The best portable solar charger is the ideal tool to recharge your phone or tablet when you don’t have access to a power outlet. It has become possible to use solar energy to operate your devices even when you are hiking for example. This saves on the electricity bill while making a good move for the environment!
But it is not easy to find a reliable USB solar charger on the market. You may be disappointed by choosing a model that charges too slowly or cannot charge multiple devices at the same time. To make the right choice, this buying guide lists the best portable solar chargers available according to your use in terms of performance and value for money.
Which portable solar charger is best ?
Reviews of the top 3 USB Portable solar chargers 2018
RAVPower 24W: the best solar charger for smartphone and tablet
With a power of 24W and an energy efficiency of 22-23%, the RAVPower solar phone charger is a high-end model rather light (750g), waterproof and well designed. The opinions of users are very good as for the majority of products of this brand recognized in the accessories of smartphones.
The robust construction of this folding solar charger is unquestionable with quality photovoltaic cells. It is made from a thick, waterproof canvas with four riveted eyelets to attach the carabiners included. The seams are neat and velcro very resistant.
The RAVPower solar touring charger has three independent iSmart USB ports of 2.4 amps each. It can simultaneously charge a tablet and two smartphones. ISmart technology is designed to automatically detect the optimal current to ensure the fastest possible charge without the risk of damaging your phone.
As with most portable solar chargers, there is no internal battery for storing energy. Although the most effective method is to connect your mobile devices directly, it is also possible to add an external battery. This will allow you to continue charging the devices during the night.
Aside from the particular design, hard to find a fault with this waterproof and flexible model. The only complaint I find is the inner pocket which could be better designed to carry devices if you use the moving panel.
In summary, the universal solar charger RAVPower is one of the most powerful on the market, extremely robust and works perfectly well. I recommend it to campers or hikers who will not have access to an electrical outlet for an extended period.
Anker PowerPort Solar Lite: The best value for money
The solar charger Anker PowerPort Solar Lite is my real favorite of the moment because it has all the features that I look for: power, durability, ease of use, quality/price ratio, portability, and loading speed. Also note the 30-month warranty that can be quiet good!
Equipped with 2 USB ports, this flexible solar charger delivers a power of 21 Watts with an efficiency greater than 20%. It is able to provide at least a full charge for a tablet or up to two smartphones on a sunny day. In real life conditions, your average will vary depending on the brightness of the sun.
The solar charger Anker PowerPort Solar Lite is incredibly durable thanks to its PET solar panels protected with a solid plastic coating sewn in a nylon cloth resistant to wear. It is lightweight is easy to carry by folding in 5, and measures only 30cm by 16cm for 2 centimeters thick.
It easily attaches to a tent when you’re camping, on a backpack for a hike or even through the windows of a camper. The use of this solar portable charger is extremely versatile and user reviews are almost always positive.
Finally, the Anker PowerPort Solar Lite portable hiking solar panel automatically adjusts the amperage to suit your device, allowing for the fastest and safest possible charging. It is also effective after an interruption, for example following a cloud that passes in front of the sun. In short, without a doubt the best quality/price ratio of the moment!
RAVPower Power Bank: a cheap pocket solar charger with built-in battery
If you prefer a compact device, this RAVPower mini portable solar charger works fantastically in direct sunlight and surprisingly well when there are clouds. It incorporates an internal solar USB battery with long battery life of 15000mAh allow for example to recharge up to 4 times for an iPhone 9 and 7 times a Samsung Galaxy.
The dual 2.4A USB plug is used for those who travel with a friend or take with them several devices, for example, a smartphone, a tablet and a GPS hiking. ISmart technology allows charging at the same time without decreasing the charging speed.
In terms of size, the RAVPower solar portable charging weighs 380 grams and is only 17 cm long. A light lets you know in real time if the battery is charged according to its color (4 levels) and an LED is present at the end if you do not need the flashlight mode at night.
