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DIY Solar USB Charger: 7 Steps (w/ Photos). Phone charge solar panel

DIY Solar USB Charger: 7 Steps (w/ Photos). Phone charge solar panel

    The Best Portable Solar Chargers of 2023

    Adam has been writing about mobile technology since 2011. He is the former host of the Android Authority podcast, and his work has appeared in numerous publications.

    Rich Scherr is a seasoned technology and financial journalist who spent nearly two decades as the editor of Potomac and Bay Area Tech Wire.

    The best solar chargers use the sun’s abundant power to keep your devices and batteries topped off. Solar chargers aren’t just for nature enthusiasts. Anyone who spends time away from an electrical outlet will find them helpful.

    We recommend the X-DRAGON SunPower Solar Panel Charger for its 40W power output and high-efficiency cells. This charger doesn’t include a power bank to store all that juice, but if you are away from power and need to charge your phone or even your laptop, this is a great option. Opening the eight solar panels will give you plenty of power as long as there’s daylight.

    Best Overall

    X-DRAGON 40W Portable Foldable Solar Panel Charger

    Our best overall charger can produce up to 40W of juice from its eight efficient panels. It opens wide to collect a lot of sunlight with eight high-efficiency panels, but it folds down small enough to fit into your backpack. There’s no water-resistance rating here, so be careful not to get caught in the rain, and no battery is included. But if you have large items that need a charge, the X-DRAGON SunPower Solar Panel Charger is a great choice.

    You can plug in your phone and tablet, but you can also scale that up to your laptop with the five included different-sized barrel chargers and connection for your car battery. This is a great item to keep in your emergency car kit or your backpack for camping. The 18-month warranty will give you peace of mind too.

    Number of Ports: 2 | Power Output: 2.8A max USB, 18V DC | Types of Ports: USB-A, DC | Number of Cells: 8 | Efficiency: 22 to 25% | Battery Capacity: N/A

    Most Portable

    BigBlue 28W Solar Charger

    The Big Blue Solar Charger is a highly-portable solar charging solution that folds to a tiny 11.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches when closed. It’s long but narrow and thin, easily fitting into most backpacks. Included carabiners allow you to open and strap it to your bag outdoors.

    There is no built-in battery, but the three USB-A ports allow you to charge any phone or tablet quickly. The panels are waterproof, which our reviewer tested by submerging the cells in a bathtub.

    Our reviewer also noted that the advertised 28W output is misleading. There are four 7W panels which add up to 28 Watts. Unfortunately, the panels could output only around 17W maximum during our testing.

    There’s a pouch for holding cables or devices while charging, which is a nice bonus. Given its water resistance, we’d recommend this for hikers and campers, even in inclement weather. Of course, cloudy days will mean less charging, but at least you know your panels can stand up to it.

    Number of Ports: 3 | Power Output: 5V / 4.8A | Types of Ports: USB-A | Number of Cells: 4 | Efficiency: Not listed | Battery Capacity: N/A

    What to Look for in a Portable Solar Charger

    Water Resistance

    Solar power works best outside, so looking for water resistance in case you unexpectedly get caught in the rain or snow is a good idea.

    Built-in Battery

    Solar panels generate power, and that power has to go somewhere. If you have a solar panel and nothing plugged in, the panels will not generate energy, which is fine, but a battery would allow you to generate power and store it until you need it.

    Power Output

    Keep in mind the kinds of devices you’ll be using. Most solar panels can do the job if all you need to charge is a phone or tablet. If you need to power something larger, such as a laptop or car, you’ll need a powerful setup to get the job done.

    That depends mostly on the cells’ efficiency and the amount of sunlight you’re getting. Solar panels are getting more and more efficient these days, which means they’re capable of generating a lot of power. On a bright, sunny day, it’s not unreasonable to think you can generate enough power for a phone and tablet or even bigger items.

