The best solar chargers tantalize us with the promise of freedom – freedom from wall outlets and from power bills, juicing up batteries and smartphones by soaking up the sun's rays. For all the mobility of the modern age, we spend a lot of time tethered to stationary outlets, charging batteries. To help set you free, or just give you a way to charge a device in the great outdoors, we've pulled together a list of the best solar chargers out there.
From solar panels that let you charge your phone in a window to power banks that charge over the course of the day to stay topped up for whenever you need some extra juice, we've found the best solar chargers on the market. Whether it's the most popular best-sellers or specialty products with rugged features, these portable solar panels and solar-cell-equipped power banks are great for everything from backpacking and hiking to week-long camping trips, or just keeping a charge while you're out at a barbeque. It doesn't matter if it's a smartphone, tablet, or even a laptop, you can get powered up in the great outdoors.
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Whatever your charging needs, we have a selection of the best solar chargers to get you powered up and going again, using nothing but sunshine.
What are the best solar chargers?
There are several types and styles of solar panels and power banks, but the best solar charger is the GoalZero Nomad 7 Plus, a portable solar panel that's a favorite of backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts. The folding design makes it easy to pack along, the rugged construction lets it survive the rigors of the outdoors and a built-in kickstand makes it easy to set up for optimal sunlight exposure.
The RAVPower 24-watt solar panel is a foldable waterproof travel charger that packs four high-efficiency solar cells into a relatively compact package. It also has a trio of USB ports, letting you charge multiple devices at once. The similar design of the BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger combines a folding multi-cell panel with a built-in digital ammeter.
The BioLite SolarPanel 5+ combines the larger solar panel design with a built-in battery, letting you soak up the rays all day and power up your devices at any time. The clever design has a 360-degree kickstand that can prop it up or let it hang, and a built-in sundial helps you find the best position for catching the most sunlight.
Finally, there are several power banks you can buy that boast built-in solar panels. Designed for charging up from a power outlet and then staying topped up with sunlight, these power banks are also packed with handy features.
The BEARTWO Portable Solar Charger has a built-in flashlight to accompany it's lightweight 10,000 mAh battery. The PowerAdd Apollo 2 is a waterproof power bank that boasts both a flashlight and a built-in electric lighter.
The BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank stands out with Qi wireless charging and both USB and USB-C power output, while the RLERON Solar Charger 25,000mAh Power Bank Portable Charger is a little less outdoorsy, but boasts an easy-to-read numeric display and flashlight, and can charge up to three devices at a time.
The best solar chargers you can buy today
The GoalZero Nomad 7 Plus is a portable solar panel designed to go anywhere you want to go. With a rugged design that's made for attaching to a backpack or hanging outside a tent, the Nomad 7 Plus is as popular for on-the-go charging of phones and tablets as it is for backpackers needing power for headlamps and GPS units.
The rugged design is made of sturdy plastic, and features an optional kickstand that lets you prop it up for optimal sunlight exposure, whether you're using it in the park, on a mountain, or just in your office window sill.
The Nomad 7 Plus features several convenient features, such as automatic shut-off that stops charging when the device is fully charged, an LED indicator that displays solar strength to get the best placement for capturing rays, and power output up to 7 watts through USB.
The RAVPower solar charger 24-watt solar panel is a foldable waterproof travel charger designed to provide power for your phones and tablets in the city or out at the campsite. It folds up into a size smaller than a magazine but opens up to provide plenty of sun catching surface area.
The RAVPower's folding design provides a compact way to carry four high-efficiency solar cells, offering more power output and faster solar charging then the vast majority of simple solar cell-equipped power banks. The device folds up into a tidy package that weighs 21 ounces, and the charger's built-in trio of USB outputs will let you charge multiple devices at once. And for more convenience, there's an integrated zippered pocket that lets you stow charging cables or tuck a smartphone out of sight while it charges.
One of the best-selling solar chargers on Amazon is also the smartest, with the BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger boasting a built-in digital ammeter to provide information about amperage for charging speed, and a voltage regulator that offers stable power output for safer charging. In a field full of simple devices, these smarter touches make the BigBlue a great choice for those who want something a bit more sophisticated.
The folding four-panel design offers plenty of surface area to harvest the sun's power, and a zippered pocket keeps your devices secure while they charge. The functional design features industrial-strength PET polymer fabric with grommet-reinforced holes for attaching the charger panels to a backpack. You can also hang it from a tree using four included hooks. Thanks to IPX4 water resistance, it will also survive the unexpected rain shower or errant sprinkler.
