The 5 Best Portable Solar Chargers of 2021

Don't get caught in the wilderness without one

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The Rundown
"It opens quite large to collect a lot of sunlight with eight high-efficiency panels, but it folds down to fit into your backpack."
"If you're looking for a high-capacity battery with solar charging, the SOARAISE Solar Power Bank might be the device for you."
"The battery pack itself is lightweight and can easily be thrown into a pocket, or better yet, attached to a backpack."
"Included carabiners allow you to open it up and strap it to your backpack while you're out in nature."
"The panels are rated IPX4, so they'll stand up to water splashes."

The best solar chargers use the sun's abundant power to keep your devices and batteries topped off. Solar chargers aren't just for nature enthusiasts. People who spend a lot of time outdoors, whether that's camping or commuting, will find them useful as well. These chargers help keep your devices ready to go without you needing to be near a power outlet.

With so much of our lives revolving around electricity, the case for solar chargers is not hard to make. Some solar chargers are small enough to strap on to the top of your backpack, so even as you walk to work, or set your backpack down next to a window on the train or in your car, you can use the sun's power to your advantage. 

Best Overall: X-DRAGON 40W SunPower Solar Panel Charger

What we like
  • Lots of accessories

  • DC charging

  • Folds down small

  • 18-month warranty

What we don't like
  • Battery not included

  • No water resistance

  • Large

  • Expensive

Our best overall charger is capable of producing up to 40W of juice from its eight efficient panels. It opens quite large to collect a lot of sunlight with eight high-efficiency panels, but it folds down small enough to fit into your backpack. There's no water resistance rating here, so be careful not to get caught out in the rain, and there's no battery included. But if you have larger items that need a charge, the X-DRAGON SunPower Solar Panel Charger is a great choice. 

You can plug in your phone and your tablet, but you can also scale that up to your laptop with the five included different-sized barrel chargers, and connection for your car battery as well. This is a great item to keep in your emergency car kit, or your backpack for camping. The 18-month warranty will give you peace of mind that you can get a charge when you need it.

Number of Ports: 2 | Power Output: 2.8A max USB, 18V DC | Types of Ports: USB-A, DC | Number of Cells: 8 | Efficiency: 22 to 25% | Battery Capacity: N/A

Best Battery Life: SOARAISE Solar Power Bank

Solar charger
What We Like
  • Built-in battery

  • Flashlight

  • Faux leather covering

  • IP65

What We Don't Like
  • Slow to charge via sunlight

  • MicroUSB

If you're looking for a high-capacity battery with solar charging, the SOARAISE Solar Power Bank might be the device for you. This is a 25,000mAh power pack that charges via microUSB (which is dated) or by sunlight, which is relatively slow. But the battery pack has a nice faux-leather look on the outside which gives it some style. It also has a built-in flashlight and is IP65 water and dust-proof, both of which are nice extras.

This solar charger should be seen as a battery pack, first and foremost. The solar panels are great for charging up the battery while on the go and will help make the battery last longer, but they really should not be considered as the primary charging method. This charger is for people who want a battery pack first, but will be out and about long enough to pick up a little sun along the way.

Number of Ports: 2 | Power Output: 5V / 2.1A | Types of Ports: USB-A | Number of Cells: 4 | Efficiency: Not listed | Battery Capacity: 25,000mAh

Best Phone Charger: Dizaul 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank

What we like
  • Lightweight

  • Water resistant

  • Comes with a light

What we don't like
  • microUSB

  • Flimsy port covers

The Dizaul Portable Solar Power Bank is another battery with a built-in solar panel, though this time, you're limited to a single cell. The power bank has two USB outputs rated at 1 amp each. The battery pack itself is lightweight and can easily be thrown into a pocket, or better yet, attached to a backpack. The battery pack has a built-in flashlight, but it also comes with a USB reading light, which is a nice add-on.

The battery pack also charges via microUSB, which is not ideal. These days, we'd really like to see USB Type-C here. The battery pack is water resistant, but the port covers keeping it sealed are a little on the flimsy side. This is a great battery pack for on-the-go people who occasionally need to top up when they're away from power—think commuters, rather than hikers.

Number of Ports: 2 | Power Output: 5V / 2X1A | Types of Ports: USB-A | Number of Cells: 1 | Efficiency: Not listed | Battery Capacity: 5,000mAh

"The Dizaul 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank is a lightweight and portable option for the urban dweller or occasional adventurer who wants a reliable on-the-go smartphone charger." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Portability: BigBlue 28W Solar Charger

BigBlue 28W Solar Charger
What we like
  • Folds small

  • Three USB-A ports

  • Water resistance

What we don't like
  • Power output falls short of promise

  • Battery not included

The Big Blue Solar Charger is a highly-portable solar charging solution that folds down to a small 11.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches when closed. While it is long, it's very narrow and thin, meaning it will fit into most backpacks with ease. Included carabiners allow you to open it up and strap it to your backpack while you're out in nature.

