Sometimes your phone or music player dies out at the WORST time, right? Luckily, the best solar power bank can keep you charged no matter where you are – even if there are no outlets for miles.
I remember my first time camping in Europe. It was cold, it was wet, and there were absolutely zero outlets around that I could use to charge my cellphone.
And the only alarm clock I had on hand happened to be my cellphone. If my phone hadn’t had the “no-longer-available” feature of setting off the alarm when the phone is turned off, I would have missed my flights on more than one occasion.
Thankfully now, years later, there are power banks that charge up power from the sun, a resource I can find anywhere in the world (except maybe the Pacific Northwest where I usually live, ugh).
If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you definitely want to check out the possibility of purchasing a solar power bank to backup your electronics on the go.
But before you start shopping, you’ll want to learn a few things to guarantee you’re purchasing the right one.
Simply put, a solar power bank is like a back-up battery charger for your small electronics.
They are usually small enough to fit in larger pockets, purses, or backpacks.
Some come in the form of packs or large panels that can attach to backpacks or spread out to charge things like laptops.
How do Solar Power Banks Work?
Solar power banks are small devices created with solar panels that collect and convert the energy of sunlight into usable power.
This power is converted to electricity that can be used to power common devices such as cellphones, tablets, iPods, battery chargers, and laptops.
They usually have one or multiple USB charging ports so you can plug in just about anything.
When are Portable Solar Charger Power Banks Useful?
Solar power banks are an awesome option for anyone looking to charge their cellphones on the go with an eco-friendly power source. Since they harness the energy of the sun, they do not require coal, gas, or standard electricity to run them.
These devices are particularly useful for:
Long days away from the home and office
Solar power banks are a great portable charger for solar charging a variety of small electronics including laptops, cellphones, small wattage battery chargers, cameras, flashes, iPads, Kindles, and other similar low-wattage items.
Reviews of the Best Solar Power Bank Chargers
We’ve pulled together a list of the seven best solar phone charger options for the various styles you might be interested in this year.
How We Chose the Power Banks Listed Here
After hours of in-depth research, I’ve culled the broad list of 40+ power banks down to just this handful of the best options.
I looked at the number of ports, the type of ports, the charge times, dimensions and weight, and the overall functionality of each device.
I cut out any options that didn’t receive high customer ratings and any that didn’t offer the features necessary to make the most beneficial for travel, everyday life, and/or off-the-grid backpacking.
Customer reviews are not the be-all-end-all, but once I’ve completed my initial overview, I’ll check to see if they work well in the field – and this usually means taking into consideration how they work for a bunch of other people.
Each one I’ve selected is good for a different purpose, though technically all of them could work for a general phone charger on the go.
Here are my solar bank power reviews for the best choices I could find for nearly every situation when you might need a portable power bank.
If you’re looking for a well-regarded brand for your solar charger, the Anker 21W dual USB is a great option. Anker has a reputation for creating durable, reliable, and powerful options, and the 21W is no exception.
I have a ton of Anker products, and if I’m ever looking for “aftermarket” parts for my electronics, I head to Anker first. From standard power banks to this one to iPhone charging cables, I’m an Anker fan-boy.
I personally love this one for the dual ports and compact size that enables me to charge two phones at the same time while not taking up a load of space in my pack.
The basic stats:
Capacity: 2.4 amps per port or 3 amps overall
Dimensions: 11.1 x 6.3 folded, 26.4 x 11.1 inches unfolded
Weight: 14.7 ounces
Number of USB ports: 2
Time to charge via solar: 6 to 8 hours
Number of charges for average phone: 2 to 3 times per full charge
The Anker solar charger is a fast-charging option that folds down to a pretty easy-to-manage size. You can easily tuck it in just about anywhere, and since it weighs less than a pound, it won’t be an issue for taking on longer hikes.
Plus, since it has stainless steel eyeholes, you can clip it to your backpack, belt, camera bag, bike, or anything else you can to keep it charging while on the move or after you’ve made camp.
Ultimately, the Anker battery pack is the best easy-to-use, reliable power solar charger that will get you through your out-of-range days on the trail.
I love a good backpack charger. They’re the perfect solution for outdoor phone charging on the trail. The Fuse6 from Voltaic offers everything you’d want from a low-powered, fast-charging pack. It’s lightweight and easy to attach, which are great starts for a trail pack.
