The 10 Best Solar Chargers

Updated April 29, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

10 Best Solar Chargers
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. With one of these solar chargers, you'll never run out of power for your GPS, tablet or smartphone, even in the middle of nowhere. They're perfect for keeping you safe and connected while hiking, camping or boating, but are well suited to use in urban environments as well, given their portable form factor and ease of attachment to a backpack or briefcase. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best solar charger on Amazon.

10. Allpowers 16W

The Allpowers 16W is capable of tailoring its output to your devices to ensure they get the juice they need at the rate that best suits them. Its panels are waterproof and come in a quad-fold design, so it's easy to slip into a bag or backpack when not in use.
  • available in a variety of capacities
  • eyelets on both sides of each panel
  • charging is sometimes intermittent
Brand ALLPOWERS
Model pending
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. X-Dragon Sunpower

The slim but powerful X-Dragon Sunpower boasts a high efficiency conversion rate, so it can draw some energy from the sun even when it's not the brightest out there. It's an affordable and environmentally-friendly way to stay connected.
  • up to 3 amps of total output
  • includes a carabiner for hanging
  • apple devices may not be compatible
Brand X-DRAGON
Model 3296851
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Instapark Mercury 10M

The Instapark Mercury 10M can be a lifesaver when a power outage or disaster strikes. It features a lightweight, portable design that easily fits in your purse or backpack, plus it includes a battery pack for use when the sun's not shining.
  • battery pack is waterproof
  • weighs less than one pound
  • a bit underpowered for tablets
Brand Instapark
Model Mercury10+NBP3000GRN
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Suaoki 40W

For renewable power no matter where you are, pack the Suaoki 40W for your next outdoor adventure. It folds up to a compact clutch-like package with an integrated handle and can be easily attached to your backpack with its sturdy metal eyelets.
  • strong magnetic closure
  • adapters for most laptops
  • tends to work very slowly
Brand SUAOKI
Model NHIMKG0S-F1
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Goal Zero 41022

The Goal Zero 41022 offers convenience at your fingertips, with the capacity to directly charge some smartphones in just one hour. It's a stylish option that comes with rechargeable batteries, so you can take some power with you when you head indoors.
  • power pack is usb chargeable
  • long-lasting built-in led
  • included batteries are low quality
Brand Goal Zero
Model 41022
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

5. Suntactics S14

Travel worry-free with the Suntactics S14. As one of the most powerful models in its class, it can deliver a true 2.8-amp output, and has a helpful auto-restart feature that mitigates interruptions from passing shadows or clouds.
  • corrosion-resistant circuitry
  • high-quality american construction
  • a bit large and expensive
Brand Suntactics
Model SC5
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. OutXE PCPB16000

Leave the OutXE PCPB16000 attached to your bag or backpack with its included carabiner and allow it to charge its internal battery. Whether you're on the trail or your morning commute, it'll keep juice on deck for when you need it.
  • ip67 water- and dust-proof rating
  • built-in three-mode led flashlight
  • capacity to charge an iphone 5 times
Brand OUTXE
Model PCPB16000-BR
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. RavPower PC005

The RavPower PC005 is a good choice for camping, hiking or any other outdoor activities thanks to its waterproof coating and durable nylon construction. It can easily charge three devices at once with a maximum total output of 4.8 amps.
  • built-in pocket protects your device
  • sturdy metal eyelets for hanging
  • folds down to the size of a magazine
Brand RAVPower
Model US RP-PC005((BL)
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

2. Nekteck LET98

The Nekteck LET98 provides a quick power up whenever you need it, as long as you've charged its built-in battery in the sun. It has a rugged, nonslip design that can withstand shocks and drops as well as getting rained on, in case of a sudden turn in the weather.
  • panel is easy to clean
  • led emergency flashlight
  • ultra stable lithium polymer battery
Brand Nekteck
Model LET98
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Anker 21W

Enjoy free, limitless power in the great outdoors with the ultra-portable Anker 21W. At less than 1 pound, it travels nicely with minimal bulk, and features PowerIQ technology that detects your device's needs to deliver optimal power.
  • weather-resistant canvas cover
  • includes a 3-foot usb cable
  • great value for its quality
Brand Anker
Model A2421011
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Power Is Power In The New World

If you stop and think about it, it really wouldn't take much for society to collapse. One failed nuclear reactor, a big Wall Street malfunction, etc. is all it would take. What are you going to do when the people who run the power grid stop showing up for work? Well, speaking of nuclear reactors, you'd really only have to worry for about six months; most nuclear waste would outlast its cooling systems if abandoned for that long, and then all our troubles would be over.

