Skip to content
Best portable solar chargers. Solar USB charger camping

Best portable solar chargers. Solar USB charger camping

    The Best Camping Solar Chargers Advice from the Field (2023)

    Although part of the joy of camping is getting unplugged from technology, there are also undeniable conveniences of having source of energy. Whether you want to keep your phone powered in case of emergencies or just charge your GPS for navigation, having a camping solar charger is one way to make your camping experience more enjoyable.

    Thanks to solar energy, you can power basic electronic devices without needing to connect to an outlet. Not only does this help you maximize your adventure time, it’s also an environmentally friendly option.

    There’s a lot of variety in price and style when it comes to camping solar chargers, so it’s understandable if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. To help you out, we’ve done some research to select the best solar chargers for camping so you can find which product is best for your camping style and budget.

    So, ya’ll want to find out what the best solar camping charger is? Let’s go!

    Quick Answer: These are the Best Camping Solar Chargers of 2022

    MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern Charger

    Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel

    MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights Charger

    Goal Zero Boulder 50 Solar Panel

    Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1500X Portable Power Station

    • Long-term living situation
    • Can be charged using a wall outlet or a 12V car port

    Best Camping Solar Chargers

    From car camping to nomadic backpacking across mountain tops, we’ve got something on this list to fit every camper’s needs! Read on to discover the best camping solar chargers and how to decide which is right for you.

    Right then, let’s jump in and find out the best solar chargers for camping and travelling.

    REI is one of America’s biggest and most-loved outdoor gear retailers.

    Now, for just 30, get a lifetime membership that entitles you to 10% OFF on most items, access to their trade-in scheme and discount rentals.

    – Overall Best Camping Solar Charger

    MPOWERD Luci Pro Lux Inflatable Solar Lantern Charger

    Our pick for overall best camping solar charger is MPOWERD Luci Pro Lux Inflatable Solar Lantern Charger

    • Style: Battery or solar panel
    • Best Use: Camping, backpacking
    • Weight: 6.1 ounces
    • Collapsible: Yes

    This inflatable solar lantern has dual functions as a charger and a light source during your travels. You can charge the battery either by using the solar panel located on the top, or plugging it in using the USB port.

    The light can last up to 50 hours on the lowest setting, or you can use the medium, high, or flashing setting for more light. You can also track how much battery is remaining by the indicator located on the side of the lantern.

    In direct sunlight, it takes the Luci Pro Lux about 14 hours to fully charge, or in less than 3 hours when using a USB quick-charge. 14 hours is longer than desirable for a charging time, so you’ll need to be mindful about how much you use it and keep it in the sun as much as possible while traveling.

    Thanks to the lightweight design and the fact that the lantern has a IP67 waterproof rating, the Luci Pro Lux is also what we bring with us on our Pakistan tours. It has a pleasant source of light, and keeps mobile devices charged while out on the trail.

    Our team selected this as their best solar charger for camping because it covered all bases. The lamp was bright enough to light up a tent easily without being too light for the evening. It was also light enough to carry on pretty much any trip and packs down super small too.

    • Nice source of light
    • Lightweight and durable
    • Collapsible design makes it easy to pack

    – Best Budget Camping Solar Charger

    MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern Charger

    MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern Charger is our pick for the best budget camping solar charger

    • Style: Battery or solar panel
    • Best Use: Camping, backpacking
    • Weight: 6.1 ounces
    • Collapsible: Yes

    Almost identical to the number one camping solar charger on this list, the Luci Pro Outdoor covers all the basics for what a portable camping charger should do without becoming too expensive.

    This inflatable design allows it to be packed down to just a 1-inch thickness, so you can easily slide it into your backpack or travel bag. The battery is chargeable either with a USB cable or by solar power, although it takes about 14 hours in direct sunlight to reach a full charge.

    The three brightness settings allow you to adjust the light setting as needed, and the lowest setting provides up to 50 hours of light.

    For being so lightweight, the Luci Pro Outdoor is also very durable and has an IP67 waterproof rating. The compact design and sturdiness make it a great choice for backpackers and budget travelers looking for a suitable camping solar charger.

    Our team felt this was the best budget solar panel charger for camping because they felt it ticked all the boxes without breaking the bank. The collapsable design made it perfect for throwing into any backpack for any sort of trip.

    – Best Solar Panel for Car Camping

    Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel

    Meet the best solar panel for car camping: Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel

    • Style: Solar panel
    • Best Use: Car camping
    • Weight: 6 pounds
    • Collapsible: Panels are foldable

    Weighing in at 6 pounds, the Goal Zero Nomad 50 certainly isn’t the number 1 pick for backpackers, but it is perfect for car camping and long road trips. Unfolded, the panels measure 53 x 17 x 1.5 inches, and while folded up they pack down to a neat 17 x 11.25 x 2.5 inches.

    If you want, you can even purchase multiple panels to connect to maximize your power collection. The panels can also be paired with power banks like the Goal Zero Sherpa Power Bank to store power.

    For travelers who will be constantly returning to one base camp or who will be traveling by car, the Goal Zero Nomad 50 is the perfect power companion to keep your devices charged and ready for use no matter where the road takes you.

    Our team rated this as their best portable solar charger for camping whilst travelling in a car due to how powerful it is whilst packing down super small. The panels fold up and easily slide underneath a seat or into the boot whilst at the same time it opened up to reveal a large area capable of pulling in a massive amount of power.

    Best Backpacking Solar Charger

    Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel

    Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel is one of the best backpacking solar charger

    • Style: Solar panel
    • Best Use: Camping, backpacking
    • Weight: 12.7 ounces
    • Collapsible: No

    If the Goal Zero Nomad 50 was the perfect solar panel for car camping, then the smaller version of the product-the Goal Zero Nomad 5-is the ideal choice for backpackers in search of a camping solar charger.

    It’s a relatively compact product, measuring 9.5 x 7 x 1.1 inches and weighing only 12.7 ounces, so it fits easily into most camping backpacks. The kickstand allows you to adjust the angle in order to maximize your power collection.

    Keeping your phone and other small devices charged while on the trail is possible with the Goal Zero Nomad 5. Thanks to the durable monocrystalline material, it’s also meant to be tough enough to withstand some jolts and jostles which are bound to happen with any backpacking trip.

    The team were impressed by how lightweight and portable this solar charger is, in fact, it could easily fit inside a backpack laptop sleeve without adding too much weight. They also found it was hardwearing too which is super important when getting thrown in and out of a backpack on a daily basis.

    – Runner-up for Best Backpacking Solar Charger

    Powertraveller Extreme Solar Charger

    Runner-up for best backpacking solar charger on our list is Powertraveller Extreme Solar Charger

    • Style: Solar panel
    • Best Use: Camping, backpacking
    • Weight: 10.2 ounces
    • Collapsible: Foldable (clamshell design)

    Our close-second choice for the best camping solar charger for backpackers goes to the Powertraveller Extreme Solar charger. It’s fairly compact and has a convenient clamshell design so it’s easy to keep safe while on the trail.

    The Powertraveller is a bit more expensive option, but it’s also a bit very durable and able to get power in lower light conditions than other solar chargers. You can also attach it easily to the outside of a backpack, bike pannier, or tent thanks to the simple mounting system.

    The team loved this little nifty backpacking solar charger and in particular, they felt the foldable design allowed it to be super compact and also mega durable too. The additional functionality of being able to attach it to their backpacks whilst on the move was something they loved too, especially whilst hiking in the Aussie outback.

    • Compact and durable
    • Attaches to packs, panniers, and tents
    • Functions in low-light conditions

    – Best Solar String Lights for Camp

    MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights Charger

    MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights Charger is our top pick for the best solar string lights charger

    • Style: Battery and solar panel
    • Best Use: Camping, car travel, cabin
    • Weight: 11.3 ounces
    • Collapsible: No

    There’s something relaxing and pleasant about string lights at a campsite. Whether you’re on a backpacking trip with some friends or spending a weekend at the cabin with your family, the Luci Solar String Lights are a great addition to your camping gear.