Supplied with a user manual, the solar battery is easy to use. I advise you to charge it completely before a long hike. In fact, unlike the 2 previous products tested, the 5V solar panels remain a gadget since the surface remains limited, unlike the unfoldable models.
To conclude, it is a particularly affordable solar external battery with a convenient sun-charging option in the event of a breakdown. An 18-month warranty is included for free which makes it an excellent price.
What is a portable solar charger?
A portable solar kit uses solar energy to power appliances or charge batteries. These are small portable models designed to charge a range of different mobile phones (eg iPhone, Sony or Samsung ), tablets (iPad), other electronic devices (eg GPS or MP3 player) and even laptops (eg: PC or MacBook Pro)
Some solar chargers also have an onboard battery that is charged by the transportable solar panel. This makes it possible to use the solar energy stored in the battery to recharge its electronic devices at night or indoors.
The solar charger industry has been hard hit by companies that mass-produce low-performance models that do not meet customers’ expectations. It is therefore difficult for new solar charger companies to win the trust of users.
Why buy a portable solar charger?
In these days of ever-increasing reliance on technology, many people have chosen to buy a USB solar charger for their smartphones for example. With increased sales of connected devices, the need to keep these gadgets powered up is more important than ever.
Because there is not always a plugin hand: the main advantage of a solar charger is the fact that it does not require external power to charge a device. This is extremely convenient if you are going to spend some time away from a mains supply. For example, when camping or exploring the outdoors or spending time at a music festival.
Solar energy is extremely ecological: the majority of domestic energy is produced by nuclear power plants that are harmful to the environment. On the other hand, solar energy is a form of renewable energy. With wind energy in particular, it is a clean energy that does not produce greenhouse gases and has no risk of radiation.
To save money: Once you buy a solar charger, there is no charge to charge your device, unlike the power supply that increases your electricity bill! Of course, it will be necessary to be careful to choose a reliable model with a guarantee long enough for the purchase to be profitable over time.
How to choose a good portable solar charger?
Photovoltaic chargers are available in a wide range of sizes, prices and types. Small differences like the material and efficiency of solar panels can have a big impact and lead to advantages or disadvantages. Here are the key factors to help you choose the best portable solar charger for your needs.
Quality of the panels
There are three different types of solar panels used in nomadic solar chargers. CIGS panels are the most flexible because they consist of a thin layer of copper, indium, gallium and selenide.
They are light and cheap to manufacture, but they degrade faster and are less effective. None of the above loaders therefore use CIGS panels, I recommend polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels instead.
As the name suggests, the first uses several ingots of crystal, while the second consists of a monocrystalline ingot. In other words, monocrystalline panels are purer with less energy loss and higher efficiency, while polycrystalline panels are slightly cheaper to manufacture.
Power and efficiency
For a small waterproof phone or GPS, a travel solar panel with low specifications may suffice. On the
another hand, if you want to charge two energy-hungry electronic devices at once, you need a more powerful hybrid solar charger.
Power and amperage are the two values you should pay attention to when considering the performance potential of solar chargers. The electric current is measured in amperes, while the electric power is measured in watts.
Portable solar panels from 3W to 5W are enough to charge small devices and external batteries. With a panel of 5 Watts, a complete charge can last from 3 to 6 hours. Charging two smartphones at the same time is only possible from 10 Watts.
The intensity of the amperage will tell you how efficient a device can be. I advise you at least 2A. Pay attention to two- or three-port chargers because manufacturers use different specifications. Some indicate the total intensity, while others will specify the output for each port, leaving you to add these values.
Manufacturers generally give a percentage showing the efficiency with which nomadic solar panels can convert sunlight into electricity. To date, monocrystalline
panels can reach 25%, while polycrystalline panels remain around 18%.
Some solar powered chargers come with a built-in battery, which gives you the option to charge your device later. This is an ideal setup for situations where you need your phone during the daylight hours and want to recharge it overnight.
