The best solar chargers solve one of the most common problems faced by campers and travelers: How do I keep my devices charged when there's no outlet around? A solar charger is effectively a solar panel with charging ports built into it, so you can top off your device's battery using a renewable source of energy. Over time, however, the term solar charger has been used as a more generic term to describe similar gadgets — like a battery pack with a solar panel on top of it. To account for this, our guide also includes recommendations that fit this more broad definition.
Using any of the solar chargers in our guide, regardless of its shape, size, or style, will be more eco-friendly than using a power adapter and cable to charge your device. Solar chargers are a great first step into transitioning your personal energy consumption from traditional sources to renewables because they require little space, almost no setup, and can even be used indoors (as long as the charger's solar panel is in direct sunlight).
If you live in a sunny region, plan on taking a days-long camping trip this summer, or want to hit your personal sustainability goals this year, these are the best solar chargers to get right now.
— Best Overall: TWELSEAVAN Foldable Solar Charger
— Best Budget: Anker 24W Solar Charger
— Best Battery Pack: Riapow Solar Power Bank
— Best for Security Cameras: Wasserstein Solar Panel
— Best Premium: Raptic Titan 225 Power Station + Solar 100
How We Picked the Best Solar Chargers
At their core, solar chargers are eco-friendly versions of the chargers and battery packs we rely on every day. This allowed us to judge solar chargers using the same standards. Our solar charger recommendations needed to be easy to carry around, powerful enough to charge all of our devices, and have a failsafe if the weather was less than ideal. The solar chargers in this guide were chosen after careful research into all of the options that are currently available, but we'll continually update it as new models become available, and we have the opportunity to conduct hands-on tests.
Size: Many solar chargers can be folded and stored when they're not in use, which makes it possible to carry them around in a backpack. We considered a solar panel's size when folded and unfolded when doing research for this guide. It's important to remember that larger panels are more powerful, but more cumbersome to carry, and vice versa. We've listed each solar charger's unfolded size in the "specs" section below because it's a signifier of the amount of space you'll need when setting it up.
Ports: A solar charger's ports determine which types of devices can be used with it, and how many gadgets can be charged simultaneously. USB-A ports can output enough power to charge smartphones, Bluetooth headphones, and other smaller electronics, while USB-C ports can be used to charge tablets or computers. A solar charger's power output will always be limited by how much sunlight it's getting, which means it may not hit its maximum power output at all times.
Battery Capacity: If the solar charger we're recommending has a battery pack connected to it, we factored in its battery capacity (how much energy it can store) while doing our research. Solar chargers with built-in high-quality solar batteries are useful because they allow you to charge your devices even when the sun is down or the current weather conditions are cloudy.
Durability: Solar chargers are designed to be used outside, so we made sure that all of the picks in our guide were designed to survive being exposed to some level of moisture. Carefully consider the climate of the area you live or plan to travel to when choosing your solar charger. You may also want to pack some of the best rechargeable batteries.
The Best Solar Chargers: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Twelseavan Foldable Solar Charger
Why It Made The Cut: Twelseavan’s Foldable Solar Charger balances power and portability, while offering the ability to upgrade your solar power setup with a large external battery.
— Size: 64.6 inches long x 20.5 inches wide
— Ports: One USB-C, two USB-A, one DC
— Battery Capacity: N/A
— Large panel
— Wide array of ports
— Works with solar generators
— No built-in battery
Twelseavan's Portable Solar Charger is the ideal choice for campers planning multi-day trips, or anyone who wants to turn their backyard into a mini solar farm. It's one of the bigger solar chargers in our guide, measuring more than five feet long when fully unfolded, but that size is necessary to provide enough power to its three charging ports. We're especially impressed that this standalone solar panel has a USB-C port capable of outputting up to 60 watts of power, which means it can charge a 13-inch MacBook Pro or Nintendo Switch at their maximum charging speed.
Twelseavan designed its solar charger with four flip-out kickstands, which tilts the panel upward on an angle. The company says this allows its solar charger to get up to 30 percent more sunlight than laying flat. One of the main reasons this solar charger took the top slot in our guide is its DC port, which allows you to charge a large-cell (ultra-high capacity) battery made by companies like Jackery and Ecoflow. These batteries can store an enormous amount of power, so this feature makes up for the fact that this solar charger doesn't have a built-in battery. Yes, getting a large-cell battery roughly doubles the price of your solar charging setup, but it's nice to have this option.
If portability isn't your priority, we recommend Twelseavan's Portable Solar Charger without reservation. It's powerful enough to charge any portable device, and offers a nice upgrade path if your needs change.
