Whether you’re camping, backpacking, or taking long day hikes, you may find yourself without access to electricity on many outdoor adventures. Despite being off the grid, you may still want access to your phone, especially for safety and navigation. If you need a way to charge up your phone or other small gadgets when there aren’t any outlets around, a solar charger is an excellent option. These small, portable solar panels are often lightweight, include battery packs, and can sometimes charge more than one device at once—so you can stay connected while off the grid so long as the sun is still shining.
Check out quick reviews below of the top five solar chargers, then scroll deeper for more helpful buying info and full reviews of those models plus other high-ranking options.
Features to Consider
When choosing a solar charger, the two most important features to be aware of are the wattage and whether or not it includes a battery pack. Wattage is crucial in determining how quickly you’ll be able to charge devices, and how many you can charge at the same time. A cell phone generally takes about six watts to fully charge, so it is best to invest in a charger that is higher than six watts to ensure that it will be capable of charging your phone in a timely manner.
Keep in mind that while some chargers come with a built-in battery, many do not. A battery pack is useful so you can store energy for when you need to charge later—essentially, your charger would work as a power bank instead of a direct transfer of energy, so you gain a bit more independence from the weather.
How We Selected and Rated Them
We researched expert sources such as Tech Radar, Good Housekeeping, and GearHungry as well as 2,800 consumer reviews to select the top six solar chargers of the year. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of customers who rated the product at least four out of five stars on retail and review sites like Amazon, Home Depot, and manufacturers’ websites.
BigBlue 5V 28W
Consumer Score: 80% gave it 4 stars or more
Easy to read and easy to use in a weatherproof package.
Battery: None | Ports: Two USB outputs | Dimensions: 33 x 6 x 0.33 in. | Weight: 20 ounces
While there are certainly many solar chargers to choose from now, it is hard to go wrong with this BigBlue charger with 28 watts. Lightweight and foldable, this charger has two USB outputs that allow you to charge more than one device at a time. Its voltage controller also transfers a consistent stream of energy to your device, and a digital ammeter provides information about amperage for charging speed. The panels are water resistant (rated IPX4), so they can handle an occasional rain shower, but the USB ports and ammeter should stay out of water’s way. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the BigBlue doesn’t include a battery, so you can only charge devices while there’s available sun.
BioLite SolarPanel 5+
Consumer Score: 90% gave it 4 stars or more
An included battery and light weight make this a great option for thru hikers.
Battery: 2,200 mAh integrated battery | Ports: One USB output, One MicroUSB input | Dimensions: 10 x 8 x 1 in. | Weight: 14 ounces
This one-piece solar charger is a backpacker’s best friend. The singular panel is easy to prop up, hang from a tree, or even clip to your backpack to charge while on the move. Despite its compact size, the BioLite Solar Panel does include a battery to store energy for later. The charging panel is weather-resistant, meaning that it can get wet though not submerged, and it has a USB output and micro USB charging ports to charge multiple devices at once.
Consumer Score: 70% gave it 4 stars or more
Super light and affordable with some useful features.
Battery: 10,000 mAh integrated battery | Ports: Two USB output, One microUSB input | Dimensions: 5.5 x 3 x 0.7 in. | Weight: 7 ounces
If you are looking for affordability in a lightweight package, you can’t go wrong with this Hobest charger. At only $20, it has plenty of similar features for less than half the price of some other options. It includes a rechargeable battery as well as two USB outputs and even has an integrated flashlight with three settings. Though it holds less power, its small, seven-ounce construction makes it great if you’re trying to avoid unnecessary weight. While reviewers found success with the charger in general, some had issues with its solar charging capability when not in direct sunlight.
Voltaic Systems Arc
Consumer Score: 78% gave it 4 stars or more
Harness some serious power and charge all your desired devices.
Battery: 24,000 mAh integrated battery | Ports: DC Output, USB Output | Dimensions: 10 x 0.15 x 6 in. | Weight: 3 pounds
If you need a solar charger that packs a punch, look no further. This model by Voltaic Systems is more than capable of charging everything from smart watches to laptops—and it even weighs less than 4 pounds. While this may not be the optimal choice for backpackers as it is a bit heavier than other chargers, it’s a great portable option for car campers who want to take their tech with them. It charges a 24,000 mAh battery that can last for about 10 hours of charging. In general, it’ll take about two hours to charge a laptop and one hour to charge a phone. Since it folds up, it is easy to travel with but cannot reasonably hang off the back of a backpack like other models can. In addition, the Arc features USB and USB-C inputs. To help soften the blow of the price, the warranty offers two years of coverage for the solar panel, and one year for the battery.
Consumer Score: 72% gave it 4 stars or more
This charger has added safety features.
Battery: None | Ports: USB Output | Dimensions: 5 x 7 x 1 in. | Weight: 13 ounces
Whether you are a committed thru-hiker or weekend camper, chances are you will run into a situation where you need a flashlight. And what’s better than a lightweight flashlight? One that is solar-powered and also serves as a power bank. And this Swiss-Army-Knife of flashlights has even more to offer, such as a window breaker, seatbelt cutter, and even an SOS signal should you find yourself in trouble. On top of these extra features, it is a darn good power bank. The 10-hour rechargeable battery can be charged by solar or USB input. At about nine inches in height and a mere $25, it is a great addition to your camping gear that can help keep you safe and your devices fully charged.
—CHARGES ON THE GO—
Consumer Score: 85% gave it 4 stars or more
Speedy charging that you won’t have to stop for.
Battery: None | Ports: Two USB Outputs | Dimensions: 23 x 12 x 0.1 in. | Weight: 22 ounces
You can wear plenty of other solar chargers while you hike, but this one takes the cake. Spreading out to cover your entire backpack, it makes use of the empty space and turns it into usable energy, instead of forcing you to stop to lay out your panels. Although it does not have a battery, it can charge up to two devices at a time and claims to increase the power conversion rate by 25 percent, allowing it to charge your devices quickly and efficiently. It weighs about 22 ounces and is water resistant, making it a great traveling buddy, so long as you don’t need a separate battery pack.
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