Best Solar Battery Charger/Energy Banks in 2023
Solar power is on the rise, and so are solar power banks. These new power banks hold a lot of juice and have the added benefit of not having to rely on the grid to power up your devices. While a regular power bank can recharge your smartphone 3-5 times, you can freely add one more charge cycle to that if your power bank has its mini solar panel. A great way to rely a little less on the grid, you will be thrilled with just how many solar power bank models there are.
There are two ways to understand solar power banks as opposed to other power banks. You can see them as solar chargers that can also store clean energy, or you can see them as power banks with an added solar charger. Whichever way you choose, make sure that going solar is no mistake, even in the micro-form.
A portable solar power bank is the best way to ensure you have backup power in your Long road trips, long-haul flights and the recent blackout in the state of Texas are all there to remind us that we are just too dependent on the grid. A solar charger power bank can change that, as you always get that little bit of extra juice to push you through the long day.
How Does a Solar Power Bank Work?
A solar power bank is a simple device. It consists of a solar panel, or more solar panels, and a power bank in which the power charger stores clean energy. In tandem, the two enable you a worry-free trip for as long as there is enough sun.
The solar panel installed in your solar power bank is not a match for your regular plugin wall charger. It is rather a complementary device that can extend your battery by a few hours. If you live in a sunny area or travel to one, then leaving your solar power charger in the sun all day should be enough to keep one device going for days with no need for the grid.
On the other side of the spectrum, or rather the device is the power pack. A power pack is a fancy name for a pack of batteries. Large capacity batteries are connected in series and used to recharge whatever device you attach to them. You would usually use a power outlet to charge your power banks, but you can also use solar energy in a solar power bank.
When you plug your iPad or iPhone into the power pack, the battery power charges your devices. Solar power banks come in various capacities and designs and choosing the right one can be a hassle. You can choose between models with 10,000 and 25,000mAh, enough to refill your device up to 6 times! Since everyone’s needs are different, there is no perfect power bank.
Another very prominent kind of solar power bank can be seen in town greens and city bus stops: public solar chargers. These amazing devices use solar power to charge batteries during the day, and you can use them whenever you want to charge your phone. Other solar power banks are more portable, but public chargers have a greater power output.
What are the Types of Solar Energy Chargers?
What kind of solar power bank you may use depends on how much battery power you need to begin with. There are small power banks that can power a single device once or twice, there is a type of portable solar power bank that can charge two devices, or even more, simultaneously, and finally, there are public solar power chargers that can power dozens of devices all at the same time.
Small, Portable Models
Small, portable models of solar chargers come in various shapes, sizes, and capacities, both to store energy and produce solar energy. They start small, with the tiniest of the having a 3,000mAh capacity. We do not recommend them. They simply do not store enough solar juice to keep you running for a long time. They are good for a single charge cycle only.
On the other hand, a 10,000mAh model of a solar phone charger would be enough to power a single phone 3-4 times over. This increased power capacity also means a bulkier model, but they are not much bigger than some cell phones. A solar phone charger of this size could also power two devices via two USB ports. Since there is more power to use, they also come in with a built-in flashlight.
The integrated flashlight also comes in bigger models. Do not worry. This LED flashlight does not suck out too much power out of your solar bank; you can even use them as a night light when camping. The LED flashlight comes in handy when going through the back of your car, looking for small items or exploring a cool cave somewhere in the mountains of Italy.
All these solar power bank models come with an integrated solar panel. The solar panel is enough to top up your device when it is not used much, but these small but efficient solar panels cannot keep your phone alive if you are a heavy phone user.
Fold-out models of solar panel battery packs also come in a variety of capacities and designs. While it may be true that they are less resilient than their monoblock, mono solar panel counterparts, they offer you way more battery power and are much faster to recharge. A five-day charge time on some devices is easily one day on these foldable solar power banks.
