Emerging Tech

The best solar chargers for your phone or tablet

Let’s face it, our phones are often teetering on the edge of shutting down, typically due to a drained battery. This is particularly frustrating on a hike, camping trip, or other excursions where you may be relying on your phone for GPS coordinates.

Fortunately, the sun is always on — at least during the day — so why not harness the power of solar energy and keep your devices running even when you’re trekking in the middle of nowhere? After months of testing, we chose the BigBlue 28W as the best solar charger for backcountry power, thanks to its affordable price tag and efficiency. If BigBlue’s offering is too large for your needs, however, we have a few alternatives.

Further reading

BigBlue 28W Solar Charger

  • Capacity — None (panel only)
  • Outputs — 2 USB (2.4A)
  • Weight — 22 ounces
  • Solar panel — 28 watts

Many solar chargers are marketed as ultra-portable solar options, but few measure up to the BigBlue 28W solar charger. The unit isn’t the smallest panel on the market but delivers quite a punch when it comes to power. The solar panel charges quickly and reliably even under adverse conditions and then charges multiple devices rapidly. With a manufacturer suggested price tag of $ 60, the Big Blue is easy on the wallet as well. The only catch is that BigBlue doesn’t include a battery pack. You either need to charge your electronic devices directly or supply your own portable battery.

Renogy E.FLEX 10W

  • Capacity — None (panel only)
  • Outputs — 1 USB port (1.92A)
  • Weight — 13 ounces
  • Solar panel — 10W

While the Renogy E.Flex has no battery backup (meaning it’s only useful when the sun’s out), it is one of the cheapest panel-only options that gets both high marks for durability and charging capability. A 1.92A USB port should give you enough amperage to charge your phone in about the same time as traditional power, and even power your phone without draining the battery in full sunlight, something many other panel-only options — most of which are more expensive — cannot do. There is a 5-watt model available on Amazon for only $ 24, but it produces less than an amp of power to the USB ports, making it insufficient for many applications.

NekTeck 21W Solar Charger

  • Capacity — None (panel only)
  • Outputs — 2 USB ports (up to 3A total)
  • Weight — 1.3 lbs.
  • Solar panel — 21W

Despite having no battery storage capabilities, Nekteck’s solar charge wows us with up to 21 watts of power production, which is more than enough to charge any portable device quickly. Unlike most solar-only chargers (ones without a battery), Nekteck’s model does allow for up to two devices to be charged at once. Just keep in mind you’re limited to 3 amps total, so charging two devices will take a good deal longer. Another nice feature is SmartIC, which will intelligently detect the type of device and deliver just the right amount of power to charge your phone, tablet, or GPS as quickly as possible.

Voltaic Arc 20W Solar Charger Kit

Arc 20W Solar Charger Kit
  • Capacity –24,000 mAh
  • Outputs — DC Output, USB Output (2A)
  • Weight — 3.25 pounds including battery and solar panels
  • Solar panel — 19.8 Watts

Unlike some of the clunkier, hard-shell builds on the market, the Arc 20 Watt Solar Charger easily fastens to a variety of awnings, packs, and tents, allowing for consistent charging throughout your adventure. This 20W kit also includes Voltaic’s V88 Universal Laptop Battery, which is designed with a DC Output, meaning you can charge most laptops at least once. The external battery also includes protection against short circuits and overcharging, so you don’t have to worry about frying your devices.

Panergy 18W Fast Charger with LED Flashlights

Panergy solar charger displayed on a table
  • Capacity –26,800 mAh
  • Outputs — USB Output (up to 3A), Type-C (up to 3A)
  • Weight — 1.11 pounds
  • Solar panel — 1.5 Watts

This stellar portable power brick is designed for outdoor enthusiasts. Perfect for your next hike or camping trip, this 18-watt solar charger by Panergy boasts an impressive armor shell, so you can expect it to take a beating for you. Moreover, the IPX1 weather shield can withstand most precipitation types, and the durable ABS material will keep the pack free from unwanted dust and debris. Recharging a dead battery takes about eight hours, but once fully juiced, the Panergy can charge both an iPhone 11 and Galaxy S10 more than six times over. The battery pack is built for your safety and protection, too, and features a powerful LED that allows you to signal for help from more than 300 feet away. The LED can even take on an orange hue, which is less attractive to insects.

Dizual 5,000 mAH Portable Solar Charger

  • Capacity — 5,000 mAH
  • Outputs — Dual USB Output (up to 1A)
  • Weight — 0.5 pounds
  • Solar panel — 1.2 Watts

This is one of the cheapest solar chargers on our list, given it typically retails for around $ 15. Don’t let the cheap price point dissuade you, however, because the Dizual charge pack is rich with convenient features. We’re huge fans of the backpack-ready design, which, using the provided lanyard, you can easily attach to the back of your pack or bag.

The pack’s eco-friendly design is also made of hard-nosed ABS materials, so you shouldn’t have to worry if it takes a tumble or takes on light rain (no submerging it in ponds, though). The built-in row of LEDs indicates how much power the pack has left, and the dual USB outputs are protected by rubber caps, so there’s no chance of debris clogging the ports.

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