best solar phone chargers

Smartphones are amazing – neat little handheld devices that link us to the greatest repository of human knowledge of all time! They also let you play games or read your email while listening to your favorite podcast.

Unfortunately, they can’t do any of this if the battery has run dead, and charging ports can be few and far between if you happen to be out and about.

The good news is that modern solar chargers let you easily use the limitless power of the sun to charge your phone, so we’re taking a look at some of the best solar phone chargers available to buy right now.

The best solar phone chargers

As with most of our reviews, we’ve identified and reviewed the best solar phone chargers for relevant categories, such as the top-rated model or the premium option.

1. Top pick – BigBlue 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Charger

Made out of four folding 7-watt solar panels, the BigBlue 3 is around the size of a medium tablet device, with dimensions of 11.1 × 6.3× 1.3 inches folded and weighs in at 20.6 oz. 

This makes it remarkably portable for a high-energy conversion that you can now use to charge three devices simultaneously. 

The BigBlue has recently been upgraded to have three USB charging ports, all of which have overcharging, overheating, and short circuit protection.

The solar panel is a highly efficient SunPower model that converts between 21.5 and 23.5% of the solar energy gathered into electricity. A cloth flap and rubber cover protect the panel to keep it safe in your bag, and when deployed, it has a PET polymer surface to make it weather resistant.

The BigBlue comes with attached Micro USB cables that are compatible with most android devices, a range of digital SLR cameras, and most Apple devices as long as you buy the right cable separately.

What we like:

  • More USB Ports – Most of us travel with more than one mobile device these days, so the more charging ports, the better.
  • Wide-ranging compatibility – The generic USB connection makes the BigBlue compatible with a wide range of devices, made even wider with the appropriate Apple cable.
  • Durable and weatherproof – The protective cover and PET cladding make the BigBlue durable enough that you don’t have to worry about putting it in your backpack.

What we don’t like:

  • Not waterproof – There is a big difference between weather-resistant and waterproof. The BigBlue is not something you want to deploy in anything but the lightest of rain.
  • iPad Pro not supported – Because the USB output is fixed at 5V, the BigBlue is not compatible with the iPad Pro.

Overall, the BigBlue is durable, compact, lightweight, weather-resistant, and can charge up to three devices at once. That ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to a solar phone charger, and it’s why the BigBlue is our top pick.

2. Runner-up: Anker 24W 3-Port USB Portable Solar Charger

Hot on the heels of the Big Blue is the Anker 24W 3-Port USB Portable Solar Charger.

The Anker is constructed from ultralight CIGS solar film, one of a range of recent advances on solar panel technology, rather than the normally crystalline panels; it’s designed to be as light and portable as possible (with folded dimensions of 9.64 × 12.1 × 1.97 inches and weighing just 39.72 oz, the Anker is very portable indeed). 

Because of the flexibility of the CIGS solar film, the Anker charger can be deployed over a curved surface (like the back of a backpack) to allow you to charge on the go. 

The panel automatically resumes charging if you move from a shaded area back into direct sunlight, so there’s no need to stop and fiddle with the controls every time it gets cloudy.

The addition of the USB-A ports means you can provide your devices with up to a 12-watt charge, although that isn’t enough to charge larger devices, such as Microsoft Surface for example.

The panels themselves are IPX4 waterproof, although the rest of the circuitry is not, and the entire charger is covered by an 18-month warranty.

What we like:

  • Flexible charging – The flexibility of the CIGS solar film means the Anker charger can be deployed over your backpack to let you charge on the go.
  • Very portable – The low weight and small folded dimensions of the Anker make it very easy to carry around with you.
  • IPX4 waterproof – The solar panels themselves are IPX4, which means they are “protected from splashing water, no matter the direction”.

What we don’t like:

  • Vulnerable to damage – The trade-off from the flexibility of the CIGS film is that it is less durable than traditional solar panels.
  • Circuit box not waterproof – While the panels might be IPX4 waterproof, the circuit box is not, cutting down on the Anker’s utility in bad weather.

The addition of the CIGS material does make the Anker more flexible, both literally and figuratively, and makes it ideal for people who don’t want to stop to deploy their solar charger.

