The Best Solar Chargers of 2018

Solar chargers are convenient ways to charge devices like cell phones and tablets in situations where there is no access to electricity. These gadgets are helpful to people who enjoy outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and fishing.

But they are also great to keep in a car for emergencies. After all, no one ever knows when they might end up stranded on the side of the road and need to call for help.

When purchasing a solar panel, it's important to choose one that fits your lifestyle and needs. Researching these panels can become overwhelming. You'll have to understand the materials used for each type of panel and the wattage necessary to quickly power a device.

This guide will give you all the information you need for choosing a solar panel charger that'll meet your needs. And it'll also show you the best ones on the market right now.

Keep on reading. We've got you covered!

What Exactly is a Solar Charger?

Solar chargers are portable solar panels that utilize the sun's energy to charge portable devices like phones and tablets. Solar panels, however, can still work without substantial sunlight. It will just take them longer to charge devices.

Depending on the circumstances and sun exposure in your answer, other charging devices like power banks (external batteries) might make more sense. Below are the features to take into consideration while shopping for one.

What Makes a Good Solar Charger?

There are several different features that make up solar chargers. They all work together to serve the purpose of using solar energy to add battery life to electronics.

The components that should be used to compare charges are the types of panels used, the wattage and charging time, whether they are water resistant, and a few others. It sounds complicated, right?

Here's a full breakdown of what all those things really mean.

Types of Panels

There are three types of panels used in solar chargers: monocrystalline, poly-crystalline, and CIGS. The most common panels utilize monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells.

They both have silicon crystals in them. Monocrystalline panels are made from one single crystal. Polycrystalline panels are made up of multiple crystals.

Monocrystalline panels are black and are more energy efficient. They also perform better in situations where there's less sunlight. Because of this, they are more expensive.

Polycrystalline panels are blue. They are a little less tolerant to heat and don't have as high of a charging power as monocrystalline panels.

CIGS solar panels are among the newest type to be produced. What sets them apart is the feather-light weight that makes them great options for backpackers and campers who carry a lot of supplies.

CIGS panels are made from Copper, Indium, Gallium, and Selenide. They are very flexible and can be folded to fit into carrying cases and backpacks.

They're designed in maximize sunlight on well lit days and they perform much better in lower light conditions than monocrystalline solar panels. The downside to CIGS solar panels is that they aren't as durable as the others. Because of this, they'll deteriorate quicker over time.

Wattage and Powering Options

Choosing a good solar charger requires selecting one with good power output. The higher the power level, the sooner the charger will charge devices. This is especially important if it will be used on more than one device.

The wattage on a solar panel is what will determine its performance. For instance, a charger with 5 watts is good or charging something small like a basic cell phone.

Be mindful that 5 watts wouldn't be enough for a smartphone. Those gadgets will need 10-12 watts to reach an adequate charge.

Larger, higher tech cell phones like an iPhone 6 or a tablet will require wattage between 15 and 21 watts. Depending on the devices it's charging, a solar panel with this amount of power can charge more than one device.

Additionally, some panels can be combined with others to customize the amount of power. The YOLK solar paper has 2.5-watt panels each.

Large devices like laptops shouldn't be charged on solar panels. They won't produce enough power. Consider using an integrated or external battery for those.

USB Ports

Some solar chargers have two USB ports that allow for charging two devices at a time. And others come with two batteries that give enough power to charge up to 8 smartphones or other devices at once.

Portability and Durability

Your intentions for your solar panel will determine whether you need something with industrial strength or not. The same should be considered regarding the weight of the panel.

Some panels are small and thin enough to fit into a folder while others have the flexibility and multiple panels to be folded into a backpack. Then there are panels that come with carabiners. This makes them easy to hang from a tent.

Solar panels that are made specifically to be used outside are extremely durable. They can be used in all weather conditions.

Many are waterproof and shock-resistant, making them especially safe. These panels are typically sewn onto polyester canvases.

Maintenance

Solar panels don't really require any maintenance. Simply dusting it of dirt and debris is all that will need to be done.

This can be accomplished with a dry rag. Soap and other cleaning agents aren't required. The primary way of maintaining a panel is to keep build up off of it.

Lifespan

Because different materials are used for solar panels, their lifespans vary significantly. As a result, lower quality solar panels can last 2 years. The nicer ones can last up to 25.

The Best Solar Chargers

Solar chargers come in various shapes and sizes to function properly in all situations. We filtered through the good and bad to find the best of the best.

Here are the ones that made our "best" list:

Anker 21W

The Anker 21W solar charger is essential for the most outdoorsy people. Its folding ability allows it to be draped over a backpack.

This allows devices to charge while you're backpacking along mountains and hiking trails. The Anker 21W is also made of the most durable materials so that it doesn't break or see any damage.

The charger has close to 1,300 positive reviews on Amazon too.

Powerful Charging Abilities

As the name implies, the Anker 21W is a 21-watt solar charger. Because it has 2 USB ports, it can charge 2 devices simultaneously at pretty rapid paces. The solar charger even comes with a 3ft micro USB cord for more flexibility.