The basic stats:
Dimensions: 11 x 8.75 x 0.5 inches
Weight: 1.3 pounds
Number of USB ports: 1
Time to charge via solar: 3 to 11 hours in direct sunlight
Number of charges for average phone: 1 per 3 hours of sunlight + 1.5x per backup charge
This is our pick for best solar charger for backpacking. It straps onto your backpack easily and lets you charge while you hike. It’s lightweight, but it also has a pack of its own in which you can carry the battery and backup, as well as small things you want to access easily along the trail.
The whole thing weighs only 1.3 pounds, meaning you really aren’t adding much at all to your pack unless you load up the pockets.
You’ll note the wide range in the charge times listed.
For a 3-hour charging time, the battery pack can easily charge a cellphone fully. For eight hours, you can charge your 7-inch tablet, and for that 11-hour sunlight charge, you can charge a 10-inch tablet fully.
The solar panel on the pack is ruggedly designed to handle loads of direct sunlight, water, and scratches, and general trail abuse. And the pack should last you 10+ years!
The RavPower Portable Outdoor charger is perfect for anybody on the go with a lot of electronics to charge along the way. With high amps and 3 USB ports, you’re ready to tackle a camera, a tablet, and a smartphone all at once.
This is also our pick for the best waterproof solar power bank.
The basic stats:
Dimensions: 6.9 x 3.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 9.8 ounces
Number of USB ports: 3
Time to charge via solar: 5 to 13 hours
Number of charges for average phone: 3 to 5
If you’ve got a lot of electronics you need to charge all out once, this is a great option. You can charge up to three smartphones or tablets at the same time.
One nice thing about this charger is that before you leave the comforts of power outlets, you can dual-charge the power bank with two USBs and charge twice as fast before heading out. This is a great way to start a trip to keep it charged as long as possible.
This power bank is also specifically designed for the rough handling of the outdoorsy world. It’s dust-proof, shock-proof, and waterproof, and comes with an LED emergency light that works in three modes.
You can attach the power bank to your belt or pack with an integrated hanging ring and carabiner.
The X Dragon is specifically designed to help you charge your laptop and phone simultaneously on the go. It comes with 10 different laptop charging connectors, though, so make sure that one of them fits before you purchase.
The basic stats:
Dimensions: 10.4 x 6.3 x 2.8 inches
Weight: 3.1 pounds
Number of USB ports: 1 + laptop port
Time to charge via solar: 8 to 10 hours
Number of charges for average phone: estimated 5
The X Dragon Solar Charger 40W is an excellent choice on the budget-friendly side of solar power banks for laptops.
It is a bit bulkier, admittedly, but it’s also a lot more powerful than most portable banks. This charger is designed to spread out on a surface where you can charge both the laptop and your smartphone at the same time.
The X Dragon is made of rugged high-wear Oxford fabric that’s water resistant and dust resistant. It also provides you with surge protection, short-circuit protection, and other advanced safety features to ensure your laptop and phone don’t get fried by the sun’s power.
The solar panels fold up decently, though, again, this is bulkier than models designed to just charge phones. But it does pack up neatly and can be attached to your pack, bike, or belt via carabiners.
This one is ideal for the travel or adventure blogger who’s going to be catching some rays while working on the go.
The JETSUN Solar Charger is one of the most recommended solar USB port power banks on the market. Several review sites list it in their top ten list, many of them as their number one pick. When I looked into it, I understood why – those it’s not our top pick.
The basic stats:
Dimensions: 6.3 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 11 ounces
Number of USB outputs: 2
Time to charge via solar: 8 to 10 hours
Number of charges for average phone: 5x per 10-hour charge
The JETSUN power bank has a compact solar panel built into the large smartphone-sized package. It’s got dual USB ports so that you can charge two phones or multiple devices simultaneously.
The JETSUN also has 2 built-in LED lights that function as a dual flashlight, perfect for a camping trip. And, by the way, this power bank is specifically designed for use in outdoor camping.
It’s made with a tough shell able to handle abuse while being shock-proof and waterproof. It’s also got overcharge protection to keep it from burning out from too much sun exposure, which means it’s great even in super sunny environments.
It also has carabiners for attaching to your pack or belt. Overall very convenient.
This power bank is a durable, compact option that’s super lightweight. I like that it’s small enough to fit in most pockets, and fast charging as well.
You can charge your phone up to 3.5 times with a single full charge of the portable solar battery bank, which only takes 6 hours.
Amazingly, it also supports wireless charging.
The basic stats:
Dimensions: 3.9 x 3.9 x 0.7in
Weight: 4.6 ounces
Number of USB ports: 1
Time to charge via solar: 6 hours
Number of charges for average phone: 2 to 3.5x per full charge
One thing I love about the Blavor Qi is that the company decided it wanted to extensively test the charge times as they developed the power bank.
