- Performs well in low light conditions
- Extremely portable and lightweight
- Not fully waterproof
- Not compatible with all devices
The X-Dragon is one of the few portable chargers that can go neck and neck with the BigBlue. It is actually more compact in size, but that’s primarily because of having fewer solar panels, so it’s a double-edged sword.
It produces a mighty 40 watts, which is far more than most other portable solar chargers. The X-Dragon comes with two charging ports. One is a 5V/2A charging port ideal for small gadgets, while the other is a beefier 18V/2A DC output for charging a laptop or other 18 volts powered devices.
The charging connector cables that come with it are 10-in-1, meaning you can hook up just about any type of device to it. The SolarIQ technology incorporated in this device helps it achieve the right amount of current and voltage to deliver maximum power.
The caveat with this big beast is that it is expensive, retailing at almost double the amount as the BigBlue 28W. It also offers fewer ports than the BigBlue, and has fewer solar panels which means less surface area to capture sunlight.
Design-wise, this is perhaps one of the best solar chargers out there, ruggedly built and highly reliable in performance. The price point will turn away most individuals, but this is a panel designed to give you unparalleled performance, ideal for regular hikers and adventurers.
- Very compact
- Massive power output
- Beefy power supply
The Nekteck 21 watts portable solar charger takes a lot of inspiration from the BigBlue. With a similar design and construction, this solar charger is highly efficient. It has an efficiency measured in power conversion rate between 21% to 24%, which is right up there with the best.
It has dual USB ports to keep your phones and tablets charged on you’re out on an adventuring. There is an in-built chip in this solar charger that identifies the type of device plugged, adjusting the amperage of the port accordingly. The offered amperes are either 3A or 2A. This helps maximize overall battery life.
The design of this charger is rugged and fairly compact. It is one of the lighter options available, weighing only 1 pound and 2 ounces. When folded, it is around 1 inch in thickness.
The Nekteck 21W is one of the best solar chargers for backpacking. It comes with an 18 months warranty and a long 30 inch micro USB cable.
- Smart ampere adjustment system
- Good power output
- Rugged build
- Ports aren’t as versatile as some other portable solar chargers
The SunJack 20 watts portable solar charger is made up of 4 highly efficient panels that utilize mono-crystalline cells. The 20 watts juice that is produced by this panel powers two USB ports, giving you an output of 20 watts and 2 amperes per USB port.
We find the offer from SunJack unique among portable solar chargers because it comes with two 8000mAh Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 batteries. For this reason, the SunJack is considered one of the best portable solar chargers to buy in the market.
The SunJack 20 watts solar charger is also one of the quickest to charge. It takes around 5 hours of direct sunlight to charge the batteries that come with it. These batteries in turn can charge a multitude of devices.
All this is regulated with a built-in IC chip that identifies the device that is connected and adjusts the perimeters accordingly for maximum charge efficiency. There is also an intelligent sensor that, like the BigBlue, switches off the SunJack when it is in shade.
The panels in this portable solar charger are drop and dust proof. This product comes with a 1 year warranty and also includes multiple fast-charge cables in it.
- Smart ampere adjustment system
- Great design and high quality build
- Comes with two strong batteries
- Compact and portable
- USB connections can come loose
Portable solar chargers utilize three different types of panels; monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and CIGS panels.
Monocrystalline panels are the most space-saving because they are the lightest. They aren’t always the best in charging, but they are a popular choice for manufacturers because of their light weight.
Polycrystalline panels contain multiple cells when compared to monocrystalline cells, which makes them more efficient in charging. However, they are also considerably heavier for this reason.
Finally, CIGS panels utilize a multitude of different soft metals to create a flimsy but extremely lightweight panel. They are highly environmental friendly, and depending on the design can also provide more power per charge.
Wattage is the primary indicator of just how quickly and efficiently your portable solar charger will charge your devices. Portable solar chargers come in a variety of difference wattage ratings.
If you want to buy one to charge your smart devices and laptops, you want a solar charger that is capable of producing at least 15 watts. Anything above that is welcome and means more devices can be charged quickly and simultaneously. Anything below that will result in slow charging for most electronic devices.
A person won’t invest in a portal solar charger if he’s not looking for portability. It’s one of the most important factors during your purchase. Thankfully, most modern day solar panels are quite lightweight, particularly the ones used in solar chargers.
These lightweight panels do have (require) a large surface area though. To address this issue, manufacturers make them foldable.
You want to look for portable solar chargers that are both lightweight and compact when folded. A thickness of more than 2 inches is a bit too much and suggests inefficient design decisions.
You also want to buy a portable solar charger that has some kind of hook or other periphery that will allow you to attach it to your backpack, tent, or jeans when your hands aren’t free.
Finally, there is connectivity. You want a portable solar charger that will charge the devices you specifically have. You don’t need anything beyond that. BigBlue is one of the few solar chargers that provides more than two USB ports, and that’s one of the reasons we believe it is better than the rest.
You want as many connections as possible, and you want to make sure the connections provide the right amount of amperes. You will also want to buy a solar charger that comes with a long enough cable that will connect to your device.
Who are portable solar chargers for?
Portable solar chargers are designed for people who spend a lot of time in areas where electricity isn’t available. If you’re going for camping, hikes, or mountain treks quite often, you should seriously consider investing in a portable solar charger.
Does orientation of the chargers make a difference?
Many solar chargers are designed to be able to capture sunlight even when they aren’t oriented towards the sun.
However, for the optimal efficiency, it is recommended that you place the solar charger so its panels are directly facing the sun. This becomes almost essential when there are clouds though.
Do handheld solar chargers work?
Handheld solar chargers do work, but they charge very inefficiently and slow in the sun. This is because they have a panel with a very small surface area. The surface area directly influences the amount of sunlight captured, which in turn influences just how quickly (and how much) the panel generates power.
Why don’t most portable solar chargers come with integrated battery packs?
Integrating battery packs into solar chargers isn’t hard to do, it just wouldn’t make them portable. Portable solar chargers are portable because of how lightweight they are and how they can fold up into a compact size and shape. That is simply not possible with integrated batteries.