    If it’s big enough, a solar panel can deliver a charge to your car’s battery to allow it to start. A jump start technically means you’re drawing from a power source to start your car right away. The solar option is more of a car battery charger, meaning you’ll need to wait some time for your car’s battery to charge before you can turn the key. But yes, it is possible.

    Solar panels should never be left in a window or in a car to charge. The glass from the window can FOCUS with light on the panels and cause them to overheat. Solar panels are meant to be outside and under the sun, or put away.

    DIY Solar USB Charger: 7 Steps (w/ Photos)

    Just so you know, this page contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one, at no extra cost to you I may earn a small commission.

    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.

    Materials Tools

    Materials

    • 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)

    Tools

    • Wire strippers
    • Soldering iron
    • Scissors
    • Safety glasses
    • Multimeter
    • 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.

    solar, charger, steps, photos, phone

    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.

    E15 Solar Panel Charger Highlights.

    -IP67 waterproof and rugged materials make the solar panel work under unexpected weather and last longer than other solar panels.

    What Can Charge and Charge Time.

    Effortless charging via the integrated USB port under sunlight or pair with a power bank, the 15W solar charger can charge the following devices:

    What Can Charge and Charge Time.

    Effortless charging via the integrated USB port under sunlight or pair with a power bank, the 15W solar charger can charge the following devices:

    ELECTRICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    MECHANICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    PACKAGING AND SHIPPING INFORMATION

    Q: Does the solar panel store power? A: No, there is no built-in battery in this solar panel. But it supports all the power banks charging, so that you can collect solar power and store it for using. Or just plug and charge your USB device.

    Q: If my USB device needs an input current of 1A, will the 3A output of the solar panel damage it? A: No. This solar panel has intelligent charging, automatically detecting the needs of your device, and delivering exactly what it needs. If your phone accepts 1A, the charger will deliver 1A to your phone.

    Q: How to clean the surface of solar panels? A: Please use a dampened soft cloth to wipe the surface of the solar module, and remove all dust or other adhesives as soon as possible to avoid performance degradation.

    Q: Does it keep work when gets wet? A: Yes, the durable and self-cleaning material provides lasting durability to protect against unpredictable weather conditions, and can easily withstand high temperatures, and are water-resistant, dust-proof and feature an IP67 rated junction box.

    Q: Does it come with charging cables? A: No, to make the solar panel more eco-friendly and affordable, it doesn’t include a cable. You can use your USB or Type-C cord to connect the solar pnale to charge.

    The 5 Best Solar Powered Chargers for Your Phone or Tablet

    We all know the sudden drama that happens during our outside pursuits when we see a “low battery” warning on our phone, tablet, digital camera or other device. Outdoors you’ll find yourself many times far from any power outlet to recharge your devices.

    What will you do then? Have you ever considered carrying with you a solar powered cell phone charger?

    Whether you’re on a camping trip, mountain biking, traveling the world or just walking around town a portable solar charger can help keep your devices powered up anywhere under the sun.

    The idea of portable solar gear that uses free off-grid solar energy to power up our mobile lifestyle is pretty amazing. It’s surely one of the best inventions of this century.

    Solar battery chargers come in many different shapes, sizes and efficiency ratings. We’ve done the hard work already and picked the top five solar powered chargers available right now for sale on Amazon that have the latest photovoltaic (PV) technology and the best charging performance.

    We have also included a buyer’s guide at the end of the article where you’ll find everything you need to know about choosing the best solar charger, so make sure to check that out as well.

    Best Overall: BigBlue 24W Solar Powered Charger

    The BigBlue 3 USB ports 24 Watts solar charger is our top pick for the best solar phone battery charger to buy in 2022 because it offers a remarkable combination of manufacturing quality, price, portability, and charging speed.

    It features highly efficient energy conversion SUNPOWER solar cells (up to 23 percent efficiency) and SmartIC technology, which means that this charger will automatically recognize the charging protocol of your devices so that it can deliver the most suitable and fastest charge possible. Three USB ports allow you to plug in and split the current between 3 devices at once.