    Not only are the string lights perfect for illuminating your tent or campsite area once the sun goes down, but the USB port also allows you to charge some mobile devices. You’ll have up to 20 hours of light on a single charge, and you can monitor the battery life on the indicator on the side.

    Using the solar panel, the Luci Solar String Lights take a full 16 hours in direct sun to charge, or you can charge it in under 8 hours using the USB port. The IPX4 waterproof rating means that accidental splashes won’t result in your string lights being ruined.

    Our team loved this little number and felt it was the best solar panel charger for camping when it came to fun features and usability. The compact charger packed a punch when it came to charging their phones whilst also lighting up camp, the addition of the low-power fairy lights made it even more perfect for tents and cars at night.

    • Fairly budget friendly
    • String lights or charger
    • Durable and can withstand some splashes

    – Best Solar Charger for Groups

    Goal Zero Boulder 100 Solar Panel Briefcase

    Our pick for best solar charger for groups is Goal Zero Boulder 100 Solar Panel Briefcase

    • Style: Solar panel
    • Best Use: Group camping, base camp, car travel
    • Weight: 25 pounds, 14.4 ounces
    • Collapsible: Folds into a briefcase

    Although this solar panel is way too massive for any backpacker to consider, it’s the perfect choice for large groups, attending festivals, or long car camping trips. Unfolded the solar panel measures 40 x 26.75 x 1.75 inches, and once folded in half the entire thing fits in a protective carrying case in a briefcase style package.

    In order to charge your devices and store power, you’ll need to get a power generator such as the Goal Zero Yeti 150. The two devices together are certainly an investment, but one that can pay off many times over if you’re using them a lot.

    This solar panel can be easily transported, or permanently installed, for use at a cabin or a long-term base camp. It’s durable, and designed to last as long as you give it proper care and maintenance.

    For those in the TBB team who had the space and the need, they felt this was a game changer when it came to camping off the grid. They were impressed by the power they got from this thing as well as how portable it actually was once folded up for its size.

    Do You Want to Travel FOREVER??

    Pop your email in below to get a FREE copy of ‘How to Travel the World on 10 a Day!’.

    – Best Solar Camping Charger for Van Life

    Goal Zero Boulder 50 Solar Panel

    Goal Zero Boulder 50 Solar Panel is one of the best solar camping charger for van life

    • Style: Solar panel
    • Best Use: Camping, RV travel, car camping
    • Weight: 12 pounds, 6.4 ounces
    • Collapsible: No

    For RV travelers or car campers looking for a solar panel installation for their vehicle, the Goal Zero Boulder 50 is a great option. This durable and efficient solar panel can be installed either permanently or temporarily depending on your travel needs.

    You’ll also need to purchase the Goal Zero mounting brackets in order to secure it on a roof, or use the kickstand for setting up the solar panel on the ground at camp.

    When paired with the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Generator or a similar product, this solar panel is the solution to keeping your laptop and mobile phone charged while on the road for long periods of time.

    For those wanting the functionality of the larger model whilst only having the space for a more compact option, the Boulder 50 was perfect. The team felt it hit a sweet spot in terms of charging ability and storability for van camping.

    – Best Emergency/Survival Power Station

    Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1500X Portable Power Station

    Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1500X Portable Power Station is our top pick for the best emergency/survival power station

    • Style: Battery or paired with solar panels
    • Best Use: Base camp, group camping, emergency preparedness
    • Weight: 45 pounds, 10.25 ounces
    • Collapsible: No

    For those extreme campers out there, it’s worth mentioning this power generator on our list of camping solar chargers. Although it’s most definitely NOT a budget friendly option, if you’re serious about wanting to invest in solar power for a long-term living situation, then there’s a chance you might want to consider this generator.

    You can pair it with any of the Goal Zero solar panels to keep it charged, then have enough energy to power TVs, refrigerators, phones, laptops, and more.In addition to solar panels, the generator can also be charged using a wall outlet or a 12V car port depending on what’s available to you.

    The generator itself is fairly compact, considering its power capabilities. Measuring 15.25 x 10.4 x 10.2 inches, it’s also certainly not lightweight coming in at a bit over 45 pounds. Getting the Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1500X is a big upfront investment, but worth it if you have the right lifestyle.

    The team felt this beast was only applicable to certain camping situations, but for those who needed portable power, this thing was epic! They felt it was the perfect way to live off the grid and safety explore truly off-the-beaten-track locations in relative comfort. The storage capabilities of the battery meant they could charge up once and have enough juice for a good few days of low key usage.

    • Can provide lots of power
    • Compatible with Goal Zero solar panels
    • Charge by wall outlet, solar, or 12V car port

    Best of the Rest

    Although these camping solar chargers didn’t make it onto one of the top spots on the list, they’re still worth mentioning and one of them might end up being exactly what you’re searching for.

    BioLite SolarPanel 5

    This relatively lightweight camping solar charger weighs 13.76 ounces, and comes with an integrated 2,200 mAh battery so you can continue to charge your devices even when the sun is no longer shining.

    When you’re at camp, use the kickstand to set up the solar panel in the optimal place, or while you’re on the go you can use the corner loops to secure it using a carabiner or rope. It takes about 8 hours to charge by USB, or under 3 hours with direct sunlight.

    The thin design also makes the BioLite 5 easy to pack, so it’s a good option for campers or backpackers looking for a camping solar charger that won’t take up too much room.

    Our team loved how compact, light and quick to charge the built-in battery was. They also that additional functionality, especially for backpacking trips.

    Powertraveller Solar Adventurer II Solar Charger

    A good choice for backpacking, camping, and hiking, the Powertraveller Solar Adventurer II measures 5.25 x 1 x 1 inches and weight just over 14 ounces. It can be charged either by the solar panel which takes 10-12 hours depending on sunlight, or in about 3.5 hours with the USB.

    One major advantage of the Powertraveller Solar Adventurer II is its durability rating. The IP65 rating means that it’s moderately waterproof-it’s not going to survive being dumped in a lake, but some rain or splashing isn’t going to harm it.

    Thanks to the integrated battery, you can also continue to charge your devices when the sun goes down, and it’s compatible with USB-C laptops.

    The team felt this was a great option for digital nomads going off the grid with the hard-wearing case and integrated battery. They found it to be one of the most durable on the market even with daily use.

    BioLite SolarPanel 10

    This foldable solar panel is a great addition for campers and backpackers to add to their gear. Weighing 1 pound 3.4 ounces, it’s a little heavier than some varieties, but it’s also larger and has a faster charging time.

    In direct sunlight, the battery can reach full capacity in as little as 2 hours, and you can keep track of how quickly it’s charging on the side indicator. To reposition the panel, there’s a 360 degree kickstand to obtain optimal position in relation to the sun.

    It’s a bit less durable than other models, but still has an IPX4 rating which is enough to protect it against some splashing or mild dust.

    best, portable, solar, chargers

    The team loved the faster charging speeds than many of the other compact models and felt it offered the perfect solution for the more careful among the group. They found it also charged well in shade too.

    Goal Zero Nomad 100 Solar Panel

    This is Goal Zero’s largest model of solar panel; it’s certainly way too big and heavy for backpacking, but for powering base camps or long term car travelers, it’s an excellent option.

    The foldable design makes it easier to pack and store when you’re on the go, and the durable materials are meant to be able to withstand some bumps and battering during your adventures.

    Like some of the other Goal Zero products, you’ll need to pair this with the Goal Zero Yeti solar generator or something similar. This camping solar charger may be a bit out of the price range for some campers, but for hardcore outdoor enthusiasts, it’s a quality product and good investment.

    For those wanting to explore the backcountry further, this was the perfect solution. They felt despite the large size and fast charge times, the panels still folded down relatively compactly and stored well inside their campers.

    Luci Base Light

    Similar to our top picks on this list, this is Luci’s standard “base” model as the name suggests. Like the other Luci light models, it can supply up to 50 hours of light on one charge and is capable of charging mobile phones while on the go.

