Best Portable Solar Charger Panels Reviewed
To the old school purist, bringing electronics along on an outdoor adventure might be seen as a travesty. Today we have electronic devices like GPS units and Personal Locator Beacons that are actually designed for use in the great outdoors.
Realistically, there are a lot of electronics that are worth using while you are outdoors, or traveling anywhere away from home. But how can your keep your battery charged when there is no power source available?
That’s why Fly Fishing Atlas brings you our review of the best portable solar charger.
We like our outdoor electronics as much as anyone. Whether you need to charge your digital camera, smartphone, or a full sized laptop, we have you covered.
Which portable solar charger will work the best for your needs will depend on how you want to use it. There are a number of worthwhile factors to consider before you purchase a portable solar panel. Check out those details below, or jump right to our comparison chart for the quick answers.
Top Solar Charger Benefits
- Panel Power – Any portable solar charger needs to produce enough power for your particular equipment or it won’t be of much use to you. Waiting around before you can use your devices can be frustrating. And if you are relying on GPS for navigation it might present you with a very dangerous situation. Being able to charge your electronics quickly is a real advantage.
- Power Storage – Portable solar chargers produce power when the sun is shining bright. So what do you do if you need power, but the sun refuses to play along? This is why power storage, often called power banks, are an excellent addition to your solar panels. When the sun is high, you can charge you power bank for later use. These units weight more than those without power storage, so they might not be desirable as a power device while backpacking. Nevertheless, they are very effective for providing regulated power in remote areas.
- Weight – If you are mainly moving your portable solar charger around in your vehicle then weight won’t be much of an issue. But if you are biking or backpacking then you really don’t want to go to the point of over-kill. Keeping your load at a minimum will save you vital energy, so it’s important to find a good balance between performance and weight.
- Size – This is another consideration that won’t be vital if you primarily drive to remote locations. But if you need your portable solar panel to fit in your pack, then the size will be absolutely vital. Some chargers have a folding design that minimizes their size, but still provides a large surface area when unfolded. It’s the best of both worlds in the sense that you get better charging capability in a smaller package.
- Connections – There are a ton of different power requirements depending on your electronic device. USB connections are super common but finding regulated power with the correct voltage and amperage can be really important in order to avoid damaging your electronics. Beyond USB ports, higher voltage laptop ports are another highly desirable option. If size and weight aren’t particularly concerning for your application, then getting a portable solar charger with a lot of connection options is going to provide a lot of added value.
Top Portable Solar Charger Comparison
Best Portable Solar Charger
Voltaic Systems not only wanted to make a solar charging unit that would provide energy to a huge number of devices, but also one that came in a stylish package. The Arc 20W is a high-powered solar charger that will not only charge the battery on a your laptop, smartphone, or GoPro camera, but also looks great too.
The Arc 20W comes with a battery pack (which the company calls the “Power Bank”) which then connects directly to your device, allowing you to charge it quickly. Voltaic Systems claims that you can charge the battery pack in six hours, provided you leave the solar panel out in direct sunlight.
The Arc 20W is surprisingly travel-friendly. Fully extended, the solar panel pack measures 33.9 by 10 inches with minimal depth. But folded away, it is just 7.5 by 10 by 0.8 inches, meaning that it’ll easily fit into a backpack and possibly a laptop case. The Arc is relatively lightweight too at just 3.5 pounds, including the battery pack, meaning that it is worth taking on hiking and camping trips to provide energy for your portable devices.
The Arc 20W does, unfortunately, have an issue with the LED charging lights which Voltaic Systems says that it is currently trying to resolve. It’s often unclear whether the blinking lights on the LED mean that the unit is charging or not. Most users just ignore the LED display and find it easier to check the battery indicator on the device if you want an accurate output.
So who is the Arc for? Unlike the S14 by Suntactics, the Arc is not all-weather survival gear. It’s for people who want to be able to charge their devices while out of the home on sunny days, such as at the beach or the park. It is suitable for camping, so long as you have good weather. The battery attachment makes this device impractical for use in the rain.
- INCLUDES A BATTERY PACK (POWER BANK) to charge your laptop quickly and safely. Store energy and power to charge your devices even when it is cloudy and the sun is not out. Completely charges most laptops in 6 hours, 1 hour charges most smartphones
- INCLUDES A 2-YEAR WARRANTY. Our solar panels are designed to last. Built using rugged fabric and strong solar cells that can withstand the rigors of everyday use (2 year on solar panel, 1 year on battery pack)
- HIGH PERFORMANCE SOLAR PANELS made from industry-leading monocrystalline solar cells fully charges V88 power bank in just 6 hours of direct sunlight.