    What makes BigBlue the best portable solar charger for almost any kind of environment is also its charging performance in diverse weather conditions. This charger delivers a steady energy flow even on cloudy days so you can confidently plan your outdoor activities without having to worry about low battery devices.

    The BigBlue solar panels delivers 24 Watts under direct sunlight and it charged our iPhone 11 from zero to full in about two hours. During cloudy days the charging capacity varies according to the Cloud exposure, but it should be able to charge anywhere from 20 percent and above which will be very useful especially in emergency situations.

    This solar charger is made of four SunPower solar panels sewn into a durable canvas and a fifth section that’s more like a small pouch for storing your iPhone or Android phone while charging and thus protecting them from the direct sun exposure and overheating – however, if you have a cable long enough, it’s always better to move your devices into the shade. You can also easily store all the cables in this department.

    solar, charger, steps, photos, phone

    Inside the pouch there are three USB ports that deliver up to 2.4A per port or 5V/4A overall (depending on how much direct sunlight hits the solar panels), and a small LED that indicates when there is power flowing from the panels.

    What about portability? The BigBlue solar powered charger weighs 754 grams or 26.6 ounces and the entire solar charger folds up to about 14 millimeters or 0.55 inches thick. This makes it perfect to carry around when traveling, backpacking, going to work, or school.

    To get the most out of your portable solar gear, we highly recommend pairing the BigBlue charger with a USB battery pack. For example, the Anker PowerCore Elite 20,000 mAh power bank is fully compatible with the BigBlue 24W solar charger and it can store enough energy to charge an iPhone 11 from zero to full six times. A portable battery pack like this one is a must-have since the solar chargers themselves cannot store energy and provide it during night time when the sun is not around. With a charged power bank, you are powered up 24/7.

    What we like:

    • Great value for the price
    • The SmartIC technology
    • Amazing charging speed
    • Three USB ports
    • High quality material
    • Very compacted when folded

    What we don’t like:

    • Removable USB hub would make packing better
    • A charging cable for iOS devices could be included

    The Lightest and Most Flexible: Portable Solar Panel Sunslice Fusion Flex 12

    Sunslice Fusion Flex 12 Watts with two USB ports (5V) each with max output of 2.4A is a perfect option for those who like to FOCUS on their outdoor experience without worrying about maintenance of the devices they bring along.

    Two portable solar panels are extremely lightweight (just 270 grams/9.5 ounces) and easy to fold into a thin A4 like shape. That’s it, you can head out now! Then you just open the pack for solar cells to face the sun and use right away on the go by plugging in your USB devices like a smartphone and/or tablet. Additional plus are two elastic fasteners and two carabiners you receive with the product to easily attach the charger to your backpack.

    The solar panel is made off CIGS thin film solar cells, which are a versatile option when it comes to application and practical use of photovoltaic technology. The thin film is flexible, you do not have to worry about bending the panels to fit better in your backpack. According to the manufacturer, the solar cells reach up to 16.5% efficiency in the perfect sunny conditions. Thin film solar cells perform better than crystalline solar cells when exposed to the strong summer sun, they maintain better power production when their surface heats up – this happens quickly on hot days. On the other hand, in colder weather, their performance drops compared to monocrystalline cells.

    When it comes to performance under cloudy conditions or during the days when clouds come and go, you may need to carry a power bank with you rather than relying solely on this solar charger. The current drops pretty fast when shaded and takes couple minutes to restart once again. This means it may not provide enough power to charge your phone on cloudy days.

    The manufacturer thought of the practical use for adventurers by designing the product with the protective and light transmitting EFTE coating – therefore, it doesn’t affect the efficiency of solar cells. The coating feels to the touch pretty much the same as a material of your backpack, yet it is scratch proof and has somewhat self-cleaning properties. Additional advantage is water resistance.

