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Best Portable Solar Chargers of 2023. Ryno tuff solar charger

Best Portable Solar Chargers of 2023. Ryno tuff solar charger

    The 6 Best Solar Chargers in 2023 (Tested for Efficiency)

    Solar chargers can be useful in any instance. Whether you’re camping outdoors, going on a long hike, or simply keeping it on hand in case of emergencies, there’s always some comfort in having a reliable and portable power source.

    Solar chargers are not to be confused with solar power banks and battery packs. Solar chargers tend to be a little more reliable and perform their charging capabilities without a battery pack.

    The charger’s a little bit more compatible with a wide spectrum of products, which makes it invaluable to your list of gadgets – emergency or otherwise.

    Today, we’ll show you the best solar chargers. We had the chance to get our hands on some of the most popular and best-reviewed solar chargers, here are our top 6 choices.

    How We Chose the Best Solar Chargers

    The best solar chargers need to be reliable, long-lasting, and charge your devices when you need them. It’s a simple concept but really describes what a quality solar charger should achieve.

    We’ll get a little technical in terms of our explanation only because the specs on their product pages will mention them. Knowing what they mean will help you not only decide which of the products to buy, but it’ll help you understand the product as a whole and how they work.

    Amperes (Amps)

    Amps are the measurement of how quickly an electric current flows. amps equal a faster flowing electrical current. Most devices can only receive a max number of amps.

    For example, most cell phones can only receive up to one amp. Even if the solar charger has more than one amp, the cell phone will still charge at the same speed. It makes a difference for larger devices that most likely will receive more than one amp, such as tablets or iPads.

    If a solar charger has a smaller amount of amps for a larger device, it will charge the device at a slower rate. So more amps are generally more compatible and useful.

    Wattage (Watts)

    When referring to solar panels, wattage is the solar panel’s maximum solar power output in ideal conditions (like a sunny day with no Cloud cover). watts also mean more power.

    The amount of wattage depends on amps and also volts. Volts are the amount of force of electricity, and multiplying amps and volts will equal the wattage. A higher number means higher power output.


    The efficiency of a solar panel is quantified in percentage. The higher a solar panel’s percentage, the higher its ability to produce energy from sunlight.

    Since solar panels have become more efficient than older solar panels, two similarly-sized solar panels from different times would produce different amounts of energy. The one with the higher efficiency percentage would produce a higher amount of energy.

    Weight and Size

    Most solar power chargers are built to be lightweight. All of those on this list happen to be around one pound or lighter. Easy portability is important in instances where you will be carrying it around for longer amounts of time. Devices usually take a few hours, so you can’t really be sitting by your phone waiting for it to charge.


    Most solar chargers will get their chance to shine (no pun intended) in the outdoors. It’s necessary to have them be as durable as possible because they perform such an important function.

    All the options on our list are made with PET polymer or PVC canvas, great materials that last long against the elements. They’re all water-resistant, so you don’t have to mind every splash. Most are not waterproof, so you still have to be careful to put them under cover in inclement weather.

    Considering all of these factors, we chose 8 of the top-rated and most promising solar chargers and put them to the test. We tested them by attempting to charge various devices in full sun and partial sun. These 6 earned a spot on our list of recommendations, and we’ll tell you why we like them.

    Best Solar Chargers Reviewed

    Product Ratings

    Sizes: 26.2″ x 11.1″ | USB Ports: 2 | Brand: Nekteck | Wattage: 21 Watts | Efficiency: 21-24% | Amps: 3 | Weight: 18 Ounces | Material: PET Polymer

    • Water and dustproof design
    • Works well, even during Cloud cover
    • Well-designed with well-placed to hold charging gear
    • Can charge two devices

    Nekteck is a great all-arounder portable solar charger, and it is built to last you a long time, as well. These portable solar chargers are highly weather-resistant and have a pouch where you can keep your phone while you charge it. The innovative part is the pouch which faces opposite the solar panels, protecting your devices from damage and overheating.

    Nekteck Portable Solar Panel

    One issue that came up a few times was its issue with some Apple products. We discovered, as some other reviewers have pointed out, that this portable solar charger does better connecting to Apple devices when it is equipped with Apple-compatible cables.

    Using a standard USB cable might have some mixed experiences with Apple products, but it works great with all of the other tech brands that use USB or USB C.

    Product Ratings

    Sizes: 18.1″ x 11.8″ | USB Ports: 2 | Brand: Ryno Tuff | Wattage: 21 Watts | Efficiency: 22-25% | Amps: 3 | Weight: 16.6 Ounces | Material: PVC Canvas

    • Highest efficiency solar cells on this list
    • Waterproof design
    • Every purchase guarantees a planted tree
    • Has dual USB ports to charge devices
    • Durable fold out solar panels

    The competition for the top spot was neck and neck. The Ryno Tuff model even inches out the Nekteck in some areas. In the end, you couldn’t go wrong with either of these portable solar chargers.

    Ryno Tuff Portable Solar Charger

    This is the highest efficiency we have seen on our list and thus the fastest charging so far. This portable solar charger comes with carabiners designed to go through the charger’s hooks, which are slightly sturdier than clips, as the Nekteck one does.

    This also has trouble with some Apple devices, similar to the top spot. Namely, older models of Apple devices. This portable solar charger is twice as expensive, which nudged it down on our list. They released a newer model with an integrated battery that we didn’t get to test for this review.

    Product Ratings

    Sizes: 23.3″ x 12.1″ | USB Ports: 2 | Brand: X-DRAGON | Wattage: 20 Watts | Efficiency: 22-25% | Amps: 3 | Weight: 21.4 Ounces | Material: Nylon

    • Self-regulating solar technology
    • Waterproof design
    • Dirt-resistant cover
    • 2 ports to charge electronics
    • Each solar panel lighter with greater power
    • High efficiency solar cells
    • Fast charging speeds

    If you’ve sensed a recurring trend so far, Apple products tend to have a little bit of difficulty connecting some of the solar power chargers. X-DRAGON seems to not have that problem.

    It might seem like a trivial basis for its own category, but roughly 1 billion people use iPhones worldwide, and it’s more than necessary to provide solar charging for those devices also.

    X-DRAGON Solar Charger

    Another great thing about X-DRAGON’s solar charger is that it features its SolarIQ technology. Depending on whether it has direct sunlight or not, it’ll adjust the current and voltage to achieve the maximum power output.

    This solar power tech isn’t yet perfect as heavy shade can disrupt the charging and it won’t readjust when it clears, but keeping an eye on your cell phone or device may quell that issue. We found this to be frustrating when we tested outdoors on a partly cloudy day. On our sunny test day when the sun’s power was at its peak, it performed perfectly.

    One detriment is the lack of durability compared to others on this list of best solar chargers. The product page only advertises the case being made out of waterproof nylon. While not a bad material, it isn’t as good as PET polymer.