- DESIGNED TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THE SUN | Only weighs 3.25 lbs. Attach to your backpack or stash into the smallest of spaces in your travel bag. Sturdy metal grommets allow for easy mounting on various backpacks, bicycles, and touring gear
- COMPATIBILITY | Designed to power and charge thousands of laptops computers, DSLR batteries and USB devices like the Macbook, iPhone, iPod, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Sony, Nikon, Canon, GoPro, Blackberry, Android devices, and other smartphones. *May require additional adapters, see details below*
When Anker was designing its dual USB solar charger, the firm realized that the current solar panel charging products weren’t giving people what they wanted: speed. Solar chargers would often take hours to deliver power to electronic devices, and sometimes longer, causing frustration. People want their solar chargers to give them full battery quickly while they are out of the home or during a power cut. In an emergency, you need energy fast.
Anker’s solar charger uses PowerIQ technology. It’s a unique, in-house design that enables the charger to deliver charge to devices more quickly than standard panels on the market. That’s not to say that it’s super fast: this isn’t a Tesla supercharger. But it is noticeably quicker than many equivalent products on the market.
Anker also wanted to solve a second problem: that of portability. Solar panel chargers weighing more than a pound dominate the market, but they’re often too heavy to be practical for people going on long excursions. Hikers, for instance, want the convenience of a solar charger, but don’t want to have to put up with the weight penalty. Because Anker eschews battery packs and uses a PET polymer to house the solar panels, the firm managed to get the weight of the unit down to an impressive 13 ounces – well under a pound. Given the size of the panel, and the fact that it can output 21W under ideal conditions, that’s pretty good. You can charge two small USB devices with the panel, or a single larger device, such as a laptop.
Anker doesn’t market its dual USB solar charger as rain resistant. But through our testing, we’ve found that the unit does work after water exposure. This product, therefore, is for people who want something that is light and portable and should resist water.
- The Anker Advantage: Join the 10 million+ powered by our leading technology.
- Fast Charging Technology: PowerIQ delivers the fastest possible charge up to 2.1 amps under direct sunlight. 15W SunPower solar array is 21.5-23.5% efficient, providing enough power to charge two devices simultaneously.
- Incredibly Durable: Industrial-strength PET polymer faced solar panels sewn into a rugged polyester canvas offer weather-resistant outdoor durability.
- Highly Portable: Compact size (11 × 6.3 in. folded / 18.1 × 11 in. opened) and elastic loops on each corner allow easy attachment to backpacks, trees or tents. Super lightweight (13.2 oz) and ultra-thin design (0.7 in. folded / 0.2 in. opened) make it ideal for long treks.
- What You Get: Anker PowerPort Solar (21W 2-Port USB Solar Charger), 3ft Micro USB cable, welcome guide, our fan-favorite 18-month warranty and friendly customer service.
Suntactics markets the S5 as a premium product, made in the US from high-quality materials. The marketing message is clear: this is the type of product you can rely on during a natural disaster or power outage.
The construction of the solar panel is smart. Suntactics designed the unit with all electronic components and circuits on the inside under protective casing. Suntactics lists the S5 as water resistant and tests the product down to 40 feet, so the S5 solar panel should have no issues working outdoors in the rain during a storm.
What about charging capacity? How does the S5 fare on that front? Suntactics says that the panel offers 1200mA at 5 volts, meaning that it’s capable of charging most standard smartphones or tablets. For that reason, is it a good portable solar panel for camping, providing plenty of juice for couples and buddies staying under canvas.
Compatability is good too. The S5 uses USB ports to which you can fit practically any kind of charger for a portable electronic device. The solar panel will charge all Apple and Samsung phones, and will even double up as a charger for your rechargeable AA or AAA power packs – useful for when you want to charge the batteries for your flashlight in an emergency.
Although Suntactics claims that the solar panel will output greater than 5 watts, it’s unlikely you’ll average this kind of performance in the real world. Cloud cover, position, and your current latitude all mean that it is doubtful you’ll consistently see the maximum theoretical performance. With that said, it still provides surprisingly high output given its relative compactness.
Here is a good overview of the Suntactics S5 Solar Charger
- The sCharger-5 provides a light weight compact design for hikers that need to pack things tight. Spec:s 1200 mA (> 5watts) 5 volts USB, 6" x 6" closed, 6" x 11" open, 7oz. Auto-Retry.
- The S5 is our flag ship solar charger. It has traveled on all the American trails for over 8 years now. The S5 is a very reliable solar charger made for the short and long term endurance hiker. You may have seen a Suntactics solar charger on the trails. Including the PCT, AT, JMT, and CDT to mention a few.
- Suntactics solar chargers are extremely durable, reliable and water resistant. Solar panels and electronic connections are completely encapsulated. High efficiency solar cells are configured correctly for optimum light-to-voltage conversion for increased charging speed. Corrosion resistant from salty environments and water tested to 40 feet.