There are smaller capacity solar power banks, as well as bigger capacity solar charging devices. Some of these models also enable wireless charging and charging via USB ports. While the best solar chargers are difficult to find, the best solar power bank must belong to this group.
Fold-out models have up to four solar panels and much better solar charging capability than their smaller counterparts. A few hours of direct sunlight a day is enough to keep them full and ready to use. Just plug in your micro USB cable and enjoy an evening of music while far away from the grid.
These models come in capacities of up to 25,000mAh. This is enough to power your cell phone up to 10 times over, depending on your phone’s battery capacity. Your phone’s very high battery capacity reduces the charge cycles you can get out of your battery bank, but the long battery life means you do not need to charge as many times.
Some people may get sceptical and say that fold-out solar chargers are not as durable as some other chargers, but there are models today that are even dustproof. Rest assured that no producer will put out a device with solar capabilities that you will end up charging through your wall outlet exclusively.
Public chargers are a whole different level of a solar charger. While they may not be as portable as the models outlined above, their many USB ports, being able to charge multiple devices all at the same time and a high solar capability (thanks to large size solar panels on top) are more than enough to justify the expense that many cities paid to have them installed.
Public solar chargers are usually placed in very sunny locations throughout the city and offer all the benefits of solar charging and some extra shade that you can rest in while using a USB port to charge your phone. Portable solar chargers cannot compete with these solar giants in their solar charging capacity and solar power they can produce. Think of them as a city parasol with a solar charging feature.
However, most public chargers simply lack a wireless charger. The technology is new and a little bit expensive, but as long as you have a micro USB cable with you, no need to worry. You can even find them on your camping trips, as they are a great way to keep the charging device you need so much while enjoying outdoor activities.
Solar Power Banks vs Solar Chargers
There is a difference between solar power banks and solar chargers that may confuse some people. A solar power bank is a device with a charging capability, which can also STORE some of the energy produced in its solar power bank. You can then use this stored energy when you need to have your devices powered. Most people say that these are the best solar power banks.
On the other hand, solar chargers do not have any batteries to store energy in. In this regard, they are different from a battery bank, as you only use solar panels to charge your device. A solar charger may be less versatile than an actual power bank but is still useful in emergencies. A micro USB or another kind of USB output is used to charge your electronic devices, and they do not have the option of fast charging.
Their solar panels are simply not big enough to provide a lot of power, and so, this kind of portable charger is best used on a small battery capacity cell phone that you only use here and there. Relying on a solar charger to juice up a larger cell phone may be in vain. They are the best solar power charger for outdoor use, for as long as there are enough sun’s rays and for a long time.
Factors to Consider before Buying
Before deciding to buy a portable solar charger, it may be useful to consider several factors. Your Smart devices need you to make a Smart decision and choose one of the best solar chargers, with more than one micro USB port and maybe even a wireless charger included.
Charging Time Using Solar Power
The charging time of even the best solar chargers is long. Even the best solar power bank still has to spend a considerable time in direct sunlight just to get a little bit of juice. Powering small devices with a single solar panel charger is not difficult, but the charging speed drops significantly for larger devices. Quick charging is also not available on these devices.
On the other hand, getting a multi solar panel solar charger or a fold-out model would mean this device can produce a high solar power capacity. The charging speed is much faster, and many of these more expensive models are water-resistant. All this makes them perfect for outdoor activities, and a large charging capacity means that you will be able to keep your electronic devices alive for a longer time.
Battery capacity is of paramount importance in any solar power bank. A high capacity solar power bank would mean that you can use this device as a portable charger for a longer time. You would get a fast charging feature over a 2.1A USB output (enough to charge a tablet) and wireless charging with premium models.
Size and Weight
The size and the weight of your power bank can also determine which model is perfect for you. While some users enjoy the high capacity of a larger device, not everybody can carry a pound of battery power around for outdoor use. Some people prefer a smaller sized power bank and a single micro USB cable, and they are good to go.