    Sunslice Fusion Flex 12 is a practical and durable solution for spontaneous, short trips when you don’t know where and through which terrain your steps will lead you. On a sunny day, all you have to care about is your experience, meanwhile, this solar charger will be there to give you a bit of extra power to use your devices when they are running low of battery.

    What we like:

    • Lightweight
    • Scratchproof CIGS solar cells
    • Great charging speed
    • Waterproof
    • Flexible
    • Easy to attach

    What we don’t like:

    Best for Price: Hiluckey 25,000 mAh Outdoor Portable Solar Power Bank

    The Hiluckey 25,000 mAh had the best performance in the solar power bank category. If you’re looking for a solar power bank, look no further than this one.

    It features 4 small solar panels that deliver in total 4.8W under direct sun. That’s the most wattage output you can get out of a solar power bank at this moment. While the solar panels on the BigBlue perform four to five times better than the Hiluckey, the PowerPort doesn’t have its own power storage. When there is no sun, there is no power flowing, so an additional external battery is needed to keep devices charged up when the sun is not around.

    The Hiluckey Outdoor Power Bank on the other hand, has a built-in battery pack with a capacity of 25,000 mAh which can store enough energy to charge an iPhone 7 about three times and has two USB ports to charge your friend’s smartphone in the same time.

    The built-in battery can be recharged by sunlight, but also by wall outlet. It comes with a built-in flashlight and four LEDs that indicate battery life. The casing is shock-proof, dust-proof and water resistant. Great for outdoors

    The only drawback of this solar power bank is the charging speed from the small solar panels. In full sun, the Hiluckey built-in battery could reach just 15 percent battery after three hours. However, the charging speed from the built-in battery to our iPhone 7 was very similar to the BigBlue.

    We recommend to always charge the power bank by wall outlet before heading outdoors. This way you’ll have enough power to recharge your devices several times, regardless of weather or time of the day. The solar panels on the Hiluckey are not designed as the primary source of charging, but they are a very good alternative to add extra power to the power bank anytime you’re under the sun.

    What we like:

    • Great value for the price
    • High-capacity 25,000 mAh battery
    • Overcharge protection
    • Two USB ports
    • High quality material
    • Very compacted when folded
    • 12-month warranty

    What we don’t like:

    Versatile Solar Phone Charger: Neckteck 21W

    No matter what environment you’re dealing with, the Neckteck 21W is the Range Rover of solar power chargers. With an ultra-portable design, this solar charger with two USB ports is IPX4 waterproof, dust-proof and shock-resistant. The whole pack weights a little over 17 ounces (approx. 480 grams) and is super easy to use without any worries about your devices.

    This charger features a solid construction and three monocrystalline solar panels based on innovative SunPower Maxeon technology that reach the maximum efficiency of up to 23 percent. The solar panels provide 2.0A per port or 3.0A max in total to charge your devices on the go. As other good quality solar chargers, it protects your devices from over current and overcharge, which could damage them if this feature were absent.

    A great advantage of this handy solar charger is its compatibility with the most USB devices. It charges great variety of smartphones, which is not always the case with portable chargers. The package doesn’t come with cables. Do not forget to bring your own.

    We would recommend it for charging your phone on a sunny day. An impressive feature unique to this solar charger is quite nice charging speed it provides when in the direct sun. In good sunny conditions it works flawlessly and can charge your phone as needed.

    However, to get the best outcome when the weather is not perfect or when hiking through shady areas like in a forest, you should consider using this solar charger to charge a portable power bank and use the power bank to charge your phone later. The results are better this way, as the charge interruption recovery is on a slower side.

    What we like:

    • Great value for the price
    • Monocrystalline solar cells
    • Two USB ports
    • High quality material
    • Great for charging variety of smartphones, tablets power banks

    What we don’t like:

    Best Solar Panel to Charge a Power Station: Goal Zero Nomad 20

    This amazing device boasts an impressive charging speed that performs very similar to the BigBlue Solar Charger.