3. The premium option – Goal Zero Nomad 50 Portable Solar Panel Charger

Developed by a US-based team with around five decades of experience in solar energy, the Goal Zero Nomad 50 uses four monocrystalline panels enclosed in a protective enclosure to produce 50-watts of power.

The high power output allows the Goal Zero Nomad 50 to charge the average tablet devices in as little as four hours.

The Goal Zero Nomad 50 is fully compatible with the rest of the Goal Zero range, including the Yeti Power Stations or Sherpa Power Banks. The included 8mm cable means you can also link multiple sets of panels together for faster charging.

All the parts of the Goal Zero Nomad 50 are covered by a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty administered by a US-based support team.

Part of a range of panels that run from 10-watt to 200-watt, the Goal Zero Nomad 50 is an excellent compromise between quick phone and tablet charging and portability.

Weighing 6.85 lbs and with folded dimensions of  17 x 11.25 x 2.5 inches, the Goal Zero Nomad 50 isn’t the lightest panel on this list, but it is the most powerful.

What we like:

  • Powerful charging – The Goal Zero Nomad 50 puts out 50-watts of power in good direct sunlight, which is enough to fully charge a tablet in four hours.
  • Multiple size options – Ranging from the diminutive Nomad 10 to the chunky Nomad 200, there is something on this range of solar chargers to suit nearly everyone.
  • Fully Goal Zero compatible – The Goal Zero Nomad 50 is fully compatible with the rest of the Goal Zero line, like the Yeti Power Stations or Sherpa Power Banks. 

What we don’t like:

  • Not waterproof – While they are inside a protective enclosure, the Goal Zero Nomad 50 is not waterproof.
  • A little heavy – Although 6.85 lbs isn’t particularly heavy, the Goal Zero Nomad 50 is one of the heavier chargers on this list.

Superbly well made and supported by the US-based Goal Zero support team, the Nomad 50 is an excellent and powerful portable solar charging option.

4. Top-rated – BLAVOR Solar 10,000mAh Portable Power Bank

A great multi-purpose outdoor charging option, the Blavor Qi Portable Charger is a 10,000mAh wireless power bank, a solar charger, a flashlight and a compass.

Unlike the other solar chargers on this list, the Blavor is primarily a power bank with additional solar trickle charging. The solar panel is comparatively small and the idea is that you can hang the unit on your belt or backpack and let the sun slowly top it up over time.

To help keep your Solar Power Bank safe, it is IPX4 waterproof and has a sturdy ABS case. There are three charging ports: Type C USB, Micro USB, and standard USB, as well as Qi Wireless charging. 

The output from the Solar Power Bank is 5V, which is enough to charge an iPhone X up to 2.3 times.

What we like:

  • Simple and effective – The Blavor Qi Portable Solar Charger is a great way to bring power with you and top it up on the go.
  • Multi-purpose – The larger range of USB ports, QI wireless charging, flashlight and compass massively increase the Solar Power Bank’s utility.
  • Durable – The combination of IPX4 waterproof and a chunky ABS case means you don’t have to worry about keeping the Blavor Qi Portable Solar Charger attached to the outside of your bag.

What we don’t like:

  • Mostly a power bank – The manufacturers of the Solar Power Bank are very upfront about the fact that this is a power bank first and a solar charger very much second.
  • Takes a week to fully charge – Because of the small solar panel, it takes around a week of constant sunlight to charge the 10,000mAh reserves. 

While it is mostly a power bank, the addition of the solar panel turns the Blavor Qi Portable Solar Charger from a neat little charger to almost an outdoor essential.

5. Best budget option  – YOESOID Portable Solar Power Bank

Constructed from a durable and resilient ABS and silicone material, the YOESOID Portable Solar Power Bank comes wrapped in an extra layer of protection from rain, dirt, and accidental drops.

The compact solar panel on the front of the YOESOID has a number of built-in intelligent security features to protect your device, including over-voltage, overload, and short circuit protection.

Since the power bank/solar charger is built for use when camping or exploring the outdoors, it also comes with a built-in compass and handy flashlight.

The waterproof cover on the front flips up to reveal two USB-A ports, a USB-C, and a micro USB port that makes the YOESOID compatible with a range of devices, from modern smartphones to tablets and cameras. 

Both the charger and the solar panel are covered by a 12-month warranty. 