Durability And Resistance To Weather
Many express concern about solar chargers ability to withstand weather conditions. They can be harsh sometimes. But many manufacturers have thought about this and have made their solar charging solutions resistant to weather and smaller water spillage. However, with fold-out models, a little bit of caution goes a long way since these devices have many moving parts that may get damaged.
Benefits of Using a Solar Powered Battery Charger
There are many benefits to using a solar charger to power your multiple devices. First of all, it is a green solution for everyday small capacity device charging. They cannot power your laptop (yet), but your cell phone, tablet and iWatch could easily benefit from these devices.
Secondly, you will be less reliant on the grid, and although a single USB output is not much if you get lost while on a camping trip, that USB output can help you find help when you need it. Even the simplest solar power bank has a fast charging option, and this may prove beneficial after your portable solar charger, and you cannot find an outlet to power your devices.
Taking Care of Your Solar Power Banks
Keeping your solar charger up and running for a long time should not be too much work. Keeping it dry most of the time and in a dark place when it is not charging will do the trick. Your solar power bank will easily last you a decade and even save you some money since there will be no surprise trips to a nearby bar for a round of beers when you need a good power bank.
Keep It Cool Well Ventilated
Keeping your solar power bank cool may seem counterintuitive, but moving it away from the sun can prolong its life when it is not charging. It can also help prolong the life of the flashlight if there is one that is integrated. Your solar power bank will thank you for years to come.
Always Charge Until Full (Avoid Draining up to 0%)
Draining your power bank to 0% can be dangerous, as some batteries simply cannot receive any more charge after they’ve been completely drained. So, whenever possible, save some energy in it and pretend like it’s not there.
When charging your solar power bank, be it on an outlet or using solar power, try as often as you can to charge it to 100%. Not doing this can significantly reduce your solar power bank life and charging speed. In some older models, you can even say ‘Bye, bye’ to your fast charging feature.
Utilize Solar Charger
Using the solar charger is probably the best way to recharge your power bank. This way, your battery gets small but constant amounts of energy. This will prolong the life of your power bank, although you may have to deal with a reduced capacity and charging speed. Taking just basic care of your portable charger will result in many years of loyal service.
Water-Resistant vs Waterproof
As any power bank is designed for outdoor use, it is no surprise that some producers are willing to go the extra mile and offer water-resistant and waterproof models. While water-resistant chargers can take a few splashes and humid conditions, go for waterproof models to ensure your power bank can withstand being submerged in the water.
They usually come equipped with special rubber casing and lids for USB ports. They offer a high solar charging capacity and a high charging speed. Models of up to 30,000mAh are available on Amazon. Some reviews show that people have experimented with water repellent sprays, but we do not recommend this, at least not over solar panels.
Best Solar Power Banks in 2021
Rleron has put out a solar power bank with a 25,000mAh capacity with a single solar panel. This great device features a high charging speed, several USB ports, but unfortunately, the single solar panel can only top up the existing capacity. It starts from 19.99 on Amazon.
Best for Camping
The BigBlue solar charger is not a power bank, but it is rather a four-piece solar panel with 28W of solar capacity. It cannot store power but can provide a high charging speed for your existing power bank. While it demands high solar exposure, it is a great solution for out in the wild. It starts at around 62.00.
The Hiluckey 25,000mAh Power Bank is the best fold-out model on the market right now. This portable device can charge your phone 8-10 times, and a high charging speed USB port, with 2.1A of power, can also run a tablet for several charge cycles. It starts at 46.99 on Amazon.
Although the Licorne 30,000mAh device has a single solar panel, the high capacity and changing speed are why we decided to give it the best overall place. It also has a wireless charging function so that you can enjoy high charging speed on any device. The low price of 34.84 on Amazon is also a big plus.
Best for Laptops
The Jackery Explorer 240 is sold on Amazon for as little as 199.99. This power pack can charge your laptop up to two times and your phone dozens of times. It does not come with a solar charger, but you have to buy one separately. There is also the Explorer 500 model, which comes with its solar panel for around 499.99.