    The Base Light can take up to 28 hours to fully charge on solar power, which is more than the newer versions of the light. It can also be quickly charged with a USB cable, which makes it convenient for backpackers staying at hostels who want a personal light source.

    It’s easily packable thanks to the collapsable design, and the strap on top allows you to attach it to a tent or pack as a light source for camp or while walking in the dark.

    We have been using this light for years on our tours in Pakistan and it is one of my all-time favorite solar power sources. Check out my Luci Base Light review here.

    Now, you could spend a fat chunk of on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.

    So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt.

    How to Choose the Best Solar Camping Charger

    As campers become more and more interested in keeping their electronics powered even in remote areas, the options for solar camping chargers continue to expand. When deciding which solar camping charger is best for you, here are a few of the key considerations to take into account.

    Weight and Portability

    As you can see from our list above, solar camping chargers come in a variety of sizes and weights. What works well for car camping probably isn’t going to be best for a lightweight backpacker-no one wants to haul around a 25 pound solar panel on a backpacking trip!

    In general, with increased weight also comes the capacity for more power. However, the heavier the solar panel, the more difficult it is to transport it.

    Each camper and traveler will have to make the call for themselves about what the best balance between weight and function is for them.

    Also keep in mind that heavier solar panels tend to be more expensive. If this is your first time purchasing a camping solar panel, you might want to go for one of the less expensive and lighter versions to see how you like it before making a big investment.

    Best Use

    How you plan on using your solar charging device can help you determine which model is best for you. Everyone has their own style of camping, from rugged backpacking expeditions to simply going to spend a weekend at the cabin.

    Although many of the camping solar panels on this list can work in a variety of settings, usually there are some restrictions about their best use. For example, if you have a car or camper van, it makes sense to invest in a larger and heavier solar charger than what you might get for a backpacking trip.

    Keep in mind that for some purposes you also have to take into account purchasing separate gear such as power generators or mounting brackets.

    Charging Speed

    The speed at which a camping solar charger can power up a phone or camera varies a lot depending on the device. Many of the smaller solar chargers are also chargeable by a USB cable, which is helpful since the small solar panels can take a long time to fully charge.

    There’s also some variation in how direct the sunlight needs to be in order for the solar charger to get power. Some of the more expensive and larger panels are able to function in much dimmer conditions, while smaller versions may require more intense light exposure.

    When shopping for a solar camping charger, check what the charge time is and whether it’s possible to charge via an outlet. Again, it all ties back to how you’re planning to use the solar charger and whether it makes sense to invest in a more expensive but faster charging model.

    Cost/Value

    Although some of the solar chargers on this list may look super cool, they may not be worthwhile investments in terms of price. If you’re just looking for a solar charger capable of charging a phone or camera for a day or two out camping, you probably won’t need to spend more than 50 or 60 on something that will work well.

    If you’re already an experienced car camping, RVer, or have a remote cabin, then it’s worthwhile to invest in one of the larger and more expensive models. For campers who know they need a regular source of power for long periods of time, a high quality camping solar charger can pay itself off quickly.

    The Benefits of Going Solar

    The biggest and most obvious benefit to solar chargers is the environmental standpoint. Investing in renewable energy sources, even if it’s something small like a solar charger, can add up in the long run.

    In comparison to petrol-powered camping chargers and generators, solar chargers are much better in terms of both pollution and noise. Instead of having a sometimes smelly and loud petrol generator, you can have a completely silent and odor-free solar charger, plus there’s no need to worry about hauling fuel around.

    Solar energy is also much more convenient for campers and travelers who enjoy spending long periods of time outdoors. If you’re the type of person who enjoys week long thru-hikes or long camping trips in the mountains, having a solar charger is an excellent way to keep your essential electronics powered when you don’t have access to an outlet.

    Plus we all need to be hiking and traveling as sustainably as possible right?

    How We Tested The Best Camping Solar Chargers

    There is no perfect method when it comes to testing out travel and outdoor gear. Having said that, here at TBB we’ve got quite a bit of experience when it comes to using gear, so we feel we’re in a good position to give it a red hot crack!

    Whenever we test a piece of gear, for example, a solar charger for camping, we pass it out around the group. Each of our members are spread across the globe in different environments and conditions, so they’re able to test each item out thoroughly.

    We each pay attention to things like, how well made each piece of gear was, how light or heavy they are, and whether they’re packable or not. Above all else, how well each fulfils its primary purpose. So, when it came to the best camping solar chargers, that would be things like how much power each packs, how easy they are to charge and durability.

    Finally, we also take into account how an item is priced. Expensive items are scrutinised to a higher degree whereas cheaper options are given a bit more leeway.

    FAQ about the Best Camping Solar Chargers

    Still have some questions about the best camping solar charger? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:

    Do solar chargers really work?

    Unless you go for a cheap rip-off solar charger, most devices work well and are reliable, asl long as the sun is shining. If you’re doubting their durability, make sure to check the reviews of each product before you purchase.

    What’s the best camping solar charger?

    We’re convinced that the MPOWERD Luci Pro Lux Inflatable Solar Lantern Charger is the overall best companing solar charger. It’s collapsible, light and acts as a charger and a light source during your travels.

    What’s the cheapest camping solar charger?

    The MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern Charger is one of the best budget options on the market. It’s also incredibly portable thanks to a collapsible feature.

    What are the most important features of a camping solar charger?

    Weight and portability2. Charging Speed3. Cost and Value

    Our GREATEST Travel Secrets…

    Pop your email here get the original Broke Backpacker Bible for FREE.

    Final Thoughts on the Best Camping Solar Chargers

    Now that you know what to look for in a camping solar charger and had the chance to look through our top picks, it’s up to you to make the decision about which model offers the best balance of price, size, and charging capacity.

    Whether you go with a convenient and collapsible solar charger like our top pick, the MPOWERD Luci Pro Lux charger for a backpacking trip, or something a bit bigger like the Goal Zero Nomad 50 for car camping and RV trips, know that you’re about to make your camping experience a bit more convenient.

    As long as the sun is shining, your camera, phone, or GPS can always stay powered, even when you’re out in the middle of the wilderness. Not only is a camping solar charger useful, but investing in a renewable resource also makes your travels more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

    So, did we choose the best solar powered charger for camping? Do you have any other suggestions?

    And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!

    Best portable solar chargers

    We reviewed 25 products and spent over 100 hours scientifically field testing the top 15 portable solar panels to find the best ones for modern survival. After considering price, durability, performance, size, and weight, we recommend the Ryno Tuff 21W Portable Solar Charger.

    • March 10, 2022 : The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus, Goal Zero Nomad 14 Plus, Renogy Portable E.Flex 10W, iClever USB Solar Charger, and X-DRAGON 14W have been discontinued
    • Collapse Most Recent Updates

    Being prepared for emergencies means being able to generate electricity without the grid. There are bigger solar panels for your home and basecamp, but many preppers want to charge their portable batteries and USB-powered devices (e.g. phones) while on foot. These portable solar panels, which are typically marketed for backpacking, hiking, or camping, are a core part of many people’s go-bags and car kits.

    Portable solar chargers pair well with a rechargeable battery pack (either a single Li-Ion pack or a charger for AA-style batteries), and some of them even come with a built-in battery pack.

    Despite how simple these USB solar chargers appear — you put them in the sun and plug your gear into them, right? — there’s a lot more to picking the right charger and learning how to use it effectively than you might imagine.

    Check out the beginner’s guide to off-grid power for the basics in simple terms and what kind of gear you need for your goals.

    • Bigger panels always perform better. Get the biggest you can within your space, weight, and budget limits.
    • Time of day doesn’t matter nearly as much as placing the panels perpendicular to the sun.
    • Despite what you might read in guides, it appears to be very rare for panels to not go back up to full power after a Cloud passes overhead. This may have been an issue for older panels, but it seems to have been fixed in the current generation.
    • Heat decreases panel performance, so keep your panels off of hot surfaces like stone or metal. Some of the panels that heated up quite a bit had Rapid voltage and current oscillations, and these wild swings lowered the total overall energy output over the course of a test run.
    • Avoid charging your phone/headlamp/whatever directly from a solar panel in the hot sun. Rather, charge a battery pack first, then use that pack to charge your phone.