    Product Ratings

    Sizes: 33.1″ x 11.1″ | USB Ports: 2 | Brand: Big Blue | Wattage: 28 Watts | Efficiency: 21.5-23.5% | Amps: 4 | Weight: 21 Ounces | Material: PET Polymer

    • Built-in ammeter
    • Smart charger
    • Fast charging speed
    • Waterproof
    • Better with Apple products
    • Can charge two devices simultaneously

    Although the Big Blue is standing firm in the fourth spot, this solar power charger is no slouch when it comes to charging. It is still one of the best solar chargers! Its specs suggest that it might be the most powerful solar charger here. All the amps suggest that it’s good for not only your cell phone but larger devices, as well.

    Big Blue Solar Charger

    The main problem we found during testing is that it doesn’t have the best all-around appeal with its heavy size. For car campers, this may be the best fit for them and their needs. We attempted to use this 28w solar charger while hiking and found it was a little too heavy for packing around. We would not recommend this for a portable charger!

    Another thing working against this product is that the pouch is in a bad spot. This solar charger is on the same side as the solar panels, making whatever product in it susceptible to overheating.

    Product Ratings

    Sizes: 11.5″ x 6.0″ | USB Ports: 1 | Brand: ECEEN | Wattage: 10 Watts | Efficiency: 22% | Amps: 1.5 | Weight: 12.8 Ounces | Material: PET Polymer

    • Waterproof design
    • Shaped like a book and sealed by zippers to protect each solar panel
    • Ultra portable solar panel layout
    • High efficiency solar cells

    This entry might seem a little limited compared to the other options but it makes up for it in different areas, which is why it’s on our list for the best solar chargers!

    The book-style case is protected by zippers so the solar panels can possibly have a longer shelf life compared to most other brands, which usually go with the folding look.

    ECEEN Solar Charger Panel

    We love this design because though it has less charging capacity, the solar panels are better protected for longevity. We can put it in a backpack with other gear without worrying about damaging the solar panels.

    This solar charger is best used if you’re a solo traveler. It only has one USB port, two solar panels, and doesn’t have that much power output for charging devices.

    It’s reliable, but you can’t expect it to generate power for the whole town. We also marked it down a little because some of the other choices provide more bang for your buck compared to this one.

    Product Ratings

    Sizes: 26.2″ x 11.1″ | USB Ports: 2 | Brand: Anker | Wattage: 21 Watts | Efficiency: 21.5-23.5% | Amps: 2.1 | Weight: 13.2 Ounces | Material: PET Polymer

    • 18-month warranty
    • Efficient charging speed
    • Waterproof
    • Works well during cloudy days
    • Has a double power outlet
    • Velcro doesn’t completely seal and protect each solar panel
    • Isn’t compatible with every USB cable

    We can’t review the best solar chargers without mentioning Anker to round out this list. While their model only just made the list, it’s still a very good choice with a fast charging speed. It’s known that it works every single time, no matter the circumstances. It’s also light, waterproof, and has decent hanging capabilities.

    Anker Solar Panel

    It isn’t the most accessible option, as some devices won’t receive it. Double-checking the descriptions before buying will save you a lot of trouble (especially if you have some older tech). There should be no worries as Anker is known for its stellar customer service.

    The Winner

    As evidenced by our best solar charger comparison chart, most of the solar chargers are evenly matched in terms of all-around effort quality with varying degrees of strengths and weaknesses. Comparing all of them, our top pick is still the Nekteck Portable Solar Charger.

    It doesn’t skimp in any area considered important and will get you through the night. While we assure you that is the case with all of these products, the Nekteck model is the one we stand by the most.

    Read our related article on the best solar charge controllers to see how they stood up to our tests.

    How to Choose the Best Solar Charger

    Some of the features that we found to be most important for the best solar chargers are reflected in our ratings below. We highlighted durability, compatibility, capacity (or battery), and overall quality. Of course, we need to include affordability as the price is always relevant to comparing products with the same function.

    As there are many uses for a solar charger, many different people may use it differently and for different devices. We try to consider these perspectives when making our ratings.

    Hopefully, you’ll come across it and see that your perspective is taken into account or see a feature you may not have thought mattered to actually be important. Here are some examples.

    Backpackers and Travelers

    Traveling can get cumbersome in a lot of cases. If you’re backpacking or even just hiking, you don’t want to be slowed down by your solar charger. You’ll definitely want one of the portable chargers on the list!

    Having a lightweight solar charger is ideal in this case. It may have to sacrifice its lighter weight for solar panels to achieve a lighter device. Usually, it will limit the product, like reducing the charging speed or having a lower power output. Take a look at our best portable solar chargers to find one that has the right level of compromise.

    If you’re constantly on the go without the possibility of standard electricity, a solar power charger will need to be hung from your backpack and able to charge electronics in undesirable conditions like dirt or water. If you’re backpacking all day, you don’t want to inconvenience yourself to see if it’s charging or if it fell off your pack.


    For those who enjoy their camping to be a little more stationary, such as car camping or RV camping, a reliable solar charger is still a great investment. Save your car battery from charging your cell phone and speakers and use solar charging instead. Accidentally draining your car battery on a family camping trip can put you in a dangerous situation.

    In this situation, investing in a higher-capacity solar charger with good power output might be the way to go. Since you won’t be carrying it around as much, you can afford it to be a little bit heavier.

    Backup Power Source for Emergency Purposes

    Having a backup solar power source will be worth it if worse comes to worst. Situations with access to additional charging resources can save you and your loved ones. If you’re making a disaster kit, you’ll need solar charging to ensure you have enough power and a way to store power.

    Perks to look for would be high capacity, high power output, and wide compatibility to charge multiple devices. While phones are necessary, other devices will also need a spark, so charging multiple devices with the same solar charger is usually necessary.

    Ecavo is reader supported. When you buy through a link on our site we may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate, Ecavo earns from qualifying purchases.

    Top Solar Panels for Camping, Basecamping, and Outdoor Adventures

    Electronics are a part of the adventurer’s quiver of tools more than ever before. Thanks to efficiency advances and cost decreases in solar cells, portable solar chargers are finally proving to be a viable means of providing electricity outdoors. A backcountry user might carry a smartphone, GoPros, headlamp, tablet, camera, headphones, and PLB or GPS devices. A family on an extended weekend trip will likely bring multiple smartphones, tablets, speakers, laptops, electric lanterns, and more. Rafters, climbers, bikepackers, and mountain bikers on a weekend mission might haul out even more high-powered lights and GoPros, radios, and other electronic equipment.

    By harnessing the energy of the sun, anyone can charge their legion of devices rather than carrying physical batteries or draining the battery in their vehicle or camper. From portable solar chargers that can accommodate multiple devices during a family camping trip, to power banks that hold the biggest charge, to lightweight options for backcountry users that weigh under a pound, we reviewed top models to find the best portable solar chargers for most outdoor uses. Plus, we’ve got tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your portable solar panels, power banks and chargers.