How do I choose a portable power bank?
To choose the best portable power bank, you should consider your energy needs. You should think about your budget, power bank capacity, charging speed, the number of USB ports you may need and the type of USB output you want (1A or 2.1A). The lower the number, the longer the charging time with the type of USV output and current it uses. Buying a portable charger is a great investment that will last you many years, so avoid impulse shopping.
Does solar power bank really work?
Yes, solar power banks really work. A good solar charger, especially a fold-out model, could keep your device powered up for a very long time, and solar charging is something you can take anywhere with you. The best solar power banks of today have a multitude of USB ports and could easily power multiple devices all at the same time. One USB output simply does not do it anymore.
Is there a solar powered phone?
Although there were attempts to make a solar-powered phone, the current solar panel technology simply does not produce enough power to power a phone. Also, it could take several days just to run one charging cycle. Unsurprisingly enough, Samsung was the first to introduce the idea of solar charging in a phone, with their Solar Guru, or Guru E1107.
Can you charge a laptop with solar power?
Using rooftop solar could charge your laptop, but among the portable solutions, even the best solar chargers, unfortunately, could not. Laptop batteries are high capacity batteries that need a certain charging speed just to keep the device up and running. Solar charging, for now, is not efficient enough to make a power bank that could power your laptop.
A solar charger is a device that is here to stay. The very idea of solar charging is tempting, as you could use it anywhere: on a camping trip, in your office or even in your home. Solar charging speed and small capacity currently limit the technology, but this is set to change with more efficient solar solutions. The charging speed and solar efficiency are expected to rise, and having the luxury of not seeking an outlet whenever in a building is a dream we hope comes true.
DIY Solar USB Charger: 7 Steps (w/ Photos)
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I recently made a DIY solar USB charger that, in my opinion, is WAY better than most of the other designs out there.
It’s portable. It looks good. And it can charge your phone and USB devices faster than the mere trickle put out by most other homemade solar chargers.
That’s right — it’s a DIY solar charger that you’ll actually use.
It’s affordable and easy to make.
- 2 3W 9V solar panels
- 22 gauge stranded wire
- 5V DC/DC buck converter
- E6000 craft glue (a hot glue gun is pictured, but this is what I ended up using)
- Reusable grocery bag
- Heat shrink tubing (optional)
- 4 1/4″ eyelets (optional)
- Wire strippers
- Soldering iron
- Safety glasses
- Heat gun (optional)
- 1/4″ eyelet tools (optional)
- Hammer (optional)
Step 1: Prep the Fabric
For this design, I upcycled an old reusable grocery bag to cut a strip of fabric to which I attached the panels. It protects them and allows them to fold up for easy storage.
Place the panels, eyelets (if using), and DC/DC buck converter on the reusable grocery bag in your desired layout.
Tip: I recommend giving yourself 1″ or more of space between your solar panels so they can fold easily. I also gave myself more length than necessary so I could fold the fabric over the buck converter, as you’ll see in Step 6.
Cut the fabric to your desired dimensions with scissors. (Mine ended up being about 14″ long by 8.25″ wide.)
Step 2: Wire the Solar Panels in Parallel
Cut a length of wire to connect the panels’ positive terminals. Give yourself some slack in the wire so it isn’t pulled taut when the panels are folded.
Note: Because my panels have two pairs of terminals on back, before wiring I used a multimeter to check their voltages. It turned out the terminals that output 9 volts are the two “top” terminals — not the terminals with the “” and “-” signs. Strange.
Strip and solder the wire from positive terminal to positive terminal. (I decided to orient my panels in opposite directions to lessen the stress on the wire when the panels are folded.)
Tip: Keep your solder joints as flush as possible with your solar panels. This helps later on when gluing them to the fabric.
Cut a length of wire to connect the panels’ negative terminals. Once again, give yourself some slack.