Best Budget Solar Charger: Anker 24W Solar Charger
Why It Made The Cut: Anker’s 24W Solar Charger can charge up to three devices at once, fits in a backpack, and costs far less than $100.
— Size: 38.8 inches long x 12.1 inches wide
— Ports: Three USB-A ports
— Battery Capacity: N/A
— No built-in battery
— No fast-charging USB-C ports
If portability *is* your main deciding factor when choosing a solar charger, Anker's 24W Solar Charger is the one we recommend. It's the smallest traditional solar charger in our guide, but Anker didn't skimp on any key features when designing it. The solar charger has three USB-A ports with a maximum power output of 12 watts per port. This means it's powerful enough to charge smaller devices like smartphones or wireless headphones. The 24W in this solar charger’s name refers to how much solar power it can absorb, it’s able to output up to 36 watts of power to your devices.
The only real downside is that Anker's Solar Panel can't be used to charge larger gadgets at their full speed (if at all). This limitation is likely due to the solar charger's relatively small size, but it's something to keep in mind depending on your needs. If you're looking for a solar charger to take on a day trip, you won't have to worry about its charging ports being an issue.
Anker touts this solar charger's thin and flexible panels, which are the main reasons why this charger is so thin. To optimize performance, Anker built two kickstands into this solar charger, which allows it to catch sunlight at an angle. If you're a hiker who wants to rely on solar power rather than a power bank, this is the best solar charger for your needs.
Best Battery Pack: Riapow Solar Power Bank
Why It Made The Cut: This high-capacity battery pack can charge up to four devices at the same time, and is powerful enough to work with smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and laptops.
— Size: 6.8 inches long, 3.5 inches wide
— Ports: Two USB-A ports, one USB-C port
— Battery Capacity: 30,000mAh
— High battery capacity
— Comes with charging cables
— Great port selection for its size
— Small solar panel
— Larger than most battery packs
Riapow's Solar Bank is the best eco-friendly battery pack we've seen, and a must-have if you don't mind its petite solar panel. Realistically, you'll be best off plugging this solar charging battery pack into an outlet for a full charge, and using its solar panel to keep it from depleting quickly while you charge your devices on-the-go.
The Solar Bank's biggest selling point — besides its solar panel — is its high battery capacity. You should have no problem recharging your smartphone several times over when the Solar Bank is fully charged. We're also fans of its mix of two USB-A and USB-C ports, which are complemented by three built-in charging cables. This setup allows you to charge up to four devices at once. One of the integrated cables can only be used to charge the Solar Bank itself.
One of the Solar Bank's additional features is its pair of LED flashlights, which could come in handy during overnight camping trips. We generally don't recommend using power banks with LEDs because they consume a lot of energy to run, but the Solar Charger's high capacity makes that a non-issue.
Power banks have become an essential accessory for travelers, but aren't generally associated with sustainability. Riapow's Solar Charger bucks that trend, and its built-in solar panel alone makes it worth the upgrade from the battery pack you're using now.
Best for Security Cameras: Wasserstein Solar Panel
Why It Made The Cut: Wasserstein’s Solar Panel can recharge your battery-powered outdoor security cameras, so you don’t have to worry about topping them up.
— Size: 11.8 inches long x 7.8 inches wide
— Ports: One DC port
— Battery Capacity: N/A
— Works with the most popular outdoor security cameras
— Can be mounted at any angle
— Doesn't require special tools to install
— Comes in a two-pack
— May require professional installation if you're not comfortable with DIY projects
— Can only be used with one type of gadget
Outdoor smart security cameras have become a lot more affordable lately, and many of them run on battery power, which allows you to install them wherever you want instead of being restricted by the location of your home's outlets. Unfortunately, that means you had to worry about keeping the camera's battery charged, at least until Wasserstein's Solar Panel came along. This solar charger can be connected to a Ring Stickup Cam Battery, Ring Spotlight Cam, or Reolink Argus Pro security camera, topping up the camera's battery every day, so you don't have to worry about it conking out.
It's worth noting that both Ring and Reolink have started offering their own solar chargers, but getting a first-party accessory locks you into using their camera hardware. Getting a solar charger from Wasserstein gives you the freedom to switch from one to the other if one company's cameras fit your home security needs more effectively later on.
Installing Wasserstein's Solar Panel onto the top or side of your home requires either a drill or screwdriver, which is great if you only have a basic toolbox on hand. Once it's installed, you can tilt the solar charger at any angle. Wassertein includes the cable you need to connect its Solar Panel to your security camera.
