10 Best Solar Chargers | March 2017

We spent 34 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, lamp, tablet or smartphone, even in the middle of nowhere. They're perfect for keeping you safe and connected when hiking, camping or boating. Skip to the best solar charger on Amazon.
10 Best Solar Chargers | March 2017

Overall Rank: 5
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 1
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 2
Best Inexpensive
With one of the fastest charges available, the Allpowers 18-Volt is capable of adjusting currents to ensure maximum power at all times. The outer fabric is not high quality though, and will not stand up to extended use. Can't be used on rainy days, but is waterproof.
The slim, but powerful X-Dragon Sunpower has a high efficiency conversion rate, so it can charge items without needing much sunlight. It's an affordable and environmentally-friendly way to stay connected.
The Instapark Mercury 10M can be a life saver when a power outage or disaster strikes. It's a lightweight, portable design that easily fits in your purse or backpack, plus it includes a battery pack for use in bad weather conditions.
The Nekteck 20W provides a quick charge anywhere there is sun. It is constructed of a highly durable canvas material that can withstand rugged outdoor use and keeps the panels well protected even when exposed to damp conditions.
  • panels are easy to clean
  • includes a universal mirco usb cable
  • does not include a battery pack
Brand Nekteck
Model pending
Weight 1.7 pounds
The RAVPower RP-SC02 is a popular choice for camping, hiking or any other outdoor activities as it is resistant to water, dust, and mold. It can easily charge 2 devices at once with the total output current being 3 amps.
  • nylon pocket protects your device
  • easily hangs on a tent or tree
  • a little awkward to fold up
Brand RAVPower
Model RP-SC02
Weight 2.2 pounds
The Goal Zero 41022 offers convenience at your fingertips, with enough power to charge a smartphone in just one hour. It's a stylish option that features a built-in LED light that runs for 150+ hours per charge.
  • includes a guide 10 plus power pack
  • ideal for a gps or headlamp
  • has low-quality rechargeable batteries
Brand Goal Zero
Model 41022
Weight 2.3 pounds
Travel worry-free with the Suntactics sCharger-14. As the most powerful charger in its class, it can deliver a true 2.8 amp output, and has a unique auto-retry feature that helps to reduce interruptions from any moving shadows.
  • takes 3-6 hours to charge an ipad
  • ideal for emergency kits
  • high-quality american workmanship
Brand Suntactics
Model SC5
Weight 2.2 pounds
The Suaoki 40W provides renewable power anytime you need it on your next outdoor adventure. It folds up to a compact size and can be easily attached to your backpack with its convenient mounting loops.
  • integrated handle makes it easy to carry
  • includes a car charger
  • strong magnetic closure
Model Z-BSH001-S80B-3W
Weight 3.6 pounds
Enjoy free limitless power while outdoors with the portable Anker 21W. At less than 1 lb., it travels nicely with minimal bulk, and features PowerIQ technology that detects your device to deliver the fastest possible charging speed.
  • weather-resistant canvas cover
  • well-placed eyeholes for attachments
  • high quality at an affordable price
Brand Anker
Model 71ANSCP-B85A,B00J3N7FRQ
Weight 1.1 pounds
The premium Poweradd 60W is constructed of the highest efficiency Sunpower panels for maximum durable power absorption. It has versatile charging capabilities for smartphones to laptops, thanks to its USB port and 18V DC output.
  • laminated with waterproof pvc fabric
  • backed by a 2 year product guarantee
  • voltage regulator ensures stable voltage
Brand Poweradd
Model pending
Weight 4.3 pounds

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: 03/30/2017 | Authorship Information