Strip and solder the wire from negative terminal to negative terminal.
Step 3: Solder the Leads to the Panels
Cut a length of wire for the panels’ positive lead. It will connect one of the panels’ positive terminal to the buck converter’s positive terminal. Make sure it can reach where you want to place the converter. Don’t forget some slack!
Strip and solder the positive lead to one of the panels’ positive terminal.
Cut a length of wire for the panels’ negative lead.
Strip and solder the negative lead to one of the panels’ negative terminal.
Now let’s test the panels’ voltage and amperage outputs with a multimeter to make sure we wired everything correctly! Connect the meter’s positive probe to the positive lead and its negative probe to the negative lead.
What outputs should we expect?
Well, here are the specs for the panels I used:
Wiring solar panels in parallel adds the current (amps) together while keeping the voltage (volts) the same.
Thus, for volts, you should see a number around 9V DC.
For amps, you should see a number around 666mA (333mA 2). But in real world conditions, expect solar panels to output a little less than their stated current.
Tip: You’ll likely have to switch the red probe to your multimeter’s other port in order to measure this amount of current.
Step 4: Solder the Buck Converter to the Leads
Locate the positive and negative terminals on the buck converter.
Solder the positive lead to the converter’s positive terminal and the negative lead to its negative terminal.
Now you should have a working solar charger!
Time to check that it’s working.
First, make sure the buck converter is connected properly and working by shining some light on the panels. Its LED should light up.
The LED is on. Looks like it’s working.
Next, test your charger by placing it outside in direct sunlight and plugging in your phone or USB device. Your device should start charging.
My Kindle’s charging light turns on when I plug it in — my charger is working!
I tested my charger’s output with a USB meter to confirm that the charger was indeed outputting a decent current at 5V.
It’s outputting 460 mA (about 0.5 A) at 5V. That’s about 2.5W, or half the rate of a standard 5W phone charger. (During real-world use it regularly got up to 3W.)
According to our solar charging calculator, it will take about 5.7 peak sun hours to fully charge my iPhone XR.
Definitely not the fastest solar charger, but it’ll top off my battery in a pinch.
Optional: Shrink wrap the buck converter using heat shrink tubing and a heat gun. I did this to for aesthetics and to protect the circuit board a bit. It covers up the converter’s LED, but that wasn’t a big deal to me.
Step 5: Glue the Charger to the Fabric
Grab your glue and the strip of fabric you cut back in Step 1. Glue the panels and buck converter to the fabric in your desired layout.
Tip: The glue I used bled through the fabric a bit, so you may want to put a piece of newspaper down first.
Wait for the glue to set. Once it has, touch up any spots you missed, if needed.
Step 6: Install the Eyelets (Optional)
Because I’ll be using my charger while hiking and biking, I wanted to install eyelets so I can strap it to my backpack and bike. If you don’t need to attach your charger to anything, you can skip this step.
First, let’s install the two eyelets at the “bottom” — the side opposite the buck converter.
Cut a circle in the fabric using the eyelet as a guide. Feed the eyelet bottom through the hole.
Tip: Since I used such small eyelets I just cut a small X with my scissors. You could also create a hole by poking a nail through.
Place the eyelet base tool underneath the eyelet bottom. Place the eyelet top on top of the fabric.
Place the eyelet punch tool over the eyelet top. Hammer the punch tool to install the eyelet.
Repeat these steps to install the second bottom eyelet.
Now it’s time for the top eyelets — the ones on the same side as the buck converter.
To protect the converter, I decided to fold the extra fabric over it and cut a hole for its USB port. (If you don’t want to do that, just install the top eyelets like you did the bottom ones.)
Then I installed the top eyelets through both layers of fabric, glued the flaps together, and glued the USB port to the fabric.
Note: Don’t cover up any of the solar panel!
Wait for the glue to set, and you’re DONE!
Step 7: Test Your DIY Solar Charger
Now that you’ve made your own solar-powered charger, it’s time to charge something with it!