There is no built-in battery, but the three USB-A ports allow you to charge up any phone or tablet with ease. The panels are waterproof, which our reviewer tested by submerging the cells in a bathtub.

Our reviewer also noted that the advertised 28W output is misleading. There are four 7W panels which add up to 28 Watts. Unfortunately, the panels were capable of outputting only around 17W maximum during our testing.

There's a pouch on the end for holding cables or even devices while charging, which is a nice bonus. Given its water resistance, we'd recommend this for hikers and campers, even in inclement weather. Of course, cloudy days will mean less charging, but at least you know your panels can stand up to it.

Number of Ports: 3 | Power Output: 5V / 4.8A | Types of Ports: USB-A | Number of Cells: 4 | Efficiency: Not listed | Battery Capacity: N/A

"Even in less-than-ideal lighting situations, such as a cloudy day with snow on the ground, I was able to achieve 10W output (when using both 2.4A ports)." —Gannon Burget, Product Tester

Best for Hiking: Nekteck 21W Solar Charger

Nekteck 21W Solar Phone Charger
What We Like
  • IPX4

  • Folds small

  • Zipper pouch to hold cables or battery

  • High efficiency

What We Don't Like
  • Battery not included

  • Expensive

When you're out and about and the sun is shining, make use of it! The Nekteck 21W Solar Charger gets up to 24% light efficiency, which is pretty high in the industry. It can easily attach to a backpack for charging while you're on the go. Two USB-A ports can deliver up to 2A of juice, or up to 3A combined. When it's not in use, the charger folds up and can fit inside your bag. A zipper pouch where the ports are located can be used to store a battery or cables. 

Speaking of which, a battery is not included with the panel, so if you want to store power, you'll need to supply your own. That's a bit of a surprise considering how expensive the panels are. You're paying for the panels' efficiency, not the whole package. The panels are also rated IPX4, so they'll stand up to water splashes. This item is mostly geared toward people who spend a lot of time outdoors.

Number of Ports: 2 | Power Output: 3A max | Types of Ports: USB-A | Number of Cells: 3 | Efficiency: 21 to 24% | Battery Capacity: N/A

Final Verdict

We have to give our overall nod to the X-DRAGON SunPower Solar Panel Charger (view at Amazon) and its 40W of power output and high-efficiency cells. It's true that this charger doesn't include a power bank to store all that juice, but if you are away from power and need to charge up your phone or even your laptop, this is a great option. Opening the eight solar panels will give you plenty of power as long as there's daylight.

If you want something smaller that can still hold a good charge, we really like the SOARAISE Solar Power Bank (view at Amazon). The built-in power bank is capable of holding a lot of juice, which will keep your devices nice and charged. The panels are large enough to be strapped to your backpack and stay topped off, or it folds down neatly into your bag, waiting to charge whatever you need.

About Our Trusted Experts

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he's a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.

Yoona Wagener has a background in content and technical writing. She has written for BigTime Software, Idealist Careers, and other small tech companies.

Gannon Burgett has more than a decade of experience as a freelance photojournalist and sports photographer.

FAQs

How quickly will a solar charger charge?

That depends mostly on the cells' efficiency and the amount of sunlight you're getting. Solar panels are getting more and more efficient these days, which means they're capable of generating a lot of power. On a bright, sunny day, it's not unreasonable to think you can generate enough power for a phone and tablet or even bigger items.

Can you really jump-start your car?

If it's big enough, a solar panel can deliver a charge to your car's battery to allow it to start. A "jump start" technically means you're drawing from a power source to start your car right away. The solar option is more of a car battery charger, meaning you'll need to wait some time for your car's battery to charge before you can turn the key. But yes, it is possible.

Will you get more solar power if you leave it in a window?

Solar panels should never be left in a window or in a car to charge. The glass from the window can focus with light on the panels and cause them to overheat. Solar panels are meant to be outside and under the sun, or put away.

What to Look for in a Portable Solar Charger

Water Resistance

Solar power comes from the sun, and solar panels work best outside. Rain and snow are also outside, so if you're shopping for a solar panel, it's a good idea to also look for water resistance in case you unexpectedly get caught out in the rain.

Built-in Battery

Solar panels generate power, and that power has to go somewhere. If you just have a solar panel and nothing plugged in, the panels will not generate power, which is fine, but a battery would allow you to not only generate power, but store it until you need it.

Power Output

Keep in mind the kinds of devices you'll be using. If all you need to charge is a phone or tablet, most solar panels will be able to do the job. If you need to power something larger, such as a laptop or even a car, you'll need to make sure you've got a setup powerful enough to get the job done.

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