There will be survivors, but don't look to them for help. One glance at human behavior on any Black Friday should tell you that holding out for a Kumbaya moment in which humanity lifts itself up out of the darkness is about as smart as holding out for Apple to reintroduce the headphone jack. In the world to come, power–as in electricity–is power. Current will be currency, and these solar chargers could be the thing that keeps you alive in your darkest hour.

Or, you could just use them to charge your phone when you're camping. Either way, they're a brilliant investment. How they work, however, is another level of brilliance altogether.

Solar panels work with sunlight in its particle form. Inside a single solar cell is a pair of silicon semiconductors, one coated in boron and the other in phosphorus. There are other coatings used in the industry, but these are the most common. The boron and phosphorus create opposing charges in their respective silicon, and manufacturers leave a tiny gap between the two semiconductors.

In that little space, the opposite charges mingle and interlock like Velcro until a particle of sunlight shows up and disrupts the party. Imagine you’re happily at a bar with your significant other. You look around the bar and see that everybody there is paired up. Then a particle of sunlight walks in looking all cool (definitely wearing sunglasses) and he takes a gal from one of the guys in the bar. Then, the guy goes to the barkeep, knocks back a few too many, and leaves. Surely, he’s going to go punch something; he’s all charged up.

That barroom reject represents an electron that gets knocked loose when sunlight makes its way into a solar cell. Instead of letting it go out to any old place to discharge itself, your solar charger channels that energy into a power bank that has standard outlets as well as USB ports for charging or powering just about any device.

Elven Magic

It’s convenient to imagine that little elves live within our walls, busily pumping their elf legs against the pedals of magical bicycles to create our electricity. It’s certainly a prettier picture than the hazy, grotesque images of coal-fired power plants that you’ll see if you look at any example not provided by the coal industry.

Unfortunately, our grid is still deeply dependent on fossil fuels, and whether or not you believe that human beings are responsible for–or at least exacerbating–climate change, the security risk of relying on only one or two methods of power generation ought to be enough to inspire you toward diversity.

Your options among solar panels are pretty diverse in and of themselves, as the technology is still relatively young. Fortunately, over the past decade or so, the prices of these items have gone way down, so the only variables you need to focus on are size, weight, charge time, port count, and durability.

The size and weight of your solar charger is paramount, especially if it’s sharing pack space on a long hike or camping trip. Anyone who’s done even a little backpacking knows how valuable every ounce and cubic inch is inside your bag, so minimizing your solar charger’s physical footprint will help maximize your investment.

Charge time and port count will depend on how much you power you need from a given day, and how much sedentary time you can expect while the sun’s up. Solar panels work best while baking under direct sunlight, so walking through the dappled light of a forest isn’t ideal. If you have a lot of stuff to power up, you might sacrifice some of that valuable bag space for a charger with more surface area, one that can charge up more quickly and plug in more devices.

Finally, there’s durability to consider, and I’d look right into the eyes of each charger’s warranty for this. If you’re out in the wilderness, a charger that’s resistant to dust and water would be ideal, and one that’s guaranteed against it would be even better.

An Electrifying Discovery

While Alexandre Edmund Becquerel observed sunlight-induced electrical current in selenium back in the mid-1800s, the efficiency of the conduction was of little consequence. Still, the idea behind it spurred on research until the first photovoltaic (PV) cells were created at Bell Labs in 1954.

Those early PV cells were immensely expensive, ringing up at about $1,785/watt in 1955. To put that in perspective, an average minimum wage in 1955 was $.75/hour, which would earn you approximately $1,560/year, not even enough for one watt of electricity.

Thanks to increased research and competition from manufacturers around the world, solar power is less expensive now than it ever was. Of course, as soon as the grid goes down and the bottom falls out, it’ll be insanely expensive again, so now’s the time to invest.



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Last updated on April 29, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.


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