Place it outside in direct sunlight. Plug in your phone or other USB device. Then sit back and relax as you take advantage of all that free solar energy.
When you’re done charging, fold the charger shut for easy storage.
This charger doesn’t have a built-in battery. Adding a battery makes a homemade solar phone charger more complex.
You can easily pair your charger with your battery pack of choice (I use the Anker PowerCore 10000). Charge your battery pack during the day, then use it to charge your phone or USB device at night.
DIY Solar Charger Projects
Solar Electric Bike Charger
Learn how to solar charge your ebike battery for what may be the most eco-friendly transportation method there is. I even show you how I mounted my solar charger to my ebike to make a full-on solar bike.
Everything to consider before buying a portable solar panel
Working from your living room couch may be more enjoyable than a stuffy cubicle, but both setups can keep you feeling tethered to a power outlet. Luckily, there’s an easy way to cut that cord and move your workspace outdoors—without worrying about charging battery packs ahead of time.
Portable solar panels are gaining popularity as folks look for a simple, sustainable way to juice up their devices while off the grid. Whether you’re a hardcore backpacker heading deep into the wilderness or a sunbather hoping to get some work done in your local park, there’s a personal solar panel out there suited to your needs.
Why buy a portable solar panel?
When you think of solar panels, you probably imagine a vast field of shiny black slabs angled toward the sun. The portable versions of those stationary arrays employ the exact same energy-capturing technology, just bundled within lightweight, compact designs. This makes them ideal for a variety of uses, from powering a recreational vehicle to charging your electronics on the go.
Portable solar panels are also a great way to familiarize yourself with renewable energy. While you may not be ready to install a solar roof on your house, charging a phone or laptop with a small panel can help you gauge the light levels in your area and see how well solar power may be able to meet your needs.
Factors to keep in mind
Even though most portable solar panels are easy to set up and simple to use, there’s always a lot to consider when investing in a new piece of technology. We’ve gathered what we think are the most important factors to think about before you start powering up in the great outdoors.
Start by figuring out how much electricity you need. Some personal panels are available in a number of different wattages—a measure of pure electrical power. For example, the Goal Zero Boulder Briefcase, a panel that folds into a compact rectangle with handles for easy portability, is available in 50-watt, 100-watt, and 200-watt varieties. The designs with higher wattages are larger and more expensive, so the best panel for you will depend on what electronics you’re hoping to power. Make sure you read our guide on how to properly charge devices when you’re done here.
Lower-wattage panels won’t prove useless in your mission to stray away from traditional energy sources, but they may charge your devices more slowly than you’re used to. For best results, take a look at your device’s specifications and figure how much power their charging cables allow in. This can help prevent you from buying a panel with a wattage that exceeds your devices’ limits.
Power storage options
Many portable panels come with the necessary cables and batteries you’ll need to store electricity for later. A power bank is especially helpful if you hope to use solar energy when there’s no sun: illuminating a campsite at nighttime, charging your phone during a thunderstorm, or keeping your laptop running on a cloudy afternoon are all good examples. If you want to stock up on solar power, consider purchasing a kit that includes the necessary batteries, converters, and cables.
It’s also possible to skip the accessories and use your solar power instantly. Many portable panels have USB ports that allow you to charge your electronics directly. A small, lightweight option may be all you need to keep your phone or laptop running on a sunny day. Foregoing batteries and cables can also help keep the cost of your solar setup low.
The size, weight, and design of your personal solar panel will all determine its portability. If you’re planning to drive to a sunny field to get some work done, a heavier and more bulky panel might be fine: you can keep it in your car until you reach your destination, so its size and weight won’t be an issue. On the other hand, backpackers and hikers should choose small, lightweight panels that won’t become a burden on long outdoor treks. Before you buy, make sure you check a panel’s weight and dimensions, as well as those of all its accessories.