Weather Resistant

This is an industrial strength PET polymer faced solar panel. Because of its durable and waterproof construction, this solar charger will survive wind, rain, and other bad weather.

Portability

When it is folded, the Anker 21W is 11.1 by 6.3 inches. Its unfolded full size is 26.4 by 11.1 inches. It is also incredibly thin and light, weighing 14.7 pounds.

It has stainless steel holes on each corner so that it can be hooked onto backpacks, tents, or even trees.

SunJack 8000mAh Solar Charger

SunJack solar charger is made in the United States and comes with a 12-month warranty. The rugged design of the charger makes it multifunctional, great for emergency kits and outdoor adventures.

Strong and Durable

This is a solar charger that can stand up to most weather conditions. It is shock-proof, dust-proof, and drop-proof. In fact, its durability was tested by the United States military.

Smart Charging

The solar panels in the SunJack send out 2 amps of power from each of its USB ports. Additionally, it knows how to identify the device that's being charged. This way the charging speed is maximized and the devices are protected from being overcharged.

Other features include:

  • Provides light when used with the SunJack LightStick
  • Has grommets along the edges for easy attaching
  • Comes with a carrying case
  • 14 Watt panel

Also included with the SunJack are two power banks to use even when the sun isn't out. Because of this added power, it can charge most smartphones about 10 times.

YOLK YKSP 5W Solar Paper

The YOLK solar charger is paper thin and super lightweight. This makes it the ultimate charger for when you need a little power while you're on the move.

It weighs only 4 ounces and measures 1.5 mm thick. To put it into perspective, the charger can easily fit between the pages of a book or into a folder.

Each of the panels is a total of 2.5 watts. But it has the power to charge even an iPhone 6 in about 2 and a half hours, as long as there is full sunlight.

Here are some more impressive features and functions of this powerful little solar charger:

  • Magnets strong enough to mount to metal surfaces
  • Automatically resets when it is cloudy
  • Works quickly
  • Can be connected to an external battery
  • Has a USB port

Customizable Charge

Each of the charging panels has a magnet embedded in it. This allows them to be connected to one another.

That way the charging power is expanded or decreased as needed. There is also a built-in LCD screen that shows the amount of power being delivered to the device that's charging.

Unexpected Durability

Don't let the thin, lightweight design of the YOLK solar panels fool you. The panels do not tear or wear out easily. And it will still function even after having been splashed by water.

Wildtek Source 21W


The Wildtek Source solar charger delivers 21 watts of power to the devices it's charging. In fact, it charges devices almost twice as fast as competing chargers. I

It's also compatible with all devices from cell phones to GPS systems and tablets. And if for any reason this product doesn't live up to consumers' expectations, there's a full two-year warranty.

Here are some of its other great features:

  • Dual USB ports
  • Part of every purchase goes toward restoring the environment
  • Comes with a micro USB charging cable

100% Waterproof

The Wildtek system was built to stand up to all types of weather. Ice, rain, wind, dirt, and dust won't interfere with its functionality.

It can even be fully submerged into water.

Travel-Friendly

Because of its lightweight design, the charger can be folded down to fit into any backpack or bag. Additionally, it comes with silver rings on each corner for easy attachment to your other belongings.

And its built-in stand helps you angle it into the perfect position to get the most sunlight possible. The charger measures at 6.6 by 12.4 inches and weighs 2.1 pounds.

Voltaic Systems Arc 20 Watt Solar Kit


The Voltaic Systems Arc 20 Watt Solar Kit is the best solar charger for larger devices like laptops and tablets. While it's a little heavier than competing chargers at 3.25 pounds, it is still small enough to fit into a backpack for travel. The charger's measurements are 7.5 x 10 x .8 inches.

Strong Charge

The most impressive feature of this kit is its amazing charging abilities. It includes a battery pack (power bank) to store energy, even when it's dark or cloudy out.

The battery pack can fully charge a smartphone in about an hour and a laptop in 6.5 hours. And after those two full charges, it can still deliver 7 more smartphone charges and two full charges to an iPad.

The panels are made of monocrystalline.

Compatibility

The Voltaic charging kit is compatible with different types of adapters and over one thousand devices. This includes:

  • Android, Apple, and Blackberry smartphones
  • DSLR cameras
  • Dell, Acer, Apple, and ASUS laptops
  • Devices with AA or AAA rechargeable batteries

Durability

This charging kit comes with a 2-year warranty, but it was built to last. Not only was it created with UV and water-resistant ETFE coating, it is also scratch and dust resistant.

It's sturdy material and grommets also make for easy mounting onto backpacks, tents, and bicycles.

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Solar chargers are built to be lightweight solutions for those scenarios where there isn't any electricity to charge a phone. They cut out some of the stress that was experienced before, especially during emergency situations.

Don't let yourself get into a situation where you don't have a way to charge your device. Find a solar charger that fits your lifestyle and budget.

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