    We create reader-supported, objective gear reviews that are independently selected by our editors. This story may contain affiliate links, which help fund our website. When you click on the links to purchase gear, we may get a commission, without costing you an extra cent. Thank you for supporting our work and mission of outdoor coverage for every body! Learn more.

    The Best Portable Solar Chargers

    We had three clones to evaluate, all of which performed similarly well, so it was hard to determine which of those to award. However, one did surpass the others, as various sites have mentioned. We also considered different use cases in making our final judgments. As such, some of our winners are in unique categories.

    Overall Winner: Big Blue 28W USB Solar Charger

    Weight: 1 pound, 5 ounces

    Solar Cell Output Capacity: 10 watts

    Power Output to Device: USB, 5V up to 2A (28W max)

    Foldable: Yes

    Integrated battery: No

    Ports: 2, 2.4 Amp USB-A Ports

    What we liked: simple, lightweight, provides more power than similar models, can charge multiple small devices, includes anmeter

    What we didn’t like:

    We concur with many review sites and consumer reviews that the 1 pound, 5 ounce Big Blue 28W USB Solar Charger was the best for most outdoor use. It’s a simple, lightweight, and powerful solar power charger that seems to provide a little more power than its competition. It will also provide enough power in direct sunlight to charge multiple small devices for one or two people.

    The Big Blue unit we tested also included an ammeter, which displays the amount of electrical current the solar panel is generating, setting it apart from the competition. That allowed us to see that the device was working and how much energy it was producing.


    Other than that, we found that it was remarkably, if not eerily, similar to two other top-rated solar chargers we evaluated. All three (the Anker 21 Watt PowerPort Solar charger, the Nekteck 28 Watt solar charger, and the BigBlue 28W USB Solar Charger) use the same basic design with two USB-ports and a light to indicate that they’re getting a charge; the Big Blue’s light indicator is the ammeter.

    The solar cells in these foldable units are encased in PET polymer and surrounded by polyester canvas. Each offers moderate IPX4 water resistance — although you don’t really want to use these devices in the rain anyhow. They’re so similar they even use the same solar cells — SunPower’s Maxeon solar cells — which are among the most efficient commercially available solar cells and can convert up to 25 percent of the sun’s energy.

    Each of these solar chargers had metal grommets in the casing, which allows you to attach them to a rock, backpack, tent, or camp chair. Each has a pouch where you can store the devices being charged and cords for charging your devices. None had kickstands or means to orient them to the sun properly, so you’ll have to get a little more creative, like propping them up on a rock, attaching them to your tent, or attaching them to your backpack to orient them properly to get the most power out of them in camp.

    The Big Blue did better than the competition in tests, producing just under 950 milliamp-hours (mAh) of energy in an hour. In relatively similar conditions, the Anker produced 733 mAh, and the Nekteck produced 834 mAh. Without a dedicated test facility and control environment, it is hard to offer a complete scientific evaluation of the differences between these three since clouds could have obscured the sun for part of the testing periods.

    best, portable, solar, chargers, 2023

    In our experience, the Big Blue (or other similar solar panels) will integrate best into your outdoor lifestyle with the help of an external battery, like the Anker. The solar panel charges the battery, and then the battery provides a steady charge to reliably and safely charge your phone. See our section below on batteries for more details.

    The Big Blue offered the highest power output among these three, and its cost is essentially the same as the Nekteck, so The Big Blue edged out the Nekteck as the best solar charger. It’s easy to use, well-priced, and offers enough portable power to charge a backup battery. Best yet, it is rugged enough to last for years.

    Interested in backpacking gear? See our Backpacking section for our most popular stories.

    The Best Solar Charger for Basecamping: Goal Zero Nomad 50

    Weight: 6 pounds

    Solar Cell Output Capacity: 50 watts

    Power Output to Device: USB: 5V up to 2.4A (12W max)/8mm: 14-22V, up to 3.5A (50W Max)

    Foldable: Yes

    Integrated battery: Goal Zero Sherpa 100 AC sold separetely

    Ports: 1 2.4 Amp USB-A Port, 1, 3.3 Amp Solar Port in 8mm, 1, 3.3 Amp Solar Port out 8mm

    What we liked: can be linked with other solar panels for even greater charging, kickstands to properly orient to sun, can almost fully charge 2 laptops

    What we didn’t like: size and weight make best suited for camping, not backpacking

    The Goal Zero Nomad 50 is a larger solar charger that also wins our award for Best Solar Charger for Car Camping and Best Solar Charger for Basecamping and our Best Upgrade Solar Charger award. At 50 watts, it’s the biggest and heaviest solar charger we tried. But if we were doing a couple of weeks in a high mountain cirque with fellow adventurers and we wanted to cut battery weight while keeping our electronics charged, this is the charger we’d choose.

    Likewise, if we’re powering all the devices a family needs on a week-long camping trip and they don’t want to drain a car or RV battery, we’d turn to the Goal Zero as our solar charger of choice. Similarly, it’s a good choice for road tripping or overlanding off-grid. It could also be used to work a remote aid station during an ultramarathon or adventure race.


    The Goal Zero is an obvious choice for camping and basecamping for other reasons as well. It’s the only solar charger we evaluated that can be linked to other solar panels and the only one that can be attached in a series to provide even greater charging power to a battery power bank.

    With solar cells covered in a polymer and the whole unit encased in a durable polyester, the Nomad is like the larger sibling of the three clones (Big Blue, Anker, and Nektek).

    Instead of two cells per foldable solar panel, each of its four panels has 12 cells. It has one USB connector that can provide up to 12 watts of charging power, but it also has a Goal Zero solar port connector that allows it to provide up to 50 watts of charging power or connect to other Goal Zero panels. Like the BioLite solar charger, the Nomad also has kickstands to help ensure it’s properly oriented to the sun.

    best, portable, solar, chargers, 2023

    All of those extra features and solar cells add weight and size. Unlike the clones, the Nomad 50 would take up a significant portion of a backpack. Folded up, it’s almost a foot wide and nearly 1 foot and a half tall. That’s roughly the size of an average male’s torso, and it weighs 6 pounds, 14 ounces. Even if it were attached to the front of Frankenstein’s backpack, it would likely drag on the ground like an oddly stiff cape.

    But once unfurled and set up in camp, it can provide enough energy to power a laptop and charge a significantly larger battery than the smaller chargers can power. When combined with a Goal Zero’s Sherpa 100AC power bank, it can charge in 6 or fewer hours in good sun. That 94.7 watt/hour battery includes an inverter allowing it to charge AC devices, like those that plug into a wall outlet. It can almost fully charge two 13” MacBook Pros on a single charge, and since it can deliver at higher wattages and voltages, it can provide higher charging speeds.

    Interested in camping gear? See our Camping section for our most popular stories.