This resulted in a charger that requires less time than most to get a full solar powered charge. For anyone on the go, this is a really important thing. Once the sun goes down out there, you’re out of luck with those chargers than take a long time.
The Blavor Qi is cross-compatible with most versions of the iPhone and a host of other current tech, including Galaxy phones and Qi-enabled devices (i.e., it can wirelessly charge an additional device).
I’m not 100% sure when you’d want to go the slower-charging method of wireless, but perhaps if you’re already taking up all the USB ports, or if you forgot your charging cord, it’s a great backup idea.
This solar charger is extremely durable and shockproof, splash-proof, and dustproof. It’s also one of the lightest power banks available, and extremely compact. This makes it a great option for taking just about anywhere you could go.
Bonus Charger: Solar Panel Phone Case from EnerPLex
Just a quick call out for the best solar panel phone case available.
The EnerPlex Surfr Ultra Slim Battery Backup & Solar Powered Case is the best choice for saving even more room in your trekking gear.
The case has an integrated 2000mAh battery that allows you to carry an extra charge on your way, giving you additional battery life. (Unfortunately for Android users, this case is designed for iPhones only.)
How to Choose the Right Power Bank
There are a few things to keep in mind as you look for the right power bank for your adventures.
1. Size and Weight
One of the most important things for me with any backup charger is going to be how much it weighs and how easily it will fit in my pocket or camera bag. I need something that won’t bog me down.
Some power banks are about the length and circumference of a large marker. These are low wattage banks and can only be used to charge very small devices like cellphones and iPods.
Many power banks are about the same dimensions as a large smartphone, only a little thicker. Some do come in larger sizes that can attach to backpacks or bags, however, and sometimes those are more suitable for your needs.
2. Carrying Options
Another thing that’s important in a portable power bank is how you can carry and charge it. Since it’s solar powered, it has to be exposed to sunlight. And that means carrying it in your pocket or backpack all the time won’t help things.
I tend to choose options that have a clip that I can attach to my backpack or belt loop or hang from a post at the campsite.
If you don’t expect to charge on the go, this won’t be as big a deal. You can always set them in your window at home on the days you don’t need to bring it along and then you’re all charged and ready for your next long day out.
3. Charging Speeds
Another important aspect to any solar energy charger is going to be how long it takes for the charger to recharge, as well as how long it will take to charge your devices.
This is most affected by the wattage of the charger and the devices you’re using with it.
Power banks usually take anywhere from 5 hours to 12 hours to charge. The shorter charge times can usually charge a smartphone once or twice while the long charge times can generally create enough power to run a laptop, smartphone, and possibly another device or two simultaneously.
4. Number and Types of Ports
Finally, you’re going to want to make sure the power bank has the right kind and correct number of ports. If you’re getting something powerful enough to charge multiple devices, you want to have enough ports to charge them both.
Smaller capacity chargers won’t have as many ports, so keep that in mind as you shop.
I prefer to have both a low capacity and a high capacity charger on hand to take for different needs. When camping, I’m likely to just need a phone charger, so the low capacity options with a single port are just fine.
If, however, I’m traveling, a multi-port, high-capacity solar power bank is my preferred option. This allows me to charge both a tablet and a phone at the same time.
FAQs for Solar Power Banks
Can I charge my cellphone with a power bank?
Absolutely. The vast majority of people who carry power banks plan to use them for this very purpose. If it’s a lower capacity charger, you can only charge one phone at a time, but larger capacity options can often allow up to three devices to charge at once.
Can I charge my laptop with a power bank?
If the power bank has the right wattage, yes, you can charge your laptop with a solar power bank. However, these power banks tend to be bulkier and take longer to charge.
Can I charge a household appliance with a power bank?
No. Power banks are small wattage, low-powered devices designed to charge smaller electronics only.
How much does a solar power charger bank cost?
The price range on these can go anywhere from a modest $20 to a pricey $300+.
The higher end solar power banks are likely to be higher wattage. They also function a bit more like generators – and cost about the same as some of the small ones do – but are much smaller, lighter-weight, and more portable. They also are not as versatile as a generator which can be used to power multiple types of products at the same time.
If you need something that can charger devices larger than a laptop, you should consider purchasing a solar powered generator instead.
Our Final Thoughts on Solar Chargers
Ultimately, whichever power bank you choose from the list, you’re going to get a great charger.
Just remember to match the wattage/mAh to the devices you most expect to charge on the go and check that the weight and size are compatible with your plans.
Having an oversized charger won’t help a whole lot if you’re trying to keep a light load on the trail.