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The best solar chargers of 2021

Best solar chargers
(Image credit: BioLite)

The best solar chargers bring you freedom. You're no longer stuck near wall outlets to stay powered up and racking up higher power bills as you make sure your gadgets are filled with juice. Instead, a solar charger can soak up the sun's rays and convert that into the energy to keep your gadgets on the go.

After all, 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.

Whether we're looking at the most popular best-sellers or rugged trail gear, 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 β€” perfect now that we're in the heat of summer and spending more time outdoors, away from plugs.

From solar panels that let you charge your phone in a window to power banks that stay topped up for whenever you need some extra juice, we've found the best solar chargers on the market. It doesn't matter if it's a smartphone, tablet, or even a laptop, you can get powered up in the great outdoors.

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 BigBlue 5V 28W solar charger also has a convenient fold up design that can be stowed in a pack or opened up for use on the trail, and even has a built-in voltage regulator.

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.

There are also 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 BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank stands out with Qi wireless charging and both USB and USB-C power output.

The best solar chargers you can buy today

Best solar chargers: GoalZero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel

(Image credit: GoalZero)

1. GoalZero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel

The backpacker's solar charger

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Rugged design+Optional kickstand adds flexibility+Automatic shutoff feature
Reasons to avoid
-One of the more expensive options on this list

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.

 

Best solar chargers: BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger

(Image credit: BigBlue)

2. BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger

A smarter solar charging panel

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Safer charger thanks to voltage regulator+Built-in digital ammeter+Plenty of surface area
Reasons to avoid
-Not very portable

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.

Best solar chargers: BioLite SolarPanel 5+

(Image credit: BioLite)

3. BioLite SolarPanel 5+

Stylish solar charger with battery power

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Includes a built-in battery+Sundial helps find the best position to catch the sun's rays
Reasons to avoid
-Gets very hot in the sun

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.

 

Best solar chargers: BEARTWO 10000mAh Portable Solar Charger

(Image credit: BEARTWO)

4. BEARTWO 10000mAh Portable Solar Charger

The lightweight best-seller

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Very affordable+Light weight makes it ideal of hiking
Reasons to avoid
-Limited to two devices

The best-selling solar charger on Amazon is the BearTwo Portable Solar Charger 10,000mAh. 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.

 

Best solar chargers: BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank

(Image credit: BLAVOR)

5. BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank

Portability with wireless charging freedom

Specifications
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 ounces
Special Features: Built-in Qi wireless charging; Includes carry strap with a liquid compass
Reasons to buy
+Rugged for outdoor use+Supports wireless charging
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than the BearTwo

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.

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.

Brian Westover
Brian Westover is an Editor at Tom's Guide, covering everything from TVs to the latest PCs. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.