If you are anything like us, you love to go on long hiking or camping trips into the wilderness where there are no reliable power sources. But, at the same time, you like to bring along all your favorite modern electronic devices such as your smartphone or tablet—you know, just in case.
After all, you never know when you might get an unexpected business call or have a family emergency. That is why it is so important always to be prepared to access your electronic devices. Charging mobile devices from any location is no longer a luxury reserved for the ultra-wealthy. Today, solar panel chargers make portable charging a reality for anyone.
By harnessing the power of the sun, these eco-friendly devices are excellent for providing your treasured devices with juice while on the go. Want to find out how? Read on to discover the top solar panel charger devices on the market and where you can find them.
Solar Panel Chargers 101
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details, we should first discuss what solar panel chargers are and how they operate. While they might sound relatively simple at first (converting sunlight into electricity), they are far more complicated upon closer examination.
A solar panel charger is a type of small, portable solar cell (or photovoltaic cell). These devices take absorb sunlight and directly convert it into electricity to be used by electronic devices. To do this, they employ the photovoltaic effect. The panel face of the device detects sunlight using electromagnetic radiation sensors and then absorbs it before separating its charge carriers.
After the solar cell has separated the charge carriers, they are sent to an external circuit and then stored in a battery. If that process sounds complex and convoluted to you, that is because it is! However, all you need to know is that a regular USB cord can plug into a small solar panel which, in turn, takes sunlight exposes and converts it into electricity.
Why Invest in Solar Panel Chargers?
Solar panel charger devices hold several key benefits over other chargers on the market. Here are some of our favorite benefits of solar chargers compared to more traditional chargers:
- They enable freedom of movement (i.e., untethered to a static power source)
- An environmentally friendly, renewable power source
- They generate no waste or emissions
- They do not require external batteries or accessories
- They are functional in all regions of the world (perfect for the international traveler)
In short, solar panel chargers are highly efficient sources of green energy that do not rely on fossil fuels like coal or natural gas. Instead, their power source, the sun, is readily available year-round and here to stay in the long-term (unlike oil).
Our Favorite Solar Panel Chargers
Now that we know what solar panel chargers are and how they work, let us move on to the fun part—discussing which chargers are worth your time and money. After testing our several dozen solar charger models, we have hand-picked the following devices for their superior durability, performance, value, ease of use, and warranty.
RAVPower 24W Solar Panel
The experts at RAVPower have recently released an updated version of their 24W Solar Panel Charger and it is better than ever. This device folds out into a five-panel spread that is ideal for charging camping equipment, mobile phones, smart devices, or anything else that is powered through a regular USB cord.
Using SUNPOWER conversion technology, this panel is 23.7% more efficient than former models made by RAVPower. In our experience, we were able to shave over half an hour off the total charging time for our iPhone by upgrading to this edition over the next most recent one. Plus, this 24W solar panel charger is nearly one third the size of the former model and almost half the weight!
We were blown away by how compact this solar charger was, especially for a five-panel device. When completely folded, the device is roughly the same size as a thick magazine like a National Geographic. Plus, there is more power available than ever with up to 2.4A of electricity per port, making it stronger than virtually any other model on the market.
Nekteck 21W Solar Charger
The Nekteck 21W Solar Charger is a reliable choice of solar panel charger for those who want to power no more than two devices at once. At an affordable price point, this device supplies up to 21 watts of high-efficiency power with a stunning conversion rate of up to 24 percent. In our experience, this provides enough power to charge two smartphones from empty to full battery capacity within two hours.
At only 18 ounces, you would be hard-pressed to find a solar charger that is as portable as this one. The only catch is that it is a three-panel device and not that standard five-panel, which means it takes a bit more time to absorb its maximum wattage. Nonetheless, this charger has served us well in the several years that we have been using it.
Anker PowerPort 21W Dual USB
Since our Anker PowerPort 21W Dual USB Solar Charger first arrived in the mail earlier this year, we have found ourselves continually surprised by how efficient and elegant this machine is. Without any hassle or hiccups, this high-powered 21W solar charger can easily build up a full charge in record time by making use of its patented multilayered PV technology.
Better yet, its PowerIQ USB charging system makes for even speedier energy transfers than usual. In our experience, charging our tablet with this device results in roughly 25% faster-charging speeds than ordinary solar panel chargers. If you use this device every day, you will find that the time savings start to add up quickly.
With the Anker PowerPort 21W device, the main selling points are in the details. Featuring an 18-month warranty, full Fail-Safe Protection, and safety certifications from the CE, FCC, and RoHS, this device is the new industry leader. If you have the budget to splurge on a top-end device, we highly recommend checking out this sleek, premium solar charger.
SUAOKI 60W Portable Sunpower Mono Solar Panel
The SUAOKI 60W Portable Sunpower Solar Panel is the ultimate heavy-duty solar panel charger for those that need DC and USB charging capabilities. Whether you need to power your GPS, cell phone, or laptop, this is the device for you. At a higher price point than most other devices, this is a device that is a cut above many of its competitors.
Although not the most versatile device on the market, since it weighs slightly more than most other 60W solar chargers, it is still a reliable and highly efficient device for outdoor device charging. For those with many devices, you will be pleased to discover that this panel charger features a universal charging port which makes it compatible with over a dozen mobile device charger heads (i.e., Dell, ASUS, Toshiba, Apple, etc.).
Overall, we would recommend this device to those who need a highly powerful solar charger solution for devices too big for USB charging, such as laptops. However, it may be overkill for your average weekend warrior to casual camper.
ECO-WORTHY 12V 5W Portable Power Solar Panel
Although we were hesitant to include the ECO-WORTHY 12V 5W Portable Power Solar Panel, we decided to make it a last-minute addition to our list. This is because it provides excellent value for those who are looking for a simple, no-nonsense solar charger for basic small devices.
At a low price, this device can charge smartphones and GPS units when in a pinch. Although it is not the most powerful solar charger on the market, it can still provide plenty of relief if you find yourself in need of electrical power while on the go.
PAXCESS Foldable 50W Solar Panel Charger
After using this device for two camping seasons, we can hardly imagine using anything else. The PAXCESS Foldable 50W Solar Panel Charger packs major power in a small, lightweight frame. If you like to live the ultralight lifestyle, then this may be the device for you. At under five pounds, the PAXCESS 50W is still fully capable of delivering power to any device you might have.
Boasting both DC power ports and several USB and USB Type-C ports, this is the ultimate all-in-one device for high-powered energy needs. Plus, its fully weatherproof built makes it a shoe-in for those that like to get a little dirty when camping backcountry trails. If you are an adventurer or an outdoorsman at heart, this is the solar panel charger for you.