    The Best Solar Charger with Integrated Battery: BioLite SolarPanel 10

    Weight: 1 pound, 3.4 ounces

    Solar Cell Output Capacity: 10 W

    Battery Storage Capacity (mAH): 3,200 milliamp hours

    Power Output to Device: 10 W via USB charge out

    Foldable: Yes

    Integrated battery: Yes, Battery Storage Capacity (mAH): 3,200 milliamp hours

    Ports: 1 Micro USB in 1 2.4 Amp USB-A out

    What we liked: includes integrated battery that works as power bank, can pre-charge included powerbank, easy to align with sun to get the most efficient charge, designed to reduce overheating (that impacts efficiency)

    What we didn’t like: would be more useful if it were 21W and had storage 10,000 mAH

    Though the BioLite SolarPanel 10 is the smallest solar charger we tested at just 10 watts, it’s the most fully featured and the only solar charger we tested that came with an integrated battery that works as a power bank. The 3,200 mAh battery is slightly larger than the iPhone 11’s 3100 mAh battery and could provide an iPhone with a full charge. You can also charge the integrated battery power bank via micro-USB. So users can pre-charge it for adventures so they can charge devices at camp even if the sun’s obscured or down when they get there. Indeed, starting every adventure with fully charged devices and auxiliary batteries is key to getting the most out of your electronic charging system in the backcountry.


    The SolarPanel 10 also has a radically different design than every other portable panel we tested and most others available. All of its solar cells are encased in a ruggedized, dimpled plastic. BioLite says its solar panel design helps dissipate excess heat, which can cause a solar panel to produce less power than it otherwise would.

    Like the other small solar chargers we evaluated, the corners feature holes allowing users to attach them to a backpack or tent. But its analog Optimal Sun System, consisting of an analog sundial, as well as its rotating kickstand, play an important part in making sure you get the most from the charger at any given time.

    By aligning the shadow of the dot in the middle of the window, you ensure that the device sends as much solar power to connected devices and the battery as possible. The kickstand clicks into place throughout its rotation, making it easy to adjust the pitch of the portable solar panel to get the optimal placement at any given time.

    While we found all these features very useful, we found that when first deploying the solar panel, it didn’t want to stay open until after it warmed in the sun a bit. Also, if its ability to absorb sunlight was larger — even in the 21 watt range — and its energy storage capacity was larger, even around 10,000 mAh, it could have been the Overall Winner.

    Honorable Mentions

    Both the Anker portable charger and Nekteck portable charger fell a little short of the Big Blue, our overall winner (see review above). Either offer a great value, but we think the Big Blue has the most to offer for the money.

    Anker 21 Watt PowerPort Solar Charger

    Weight: 14.7 ounces

    Solar Cell Output Capacity: 21W

    Power Output to Device: 21W to device via USB

    Foldable: Yes

    Integrated battery: No

    Ports: 2, 2.4 Amp USB-A Ports

    The now discontinued Anker 21 Watt PowerPort Solar Charger may no longer be available, but we think it’s worth putting on your radar for a few reasons. First, it’s a near-clone of the Big Blue (see review above), our overall winner, so it’s a good example of the similarities between solar panels on the market. Second, it is still widely available on sites such as ebay for folks interested in buying a used solar panel.

    One difference is that it was slightly smaller and lighter (15 ounces) than the Big Blue. The Anker produced a little less power in a given time in similar conditions, as expected. Its charging pouch also had a hook-and-loop closure rather than a zippered closure like the other clones. It didn’t include an ammeter. Ultimately, even when the Anker was available, we found the Big Blue to be a better choice given the amount of power it generated.

    Nekteck 28 Watt Solar Charger

    Weight: 1.44 pounds

    Solar Cell Output Capacity: 28W

    Power Output to Device: 28W via USB

    Foldable: Yes

    Integrated battery: No

    Ports: 2, 2.4 Amp USB-A Ports

    Without the branding, from the outside, the Nekteck 28 Watt solar charger is essentially indistinguishable from the Big Blue. our overall winner (see review above). The specs are similar. Opened up, and without the ammeter, they look essentially identical, too.

    However, in the end, it didn’t perform quite as well as the Big Blue — even though it uses the same solar cells and design. In relatively similar conditions, the Anker produced 733 mAh, and the Nekteck produced 834 mAh. It also has a claimed weight of 1 pound, 7 ounces — two ounces heavier than the Big Blue.

    Understanding solar chargers

    There’s a lot to understand about solar power chargers, but at their heart, a small solar panel consists of several photovoltaic cells grouped together to absorb some of the sun’s energy and convert it into an electric charge that you can use to charge electronics.

    Modern, commercially available solar cells can harness nearly 25 percent of the sun’s energy that hits them into electricity. You’ll find this in the most efficient foldable chargers. When these cells are combined together into small solar panels, the solar cells can provide enough energy to recharge the batteries in USB devices and they can weigh under a pound, making them a lightweight option for backcountry adventures across the world.

    Why choose a solar generator over other choices?

    A portable solar charger is a lightweight and more compact means of electricity generation compared with other means of mobile energy generation. This is advantageous when on the trail and in remote locations because carrying multiple batteries and other means of electricity generation quickly becomes cumbersome as you add more energy storage to your pack. After all, no one wants to carry a gas generator — and gas — on their backs into the woods to provide power for all of their electronic devices. And while we’ve seen some portable wind and micro-hydro turbine generators, like the WaterLily Turbine. they’re also cumbersome, if not heavy. Solar panels are among eco-friendly gear swaps to reduce your environmental impact. especially if your base camp would otherwise run on a gas generator.

    Solar chargers, combined with a power bank or backup battery pack — particularly those that can accommodate through charging (i.e., charging itself while charging devices) — are the best, lightest way to charge your electronic equipment.

    While most adventurers are looking primarily for a portable phone charger, solar chargers can power:

    • cameras and camera batteries
    • GPS hiking and backpacking watches
    • GoPros and other vlogging or podcasting equipment
    • two-way satellite messengers and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)
    • ebooks
    • tablets
    • GPS units
    • headlamps
    • laptops
    • bluetooth speakers
    • wireless headphones
    • SteriPens
    • mountain bike lights
    • sonar devices

    Anytime you’re out for multiple days or weeks in the backcountry, you’ll likely have electronics that need charging. Solar panels work for camping, boating, climbing, bikepacking, mountaineering, and other activities.

    Most mobile solar charging units have at least one USB port, making it easy to charge most devices and batteries people take into the wild. Still, many smaller solar chargers will struggle to provide enough power to charge multiple devices simultaneously.

    Yes, Watson, Watts matter (or why watts matter)

    The most important thing about a solar panel charger is its wattage. The more watts, the more sunlight the solar panel can absorb and the more electricity it can generate. If you only need to power your own devices and don’t plan on using them continually while on the trail, you may only need to charge them once every few days or even once a week. In that case, a smaller unit like the BioLite SolarPanel 10 with an integrated battery pack is an excellent choice, but the 10 watt foldable solar panel only has one USB port and wouldn’t be powerful enough to charge a family’s devices on a five-day trip.

    On the other hand, our Best for Camping winner, the 50 Watt Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel. along with the Sherpa 100 AC battery. could handle the needs of a family on a week-long trip or a group of mountaineers exploring a range out for an extended period. The Goal Zero system is significantly larger, heavier, and much more expensive. But this system with this power bank battery has an AC plug and is the only one we considered that charges devices such as large laptops.