If you move or decide to change the location of your camera, you can easily unscrew and reinstall this solar charger in a new location. We like that Wasserstein's Solar Panel uses standard Phillips head screws, which won't leave big, deep holes in your home.
The only factor you need to consider before picking up this solar charger is that it may require professional installation if you feel uncomfortable with home repair. To be clear: installing Wasserstein's Solar Panel requires no prior experience with electrical work or any other specialized renovation skills, but it's something to keep in mind. If you're unfazed by the prospect of an eco-friendly weekend project, pick up a set of Wasserstein's Solar Panels.
Best Premium: Raptic Titan 225 Power Station + Solar 100 Bundle
Why It Made The Cut: This bundle of a high-powered solar charger and high-capacity battery pack offers incredible performance at an excellent price.
— Size: 76 inches long x 18 inches wide
— Ports: Five USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, one AC output, one 12V Car Port
— Battery Capacity: 225 Watt Hours
— High battery capacity
— Extremely fast charging
— Can power anything from a smartphone to a TV
— Large and heavy
If you're fully committed to taking as much of your gear off the grid as possible, but can't install rooftop solar panels, this bundle of Raptic's Titan 225 Power Station + Solar 100 Foldable Portable Solar Charger is the perfect choice.
The Solar 100 is a large, standalone solar charger with two USB-A ports, one USB-C port, and one DC output. At 76 inches wide, it's our largest Solar Charger recommendation, which means it's also the most powerful one. That power comes with a higher price tag and a hit to portability, though, which is why we're primarily recommending it to people who are very serious about reducing their reliance on traditional power sources.
We can easily recommend Raptic's Solar 100 on its own, but we think this bundle that also includes the company's Titan 225 battery is the better way to go. For context: A Solar 100 Solar Charger typically costs $299.99 on its own, but Raptic is charging $340 for both pieces of gear. You end up saving $160, and end up with an ultra-powerful solar power solution that can help you get through a week-long camping trip, or multi-day blackout.
Raptic's Titan 225 has three USB-A ports, one USB-PD port, an AC outlet, and a 12V car port. It holds enough juice to fully recharge a laptop several times over, and can power any appliance up to 100 watts. This 50-inch TCL TV only requires 45 watts of power during typical use, which should give you a sense of how powerful the Titan 225 is. Raptic's bundle basically allows you to get the Titan 225 for $40, which is why it made this guide.
If you need a solar charger for casual uses — a day trip, for instance — Raptic's Solar 100 and Titan 225 are overkill, but they're a great choice if you have more serious energy needs. Each of these components are excellent investments in their own right, and can be used independently if need be. We actually recommend you keep the Titan 225 in your car at all times in case of an emergency; it's always helpful to have a powerful battery if you're stuck somewhere.
Things To Consider When Buying A Solar Charger
Your Environment: It should go without saying that a solar charger's performance will be directly tied to how much sunlight is available. If you're going to be in a very sunny environment, any solar charger will do, but we recommend getting one with a battery pack if not. Knowing you have enough juice to power your gadget even if you encounter a rainy day (or two) can help put your mind at ease.
Getting A Solar Panel instead: If you're primarily interested in charging larger gadgets, and have enough space, it may be wise to get a dedicated solar panel instead of a solar charger. A solar panel will take up a lot more space, require a dedicated area where it can be permanently attached (for the best results), and require a bigger up-front cost, but can pay for itself over time by lowering your electric bill.
Longevity: Solar panels — the key component of a solar charger — can last up to 30 years, according to a 2012 study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. One of the main reasons for their long life is that newer solar panels are less susceptible to degradation caused by exposure to extreme heat.
Q: What types of devices work best with solar chargers?
In general, solar chargers are best-suited to charge smaller gadgets like smartphones, which don't require a tremendous amount of power to top up.
Q: What happens to my solar charger if it's cloudy?
A solar charger will still be able to convert some solar energy in cloudy conditions, but you may have a worse or less consistent experience.
Q: Can I use a solar charger at night?
You can use a solar charger at night only if the solar charger has a battery pack attached to it.
Q: What happens if my solar charger breaks?
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) offers guidelines on solar panel recycling, and we highly recommend checking out its suggestions before throwing your solar charger into the trash.
Solar chargers are an excellent first step for anyone who wants to make their life more eco-friendly, but can't install full-sized solar panels onto the roof of their home. Instead, you can start by slowly weaning yourself off the electrical grid one small gadget at a time. Making little tweaks to your lifestyle may not feel like a lot of progress, but every step can make a difference.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.