Though there are several portable solar panels on the market, the BioLite SolarPanel 5+ is one of the few to come with its own built-in battery, letting you soak up the sun during the day, and save some of that power for charging at night.
The clever design incorporates a 2200mAh integrated rechargeable battery and 360-degree kickstand. The kickstand does double duty as a hook, for hanging the panel on a tree branch or tent, and a pair of anchor points also let you attach it to the outside of a pack with carabiners for solar collection on the go. The BioLite solar panel also has a handy sundial on the front to help you find the best position for the free-standing panel. The charging panel is also weather resistant, with a tough protective layer on the panel and covers to keep moisture out of the unit's USB output and micro USB charging port.
The best-selling solar charger on Amazon is the BearTwo Portable Solar Charger 10000mAh. Thanks to a solid feature set and an affordable price, the Beartwo comes in black, but is also offered with blue, green or orange accents.
Aside from that, the overall design is basic, but functional, with a chunky, easy-to-grip body and a single 2.5 x 4.5-inch solar panel. Built-in functions include a charge-level indicator, a triangular cutout for attaching a carabiner or lanyard loop, and a flashlight.
The power bank's 10,000 mAh should provide up to five full charges for a smartphone, and it can charge two devices at once, thanks to a pair of USB power outputs. Weighing just 7.4 ounces, it's also the lightest solar charger we've listed, making it the better option for ultralight backpackers and anyone else who wants to keep the weight down in their everyday carry.
At first glance, the PowerAdd Apollo 2 power bank looks like most portable solar-equipped batteries. It has useful features like a built-in flashlight and dual USB output for charging two devices at a time. It also features a rubberized exterior that protects it from the hazards of outdoor use.
But, open up one of the rubber port covers on the side, and instead of another USB port, you'll find an electric lighter. Press a button for three seconds and the lighter coil will glow, ready to light a cigarette or start up a campfire, making it a great choice for outdoor adventures. It's a great option for anyone who wants a good power bank that can still be charged (a bit) while backpacking and be useful for more than power while spending a weekend away from civilization.
For a uniquely useful charging solution, it's hard to beat the BLAVOR PN-W05 Solar Power Bank. In addition to being a ruggedized solar-capable power bank, it also has Qi wireless charging, giving you the built-in capability to charge many smartphones without plugging anything in. Just put your wireless-charging phone onto the power bank charging pad and watch your battery fill up.
The 10,000mAh external battery pack is also rich in features, from the built-in solar panel to the integrated flashlight. The hard plastic shell is made even more rugged with rubber-reinforced corners and water-resistant port covers. Underneath that cover, you'll find both micro USB and USB-C ports for charging the power bank, and a standard USB port for power output. And if you use the wireless charging pad and the USB together, you can charge two devices at once.
With a hard-to-parse name like RLERON, it might not be immediately apparent why the Solar Charger 25000mAh Power Bank is a best-seller, given the mundane-looking design of the device. Although it has a solar panel for sunlight charging, it doesn't have the outdoorsy looks that ruggedized competitors do, and there are no campsite-friendly features like integrated hanging hooks. (It does, however, have a flashlight.)
Take a closer look, however, and you'll see a few specific features on this power bank that simply aren't offered on many competitors. The first is the distinctive charge indicator LED. Instead of an inscrutable row of dots showing you how much power the battery holds, the RLERON's design uses easy-to-read numbers, telling whether the battery is at 25, 50, 75 or 100 percent capacity.
The other is a trio of full-size USB ports, all capable of charging, and able to do so simultaneously. And with a beefy 25000mAh battery inside, the power bank can fully charge a modern smartphone five or six times between refills, or even charge an iPad Pro two or three times.
Combine all that with a price that's under $30, and it's easy to see why the RLERON Solar Charger is so popular.
How to choose the best solar charger
Solar chargers tend to fall into three styles: Power banks that have a solar panel attached, stand-alone solar panels for charging outdoors, and a few options that combine these two, pairing larger fold-out panels with a power bank.
For on-the-go use, smaller power banks may be more convenient, but any solar capability offered by putting a single panel on the face of a portable battery is going to be limited. Solar-capable power banks can recharge entirely by sunlight, but it may take up to a week of sunny days to do so. Instead, these pocketable power backups are meant to be charged like any other power bank, but exposing the charged bank to regular sunlight will help keep the battery topped off.
These external batteries do boast some added functionality thanks to built in flashlights and other features, but the solar aspect isn't the main selling point.
For serious charging when in nature, you'll be better served by one of several solar charging panels, which offer more surface area and more-efficient power generation. These portable panels can charge a phone or tablet in a matter of hours, and most are designed to attach to the outside of a backpack, so you can charge phones or cameras while hiking.