    We don’t normally advocate getting rid of gear before its end of life, but in this case, if you have a backup battery or power bank that isn’t chargeable via USB, consider recycling it and replacing it with one that is. Similarly, consider USB chargeable devices like headlamps.

    While you can use rechargeable AA and AAA powered headlamps, using one device or cable to charge most of your equipment can simplify your carry. When Intel’s Chief Systems Technologist Ajay Bhatt led the development of USB standards in 1996 and companies started using it, he essentially began a process of universalizing charging and connectivity for all devices. Now, USB technology allows us to easily recharge cameras and GoPros as well as smaller electronics like wireless earbuds.

    How we Researched and tested


    When researching the best camping solar chargers, we explored websites in the outdoor media sphere, and the tech and science spheres as geeks and gear heads are the most likely to use portable solar chargers to power their electronics.

    We chose the models we tested based on reviews and articles we read and analyzed from other reliable sources, including Lifewire, Gear Institute, Backpacker, Wirecutter, The Adventure Junkies, Popular Mechanics, Outdoor GearLab, and others (see Sources). We also looked at verified customer reviews to gather data from professional reviewers and actual users.

    How We Tested

    We tested these foldable solar panels on multiple days in the field, at campsites, and at home, sometimes even hanging them out of a south-facing window on sunny days of full Colorado summer sunshine. Despite multiple uses and attempts, none of the solar chargers we tested reached the manufacturer’s claimed fully-rated wattages for maximum power output during our tests.

    We attached each solar panel to a USB digital tester and various battery packs and other electronic devices we use in the backcountry, including GPS units, Bluetooth headphones, bike lights, headlamps, and more. We attempted to charge our iPhones and iPads directly but found they wouldn’t accept the charge since the power varied too much with the sun and clouds — even on some bluebird days. We found it was better to use them to charge a backup battery or power bank with through charging capabilities and then use that battery to charge our devices while it was charging via the solar panel.

    We attempted to test some of the chargers while hiking but found that even though companies place attachment points on the solar chargers to attach them to backpacks, they didn’t perform well in real-world testing that way. We’ll explain why in another section.

    We found that the digital USB tester wasn’t as applicable to the Goal Zero and BioLite contenders. This is because we couldn’t connect the digital USB tester to the higher wattage power cord of the Goal Zero, and the BioLite’s solar charge controller and portable battery power bank can provide a more conditioned stream of power from the battery.

    buying advice

    When looking for a good solar charger, there are many things to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to determine what you’ll use it for as well as how many devices it will power. Secondly, consider how long you’ll be in the backcountry and how much energy storage and battery capacity you want to carry.

    We looked at a wide range of solar chargers and, in some cases, energy storage units (aka batteries). We also came up with some different conclusions than other review sites based on our knowledge and our anticipation of how you’ll actually be able to use a solar charger in the field.

    For instance, unlike many other reviews and ‘best of’ lists we evaluated, we firmly recommend using solar chargers with backup batteries. Many high-end electronics like smartphones and tablets require a steady, regulated, or conditioned stream of electricity to charge. It helps limit the amount of damage that a surge or dip in solar power can do to the sensitive electronics inside the device.

    Efficiency and power output

    Efficiency and power output are two separate, but related, things. Efficiency refers to the efficiency of the solar cells in a panel and also the panel itself. The solar cells in the panel have a higher efficiency than the overall panel as some of the energy they capture is lost in transmitting energy through the wires and electronics of the solar panel. The most efficient commercial solar cells are around 24 percent efficient. A solar panel or charger, however will likely be in the range of 18 to 21 percent efficient.

    Power output is measured in terms of wattage or how many watts of energy a solar panel can output. The more efficient a solar panel is means it can output more watts and amps from a smaller area. For charging devices you’ll want a solar panel that’s capable of producing at least 5 watts, however many highly portable solar panels produce up to 28 watts of charging power in ideal conditions. Higher wattages do equal more charging power—however, since most of these solar panels still use USB-A style plugs, they can only produce 2.4 amps of current through those plugs.

    Portability and size

    The smallest outdoor solar panels we evaluated are 5 watts. These are about the size of a medium tablet, like the BioLite SolarPanel 5. and weigh less than a can of beer. They can produce enough power to slowly charge a smartphone or other device. At 8 inches by 9.75 inches, they’re easy to slip into a day pack.

    The largest portable solar panel we tested was the 6 pound Goal Zero Nomad 50. which folds down to just over 17 inches long by 11 inches wide and is well over an inch thick at its thickest parts, making it hard to fit in most backpacks. When set up it folds out to 53 inches wide. It was also the most powerful solar panel we tested and is capable of charging a battery that can charge laptops.

    Durability and weather resistance

    While these panels will last for years and even decades with proper care, they’re not designed to be left out in the elements like a permanent installation. They are encased in abrasion-resistant fabrics and plastics and are foldable.

    The solar cells are encased in impact-resistant plastic and the units usually have an IPX4 water-resistant rating, meaning they can handle water splashes but not much more than that. That shouldn’t be a surprise since the majority of portable solar panels have standard USB-A ports with no waterproof cover.

    Battery capacity

    The majority of the solar panels tested don’t have batteries. The BioLite SolarPanel 5 and BioLite SolarPanel 10 have 3,200 mAh batteries. That’s enough to charge an iPhone 13 or 14 one time. You can also pre-charge these batteries before you leave and use them to charge a device while it’s in your pack or at night and recharge the battery with the sun.

    Direct solar charging speed

    If the solar panel is optimally placed in full sun it should be able to produce its maximum wattage rating. In these cases, a panel like the Anker 21 Watt PowerPort Solar Charger should be able to provide enough energy to charge 2 USB devices simultaneously at 2.4 amps, the same as many 12-Volt USB adapters used in cars.

    Multiple device solar charging speed

    In ideal, full-sun conditions a 20 or more watt solar charger with two (or more) USB ports should be able to charge multiple devices at up to 2.4 amps like most 12-Volt USB adapters used in cars. A more powerful panel should be able to charge more, but the device has to be able to handle higher charging amperages like those that use USB-C connections.

    Additional features and accessories

    The majority of portable solar panels for camping are pretty minimal in terms of features. Most consist primarily of the panel and USB ports. Additional features include a for cables, grommets or loops to attach the panels to a pack or tent, and on some, stands to help keep the panel upright and at the right angle. A few, like the BioLite panels, have integrated batteries and they also have a little sundial that helps users properly orient the panel so that optimum sun hits the solar cells.

    When it comes to accessories, there are two main accessories you can use with the solar panels, cords and batteries.

    We highly recommend using these with a backup battery rather than plugging a Smart device directly to them. Some Smart devices limit the speed at which the devices can charge when dealing with a variable power source, like a solar panel. Backup batteries, however, can better harvest the variable currents flowing from a solar panel.