What we like:

  • Multi-compatible – The range of USB ports on the power bank makes it compatible with most USB charging gadgets.  
  • Great for the outdoors – The flashlight, and compass make the YOESOID an excellent accessory if you’re heading into the wilderness.
  • Water and dustproof – The combination ABS and silicone case is a great way to protect your charger from accidental drops and rain.

What we don’t like:

  • Also, mostly a power bank – As with the Solar Power Bank, the YOESOID is primarily a power bank and the company is very upfront that its ability to recharge using the small solar panel is subject to sunlight intensity and panel conversion rate, meaning it may take a long time to charge.

As long as you’re fine with the idea that the YOESOID Portable Solar Power Bank is mostly a power bank with an attached solar panel trickle charger, it makes a useful and durable addition to your camping or hiking kit.

Buying guide: what to look for in a solar phone charger

Now that we’ve covered off some of the best solar phone chargers on the market, let’s look at what you need to take into consideration when buying one yourself.

Solar panel size and output

When it comes to solar panels and charging devices, the bigger the better. The more panel area you have facing the sun, the faster it will turn solar energy into electricity, and the faster your devices will charge. 

Most portable solar panels are made of multiple smaller solar panels sewn onto a flexible outer material that means they can fold together. 

The other important factor to consider in relation to this is the size and weight of the solar charger. If you’re out hiking or off traveling, the last thing you want is to be lugging a huge and heavy set of solar panels around with you.

So when it comes to panel size, start with the dimensions and weight you’re happy transporting and try to find the highest output for solar chargers in that size.

Charging methods

The most common charging options for mobile devices are USB ports and wireless charging. Whether wireless charging works for your devices depends on the devices, so it’s worth checking that in advance. 

There are also four types of USB charging ports:

ubs types chart
Source: Wikimedia
  • USB Type A – The most common and most recognizable type of USB.
  • USB Type B – Often used to connect to peripherals such as printers, hard drives, and some types of DSLR camera.
  • USB Type C – A newer version of the USB port with a significantly higher power output of up to 20 Volts 100 W and 5 amps.
  • Micro USB The most common type of USB charging port found in mobile devices.

Before you head out to buy your solar charger, you must understand which USB type you need to charge your device, so you don’t choose an incompatible charger. 

Durability, build quality and materials

Solar panels are rather fragile things, which means you’ll want to prioritize any solar charger that has a good protective case.

Other common protections include some form of waterproofing, normally denoted by an IP number, and PET coverings over the panels themselves to prevent scratching.

Some models of solar charger, like the Blavor Qi Portable Charger, also include other features. These can be things like power banks, flashlights, GPS trackers, compasses, and other items that might make them more suited to your particular needs.

Avoid solar phone cases

While they might seem like the ideal solution, solar phone cases can actually shorten the life of your phone’s battery. 

This is because lithium-ion batteries do not like to be heated up past 85°F and solar phone cases actively encourage you to leave your phone in the direct sunlight while also generating heat themselves. 

You’re much better off using an external solar charger and keeping your battery as cool as possible.

FAQ

To give you all the information you need to make the right decision, we’ve gathered together some of the most common questions about solar phone chargers and answered them for you.

Do solar phone chargers really work?

Yes. However, as with all solar charging solutions, how well they work will depend on the amount of sunlight you can expose them to, the amount of time they spend in the sun, and how many panels they have absorbing that sunlight.

What is Qi charging?

Qi charging is a form of standardized short-range wireless charging used by many of the most modern smartphones. Instead of charging your phone with a cable, you can just lay it on top of a Qi-compatible charger and it will start charging.

You can find a full list of phones that are Qi charging compatible in this article

How long does it take to charge a phone using solar power?

This will depend entirely on many factors, such as the output of your solar charger, the amount of sunlight it can be exposed to and how much charge your phone needs. 

Most solar chargers will give you an average charging time, but this is mostly calculated under the best possible charging conditions, and your experience may vary.

The best solar phone chargers

Using the sun to power your phone while you’re out and about is a great way to cut down on your grid electricity usage and make sure you don’t run out of battery at the worst possible moment.

Armed with the knowledge from this article, you’ll be able to pick the perfect solar phone charger for you and head out into the wilderness!

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