    Read below the fold for deep details on our testing methods and data, tips on getting the most from your panel, and more.

    Best for most people:

    Ryno Tuff 21W USB Solar Charger

    This fairly-priced and high-power charger is not exactly compact at 1 pound and 1 square meter of panel surface area, but it’s thin and light enough to be fine in a typical pack.

    The best portable solar panel for most people is the Ryno Tuff 21W. After hours of testing with a load tester and a multimeter, this charger ranked at or near the top of our review in the key areas of power output, watts per ounce, and efficiency. As we measured weather, sunlight levels, and panel heat in a variety of conditions, the Ryno Tuff was able to maintain an impressive 10W on a single USB port. In fact, we even got it all the way up to 12W for a bit on one test run. The price is also right — often coming in 5-10 cheaper than the competition — to the point that not only is it the overall winner but it’s the best budget option as well.

    As of June 2022, customer service seems to be non-existent for Ryno Tuff. It is a quality panel and is still being sold by reputable sellers, but do not expect any sort of warranty or customer service.

    We strongly recommend pairing a solar charger with a separate external USB battery bank so that you don’t have to ruin your gadgets built-in batteries by baking them in the sun during a charge cycle. Many of the products in this guide sell versions with and without a battery built into the solar charger. Although we prefer keeping the charger and battery separate, it’s not wrong if you pick the built-in battery version.

    CHOETECH 19W USB Solar Charger

    A very close second place, this panel is slightly more compact than the Ryno Tuff competitor at 0.9 square meters of total PV area. Slightly larger but 40% heavier than the Renogy.

    The CHOETECH 19W is a great alternative — if you can find the CHOETECH for about the same price as the Ryno Tuff, confidently grab whichever one you’d like. The CHOETECH weighs the same as the Ryno Tuff yet folds into a slightly more compact design that saves precious space in smaller bags. The build quality is solid, just like the Ryno, but we did like the CHOETECHs embedded metal rings more than the cloth loops on the Ryno. This panel produced slightly less peak power than the Ryno in most of our testing, but the overall performance is close enough in most conditions.

    Great for low light:

    BigBlue 3 28W Solar Charger

    This big 1.3 square meter panel can squeeze power out of the worst weather conditions, but clocks in at 1.33 pounds.

    On the other hand, grab the BigBlue 28W Solar Charger if you want more power and are willing to deal with a larger panel. Total panel area directly affects power output — especially when dealing with constant low-light conditions — so preppers in locations like the Pacific Northwest may need to bite the bullet and carry a bigger charger if they really care about power preparedness. The BigBlue features three USB ports and did very well in our tests. The extra size makes it one of the heaviest chargers in our review, but on cloudy days it produced twice the output (8W vs 4.5W) of the Ryno and Choetech.

    Although the BigBlue has a smaller height and width than the Ryno Tuff, the extra panel makes it heavier and thicker when folded up. The Renogy is much smaller and lighter than both.

    • Difference between advertising and reality
    • Angle to the sun matters
    • Panel size directly impacts power
    • How long will it take to charge my phone?
    • How to figure out your device charge times
    • Why USB charging is weird
    • How we picked the competition
    • How we tested
    • Why other hiking solar charger reviews are flawed
    • Nerdy notes on how to read the full test results
    • Review data for each panel

    Common sense prepping, straight to your inbox.

    Get our free newsletter for great new articles and giveaways. 1-2 emails a month. 0% spam.

    Advertised numbers don’t reflect reality

    Our testing shows that real-world performance almost never reaches what the companies claim. At best, you should use those numbers to understand relative differences between products. If you have specific numbers you need to hit, such as watts or amps, assume there’s at least a 25-50% drop off from the marketing data.

    Most USB chargers have names like RAVPower 16W, with the 16W label referring to the amount of power in watts. But manufacturer-provided power ratings are generated under highly artificial test conditions in order to promote the highest number possible.

    It’s better to use those advertised wattage numbers as a rough indication of general panel size and relative power performance — e.g. a panel labeled 20W is probably a bit stronger and bigger than one labeled as 10W, even though neither panel will hit their advertised numbers.

    Similarly, we found the amps coming out of a USB port almost never reached the rated maximum. For example, one panel that advertised 2.4 amps of USB output actually never got above 1.8.

    Power output greatly depends on angle to the sun

    Our testing found that how the panel is angled relative to the sun matters a lot more than simply the time of day. A panel at a bad angle at high Noon will perform worse than the same panel pointed directly at the sun at 6 PM. Even a few degrees off of 90/perpendicular makes a noticeable difference.

    Some of these chargers hit maximum output even as late as 7 PM — just through proper positioning.

    You know all those marketing pictures where the panel is strapped to the back of a hiker’s pack, using the attached loops that are helpfully built into the panels for that express purpose?

    This will only work if the sun is directly behind you or you can get some portion of the panel on top of the bag. Vertical almost never works, especially if you keep changing the orientation of the panel to the sun.

    You don’t have to baby the panel every few minutes, just be Smart about your positioning. Worst case: lay the panel flat through the mid-day hours.

    To see how important the sun angle is in real wattage numbers, here’s a graph of an orientation test with the BigBlue 3 28W panel on a sunny, early September day at about noon.

    We rotated the panel through a series of positions while making an audio recording of calling out the positions and timestamps so that we could mark them on the graph above. You’ll see that the sunlight level is constant at about 750W/m2, but the panel’s power output swings wildly with each position.

    As we moved the panel from flat to 45 degrees from the sun, for example, the power output jumped from just under 12W to 14W. Turning the panel to 45 degrees facing away from the sun dropped the power output all the way down to two watts.

    Total panel size is the biggest power factor

    Regardless of the brand, technology, or price, total panel surface area is the number one factor behind solar charger performance. You can’t beat this by throwing money at it, either — for max power and best output under a wide range of conditions, it’s generally better to go big and cheap than small and expensive.

    The scatter plot below compares each charger’s total panel area (in square meters) against the average power output during the best-performing test run. For the scientifically inclined, there’s a strong correlation with a p value of 0.8.

    Chargers with smaller overall panel area were also more sensitive to a wider range of sunlight conditions. It took more sunlight to max them out, and they dropped off quickly under less-than-ideal light.

    Although bigger is clearly better, the idea is to be portable, which is why we chose not to include panels we felt were too big for a common go-bag. Just get the biggest you can within your space, weight, and budget constraints.

    How long will it take to charge my phone?

    The main question — in most cases the only question — that everyone wants an answer to when shopping for portable USB solar chargers is: how long will this take to charge my phone if I put it in direct sunlight?

    Like it or not, the answer is “it depends.” There are so many different factors that go into that question that any blanket answers are lying for the sake of ease.

    Consider answering “which car can drive furthest on a gallon of gas?” To test that, you’d need everything else to be the same — the same tires, same route, same weather conditions, same type of oil and gas, same weight in the vehicle, and so on.

    Similarly, different solar chargers behave differently depending on weather conditions, angle to the sun, temperature, the type of device they’re plugged into, etc. And different chargeable devices have different battery chemistries, capacities, charging algorithms, etc.

    Later in this review, we explain how we handled those differences to be as scientific as possible and why most other portable solar charger reviews you see online are inherently flawed because they aren’t measuring apples to apples.

    How to figure out your device charge times

    Two numbers matter when charging any kind of battery: watt-hours (Wh) and volts (V).

    Each battery holds a certain number of watt-hours of energy. So for an empty 9Wh battery, you need to supply it with 9 watts for an hour or 4.5 watts for 2 hours (and so on) to bring it up to full charge. The more watts your charger puts out, the faster your gear will charge.

    This chart shows the amount of sun a test panel received over an hour (yellow) which was consistent on a sunny day, how much power the panel put out from that sunlight at any given moment (red/watts), and how much cumulative energy was sent to the USB device (blue/watt-hours).