Any solar charger can of course be associated with an external battery, but the disadvantage is the weight and additional space. Keep in mind that with increased battery life, your solar charger might not be used.
If you go for a two-day hike or a weekend camping, a 10,000mAh solar backup battery is more than enough to charge your smartphone twice. Beyond three days without a power source, a foldable solar charger is starting to be an attractive solution.
Weight and size
The ideal smartphone solar battery should be light and compact, but because of the nature of the solar panels, it is not always possible. The more power you need, the bigger the surface of the panel, making the chargers foldable with effective panels a sure bet for charging a premium smartphone.
An external battery greatly increases the weight, while a battery with a small panel is relatively compact at the expense of a slower and less powerful load.
The combination of a foldable panel and a separate external battery gives you the freedom to store them separately and to choose the size and weight of the battery according to the desired autonomy.
As you can see, USB ports are the standard for solar chargers, making it easy to charge smartphones and similar devices. If you have a device that requires an adapter, you can power it from an external battery charged by your solar panels so you do not lose too much solar energy.
Ease of use
Solar power banks are generally easy to use. Just plug in your device, expose the panels to the sun and wait between one hour and several hours depending on the model. Likewise, most panels are easy to clean by wiping off dust or wet with a cloth.
Also think about how you will recharge your batteries: with a stationary installation outside your tent, or with the solar charger on your backpack, your bike or your motorcycle. The correct angle of a moving solar panel can greatly increase efficiency.
The rule of thumb is that your sign should be oriented toward the sun at an angle roughly equivalent to your latitude. In general, this will result in less direct angles in summer and more pronounced in winter. If you make adjustments throughout the day, you can speed up the load.
A panel attached to a backpack is easy to carry, but it usually results that two-thirds of a collapsible loader hang more or less vertically, which only works if you walk with the sun in your back.
Many standalone solar powered chargers also include a pocket for cables and devices, but beware of the heat generated inside that may cause your device to overheat while you charge it.
Smart charging technology is a feature that any good portable solar generator should feature. This chip not only automatically adjusts the load to the connected device for safety and efficiency reasons, but also restarts the load after an interruption.
It can be a passing cloud, the shadow of a tree or a person who blocks the sun. Devices without this technology may get stuck in a slow charge mode, requiring a manual reset.
Price and guarantee
The price of a solar charger varies between 20 and 100$ depending on the model. I strongly recommend you to favor a model that is proven by reading tests and user reviews. In many cases, a more expensive charger will eventually be more interesting depending on your everyday use. And as for any electronic object, the duration of the guarantee is a paramount criterion not to neglect!
how do portable solar chargers work?
An electric current is created by the movement of free electrons that carry a negative charge. Normally, the electrons are entangled in an orbit around the nucleus of an atom, which is composed of protons and neutrons. These atomic particles are the constituent elements of matter and are found in everything. Some materials retain their electrons more closely than others, but with enough energy, an electron can be detached from its orbit.
A particle of energy that does a good job of hitting the electrons that come off the atoms is the photon. It is the subatomic energy package that forms the basis of light. Photons of sunlight carry enough energy to blow electrons out of their orbit into the silicon element, which is the material used in most solar cells. The photon’s ability to untangle the electrons is called the photoelectric effect.
An imbalance between the positively charged particles and the negatively charged particles is created in the silicon by adding the boron and phosphorus impurities. This imbalance creates an electric field in silicon. When the photons hit the material and release the electrons from their orbits, this electric field pushes them toward the front of the solar cell, creating a negatively charged side. Protons left behind on the other side of the cell surface create a positive charge.
When these two sides are connected using an external charge, the electrons flow into the charge and create electricity. Since a single solar cell produces only one or two watts of electricity, several cells are combined to form modules that work together to produce enough energy to charge a battery.
I hope this guide has helped you choose the best portable solar charger for your needs. If you would like to comment or recommend a product that I did not include, please use my contact form to contact me.