There’s nothing better than cutting the cord that anchors your electronics to an indoor power outlet, and a portable solar charger like the Nektek Solar Charger is designed to do just that. While there are solar chargers more specifically designed to work with your car, ATV, or boat battery that we’ve included in out Top 5 Roundup, the Nektek is a great model for the average user who wants to charge a few personal devices, like a phone and a camera, while on the go.
Our Top 5 Reviews give you multiple ways to harness the power of the sun, so take a look to find the best solar charger for you.
The Nektek Solar Charger is made of 3 solar panels that fold flat for compact portability and are water resistant. 2 USB ports offer charging for 2 devices simultaneously at up to 3 amps of charge. This charger plugs directly into your device, so it doesn’t store power for later, but it can be used to power an external battery or power bank.
Top 5 Portable Solar Battery Charger
|NekTek Solar Charger||21 Watts||2 USB Ports||Check Price|
|Sunway Solar Power Car Battery Charger.||3 Watt Trickle Charge||12 Volt Lighter Socket + Crocodile Clips||Check Price|
|RAVPower Solar Charger||16 Watt||2 USB Ports||Check Price|
|Kojoton Solar Charger and Battery Pack||22500 mAh Storage Battery||2 USB Ports; 1 Input for Outlet||Check Price|
|BigBlue Solar Charger with Digital Ammeter||28 watts||2 USB Ports||Check Price|
1. The Best Portable Solar Battery Charger
NekTek Solar Charger
Overall, the NekTek Solar Charger strikes a fantastic balance between power capability and portability. It’s comprised of three solar panels that extend when charging and two hooks let you hang the charger somewhere for better sun ray reception.
For travel, it folds flat and slides easily into a backpack, so this is a great model for athletes or outdoor adventurers. It’s also waterproof when folded, which is a big plus if you want to go travelling with it.
This solar charger requires you to directly charge you devices via the two USB ports, so it does not store power for later. If you’re looking for a solar charger that acts as a power reservoir, this might not be the model for you.
You could use it to power an external power bank though, plus there’s an external mesh pocket that keeps your devices out of the direct sunlight while they’re plugged into the charger, which is great to keep them from overheating.
It’s a 21-watt charger that can direct 2 amps into your device if you’re only using one USB port or 3 amps total if you’re using both. This charger works well even if it’s only moderately sunny outside, but as with most portable solar chargers, make sure it’s still working if you have a major cloudy spell.
Overall, we thought the NekTek Solar Charger is a great pick for anyone who wants the ability to charge a couple of personal electronic devices with a charger that is super-portable.
Pros and Cons
- Two USB Ports
- Works Well on Less-Sunny Days
- Doesn’t Store Power
- Included Charging Cable is Not High Speed
2. Best Portable Charger for Your Car Battery
Sunway Solar Power Car Battery Charger
What if you’re on the go and you need a charge for your car, boat, motorcycle, or ATV battery, not just your phone or camera? That’s when we like the Sunway Solar Power Car Battery Charger.
This portable solar charger is designed to “trickle charge” your battery using solar power, so it’s NOT for jumping a fully depleted battery. It does provide a steady trickle of “top-off charge,” so that might be useful for you if your car sits idle often, which tends to drain the battery through self-discharge.
We liked that this is fairly simple to set up, with one cable plugging in directly to any vehicle that has a 12-volt lighter socket and then feeding the wire out through the door and under the hood.
There are a few different wiring configurations, since some cars don’t power their lighter socket when the car is turned off.
There are some caveats to this particular solar charger: it doesn’t work very well with tinted windshields and you it requires a cleaning and power check at least once a month, so it might not be a great pick for you if you’re out of town for months at a time.
Overall, it’s a good pick for anyone who wants to provide a continuous battery supplement to any car or recreation vehicle for a low price.
Pros and Cons
- Continuous Top Off Charge
- Works for Most Large Vehicles
- Easy to Setup
- Blue Light Indicates Charging
- Splash Proof (Though Not Waterproof!)
- Won’t Jump a Dead Battery
- Not Great with Tinted Windows
3. Best Lightweight Solar Battery Charger
RAVPower Solar Charger 16W
Of course, any portable solar battery charger needs to be lightweight to some extent, since you don’t want to hang around some massive sun farm in your backyard just to charge your phone. But at a mere 7 ounces, along with 2 USB charging ports and up to 23.5% solar energy conversion rate, we felt that the RAVPower Solar Charger was the best pick for those wanting an ultra-lightweight model.