While most solar panels are at least somewhat weather-resistant, not all of them are truly waterproof. The last thing you want is to ruin your brand-new gadget and be stuck without electricity simply because it wasn’t designed to withstand the elements. Depending on the intensity of your outdoor excursions and the weather in your area, make a point to determine your panel’s hardiness before you buy.
The last factor to consider is how much money you’re willing to spend on your new portable solar panel. It’s unlikely that such a small panel will ever pay for itself through the electricity it produces, but the freedom and access to the outdoors it can provide you is inherently valuable.
Price will vary depending on your panel’s power output, energy storage components, and overall bulk. It’s possible to find small power packs with solar components in the 20 to 30 range, but a larger (and more powerful) panel can cost as much as a few hundred dollars. No matter your needs, there’s a panel out there that can help you venture off the beaten path.
Natalie Wallington is a contributing writer for PopSci’s DIY section. Her reporting on social and environmental justice has appeared in the Washington Post, Audubon Magazine, VICE News, and elsewhere. In her spare time, she collects stationery and naps on the couch with her retired racing greyhound. Visit her website to see more of her work.
The 5 Best Portable Solar Laptop Chargers
Amber Nolan is a freelance writer for Treehugger who is passionate about sustainable living, nature, and outdoor adventure.
Working remotely using a laptop is becoming more and more common, and with it comes the challenge of keeping a computer powered up when electric outlets are scarce. Whether camping in the wilderness, on a road trip, living off-grid, or in a sudden power-outage situation, a portable solar laptop charger is a handy device to have.
Most portable solar laptop chargers function as mini power stations capable of charging other electronics like cell phones, cameras, drones, and tablets—to name a few. Now, with more options than ever to choose from, we’ve sorted through the latest solar devices to find our favorites.
Here are the best portable solar laptop chargers.
Jackery 1000W Peak Solar Generator SG550 with 100W Solar Panel
Founded by a former Apple battery engineer in Silicon Valley, Jackery Power Outdoors is one of the most well-recognized names in off-grid power supplies. The Solar Generator SG290 comes with a whopping 90-watt panel that folds shut and can easily be toted away using the carry handle. The 400-watt output can charge a MacBook four times before the power station requires a recharge, making it our top overall choice.
Another stand-out feature is the built in MPPT module that monitors voltage and output of the solar panel, adding up to 23% more solar recharging efficiency. There’s also an automatic power-saving setting to power down when not in use. The Jackery can charge up to four devices at one time.
Price at time of publish: 679
Solar Panel Capacity: 400 watts | Battery Capacity: 290 watt hours | Weight: 7.5 pounds | Output Ports: AC Output, Car Port Output, USB Outputs
Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC Nomad 20 Solar Kit
For an ultraportable laptop charger than can easily pack up and fit into luggage or a hiking pack, the Sherpa 100AC by Goal Zero weighs just over four pounds – for both the charger and the 20-watt solar panel. The Sherpa is ideal for charging laptops, cameras, tablets, and phones, plus it even has a wireless charging option.
The Nomad 20 panel can fold shut and comes with a kickstand to get the proper angle in the sun. It takes about 7.5 to 15 hours to recharge (so a full day in the sun), however, it can also recharge from another USB source (in eight to 10 hours) or from the car adapter or wall charger in about three hours.
Price at time of publish: 450
Solar Panel Capacity: 20 watts | Battery Capacity: 94.7 watt hours | Weight: Power bank 2 pounds, solar panel 2.28 pounds | Output Ports: Wireless Qi, USB-C PD ports, USB-A, AC inverter
Best for RVing
Patriot Power Sidekick
Specializing in emergency equipment such as water filters and ready-to-eat survival meals, the outdoor company 4 Patriots also makes must-have solar devices. The Power Sidekick is a reliable and efficient solar charger that’s designed for sudden power-outages, and is also a good addition to camping or RV gear.