    Think of the blue line as the total charge sent into a battery, which is why it builds over time.

    So as you look through the test run charts for the different panels in this review, keep your eye on how that Wh line grows over time under different sunlight conditions to get a feel for how the panels would perform on different battery sizes.

    For example, the Nekteck charger in the graph above created 9.3Wh of charge over an hour. Since an iPhone XS battery is 9.8Wh, it would’ve charged to about 95% (from zero) in an hour. Again, though, these are ballpark numbers, because the iPhone would vary its voltage needs and current draw from the panel as its internal battery progresses through its charge cycle.

    Why USB charging is weird

    The kinds of lithium-ion batteries you’ll usually be charging via USB spend most of their usable battery life at 3.7V, but you’ll need to charge them at a minimum of 4.2V to get them up to 100 percent full. Depending on the specifics of the battery there may be a little wiggle room, but 4.2V is what you should aim for.

    USB charging devices — whether they’re battery packs or solar panels — have USB ports with nominal 5V outputs. That 5V rating is a USB standard when charging a battery, but what differs from one USB flavor to another (-A.B, mini, etc.) are the amps the port can put out. For example, many older USB flavors can charge a battery at 1.5A, but some newer fast-charge flavors run at 2.1A.

    The USB ports on the solar chargers we tested rated at different amperages, so in our spreadsheet we list the maximum amperage of the highest amperage port on each charger.

    These amperage and power differences among ports solely affect how quickly a given device will charge when plugged into them. They do not pose a safety hazard for the following reasons:

    You definitely cannot fry your phone by plugging it into a port that gives too much USB power. A 5V 2A = 10W USB port does not “push” 10W of power into whatever you plug into it. Rather, your device can pull up 10W — or whatever the rated maximum of the port is — at a time. So there is no danger of frying your phone if you plug it into a USB charging port that’s capable of putting out way more power than it can use. The phone will draw as much power from the port as it can, and the port won’t try to give the phone any extra power.

    You probably cannot fry a USB charger port by plugging the wrong phone into it. Your tablet could try to pull 20W out of a 10W USB port, but if that USB port has overcharge protection then it will be fine. Most of the panels we tested don’t advertise overcharge protection, but this is so standard we’d be shocked if it’s not universal on these products.

    How we selected the contenders

    We created a spreadsheet of 26 panels after researching other reviews and scouring through preparedness, outdoor, and electronics forums for common recommendations. From there we chose the models that seemed like the best candidates, narrowing the field down to 15 for in-person testing.

    Although size is always an issue, we focused on panels with advertised power over 10 watts, except for the Goal Zero Nomad 7, which we included due to its popularity among preppers. Most of the panels were provided by the manufacturer, but that never breaks our Prepared Promise.

    How we tested

    Besides normal qualities like price and durability, our goal was to isolate the panels and test their efficiency under different weather conditions, honing in on what kind of power output you can get depending on sunlight and changing environmental conditions.

    Properly testing portable chargers takes a lot of time and specialized equipment. We’ve yet to find another review online that does this properly (details in next section).

    We bought an irradiance meter to measure the energy of the sun hitting the panel, a multimeter to measure the output from the panel’s USB port, and a USB load tester that acts like a battery (but with Smart controls so we could change current draw).

    We laid each panel out flat in the sun on an elevated Coolaroo pet bed over a light-colored stone deck so that air could circulate underneath. We placed our testing apparatus in a small box underneath the bed/panel for shade, with the irradiance meter’s sunlight sensor in the same place for every test.

    That measuring gear logged lots of data over each testing session (typically a sample every 10 seconds), which we collected with a custom computer script to analyze the data and turn it into charts.

    Our testing site was in central Texas, two miles from an airport. We recorded the METAR weather and sky condition data from that airport for the main run of tests.

    Because ambient temp affects panel performance, we also tried to get a sense of how well panels handled the heat while baking in the sun by using the thermal FLIR camera built into a CAT S61 smartphone.

    Additional nerd notes

    • All measurements were taken from the first USB port, or from the quick-charging port if the panel had one.
    • The USB load tester was set to draw two amps of current. If the panel’s output dropped too low, it would lose power, but every time it switched back on it immediately began drawing current again at the same two-amp level.
    • The USB multimeter was powered by a separate USB power input, so if and when the panel dropped out due to Cloud cover it would keep recording.
    • The duration of most of the tests was at least one hour, though we often let panels run for far longer to get a picture of how they performed under a wide range of conditions.
    • The panels were brought out from an air conditioned house and plugged immediately into the testing apparatus, so all of the tests reflect a rise in panel temperatures over the course of the session.
    • We only tested one USB port, even if the charger had multiple, because with panels of this relatively small size you really want to charge one thing at a time.
    • You’ll see from our test data that by pushing up the amperage we were able to max out even the largest panels with just one port filled, so we’re confident that our ranking of the panels still holds even if we loaded more than one port.
    • In general, most of the panels seemed to do best when you’re trying to pull less than the stated maximum current from them, and slightly worse when you’re at the maximum amperage or above it.
    • As a result, rather than tune the current draw for each panel, we chose to use a constant 2A. Tuning the draw for each felt like that was more about testing the advertising claims, which was less important than real-world use.
    • We chose 2A because the advertised USB output amperages ranged from 1.4A to 3A, with many at or close to 2.4A, so we erred on the low side. 2A also felt like the right threshold to reflect modern smartphones, tablets, etc.
    • Because some of the panels, especially the smaller ones, really performed poorly under the 2A load, and the larger ones that could do more amperage were limited by it, we did some shorter test runs at different amperages ranging from 1A to 3A, depending on the panel.
    • We used in the results from these shorter runs when they seemed appropriate, and weren’t dogmatic about only using the number from the 2A load. The idea is to get a realistic picture of what each panel can do, while also coming up with a meaningful way to rank them fairly.

    Why other hiking solar charger reviews are flawed

    As we researched this space, we were shocked at how unscientific and misleading other top-tier reviews are — so although we like to avoid talking about competitors, we decided to share our thinking in hopes of raising the tide in this market.

    Most other sites went the quicker and cheaper route by taking the panel outside on a sunny day, plugging a partially charged Li-Ion battery into the panel for a set period of time, then judging the results solely by how many % points the battery increased (e.g. 10% to 15% charged). Panel A that increased a battery by 8% “won” over Panel B that went up 6%.

    The problem here is that Li-Ion has a charging curve, so depending on what charge level you start at, it will take either more or less power to add percentage points to the charge meter. So unless they’re using the same battery at the same level of partial charge every time, the tests aren’t quite fair.

    sophisticated sites will fully drain a battery pack, then plug it in and charge it, measuring the cumulative charge with a power meter. A few took it a step further, “confirming” the results by draining the bank back to empty and measuring the cumulative output.

    That’s an improvement, but it’s still partially testing the battery and not just the panel in isolation. The battery’s temperature and the rate at which it’s charged and discharged both impact how much charge it holds. Which means temperatures and other factors will skew the results.

    Some sites will do spot tests of the maximum panel output, reporting that the panel peaked at X volts and Y amps. That’s just as flawed as claiming a car can do 50 miles per gallon because the reviewer measured the gas efficiency while rolling downhill while idling. As you can see from our results, some of the panels go through periods where their output fluctuates wildly. Taking a partial snapshot doesn’t paint the whole picture. A proper test will measure performance and variables over time.

    Finally, perhaps the most serious problem with the most popular solar panel tests is that there is not a single solar irradiance measurement in them — in fact, there’s often not even a weather report!

    Solar irradiance (watts per meter squared) is the energy hitting the solar panel. The temperature of the panel affects its efficiency at converting that irradiance into electricity. So when they fail to take careful measurements of both the sun’s energy and the panel temp, it’s impossible to compare apples to apples. Vague talk of “sunny” or “passing clouds” isn’t nearly precise enough.