Like other models we reviewed, this is a foldable solar panel that lets you plug personal devices directly into the charger, so it doesn’t work as a power reservoir but it’s good for quickly charging phones, cameras, and GPS units.
We liked that it has a series of hooks so you can hang it from a backpack or cord, which might be a nice feature if you plan to travel with it. We wish that it had a few more mounting options, since it’s billed as an ultra-portable model.
One downside to the RAVPower is that you have to be careful not to place it directly on a surface that transmits a lot of heat, like concrete or rock, but that’s true of most of the devices you’ll be charging, too.
3.2 amps is a lot of juice, so phones or battery packs plugged into this should charge in just an hour or two.
Pros and Cons
- Two USB Ports
- Fast Energy Conversion Rate
- Overheats on Some Surfaces
- Needs More Attaching Options
4. Best Portable Solar Charger & Battery Pack Combo
KOJOTON Solar Charger, 22500Mah
Most solar chargers don’t store power themselves, so you generally have to either plug your device directly into it or store electricity in an external battery pack. We felt it was important to include a unit on our roundup that serves as a battery pack too for those of you who need an all-in-one device.
The Kojoton Solar Charger and External Battery is heavier than other chargers we reviewed, but its great for rugged use like camping or hiking. Charging time is a bit slower too, but the external battery pack holds an impressive 22500 mAh, so you can fill it up while the sun shines and have power all day.
The Kojoton can be charged in a regular electrical outlet too, which is nice if you like the idea of having a backup to solar power.
We liked that the external casing is very durable – waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof- which is good if you’re worried about damage when you take it outdoors.
The field is still relatively new on combo battery packs and solar chargers, so you still may get better performance out of two separate units. If only carrying around one gadget is important to you, or you dislike the idea of plugging your device into a charger sitting right in the sun, then the Kojoton Solar Charger might be a good pick for you.
Pros and Cons
- Combo Charger and External Battery
- Rugged and Durable
- Can be Used in Outlet Too
- 22500 mAh Battery Storage
- Charges Slower than Other Models
5. Best Portable Solar Charger for Multi-Device Compatibility
BigBlue 5V 28W
While most of the solar chargers we reviewed use USB ports that are going to be just fine for most personal devices, we thought the BigBlue Solar Charger scored high points on both portability and compatibility with both Apple and Android.
The BigBlue is a 28-watt charger and has a small pocket on the solar panels that you can stick your devices in while they’re charging, which helps resolve the issue of overheating phones and tablets. For smart phones, you might need to invest in a longer cable so you can keep your device cooler while it’s charging.
We liked that it’s a foldable model, which is nice if you plan to travel outdoors with it, and it has hooks so you can charge from multiple angles. You can charge two devices simultaneously for 4 amps overall, or individually for 2.4 amps.
While the charge is a bit slower on this one, but we liked that it has a built-in ammeter, so you always know how many amps you’re getting while charging. The ammeter can be a little hard to read in the direct sunlight sometimes and accounts for a big chunk of the 1.7-pound weight, so consider whether that feature is worth the extra heft to you.
This solar charger is weather resistant, which might be useful if you want to strap it to a backpack so it chargers while you’re on the move.
Overall, the BigBlue charger is a solid portable choice for campers, hikers, and bikers who want something compatible with Apple and Android tablets and phones AND the ability to charge their camera or GoPro quickly.
Pros and Cons
- Portable and Lightweight
- Multi-Device Compatible
- Built-In Ammeter
- Slower Charge
- Needs Longer Cables
What Is a Portable Solar Battery Charger?
If you’ve ever felt the sun beating down on you on a hot day, you can tell right away that there is a lot of energy that makes it’s way down to earth. While solar panels have been around for a while, they are usually bulky and installed on a roof somewhere – definitely not portable.
The point of the best solar chargers out there is to come up with a way to use the same technology that solar panels use to power freestanding buildings and harness that all that sun power for something that needs to be on the move, like your car or your phone.
Enter the solar battery charger.
The science behind these little guys is pretty awesome, but what most of us need to know is that light rays from the sun contain photons that can be reacted with the electrons in the solar power battery to create and store electricity.
The big catch is that you usually need a lot of cells to generate enough energy to do much of anything with, so it’s lucky that engineers have figured out how to make them small enough to create a portable device.
It’s still a general rule of thumb that the larger the solar panel, the more power you can generate.
Since solar powered portable chargers can work with such a wide variety of devices, you will still probably have to fiddle with your charger a bit to find out what works best. Sometimes if a cloud bank passes by, you’ll have to disconnect and reconnect your charger to ensure a steady stream of power, so it’s not always the best for continuous charging.
How do Portable Solar Chargers Work?