Although it’s lightweight, the Sidekick can charge phones, laptops, medical devices, Wi-Fi routers, radios, and more with a capacity of 300 watts. The four foldable solar panels (connected) provide total 40 watts of power to recharge the Sidekick and can also directly charge any device that has a USB port. There’s a light on the back that’s useful in a tent or on the picnic table, and the clear digital display shows the charging levels and how many watts the laptop being charged is using.
The company supports active-duty military and veterans’ charities.
Price at time of publish: 497
Solar Panel Capacity: 40 watts | Battery Capacity: 300 watt hours | Weight: 8 pounds | Output Ports: Two USB, USB Type C, two pure sine wave AC output
Best Backpack Charger
Voltaic Systems Array Rapid Solar Backpack Charger for Laptops
A solar-charging backpack allows you to charge a laptop on the go, and the redesigned Array Rapid Solar Backpack Charger by Voltaic Systems is lightweight (5.4 pounds), durable, and powerful. UV and water resistant, the backpack is made from 33 recycled plastic soda bottles (recycled PET fabric). Inside is 25 liters of storage, a dedicated padded 15-inch laptop sleeve for added protection, and plenty of interior s.
The new larger capacity, 88-watt hour battery comes with USB-C to charge the latest devices. The battery can be recharged with the AC adapter or with the 10-watt solar panel that’s built into the rear of the backpack. It takes about six hours to fully charge a laptop.
Price at time of publish: 249
Solar Panel Capacity: 9 watts | Battery Capacity: 88.8 watt hours | Weight: 5.4 pounds | Output Ports: USB, USB Type C, and Hi-Voltage Laptop Output
SunJack 25W Portable Solar Charger Panel 2 Powerbanks
This portable solar panel and battery kit is designed for phones, tablets, and other smaller devices, but if your laptop uses a USB-C power cable, you can also connect it. The kit includes a folding, three-panel portable solar charger, and two 10,000mAh batteries, plus two fast-charging cables and carabiners.
This setup might not be ideal for powering work on your laptop for an extended period of time, but it can supplement your laptop’s internal battery enough to get it to boot up and check or send messages in the case of an emergency. At under 200, it’s a great value and considerably less expensive than setups with higher capacities.
Sunjack is a trusted name is solar panels, and its durable design is back by a one year warranty.
Price at time of publish: 120
Solar Panel Capacity: 25 watts | Battery Capacity: 90 watt hours each | Weight: 3 pounds total | Output Ports: One USB-A, one USB-C
Our top pick for a portable solar laptop charger is the Jackery Power Outdoors unit for its reasonable price and high functionality, but if you’re looking for a cost-friendly option, the SunJack Solar Panel and Power Bank set is an affordable, lightweight choice for charging laptops and cell phones in emergency situations.
What to Consider When Shopping for a Solar Laptop Charger
While some portable solar panel manufacturers claim they can charge laptops by connecting directly to the panel, it’s not a good idea. Voltage fluctuations can potentially damage devices, and portable solar panels are slower to charge devices than battery power packs. Not to mention, solar panels can only be utilized during daylight hours, while a combination of both (battery and panel) allows you to maximize power generation by using the battery in the evenings and recharging it on the panel during the day.
Although solar panels and batteries have both gotten way lighter in recent years, a battery system that’s large enough to keep a laptop charged for a meaningful amount of time is not going to fit in your Generally speaking, bigger, heavier batteries are going to charge a laptop for longer. These steps tend to be best suited for off-grid homes, car camping, or RVing. If you need a super lightweight system, you may want to consider if tablet and smaller battery pack can suit your needs.
Make sure the battery has output ports that you can plug your laptop’s power cable into. Many newer laptops, like the MacBook Pro, use a power cable with a USB-C connector. Older laptops will need an AC output port, the kind you find on a wall outlet.
Why Trust Treehugger?
The author, Amber Nolan, lives off-grid (most of the year) on a houseboat using almost entirely solar power, but she also relies on the Jackery portable solar generator when she’s traveling.