    Goal Zero Nomad 20W uses industry leading monocrystalline photovoltaic solar cells to offer a Rapid and steady charge during unobstructed sunny conditions and can bring a smartphone to full battery in less than two hours. This 20 watt solar charger is compatible with most small and medium devices, but can even charge a laptop in approximately 6.5 hours when under direct sunlight (the time is dependent upon the conditions).

    The three solar panels are waterproof, UV protected, and scratch-resistant, offering you a durable and reliable portable power anywhere you go. The set comes even with a kickstand, allowing you to position the panels to reach their best potential when you need them to. Although the Goal Zero solar chargers are a bit on the pricier side, they do well when you need to charge smaller portable stations for storing extra power. It is compatible with a reliable Goal Zero 200x power station, which will safely charge your laptop, camera and other latest USB-C devices.

    Weighing 2.26 pounds (1,000 grams), the Goal Zero Nomad is not as lightweight as other solar chargers we mentioned earlier, but it’s still a compact charger that can fit just about anywhere. When folded, it occupies pretty much the same space like a small laptop. Because of its reliability and power, this portable solar charger is frequently used by mountaineers in their expeditions.

    What we like:

    • Amazing charging speed
    • Overcharge protection
    • Compatible with laptops
    • High quality material
    • Very compacted when folded
    • 12-month warranty

    What we don’t like:

    Most common uses of solar chargers

    In the hectic world of today most of us cannot imagine our lives without gadgets. And the more advanced they get, the more power-hungry they become. That’s when a portable solar charger comes handy. Think of it like having your personal power supply, anywhere you go.

    Complete freedom from power outlets!

    Solar chargers are lightweight, foldable and easy to carry around. All you have to do is position the solar charger under the sun and it will immediately start recharging your devices. You can even strap it on your backpack and power up on the go. This way you can enjoy your daily activities without rushing to look for a power outlet somewhere inside.

    Considering the fact that solar powered phone chargers are now so much more affordable and efficient, they can be a life-saver in many situations.

    Solar energy brings light to our unsustainable developing world and by going solar, be it portable or not, is a great way to join the climate change battle by reducing your carbon footprint.

    Important solar charger considerations

    The most important features you should look for when choosing a portable solar charger are:

    #1 Charge Interruption Recovery

    Chances are you won’t be able to use your portable solar charger in full sun all the time. Especially if you live in a place like the United Kingdom. Areas with shade or clouds will affect the performance of your solar phone charger to a certain extent. We measured the output power of each model in full sun, and then in fairly cloudy conditions for one hour each in order to see which solar charger recovers the fastest and gets back on track after being shaded.

    The best performing models in this category were the chargers with the most wattage power like the BigBlue. The Neckteck 21W scored the lowest in this test because of the small wattage power.

    solar, charger, steps, photos, phone

    Larger solar chargers have more solar cells exposed to the sun simultaneously and this makes it easier to recover to maximum output after an interruption.

    #2 Charging Speed

    Most of the time, portable solar chargers are being used to charge devices such as smartphones, tablets, camera batteries, etc. when source of electricity is not available. This is the reason why we decided to test the charging speed of our solar chargers with an iPhone 7 and see how much it can charge from zero of full in direct sun.

    To our surprise we found that the charging speed performance of our models was very different. This significant variability is clearly because of the wattage output power, but also due to type and quality of solar cells.

    The winner in this category, the Goal Zero Nomad 20, outperformed the competition with an impressive charging speed.

    Our advice: If you are looking for the fastest charging speed, choose a solar charger with at least 15 watts. While smaller panels are more lightweight, the charging speed of a 5W solar charger for example, is around three to four times slower than a 15 watts charger.

    #3 Weight and Portability

    The ideal portable solar charger would be light, small and easy to carry around. The most lightweight model in our competition is the Hiluckey 25,000 mAh Outdoor Portable Solar Power Bank, weighing just 11.8 oz. This is the only model to get a 10 out of 10 in this category.