There’s still some variation in how solar chargers work, and it largely depends on what kind of device you are charging.
If you’re in a hurry or have something big to charge, like a car battery, then you might want to go with a model that plugs directly into your device to channel the solar power directly where you need it.
This is also great if you plan to be somewhere generally sunny, like the beach, and want to use solar power to keep your devices going.
Don’t worry, your portable charger doesn’t necessarily have to channel the full force of the sun straight into your expensive electronics. There’s basically a three-step process behind getting a solar charger to charge your phone or other small device
- The solar panels on the charger charge and internal battery
- The battery stores the energy inside the charger
- You plug in your device to the charger to re-power your device
It’s important to make sure that your solar charger is actually compatible with the devices you want to charge. Since charging cables vary widely, you can’t just assume that the solar charger you use for your phone will also replenish your camera battery.
Just make sure you check the device compatibility before you select the best solar charger for you.
Some devices that use solar chargers:
- Smart Phones
- Digital Cameras
- Bluetooth Speakers
- Car Batteries
- Rechargeable Batteries
Why Get a Portable Solar Battery Charger?
The number one reason you should get a portable solar battery charger is to gift yourself with freedom of movement. The best solar charger does not need to be plugged into an outlet, so they’re particularly great for outdoor explorers.
After all, if you’re in the middle of a national park somewhere or halfway up a mountain, you can’t exactly plug in a charger to refresh your camera battery.
Even if you do have the chance to go home at the end of the day – like if you’re biking a marathon or enjoying a relaxing day at the beach or on a boat– you might not want to risk having a low battery and something that can benignly charge while you’re on the go is a win.
Solar chargers are also great if you don’t want to mess with the voltage change in outlets during international travel. Instead of (or in addition to) packing an outlet converter, just bring along your solar charger, since the sun is the same everywhere in the world!
Here are some situations when you might want to use a solar charger:
- Mountain Climbing
- Beach Vacations
- International Travel
Are Portable Solar Chargers Really Good for the Environment?
While convenience and freedom from cables are big reasons to try out a solar charger, many people are drawn to them because of the environmental benefits.
Most of our electricity comes from burning coal, which releases carbon and other pollutants into the air, ground, and water. Solar power doesn’t release these pollutants, so it’s better for the Earth over the long run.
Now, the downside is that those solar powers that produce such green energy have to be manufactured somewhere, and that process can still be very non-green.
If you’re charging reusable batteries or power packs, then you’re helping the environment by not burning through alkaline batteries that get thrown away and can leach chemicals into the water in soil. Now, all batteries eventually get thrown away eventually, so it’s not a completely waste-neutral process, but given where the technology is right now it’s much less wasteful than other options.
If you’re interested in making small changing to make your life more eco-friendly, then a solar charger might be a good choice for you. We all use a lot of electricity charging personal devices, and most portable solar chargers can be set up in a window of your home, so it’s really not any harder to use the solar power than it is to plug your phone into a traditional outlet.
Will a Solar Charger Damage My Devices?
If you stop to think about, there’s one clear issue with using solar power to charge electronics like a smart phone or an expensive DSLR camera: sun + electronics = heat = damage.
So how do you use solar power while working around the problem of leaving your device sitting out in the sun?
There are a couple of ways to do this.
Use a Longer USB Cable – If you have a portable solar charger that plugs directly into the device you want to charge, then you can buy a longer cable so you can sit your phone, camera, or GPS in a shady spot while the solar panels sit in the sun.
Use a Battery Pack – This is our favorite solution because it creates a buffer between the solar energy and your devices. Battery packs are usually much cheaper than your phone or camera, so there’s less risk involved if you must have the device sitting out in the sun.
It’s one more thing to carry though, so keep that in mind if a light packing load is the most important thing to you.
Look for Heat-Protectant Pockets – some portable solar chargers come with special pockets that zip or Velcro closed and are lined with heat-protectant fabric to keep your phone or tablet safe while charging. These are handy if you want to strap your solar charger to a backpack, bike, or vehicle or want to leave it open in your window to charge for a while.
Some phones are still too sensitive to heat for a solution like this, so keep that in mind if you want a solar charger that can handle a particularly picky phone.
With all of the portable solar chargers available these days, there’s really no reason to be worried about your batteries going dead while you’re out adventuring.
Whether you plan to trek off-grid or just want to reduce your environmental impact a bit, any of the solar chargers on our Top 5 roundup would be a great pick.
While we like the NekTek Solar Charger best for its all-around performance, make sure to choose a solar charger that is compatible with where you’ll be using it and your devices.