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.
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.
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.
Whether you want to keep your phone battery full or charge up your tablet, these are the top solar chargers on the market.
Backpacker's solar charger
1. GoalZero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel
The backpacker's solar charger
Type: Charging Panel | Battery: None | Ports: One USB output, One 2.5 millimeter charging port | Dimensions: 6.5 x 8.75 x 0.75 (folded); 13 x 8.75 x 0.5 (unfolded) | Weight: 16.2 ounces | Special Features: Rugged folding design; Detachable kickstand; Multiple mounting points
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.
2. RAVPower Solar Charger 24W Solar Panel
Full-panel efficiency on the go
Type: Charging Panel | Battery: None | Ports: Three USB outputs | Dimensions: 11 x 5.9 x 1.18 inches (folded); 33 x 11.8 x 0.3 (unfolded) | Weight: 21 ounces | Special Features: Folding design; Integrated cable pocket; High-efficiency solar panels
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.
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-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.
Smarter solar panel
3. BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger
A smarter solar charging panel
Type: Charging Panel | Battery: None | Ports: Two USB outputs | Dimensions: 11.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 (folded); 33.1 x 6.3 x 0.33 (unfolded) | Weight: 20.1 ounces | Special Features: Built-in ammeter; Water-resistant design
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.
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 or hang it from a tree using four included hooks.
Stylish solar charger
4. BioLite SolarPanel 5+
Stylish solar charger with battery power
Type: Charging panel (w/ power bank) | Battery: 2,200 mAh integrated battery | Ports: One USB output, One MicroUSB input | Dimensions: 10.12 x 8.19 x 0.94 | Weight: 13.8 ounces | Special Features: Integrated power bank; Built-in Sundial
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. But 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.
5. Be-charming Portable Charger Solar Charger
Pocket-size charger with detachable panels
Type: Charging panel (w/ power bank) | Battery: 26800 mAh detachable battery | Ports: Two USB outputs, One MicroUSB input; One USB-C input | Dimensions: 6.02 x 3.35 x 1.38 in (folded); 14.9 x 3.35 x 0.9 (unfolded) | Weight: 19 ounces | Special Features: Detachable power bank
In a category filled with choices between charging panels and power banks, Be-charming has a nice compromise that combines the two. With a solar-panel-equipped power bank and a detachable fold-out three-sectioned solar panel, it's the best of both worlds. The power bank gives you a 26,800mAh battery that can be carried in a pocket, and the folding solar panel can be attached to charge the battery up to four to five times faster than a solar power bank alone.
The compact power bank also boasts plenty of features, from common things like a built-in charge meter and flashlight, to functional flourishes, like the choice of micro USB or USB-C input for charging, or a fold-out hanging hook. Wrap it all up in a weather-resistant design and it becomes a great choice for your day-to-day charging needs.
6. BEARTWO 10000mAh Portable Solar Charger
The lightweight best-seller
Type: Power Bank | Battery: 10,000 mAh integrated battery | Ports: Two USB output, One microUSB input | Dimensions: 5.51 x 2.95 x 0.7 | Weight: 7.4 ounces | Special Features: Built-in flashlight, Lightweight design
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.
Solar charging with light
7. PowerAdd Apollo 2 Waterproof Solar Charger with LED Flashlight
Solar charging that has a light
Type: Power Bank | Battery: 12,000 mAh integrated battery | Ports: Two USB output, One microUSB input | Dimensions: 5.91 x 2.95 x 0.59 | Weight: 10.9 ounces | Special Features: Built-in electric lighter
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, dual USB output and a rubberized exterior that protects it from the hazards of outdoor use.
But, open up one of the rubber port covers, and instead of another USB port, you'll find an electric lighter. Press a button for 3three seconds and the lighter coil will glow, ready to light a cigarette or start up a campfire. It's a great option for anyone who wants a good power bank that can still be charged (a bit) while backpacking or spending a weekend away from civilization.
Portability with wireless charging
8. BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank
Portability with wireless charging freedom
Type: Power Bank | Battery: 10,000 mAh integrated battery | Ports: One USB output, One micro USB input, 1 USB-C input | Dimensions: 6.9 x 3.5 x 1.1 | Weight: 24.2 | Special Features: Built-in Qi wireless charging; Includes carry strap with a liquid compass
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.
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.
Extra power for more
9. RLERON Solar Charger 25000mAh Power Bank Portable Charger
Extra power for more devices
Type: Power Bank | Battery: 25,000 mAh integrated battery | Ports: Three USB outputs, One micro USB input, One USB-C input | Dimensions: 6.49 x 3.22 x 0.59 | Weight: 12.5 ounces | Special Features: Charges up to three devices at once; Numeric LED charge indicator
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.