    How to read the full test results

    Sunlight (“irradiance”) is shown as a number like 600 w/m^2. In simple terms, that’s how much energy hits a surface that’s one square meter (about 10 square feet). We broke 1,000 w/m^2 on a 108F bright Texas day, otherwise a normal sunny day with the sun directly overhead was in the 750-900 range, partly cloudy or with the sun at an angle would be 500-750, and real Cloud cover would get down to about 120. On the charts, we divided these numbers by 100 to get them in the 0-10 range.

    Power (watts) = volts x amps. In general, the panels held a steady voltage while the amperage varied a bit. You can get the base numbers for voltage and amperage from the spreadsheet for each test run.

    Energy (watt-hours) is a running total of the power put into a battery over time. If the devices you care about have batteries measured in mAh (milliamp-hours), the beginners guide explains how to convert so you’re apples to apples.

    Efficiency: The real panel efficiencies we measured were in the 0.2% to 1.5% range, so we multiplied by 10 to fit them into the charts alongside power. Much more on this in a following section, though.

    Focus on the power output, not the voltage

    If you dig into the test data, you’ll see that few of the panels ever got up to the 4.2V needed to fully charge the average Li-Ion battery, much less stayed there over the course of a run. This is not as big a deal as it may seem.

    Just FOCUS on the power column. Since power = volts x amps, you can get 5W of power from 2.5V x 2A, or from 5V x 1A. For one test we may have dialed in a 2A load that’s only showing 2.5V, but if we dial it back to 1A on another run then we can always get closer to 5V.

    Here’s what’s going on: Most modern USB devices, whether it’s a battery bank or an e-reader, have a controller chip that will intelligently charge the internal battery when you plug them in to one of these panels. So the chip will alter the charging port’s current draw to suit the battery’s voltage needs for whatever part of the charging cycle it’s at — if it’s early in a charge cycle, it may need a lower voltage and/or current than at the end of the cycle.

    We ran a number of shorter tests on the panels that didn’t make it above 4.2V in the main test runs, in order to directly confirm that if we dial down the current draw to about 1 amp, the voltage gets well north of 4.2. So even the panels that have voltage readings in the 2.5V range will get up to 4.2V and fully charge a battery if you lower the current draw, as long as the device that battery is in has a charge controller that can manage the process by varying the current.

    Understanding solar charger efficiency

    Solar panel efficiency is expressed as a percentage of watts out divided by watts in. So we measured the watts/m^2 given off by the sun during each test run, multiplied that by the total area of each charger’s panels in square meters, and divided the measured wattage output by the results.

    We never got real efficiency numbers over about 14% for even the best of these chargers under the most ideal conditions. This is below the 20% to 25% efficiency numbers advertised.

    It could be that the panel technology is that efficient under some ideal lab conditions, but by the time they package it into a charger and hang some USB ports off it, that efficiency is lower.

    Aeiusny 20W Solar Charger

    Bottom line: The 70 Aeiusny 20W Solar Charger is a large, heavy unit that we expected big things from based on the size, but we were disappointed by the performance. We couldn’t get the panel’s power output to stabilize, and because the power output was all over the map, it didn’t put out much total charge on any given test run no matter how ideal the sunlight conditions were.

    We liked the integrated rings and the build quality is decent. But given the problems we encountered, we can’t recommend the Aeiusny. We’ll hang on to it and revisit if the manufacturer fixes or clarifies the issues.

    Test notes: This is one of the panels we suspect may be hampered in our tests by some sort of “Smart” device auto-detection circuitry. The charger touts the following feature on its Amazon listing page:

    “Smart IC TECHNOLOGY: The Aeiusny Solar Panel has Smart IC Technology that detects the device using USB PIN signals and provides optimal charging power and optimal charging speed for both Android and iOS devices simultaneously, automatically adjusting to the demands of the device.”

    You can see from the charts that the charger’s power output is very spikey, with the first test run seeing the current swing from about 2A down to 0.5A to 0A to 1.5A, as if it’s hunting around from among the standard USB current levels to find the correct one.

    We’re not entirely sure what happened on the second test, but it’s most likely that the panel wasn’t plugged into the testing apparatus all the way, so the trace amount of power in the chart is actually coming from the USB power input and not from the panel input.

    As for the third test, the irradiance meter was accidentally not recording, but the sky was perfectly clear with no clouds, so there wouldn’t be any Cloud cover reflected in it, anyway.

    On the fourth test run, which was done with the load tester set to draw 3A of current, you can see that the panel spent most of its time close to zero, with the current spiking upwards periodically to between 1A and 2A. It’s as if the tester’s attempt to draw a higher load really threw it for a loop.

    Or, it could be possible that heat is the main reason for the wild power swings, since in the first and third test runs the panel stays stable for about 15 minutes before starting to go all over the place.

    There’s a chance the panel technology is a culprit. We noticed this same all-over-the-place power output pattern from other products with a similar look to the panel cells (e.g. the Foxelli charger), which often indicates a shared supplier or factory.

    BigBlue 3 28W

    Bottom line: The 70 BigBlue 3 28W is a large, high-quality panel, with extremely clean power output that correlates tightly with sun input. You can see how clean the power and efficiency plots are for most of the tests and how rock solid the power output stays during full sunlight conditions.

    The build quality for this panel is good but not exceptional, as it’s the standard polyester cover with embedded metal rings. It seems to have stayed cool enough, even in the summer Texas sun, to stay stable and efficient. We didn’t see any bubbling or other damage from heat.

    The main downsides to this panel are size and weight. We included it because we saw many other people considered it just under the limit for a backpack-portable charger. In exchange for its higher weight, this panel does extremely well in lower sunlight conditions. The BigBlue did far better in moderate sunlight than any other panel in this roundup, getting up to 8W in conditions where the other panels would’ve struggled to produce 4.5W.

    Test notes: For most of the runs, we had the load tester set to draw 2A of current, which the charger stayed close to at a steady 4.9V.

    For the “bigblue-3” run, we had the tester try to draw 3A. The charger put out well above 2A for most of that run, and even got all the way up to 2.5A — above its rated 2.4A maximum — for a little while.

    Like the power line graphs, the power and efficiency scatter plots are exceptionally clean, and reveal that this is one of the panels where efficiency drops a bit as the sunlight level maxes it out and the power output plateaus.

    CHOETECH 19W

    Bottom line: The 55 CHOETECH 19W is exceptionally lightweight and compact for the amount of juice it produces, coming in under a pound. We have no complaints about the overall build quality, and we appreciate that there’s not a lick of extraneous material to weigh it down. Excellent performance at a great price in a compact package.

    The output from the CHOETECH charger was very stable under all sorts of conditions, holding steady during periods of ideal sunlight and correlating tightly with dips and rises from passing clouds. We were able to get a sustained 4.5V at 2A for a steady flow of 9W of power to one of this two USB outputs when the weather cooperated.

    This panel has one integrated metal ring in the top, and then loops along the side. These woven loops are the price of not wasting space on the cover, though. If it has integrated rings, it would weigh more because they would have to expand the amount of extra case material all the way around to accommodate them.

    The one slight downside to this panel is the efficiency — you need to get north of 600 W/m2 (a moderately sunny day with a good panel angle) in order to see the full power output. It just doesn’t do as well at lower sunlight levels than some of the other, heavier panels do. This definitely related to its smaller size.

    Test notes: The Choetech gave us really clean panel output for two of the runs, when we were trying to draw 2A from it. When we tried to draw 3A in the last run, there was a little bit of instability at a few points. Our guess is that this instability was related to heat buildup from the very high levels of sunlight and the increased power draw.

    If you look at the chart for the test run choetech-3, you can see that the panel is fine until about 30 minutes into the test, when it starts wigging out. Then after a spell of Cloud cover and low wattage from 00:48 to 1:05, it regains its stability for about 10 minutes before losing it again towards the end. This is about what we’d expect if the very high amount of incident sunlight (north of 900 W/m2) and power draw were causing excessive heat buildup. Unfortunately, we didn’t snap a picture with the FLIR on this run, so we can’t say for sure how hot the panel got at peak.