    Price and value for money

    The price of basic solar panels isn’t very high, about 67 for our Best Overall pick, the Big Blue 28W USB Solar Charger. If you have an existing backup battery and know you’ll be camping out for days and need extra power for your electronics when camp is set up, it’s a decent investment. If you’re hoping it’ll power your devices while strapped to the outside of your pack and hiking, you’ll be displeased. Despite advertising photos, even in sunny Colorado where we tested all the devices, these panels weren’t great at delivering power consistent enough to charge devices while hiking with them on a pack.

    Integrated Battery or Power Bank

    Unlike many other reviews and ‘best of’ lists we evaluated, we firmly recommend using solar chargers with backup batteries. Many high-end electronics like smartphones and tablets require a steady, regulated, or conditioned stream of electricity to charge. It helps limit the amount of damage that a surge or dip in solar power can do to the sensitive electronics inside the device.

    In addition, carrying a pre-charged backup battery or power bank and a way to easily charge all your devices when you’re in town or your vehicle can reduce the amount of charging you’ll need to do on the trail. Pre-charging or recharging a backup battery or power bank via the wall or your vehicle will almost always be faster than charging via a solar panel.

    The other two models we evaluated cost more. The BioLite, which is only a 10 watt solar panel, retails for 150. However, it’s also the only solar charger we tested with an integrated battery (sometimes called a portable solar power bank). It also has a kickstand, and a unique but simple mechanism called the Optimal Sun System, which helps orient the charger to get the maximum amount of sunlight available. It’s also unique in that it’s encased entirely in plastic.

    The Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel. our winner for Best Solar Charger for camping (see review above) had the highest wattage of any unit we tested at 50 watts and was the most expensive unit we tested at 250. It was also the largest and heaviest, but it is the only one that can provide a charge at a higher wattage and voltage.

    With panels this small, when the skies are gray, don’t expect much power output. The 50 watt, Goal Zero Nomad 50 should still produce enough energy to trickle-charge a smartphone but smaller panels will slow down to producing very small amounts of power, suitable only for trickle charging a backup battery.

    Best Solar Charger For Backpacking | Zero-Problem Supply

    The worst thing is to run out of juice on your electronic devices while on a long backpacking trip. It’s dangerous to be without a phone in an emergency, but you may also want to charge up your other devices to enjoy yourself more fully at the end of a long day of hiking. You need a solar charger specifically designed for backpacking so that your items always hold a charge. To make your decision even easier, this list of the best solar chargers for backpacking takes an objective look at what you’ll find on the market today. If you want to know the best solar charger for backpacking without reading, we recommend the Ryno Tuff 21W.

    Detailed Analysis Of The Best Backpacking Solar Chargers

    BigBlue 3 28W

    Overall Score: 80

    • Extremely lightweight
    • Excellent features, including safe charging
    • Weatherproof


    Backpackers must be conscious of every pound they put in their packs. Fortunately, the BigBlue 3 comes with great attention to making the solar charger as light as possible.

    While the solar charger can soak up some serious sun and charge your devices, it’s still lightweight at just 20.5 ounces. You’ll have a powerhouse charger at a little over a single pound.


    Many backpackers like to keep their solar panels out on display during the day to soak up those prime afternoon UV rays.

    However, you’ll want to ensure that your charger also fits in your pack when it’s not in use. The BigBlue is extremely compact, with folded dimensions 11.6 inches by 6.3 inches by 1.3 inches.

    If you want the unfolded dimensions, you’ll be surprised at just how much surface area it has to capture the sunlight. Its unfolded size comes to 33.1 inches by 11.1 inches by 0.2 inches.

    Maximum Output

    One of the most important features of a solar charger is its maximum output. This determines just how many devices you’ll be able to charge and approximately how long it’ll take.

    The BigBlue 3 has a maximum output of 5V/2.4A and a maximum current of 3 USB at 5V/4.8A. You’ll be able to charge multiple devices simultaneously with this 28W system.


    No solar charger is complete without taking a closer look at the features it promises to its users. This solar charger is great for those concerned about damaging their devices, as it has the protection you need.

    It features safe charging with overcurrent, overheating, and even short-circuit protection for your devices.

    You’ll also be pleased to know that it has one of the highest conversion rates of all solar chargers on the market today.

    The solar panel portion of the charger converts 24 percent of solar power into free energy. Plus, the panels are constructed of PET polymer to protect them when the weather gets wet.

    Keep in mind that this panel doesn’t store electricity and will not be able to charge a laptop or certain iPad devices.


    If you are out on the trail for quite some time, you’ll want to ensure that your phone is charged just in case of emergencies. Adding a solar charger to your pack is necessary, but will it break your budget?

    The BigBlue 3 is a great investment and is relatively affordable for solar chargers. It’s an investment that will yield big returns later but won’t bankrupt you right now.

    Goal Zero Nomad 20W

    Overall Score: 76


    Compared to the BigBlue 3, the Goal Zero Nomad will weigh you down just a little more. It’s not enough to make a huge dent in your pack, but every ounce matters when going on a long hike or extended trip.

    This solar charger weighs 2.25 pounds which isn’t enough to slow you down yet, but it’s something to consider when trying to make the lightest backpack possible.


    While it’s a little heavier than some, it takes up less space in your backpack which can offset the inconvenience of a few extra ounces.

    The folded dimensions of the solar charger are 11.5 inches by 7.4 inches by 1.25 inches. Even unfolded, it takes up less space with overall measurements of 11.5 inches by 21.75 inches by 0.75 inches.

    Maximum Output

    This 20W charger has a powerful output of 5V on the USB port, up to 2A or 10W max. It also has a solar port between 14V and 22V up to 1.3A or 20W maximum.

    The mini solar port (which measures 2.5 mm) has a 6.5V output of up to 1.1A or 7W max.


    Like most solar chargers, the Goal Zero Nomad doesn’t hold the charge when exposed to the sun, so you’ll also likely want to invest in a portable recharger.

    However, with this device, you can charge just about any item you want: headlamps, phones, tablets, USB devices, and power packs.

    You don’t have to fret if you’re worried about how the solar charger will hold up.

    It comes with a 12-month warranty to cover any manufacturer defects that impact your ability to charge your devices while on the trail.

    Not to mention, it holds up well in all terrain and weather due to its weatherproof construction.

    While you may be unable to charge up your devices on an overcast and rainy day, you don’t have to worry about ruining your investment in the Nomad chargers.


    The initial investment is the only downside to the Goal Zero Nomad 20W charger. You’ll have the power of a well-respected name brand in the industry, but you’ll have to pay for it.

    It’s not the most budget-friendly device on the market. However, you’ll have this investment for years, so consider it a wise investment in your gear.

    Anker PowerPort Solar Lite 21W

    Overall Score: 82


    If you’re concerned about how much the solar charger will weigh down your pack, all you need to do is look at the Anker PowerPort.