    However, keep in mind that small wattage chargers are less powerful, so if weight is not extremely important to you, we highly recommend choosing a charger with a higher wattage than the Hiluckey model.

    #4 Durability

    Since they are used mainly outdoors, solar chargers are constantly exposed to the elements, so durability is a very important factor. All the models we tested had more or less the same quality of material and stitching and all panels were weatherproof.

    Solar technology is advancing very fast and companies have already integrated the most advanced features found in residential solar systems into portable solar panels as well.

    Watts, Amps, and Milliamp Hours (mAhs)

    These are the three most common terms and features that are worth considering when when looking to buy a solar powered phone charger.

    mAh – Milliamp hours is the easiest way to measure the strength or capacity of a power bank. This term is not used for the panels themselves, but just for batteries. The higher the mAh, the more power it can store and therefore the longer the power bank will last.

    Amps – Amps on a solar charger will determine how fast the electric current flows in order to charge up your devices. The current drawn is different from device to device but in the case of portable solar chargers, you’ll get between one and three amps. The solar chargers we picked in our review test feature the highest amp power available on the market right now.

    Watts – Watts are a measure of how much energy is being released to charge your devices. It’s the result of multiplying voltage by amps and they are the most frequently mentioned unit of power. Since USB ports operate at approximately 5 volts, a single 2 amp USB charger port (for comparison: a laptop usually has 1.5 amps in a single USB port) for example, would have a wattage rating of 10W (5 x 2) and therefore would require a 10W panel to charge at 2 amps. But in reality, a 10W solar charger won’t produce exactly 2 amps USB charge because of imperfect weather conditions (Cloud cover) and type of solar cells.

    Types of portable solar panels

    Solar chargers can either feature monocrystalline, polycrystalline or the super lightweight CIGS panels.

    Monocrystalline PanelsMonocrystalline technology is the one that started the photovoltaic revolution and it’s still the most efficient even today when it comes to converting solar energy into electricity. As the name suggests, monocrystalline panels are made from a single crystal of pure silicon. They have an efficiency rating of up to 22 percent and can be easily recognized by their black uniform cells.

    Polycrystalline PanelsUnlike monocrystalline panels, the polycrystalline modules are made up of multiple crystals but still deliver a great efficiency of up to 17 percent. Polycrystalline panels have a blue color and they usually cost less than monocrystalline panels.CIGS PanelsCIGS panels consist of Copper, Indium, Gallium, and Selenide solar cells. They are very different than mono- and polycrystalline panels. These panels are the most flexible and lightweight, but also the less efficient out of the three types in converting sunlight into usable power. It’s a good option for backpackers or trekkers who want to travel ultra-light. These are not as durable as the monocrystalline modules but they still do a pretty good job in case of emergency.

    Do you need an external battery, or is a solar charger sufficient?

    Portable solar chargers can recharge your devices – but only in direct sun. If you want to recharge your smartphone during night time, or on a rainy day, the solar panels will not be of any help.

    On the other hand, a battery pack like the Anker PowerCore Elite 20,000 mAh, can store energy and provide continuous and steady power to recharge the same devices you would charge with solar chargers.

    Thanks to modern technology battery packs nowadays are very light and can be recharged by solar panels or wall outlet and they can store a lot of energy, enough to recharge a smartphone up to seven times in one go.

    Since battery packs can be charged from solar panels as well, adding one to your solar kit means you can have power for your electronic devices available at any time – even when the sun is not there.

    How to get the most from your solar charger

    Simplicity makes solar power truly remarkable. The only care and maintenance most solar chargers require is making sure they’re clean and dust free. A moist cloth should get the job done most of the time.

    To get the highest charging efficiency, it’s important to position your solar panels correctly. A good rule of thumb is that the angle, relative to flat ground, must be approximately the same as your latitude, with a few small adjustments according to the seasons (shallower in the summer and steeper in the winter time).

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