- Compatible with all USB chargeable devices, including iPhones(X,8,7,6 and all plus's). Samsung Galaxy's S9, S7, S8, S6, S5, plus's), pretty much all phones and tablets, powerbanks, AA/AAA,18650, A23 batteries, USB flashlights, SLR cameras using a USB charging cradle found on Amazon.
- Designed and assembled in Silicon Valley, USA. U.S.Pat No. 9,929,443. Package includes Suntactics solar charger, travel pouch, User Manual, 2-year warranty, excellent customer support
The SunJack portable solar phone charger is another product designed in the USA. But does it deliver?
One of the most exciting aspects of the SunJack is the choice of materials. During the design phase of their portable solar charger, SunJack decided that it was going to do away with the usual PET material that covers the majority of solar panels on the market. The company opted for ETFE instead, a plastic that can withstand both higher temperatures and a wider variety of corrosive chemicals. ETFE comes with an additional benefit too: higher ultra-violet permeability, 95 percent compared to PET’s 80 percent.
SunJack says that this simple change makes their charger substantially more efficient than others on the market, allowing it to collect more solar energy from a smaller surface area. The SunJack, therefore, is a camper or hiker’s dream. It’s small, lightweight and provides sufficient charge to power a phone or small computer, making it one of the best portable solar panels for campers.
SunJack also targets the survivalist market too. As long as there’s sunshine, the company says, you can use its product to power your telephone and call for help after snowstorms, natural disasters, floods or terrorist incident.
Are there any downsides to the product? The main issue is the length of time that it takes for the product to deliver energy to your devices. Charging a regular mobile device, such as an iPhone, can take up to 8 hours. If charging during the night, that wouldn’t be a problem, but the lack of battery pack makes it a hassle. You would prefer to leave the solar panel out during the daytime charging a battery pack, as with the Voltaic Systems solar phone charger, and then use the battery pack at night to charge the phone, repeating the cycle for as many nights as you need it. Unfortunately, with the SunJack, you have to connect your devices to the unit directly, while the sun shines.
The Sunjack portable charger, therefore, is for people who want a small, compact unit and are prepared to wait for their device to charge during the daytime. It’s not ideal for the impatient.
- RUGGED & PORTABLE: The layer of ETFE, compared with PET that is used by most portable solar charger, could withstand much more temperature stress and chemical aggression. It gives a lot of more protection and flexibility than most portable solar chargers in the market.
- POWERFUL & SMART: ETFE has an UV permeability of 95% compared to 80% from PET; makes the panel a lot more efficient than other solar chargers. Our solar chargers pump out up to 2 Amps of power per USB port (4A Max with two ports) to provide wall-outlet charging speeds. With a built-in smart IC chip to intelligently identify your device and maximize charging speed while protecting from overcharging. Automatic restore if shade occurs.
- MULTI-USE: Ideal for camping, backpacking, hiking, outdoor adventures and an essential in any emergency preparedness kit for survival. Never be caught without power. Great for any USB devices including your iPhone, Samsung, Pixel, iPad.
- HASSLE FREE WARRANTY: Designed in California, backed by 12-month hassle free warranty from a local USA company.
RAVPower wanted to give people a large solar charger with plenty of connections at a lightweight. And to be fair, that’s precisely what the company achieves with its 24W solar panel charger. The panel is the largest in RAVPower’s range and comes in at 21 ounces. That’s not particularly light, but nor is it overly heavy either, especially if you are sharing hiking loads with other people.
RAVPower includes a special hook with their panel, allowing you to wear it over the back of your rucksack while hiking, collecting solar energy as you travel during the day, instead of having to wait until you stop.
Like many of the other solar panels we’ve discussed so far, the RAVPower is a direct-to-device charging unit. However, you can buy a battery pack and get all of the benefits of charging during the day and then discharging into your devices at night. Purchasing a separate pack adds to both the weight and cost, but provides you with greater flexibility while allowing you to collect solar energy as you travel more efficiently.
RAVPower built their flagship 24W panel with quality in mind. The quality of construction is high, making it useful for both emergency use and repeated outdoor adventures. The people who stand to benefit most are those who frequently go on hiking expeditions or those who want something powerful enough to keep their mobile devices charged during a prolonged power cut.
- Signature Solar Cells: Our 24W solar charging technology increases the efficiency of charging by up to 21.5% - 23.5%
- Easy To Carry: Half the weight of similar solar chargers but equal in power so you can bring it anywhere
- Exclusive iSmart Technology: All three USB ports are equipped with iSmart technology, which automatically detects and delivers the optimal charging current for connected devices; up to 2.4A per port or 4.8A overall when used under direct sunlight
- Triple Port Power: Smart IC frequency technology detects and evenly distributes output current to all three USB ports ensuring every device is evenly charged
- Important Note: Please DO NOT lay the solar panel directly on CONCRETE, SAND, ROCK or other high heat conduction surfaces in direct sunlight - this will cause the solar panel to overheat and significantly reduce the conversion rate and output wattage
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