    It’s one of the lightest models on the market, clocking in at under one pound. It’s just 14.7 ounces, but don’t let its light weight fool you. It still packs a great punch when it comes to output and features.


    For those concerned about how much space it’ll take up in their pack, there’s more good news about the Anker PowerPort.

    Folded up, it takes up just 11.1 inches by 6.3 inches, making it smaller than the Goal Zero and more comparable to the BigBlue 3.

    Unfolded, it has plenty of surface area to absorb the sunlight. You’ll be able to fix it to the outside of your backpack easily for charging on the go with dimensions of 26.4 inches by 11.1 inches opened.

    Maximum Output

    Like most solar chargers, you’ll have a better charging speed when it’s in direct sunlight. It has an output of up to 2.4 Amps with a maximum output charging speed of 3 Amps.

    This’ll allow you to charge just about any device in no time. Remember that it may slow down if your panels aren’t directly located in the sunlight.

    Overall, it’s a 21W device greater than some of the other leaders on the market.


    Just because this solar charger is affordable doesn’t mean that it lacks the features that most backpackers want.

    The solar system on this charger is capable of 21.5 to 23.5 percent efficiency, and it can charge up to two devices simultaneously.

    You’ll also love that the solar panels are made of industrial-strength PET polymer that can resist the wet weather while you’re on the trail.

    Another important feature is that it can charge about any phone type. From iPhones to Samsung Galaxies, you won’t be disappointed with the output of this charger.

    It can also charge several tablets, including the iPad Pro, Air 2, and the mini.


    If you’re looking for something affordable just to get started with your backpacking gear, then the Anker is the right fit.

    It is one of the least expensive models on the market, but it still packs a powerful punch. Don’t worry about whether you can afford this one – it’s solidly at the low end of the price spectrum!

    Powertraveller Falcon 40 Solar Panel

    Overall Score: 82

    • Lightweight
    • Large dimensions to convert more sunlight
    • Can charge laptops with DC outlet


    When packing for an extended backpacking trip, you must ensure that every ounce in your backpack is packing the maximum punch.

    The Powertraveller Falcon clocks in at just one pound, making it a great lightweight option. You’ll find that it fits conveniently into just about all packs.


    One of the areas where the Falcon 40 truly shines is its overall size. These panels are rather large, making them ideal for capturing as much sunlight as possible.

    When unfolded, this solar charger’s overall dimensions are 11.42 inches by 47.24 inches by 0.12 inches.

    However, you can also easily fold them to squeeze more room in your pack with dimensions of 11.5 inches by 11.5 inches by 0.43 inches.

    Maximum Output

    You can’t go wrong with the Falcon for those who want to charge their devices quickly and simultaneously. It features two USB sockets with a maximum of 5V and a 20V DC socket.

    Unlike many other solar chargers, it also produces roughly 25 to 35 percent more power than conventional solar PV cells.


    One of the most important things to note about the Falcon 40 is that it can charge more than just smartphones and tablets.

    With its DC port, you can also charge your laptop, which allows you to bring all of the comforts of home with you on your trip.

    Laptops can charge in the DC port while you’ll still have 2 USB ports to charge simultaneously.

    Like most of the best solar chargers for backpacking, you’ll find that the Powertraveller is made of monocrystalline cells that are durable no matter the weather.

    They are both water and dustproof, meaning they’ll last you for the long haul.


    The only major downside to the Powertraveller Falcon 40 is its overall price. It’s not a budget-friendly option for those who are just getting into backpacking and have a lot of equipment to buy.

    However, those who are serious about backpacking and want to charge laptops while on the go will want to invest in this solar charger.

    Ryno Tuff 21W

    Overall Score: 86

    • Lightweight with lots of surface area
    • Quick charging times
    • Plant a tree with every purchase
    • Lifetime warranty


    You’ll love how lightweight the Ryno Tuff solar charger feels on your back.

    It easily competes for one of the most lightweight options on this ranking of the best solar chargers, coming in at just 0.6 ounces over one pound.

    A 16.6-ounce solar charger gives you the power you need without weighing you down.


    A small backpack doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to sacrifice power with portable solar chargers like this one from Ryno Tuff.

    It takes up the least space when folded compared to other top-name brands. The overall folded dimensions are 5.9 inches by 11.8 inches by 0.79 inches for maximum compactness.

    Even when unfolded, it’s still relatively small, which makes it easy to attach to the outside of your backpack using the included carabiner clips.

    The unfolded measurements of the charger are 18.1 inches by 11.8 inches by 0.12 inches.

    Maximum Output

    One of the benefits of the Ryno Tuff solar charger is that it features more efficient solar power panels.

    It offers 21W of solar power and allows you to charge two USB devices with a 2.4 Amp charge each time with a 5V system, even though it has a smaller footprint than some of the other chargers.

    It’s important to note that you can charge a phone or tablet in as few as two hours, provided you have plenty of sun.


    The features of the Ryno Tuff solar charger are another homerun for this candidate for the top solar charger.

    Designed for even the most rugged adventures, it’s constructed of waterproof PVC with 600D canvas to keep things safe.

    Even better, it has a lifetime warranty that covers you if the charger stops working under normal conditions.

    This solar charger is also one of the more efficient models today for backpackers.

    The solar cells that make up the charger can convert up to 25 percent, allowing you to always have what you need to charge your devices via the USB ports.

    If you’re concerned about the environment, one fun thing to note about the Ryno Tuff is that the company plants a tree with each purchase of these solar chargers.


    As far as price is concerned, you get a powerful charger that’s extremely lightweight and compact for a reasonable rate. It may not be the cheapest one on the market, but it certainly comes close.

    It’s a great deal for something you’re sure to use time and again while backpacking, and it’ll still allow you to invest in more expensive equipment like a larger backpack.

    SunJack 15W

    Overall Score: 84


    While it may not be the absolute lightest solar charger found here, the SunJack holds its own in this category. It weighs around 1.3 pounds, allowing it to work in even the heaviest packs.

    Don’t discount it just because it’s lightweight, though. As you’ll see in the next sections, it also has powerful charging capabilities.


    The SunJack is one of the smallest solar chargers, especially when folded. It’s narrower than most, with a width of just 9.8 inches by 6.25 inches by 1.25 inches.

    Unfolded, it’s still relatively small at 10 inches by 19.5 inches by 1 inch. If you’re worried about capturing the maximum amount of sunlight and converting it to solar energy, this is something to keep in mind.

    Maximum Output

    The good news is that the SunJack charger is great for just about any device short of a laptop. It can be used for smartphones, headphones, tablets, cameras, and smartwatches with USB-A and USB-C ports.

    The USB-A port has a 5V/3A system, as does the USB-C. Remember that you’ll be using this system and will only get 15W maximum output.

    They quickly point out that this charger can produce similar charging speeds to a standard wall outlet.


    You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that safety is the name of the game with this SunJack item.

    The chip embedded in this solar charger helps you to receive the fastest and safest speed while protecting you from short-circuiting, overload, overheating, overcharging, and over-voltage.