    Foxelli Dual USB Solar Charger 10W

    Bottom line: The 45 Foxelli Dual USB 10W is one of the more compact and lightweight units we tested — and also one of the least stable. It bombed pretty hard on the 2A runs, which we can’t hold against it because Foxelli only claims 1.85A max. But we found instability even down to 1A. It did, however, manage a respectable 4.8W average on a cloudless version of that run.

    To compare it directly to a similarly-sized competitor, the Choetech, it weighs slightly more and produces about half the power. Not good.

    The difference in weight and performance probably comes from the different make of the panels. The Foxelli has a type of panel that in our tests seems to be associated with lower stability under heat, and sure enough you can see that in some of the test runs.

    Test notes: In the first run, it started out steady and then went crazy at about the 40 minute mark, with the power fluctuating wildly. On a subsequent run with more sustained sunlight it did better. But on the third run it just went nuts. That third run was the hottest (96F, vs. 80F and 90F on the other two), and the FLIR measured the panel at 110F near the end of the test.

    Goal Zero Nomad 14 Plus – (Discontinued)

    Bottom line: Goal Zero is a major player in the off-grid energy space, and we own and use many of their products. But the 150 Goal Zero Nomad 14 Plus just did not deliver. It’s expensive and heavy, and the output won’t stay stable enough to be usable at anything over about 1.5A of current. The 4.8V at 1.49A (~7W) that it would actually stabilize at is just not even close to good enough, even if it were as inexpensive as one of the other panels.

    But at over 3X the price and almost twice the weight of our top pick, there’s just no case for this panel that we can see.

    We worked with Goal Zero’s support, thinking we may have received a bad unit, but the results were the same after they sent us replacement junction boxes. We then shared our results with one of their engineers, who suggested we retest at a 1.5A draw — that did produce more stable results, they just weren’t very good results.

    Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus – (Discontinued)

    Bottom line: Everything we said above about the Nomad 14 Plus applies to the 80 Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus, but even more so. For the price and weight, just about every other charger in this guide absolutely wrecks the Nomad 7.

    One of The Prepared’s testers even had this same model from a few years ago in their personal preps, and as a result of this review, they’re throwing it out.

    We tested at a little over 0.5A current, which is the most we could get out of the Nomad 7 in the full Texas sun and still keep it stable. So this was a 2.6W panel under ideal conditions, placing it dead last in raw power output. Even when you account for the smaller size than the rest of the panels in this review, that’s just not good enough.

    iClever USB Solar Charger – (Discontinued)

    Bottom line: We liked the build and compact design of the 60 iClever USB Solar Charger. It comes with an integrated 8000mAh battery that cannot be removed, which we generally dislike and makes the testing harder. When we eyeballed the panels up close, they look like the same panels in other products that performed well in our testing.

    In a future iteration of this review, we may include more chargers with built-in batteries and develop a different testing protocol. The iClever’s battery performed fine in these tests, however, with a very solid 4.8V at 2A.

    Nekteck 21W Solar Charger

    Bottom line: The 40 Nekteck 21W was one of the standout chargers, and it’s very close in design, size, and performance to the Choetech. These two panels are closely comparable, but while the Choetech’s performance is better, the Nekteck’s design is slightly more versatile and durable — it has a flap with three embedded rings on one end, a two embedded rings on the USB port end.

    For the weight, price, and performance, it’s clearly at the top of the heap. For just 40 this charger is a fantastic value.

    Test notes: The Nekteck’s power output was extremely clean and stable over all the runs, and it matched the sunlight level closely. For the third run, the irradiance meter wasn’t recording, but the sky was clear until around 3pm, when the power output started to drop steadily with a few dips.

    RAVPower Solar Charger 16W Solar Panel

    Bottom line: Avoid the 50 RAVPower 16W Solar Charger. We never could get this compact charger to stay stable at 2A, and it underperformed even the Foxelli charger by most metrics.

    The RAVPower claims a 5V and 2.4A output, but we never saw output even close to that in our testing. The panel was able to keep the voltage at one of its two USB ports between 4V and 5V pretty consistently, even going over 5V by a decent margin on a few occasions. But the amperage was all over the map, swinging between a little under 2A and zero.

    This charger just couldn’t keep enough current coming consistently to break 4Wh under a 2A load. However, if we dial the load back to 1A, we start to get more stability and the charger gets up to 5W consistently.

    Looking at the brief periods in the test runs where it did well plus the less-formal spot checking we performed, where we watched the meters for a few minutes but didn’t record, we could see maybe getting this panel up to 7W sustained under absolutely ideal sunlight and load conditions. But even then, it’s not going crack the top 5 in its weight and price class.

    Test notes: The second test run of this charger is the only one we saw in this whole review where the unit is clearly having problems getting back up to its power output after a Cloud passes. You can see that it’s unstable for about 10 minutes after it’s plugged in, and then that instability returns every time the sunlight level dips due to Cloud cover. As for the first run, there was a lot of instability, which really hurt the charger’s average power and total Wh output over the course of the run.

    Renogy Portable E.Flex Monocrystalline 10W – (Discontinued)

    Bottom line: We loved the 30 Renogy E.Flex 10W charger and some of our testers bought a few for their families. The build quality feels insanely sturdy, with the possible exception of the hinges (if squished flat by a heavy weight) and the little plastic box on the back for the USB port, which protrudes in a way that might make it prone to snap off in a pack. But otherwise it feels like a tank, which is amazing considering that it’s only half a pound.

    The Renogy scored really high efficiency numbers for its compact size category, and its close to a 5W panel on a good day. It’s sensitive to load, though, so it wasn’t until we dialed the load back to 1A that it reached peaked efficiency.

    It stands out for staying stable and continuing to charge even at fairly low sunlight levels. Even under Cloud cover, this unit can still put out a clean trickle charge, which is not something we saw with the other smaller panels (or even in some of the larger panels).

    Ryno Tuff Solar Charger Dual USB 21W

    Bottom line: The 57 Ryno Tuff Dual USB 21W unit came out on top in power output, watts per ounce, and price. It was a great performer in every area, and though it wasn’t quite as stable on all the test runs as its closest competitors, overall it out-delivered everyone else.

    Test notes: The first two test runs showed this charger doing really well, and it’s clear that it would have scored an average of over 9W of output if the weather had cooperated.

    There was a period of instability in the middle third of the second test. This may be related to heat buildup, but it’s hard to say. The third test run was done with a 3A load, and you can see that it’s significantly less stable than the other two that were done at 2A. This instability under a higher load is something we’ve seen in a few of the panels, and as in the other cases, we think the cause is probably heat-related.

    Solar Camp 5V 7.6W

    Bottom line: We couldn’t get much power out of the 100 Solar Camp 7.6W on any of the runs where we set our 2A load to perfectly match what Solar Camp claims its port delivers. The charger would not stay stable over the course of any of the 2A runs, and the current just swung all over place.

    We finally started seeing some real results when we lowered the draw to 1A. We did a very short run where we were able to get as much as 4.9W out of the panel at irradiance levels of 800W/m2 and higher. If this charger could sustain that kind of output for a longer 1A test run, then that might put this in the running with the Renogy in terms of watts per ounce. But even on a one-hour 1A run where we simulated a clear day by removing the Cloud cover from the dataset, the power still swung around a bit and we ended up with 2.7W average.

    Ultimately, even though the Solar Camp is lighter and is capable of 4.9W output for short stretches under ideal conditions, we still don’t think it’s really in the same class as the Renogy for two reasons:

    • The Renogy’s build quality is off the charts, especially compared to the thin, flexible Solar Camp.
    • The Renogy is dramatically cheaper, especially if you get it on sale.

    The Solar Camp’s performance may come down to the fact that it is is using a panel design that’s different than anything else in this roundup. You can see from the photo that the panels have a different look to them, and they’re on a thin, flexible backing.