    It’ll also set itself to automatically restore for those hiking through shaded areas. The panels are made of monocrystalline, like all the best solar panels.

    They have the best UV-ray permeability at 95 percent, whereas many others have only 80 percent. Plus, they are waterproof panels.

    You don’t have to fret if you’re worried about how well this solar panel will hold up on the trail. They offer a 12-month hassle-free warranty to offer you the protection you need.

    As a bonus, the warranty is handled by a US-based company in California for easier communication and contact.


    While it may not be the most powerful solar charger found here, it still gets the job done for many backpackers.

    The SunJack 15W charger is an affordable solution that’ll fit in the smallest size space and won’t break your budget.

    It’s the perfect solution for anyone who wants to invest in solid equipment without sacrificing quality.

    Final Thoughts

    As we end this roundup of the best solar chargers for backpacking, you should have a better idea of which one is the right fit for you.

    Compare the output and the types of items you can charge with each one, how much it weighs in your pack, and what features matter most to you.

    Based on our criteria, we found that the Ryno Tuff 21W has all the features you need without breaking the budget. You should consider adding this to your gear today!

    A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with my pet bunny when not out in the woods, exploring the infinite beauty of mother nature.

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    BigBlue Solar Charger Review

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    BigBlue 28W Solar Charger

    The BigBlue is a portable solar charger that can keep your devices topped up for camping and travel—that said, its specs are misleading and there’s no power bank included.

    BigBlue 28W Solar Charger

    We purchased the BigBlue Solar Charger so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.

    Battery chargers and even portable generators are great to have on-hand, but what do you do when the battery bank runs out of power and the portable generator runs dry on fuel when you don’t have an outlet or gas station nearby? You use a portable solar charger, like the BigBlue 28W Solar Charger. Sure, this notebook-sized charger won’t power a fridge or toaster, but for times when you need a little extra juice in your phone in emergency situations or while out camping, folding solar panel chargers are a great solution.

    That said, BigBlue is a bit misleading with its maximum output, the charger is only capable of 17W, not 28W. However, it charges devices reliably, is water-resistant, and is small enough to fit on the inside or outside of a camping backpack or emergency kit. I spent more than 40 hours testing it in rain and shine.

    Design: Rugged but slim

    The BigBlue Solar Charger features a fairly standard design as far as folding solar chargers go. Folded up, the unit measures in at roughly the size of a standard one-subject notebook. When unfolded, it expands to four times its original width, with four of the five sections dedicated to the solar panels. The remaining section houses a little that not only acts as a means to store the devices being charged but also the location of the plugs (two 2A and one 2.4A USB-A ports).

    BigBlue also added dedicated grommets on each of the corners, which pair perfectly with the included carabiners to offer a means of attaching the unit to a hiking backpack, a tent, or a car.

    According to the product listing, the BigBlue Solar Charger is waterproof, however, no specific waterproof rating is given, which made testing this detail a little challenging. Determined to figure out just how far I could push it to the limits though, I started with small spritzes of water from a spray bottle and worked my way up to completely submerging the solar panel section into a bathtub full of water.

    Sure enough, from the spritzes to the submersion, the solar charger held up. You won’t want to get the USB port section of the unit wet, as it could cause issues down the road, but even if a little water gets in there when you don’t have a device in, it should be protected, as BigBlue added a rubber gasket to cover the USB ports.

    As a whole, the setup is quite nice. The panel showed it could withstand the elements (at least what I could throw at it) and the to store your mobile device while it’s charging is a nice touch, especially if you’re using the charger in direct sunlight, where your device would otherwise overheat.

    I wouldn’t count on charging my devices on the daily, but I’ll definitely be taking it with me on my next camping trip and keeping it in my emergency road kit in the meantime.

    Performance: Between the lines

    As unfortunately tends to be the case with many products, the specifications listed within the headline of the BigBlue Solar Charger product page is a bit misleading. BigBlue states the solar charger is 28 watts, and while technically true, that’s not the output it delivers.

    As explained by BigBlue in the fine print of the product description, the unit features four seven-watt panels, which makes for a total of 28W. However, the actual power output is dramatically lower, due to the conversion process from solar energy to actual deliverable energy over USB. BigBlue clarifies that ‘under ideal conditions’ the solar charger can output a maximum of 17W (5V3.4A).

    With this more nuanced (and accurate) information taken into account, I went about testing the unit under various lighting conditions to see if it would perform as detailed in the product description. In my testing across various sky conditions, the unit performed right on par, maxing out at just under 17W in direct sunlight on a perfectly sunny day (when using the two 2.4A ports). Even in less-than-ideal lighting situations, such as a cloudy day with snow on the ground, I was able to achieve 10W output (when using both 2.4A ports).

    Precisely how fast your device charges will vary depending on a number of variables: ambient temperature, device temperature, location of the sun in the sky, clouds, and, of course, the battery capacity of the device you’re charging. That said, output proved consistent when taking into account the variables I (and Mother Nature) threw the solar charger’s way.

    Price: Great value

    With a suggested retail price of 70, the BigBlue Solar Charger is right on target with similarly-specced units. Yes, it’s not the 28W charger as somewhat deceivingly advertised, but it still packs a punch in the right conditions and its ability to withstand the elements makes it a great choice for hikers, campers, and survivalists alike.

    I also enjoyed knowing the device could take on the elements while continuing to charge my devices. When my smartphone was secured inside the included and plugged in, it had no problem taking on the moisture and charging (albeit slowly) in snowy and rainy environments. I wouldn’t count on charging my devices on the daily, but I’ll definitely be taking it with me on my next camping trip and keeping it in my emergency road kit in the meantime.

    Even in less-than-ideal lighting situations, such as a cloudy day with snow on the ground, I was able to achieve 10W output (when using both 2.4A ports).

    At 70, it’s a small price to pay for that extra level of comfort knowing I’ll be able to keep my devices at least somewhat charged during the day if my phone’s battery runs out and I don’t have access to any power port.

    BigBlue Solar Charger vs. Ryno Tuff Solar Charger

    One of the most direct comparisons to the BigBlue Solar Charger is the Ryno Tuff Solar Charger (see on Amazon) With a suggested retail price of 75-80, it’s nearly the same price as the BigBlue Solar Charger. On top of that, the Ryno Tuff Solar Charger is also waterproof, has a higher maximum output of 21W, and features a built-in 6,000mAh power bank, so you can save up power for a time when light is a little more scarce. Overall, the Ryno Tuff may be the better option for most people, especially due to its built-in power bank.

    A solid, budget-friendly portable solar charger.

    When all was said and done, I was impressed with the performance of the BigBlue Solar Charger. Calling it 28W in the product listing’s headline is incredibly disingenuous, but if you read carefully and understand it will max out at only 17W, it’s easier to recognize the solar charger actually lives up to its specifications. It’s a bit heavy for ultra-light hikers, but at roughly a pound, it’s still light enough to justify in situations where you need to power a few mobile devices, be they smartphones or GPS units.


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