    Solar Camp advertises this package as lightweight and waterproof, and while we didn’t test the latter claim this time around, it’s probably valid. This is a very compact charger for the number of panels and total panel area you get. We loved the design and the build. Unfortunately, the performance just isn’t there in our testing.

    Test notes: In the first test run, there was one roughly 15-minute stretch where this panel sustained about 2A. But the rest of the time on all the runs the current alternated between zero and 500mA, while the voltage stayed between about 4V and 5V. We have no idea why or how this happened, but have followed up with them to see if we can’t improve on this in a future review.

    We did a subsequent test at 1A and got much better results, but it’s still not enough to get this charger into our main recommendations.

    SunJack 15W

    Bottom line: The 80 SunJack 15W is an expensive and moderately heavy panel. The build quality is similar to the Renology charger that we liked: hard plastic and built like a tank. But in terms of power output, it just didn’t blow us away like we had hoped when first pulled it out of the box.

    We tested at a variety of attempted current draws, from 1.5A up to 2.8A, and we really couldn’t get this charger to put out more than 9W. We wish we had been able to test on some days with long stretches of over 950W/m2 of irradiance because we suspect we may have seen north of 10W with the right load. But that didn’t happen, and regardless, this didn’t do any better than much lighter and less expensive chargers.

    The model we tested does come bundled with a removable 10K mAh rechargeable battery bank that seems decent. Since testing, SunJack has released a model that doesn’t come with a battery and is 20 cheaper, allowing you to pair with a bank of your own choosing.

    X-DRAGON 14W SunPower – (Discontinued)

    Bottom line: The 40 X-DRAGON 14W is a really great, compact, two-panel charger. It’s lightweight with solid build quality and impressive performance for the size. You’re not going to get a ton of power out of this charger, but under good conditions you can sustain well over 5W, which is quite good for a sub-1-pound panel. This panel was very stable, and it tracked changes in sunlight with near-perfect precision.

    But ultimately, as much as we liked this panel, we’d rather either add an ounce and a half and get one of the more powerful chargers like the Ryno Tuff or Choetech, or go all the way down to the Renogy to really save weight. Based on our current numbers, this panel just falls into a weird size/performance spot that makes it hard to recommend, despite our love for it.

    X-Dragon also offers a three-panel 20W charger— if it performs like this smaller version, then it’s probably a beast. We’re going to try to get our hands on one for the next round of testing.

    Test notes: It’s pretty clear from the middle 30 minutes of the second test run that this panel could probably hold a 7W output in the right conditions, but even then that wouldn’t be good enough to crack the top 4 or so by weight and power.

    Solar USB charger camping

    BigBlue foldable solar charger panel bag is small and light enough to fit into any camping backpack, hiking daypack, or emergency kit.

    3 USB Ports

    With SmartIC Technology, detect and deliver the optimal charging current for your devices.

    SunPower Solar Panels

    Elevated solar power conversion rate of 24%. No grid lines on front of cell, solid copper at back and with integrated circuit.

    Water Dust Resistant

    This special PET polymer surface protects it from occasional rain or wet Fog and all the ports are covered by a cloth flap and rubber cover to protect them from dust or water damage.

    Ultra-thin Light Weight Design

    With portability in mind, SolarPowa 28 features an ultrathin and lightweight design, only 11.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches and 1.41 pounds. Foldable design further saves space, you can take it and charge anywhere.

    Smart Charging Technology

    Recognize your device smartly then providing optimal charging speed vary with different devices. Compatible with most of the mobile phones, iPad etc.

    User Manual

    The SunPower panel part is IPX4 waterproof and other parts are not waterproof, please do not immerse it in water.

    Can they be chained with each other?

    They can be chained with each other using the buckles that comes with. But it is not possible to improve the power of the charge by using two solar chargers together. Each one has its own inner structure that can’t be connected with another one.

    Is this rugged enough to be kept folded in a typical backpack with other gear pushing against it without damage?

    Of course it is very rugged, but please be careful to not over bend or scratch the panels.

    Would it be Safe to charge 3 mobile battery packs/mobile batteries at once with this?

    Might take a while but it has 3 USB connections.

    Do all four panels have to get sun for one USB port to charge?

    All the solar panels need to be exposed under direct sunlight, otherwise, the solar panels that are not exposed to the sun will become resistors, making it impossible to charge.

    Do the panels have auto-restart while in the sun?

    Of course. It starts charging again the moment it produces enough output for the attached device to charge.

    Introduction: DIY Portable USB Solar Charger (20. 4 Ports)

    Dreamed of making a cheap and EXTREMELY RELIABLE portable USB solar charger? Here’s a quick tutorial, revealing how I made mine with a budget less than 20! _ I have so many uses for it. When we travel and go camping, it serves us an unlimited supply of charging power for our handheld devices, such as iPhones, iPads, Speakers and Android Devices. It can charge anything! Anytime, anywhere! When an outrageous storm comes in, blackouts are inevitable, it’s a good thing to have a solar charger!

    By the help of of our trusty USB powerbank, charging during night time is possible, it acts as a battery reservoir, and charges during day. It only takes 40-120 minutes to fully charge your powerbank, and it also comes with a 4 bar battery indicator!It’s a sustainable reliable source of energy, ideal for charging USB devices.

    Features:. 10 Volt 3W Solar Panel (Water Proof. Shock Resistant). 2800mAh PowerBank (2A Output. iPhone 5 compatible). Self-sustainable. Close to Unlimited USB Power 😀

    Also, please support and visit my site: ASCAS.ph (incompatible with IE.Under Renovation) Enjoy Reading 😀 Cheers!

    Step 1: Tool Materials

    It’s recommended to use a solar panel rated at least 3W-10W at 6-10 volts. This is done to shorten your charging time. My parts and materials cost me 725php (17/ USD). The links below are just alternatives. In the next page, I gave a list of cheap, quality powerbanks from DealExtreme.com products w/free shipping. The price is up to you, try to hunt down clearance sales.

    Step 2: Choosing Your PowerBank (Optional Step)

    Here’s a variety of powerbanks I recommend. Products derived from DealExtreme.com free shipping You can chrage your powerbank even if devices are plugged to it. You can skip this step, if you already have a powerbank 😀

    Step 3: Soldering the 7805 Regulator

    Since my solar panel produces 10 volts (3W), while the powerbank needs to be fed with 5V of USB power, a regulator must be added in order to charge the powerbank. Without the 7805 regulator, the powerbank’s internals might get damaged due to over-voltage.

    1st.) Follow the simplified schematic diagram above, read them carefully! 2nd.) Solder the micro USB plug first, to the 7805 3rd.) Solder two wires on your 7805, to be connected to your solar panel ( ) 4th.) Use a small droplet of superglue to mount the regulator in your solar panel’s terminal block. 6th.) Trim the heat-sink mount of your 7805 chip if necessary. 5th.) Solder the two wires of your 7805 to the solar panel. Observe polarity! ( )

    FYI, The switching regulator, gets more juice from your solar panel! Since the 7805 is limited to 1 Ampere, you might want to buy a HIGH-EFFICIENCY 5v Switching Regulator from DealExtreme.com for only (3.80 Free Shipping)!

    OPTIONAL: You can now charge your device directly from the panel, even without the powerbank!

    Step 4: Mounting Your Devices

    It’s now time to mount your devices. I used a heavy double-sided adhesive to mount the powerbank and the USB hub behind the solar panel. If you plan to mount these devices permanently, it’s ideal to use hot-glue or epoxy, for them to stay still.

    1st.) Mount The PowerBank 2nd.) Connect the charging cable of the solar panel to the powerbank’s charge-input. 3rd.) Plug-in your USB Hub/Port to your powerbank’s output. 4th.) It’s now time to charge your devices! Just plug them in you USB Hub!

    Step 5: Unleash 4 Ports of USB POWER! It’s Ready 😀

    Plug your devices and your done! Thanks for reading!

    Stay tuned for more projects! Please support and visit my site: ASCAS.ph (incompatible with IE.Under Renovation)

    People Made This Project!

    Did you make this project? Share it with us!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *