Man at campsite with solar panel

The Best Portable Solar Chargers of 2021

By Sarah Caldwell AccessoriesNo Comments

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Portable solar chargers have a wide range of uses. Sure, you can install permanent panels on the side or roof of your house to lower your carbon footprint and energy bill, but the fun doesn’t stop there. A portable solution offers flexibility and endless energy when you’re traveling or moving around, and typically doesn’t cost a lot to get started.

Whether you’re RVing full-time, going camping for the weekend, or simply want something you can move from place to place around the property, portable solar chargers will power most of the electronics you need, whenever and wherever you need them.

Not only that, but there are inexpensive, lightweight designs that won’t weigh you down, no matter what outdoor activities you’re doing. These are far more convenient than carrying a huge battery pack with you and worrying about whether it will last the whole time you’re away. 

It’s worth mentioning, though, that for USB-powered devices it’s typically more reliable to charge a small-ish portable battery from your solar panel and then charge your device from the battery rather than plugging the device directly into the panel.

If you’re concerned with charging your electronics on the go and whether you’ll be able to keep them charged, no matter where you are, there’s a solar charger out there that fits the bill. From small, inexpensive solar panels for phones and flashlights to larger, more powerful solutions to charge your RV battery, these are the best portable solar chargers in 2021.

Sale
Best Overall Portable Solar Charger: BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds (699g)
  • Number of panels: 3
  • Max output: 18W PD, 5W Qi wireless
  • Battery included?: Yes, 20,000mAh

Sale
Best Smart Portable Solar Charger: BigBlue
  • Weight: 20 ounces (567g)
  • Number of panels: 4
  • Max output: 12W (single port)/24W (total)
  • Battery included?: No

Best Value Portable Solar Charger: Eceen 13W
  • Weight: 12 ounces (340g)
  • Number of panels: 3
  • Max output: 10W (single port)/10W (total)
  • Battery included?: No

Best Portable Solar Charger for RVs: DOKIO Folding Solar Panel Kit
  • Weight: 4.6 pounds (2.1kg)
  • Number of panels: 2
  • Max output: 80W
  • Battery included?: No

Sale
Best Portable Solar Charger for Hiking: NekTeck 28W Foldable Portable Solar Charger
  • Weight: 18 ounces (510g)
  • Number of panels: 4
  • Max output: 12W (single port)/20W (total)
  • Battery included?: No

Best Overall Portable Solar Charger: BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank

BLAVOR Solar Charger with Foldable Panels, Outdoor Power Bank 18W Fast Charging, 20,000mAh Solar Powered Charger with Camping Light/Flashlight/Compass Type C USB Charger 3 Outputs/Dual Inputs (Orange)

If you want a solar charger with the convenience of an integrated battery and USB charging, that can also power your devices wirelessly, the BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank is the way to go. It only has one USB output, but you won’t need any more than that if your devices have Qi wireless charging capabilities: this solar charging bundle is one of the few that offers it.

The 18W Power Delivery output from the battery means you can fast-charge most phones and tablets, and even (slowly) top up some models of laptop. It has both micro-USB and USB C inputs so you quickly charge from an outlet rather than waiting for the sun to do it.

The integrated battery means it weighs a fairly hefty 1.5 pounds, but the bundled strap at least makes it a bit easier to carry. Two different flashlights are built-in: a directional, front-facing one, and a larger version on the bottom that throws a wider light bright enough to illuminate things up to roughly 30 feet away.

The larger light has three different brightness levels available, while the SOS and strobe modes are convenient for any camper or hiker in distress. There’s also a built-in compass for emergency use. The design is rugged, and comes in a hard plastic shell with reinforced rubber corners and water-resistant port covers.

While the high-capacity battery works well, the three solar panels can take quite a while to charge it. With a maximum output of 1.2amps, they can take two or three days to fully recharge the battery even in direct sunlight. You’ll have most success by starting with a fully-charged battery before you head out into the wilderness, and then topping it up from the sun each day.

Pros
  • Rugged, durable design
  • Qi wireless charging
  • Integrated battery
  • Built-in flashlight and compass
  • Great value
Cons
  • Somewhat heavy
  • Solar panels can take a long time to fully recharge the battery
Buy on Amazon

Best Smart Portable Solar Charger: BigBlue

[Upgraded]BigBlue 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Charger(5V/4.8A Max), Foldable Portable Solar Phone Charger with SunPower Solar Panel Compatible with iPhone 11/Xs/XS Max/XR/X/8/7, iPad, Samsung Galaxy LG etc.

One of the best-selling portable solar chargers on Amazon, this Big Blue model was recently upgraded. The inbuilt information panel keeps you up to speed on how your devices are charging via the three 2.4A USB outputs, and it offers safer, more reliable charging thanks to the voltage regulator.

The charger only weighs 20 ounces, so it’s relatively easy to carry with you. The foldable design minimizes the physical area of the four panels when they aren’t in use, while letting them expand out to 33 inches. It’s also water-resistant (IPX4), and includes a zippered pocket to keep your devices secure while they’re being charged.

Even its most simple features show attention to detail, maximizing its usability and making it an appropriate choice for anyone who wants to bring their devices along on a rugged adventure.

It’s made of an industrial-strength PET polymer, for example, that will hold up under strenuous travel conditions. The holes, reinforced with grommets, allow you to hang it from a tree, the outside of your tent or backpack, or anywhere else where it will get the most sun.

For all of its impressive features, though, you will find a couple of downsides. Even though it’s collapsible and lightweight, it tends to be a bit bulky, and it can also sometimes struggle to charge multiple devices at once. To get around that problem, charge a portable battery from the solar panels and use that to power some of your devices instead.

Pros
  • Great value
  • Voltage regulation
  • Three USB outputs
  • Water resistant
  • Durable yet lightweight
Cons
  • Bulky
  • May struggle to charge multiple devices
Buy on Amazon

Best Value Portable Solar Charger: Eceen 13W

ECEEN Solar Charger Foldable Solar Panel Charge for iPhones, Smartphones, Tablets, GPS Units, Speakers, Gopro Cameras, and Other Devices (13W with Net Pocket)

For a simple, sleek, and affordable solar charger, the Eceen is your best option. It offers consistent performance in a compact package, is super lightweight at just 12 ounces, and has a pair of USB outlets that let you charge two devices at once.

It’s easy to use and it will charge most phones just as quickly as higher-capacity panels will, as long as you’re only powering one at a time. It folds nicely into a zippered pouch for portability and has clip-on points so you can attach it to your pack, your tent, or a tree.

Either of the USB outlets provide a useful two amps of power, but the combined output is also two amps, which means that charging can be pretty slow when you have two devices plugged in.

The nice thing about this solar charger is that, for price, you get a lot of hidden features. It has automatic sun detection, overcurrent, overcharge, and over-voltage protection, and protection against short circuits as well.

While the device is affordable, 13 watts isn’t a lot, so it won’t power larger devices. It also tends to struggle in partly cloudy conditions. If you need a higher power output, Eceen also makes a 20W model.

Pros
  • Simple design
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and fast charging
  • Charges multiple devices, albeit slowly
Cons
  • Clip-in points could be more durable
Buy on Amazon

Best Portable Solar Charger for RVs: DOKIO Folding Solar Panel Kit

DOKIO 80 watt 12 volt Folding Solar Panel Kit for Camping (LIGHTWEIGHT 4lb) Solar Chargers with Dual USB Outputs

While it weighs a hefty 4.6 pounds, the DOKIO folding solar panel kit is one of the best semi-permanent solutions for those who like to RV or camp for longer periods. Simply fold it up, take it with you, and set it up when you get there.

It’s ultra-thin and stylish, making it easy to stow and a great addition to your campsite without being an eyesore. Although primarily designed for charging 12v batteries and DC generators, the control unit also includes a pair of USB ports for charging smaller devices.

The unit also lets you know how full your battery is, and protects your devices against overcharging, reverse currents, reverse polarity, and short circuits.

The kit comes with all of the cables and connectors you need to power various types of 12v battery or portable generator, including a 3-meter cable, a one-meter cable with a crocodile clip, a JY60 short connector, and five different DC plug tips.

With many solar panels, they’ll advertise a certain output, but the real-world performance is quite different. This one actually is capable of the 80-watt output it advertises, at least in ideal conditions, which is quite a surprise given the large rating.

The exterior fabric is water- and mildew-proof, and the panels fold and Velcro together so they can fit into the included waterproof bag and be more easily transported. The bag also has pockets for all the cables, plugs, and accessories: a small but welcome bonus.

Pros
  • Semi-permanent solution for campsites and RVs
  • Thin and stylish
  • Several cables and accessories
  • Waterproof and mildew proof
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Not as portable as other solutions
Buy on Amazon

Best Portable Solar Charger for Hiking: NekTeck 28W Foldable Portable Solar Charger

Nekteck 28W Foldable Portable Solar Charger with 2 USB Port, IPX4 Waterproof Hiking Camping Gear Sunpowered Charger Compatible with iPhone 12/11/11pro/Xs, iPad, MacBook, Samsung Galaxy, Camera etc.

The NekTeck solar charger comes in a variety of sizes, but the 28W version is the best for charging a couple of devices at once. It’s rugged, but the design is versatile enough to make it useful in a lot of different scenarios.

This is  one of the best portable solar chargers for hiking, thanks to its foldable design, high power output, multiple attachment hooks, and waterproof fabric. It has two USB ports that will automatically detect the type of connected device to avoid under or overcharging it.

It weighs just 18 ounces, making it easy to carry in or on a pack, and its compact folded size makes it great for camping, hiking, biking, and most other outdoor activities. The quality of the construction feels superior to many other affordable models, and the grommets and stitching are strong.

The carabiners included in the package are subpar, however, so if you’re planning to  attach this solar panel to your backpack or tent, you may need to invest in some higher quality hooks.

When angled directly towards strong sunlight, it’s able to charge most portable electronics fairly quickly at up to 12W from a single USB port. However, like all panels, it’s less effective in indirect sun or when there’s cloud cover.

Pros
  • Two charging ports
  • Fast charging under ideal conditions
  • Built-in protection from overcharging
  • Rugged design
Cons
  • Low-quality carabiners
Buy on Amazon

Product images via Amazon

About the Author
Sarah Caldwell

Sarah Caldwell

Sarah Caldwell travels full-time in her RV with her husband, four kids, and two pet rabbits. While she grew up in Kansas City, she now enjoys traveling the country, working remotely, and homeschooling the kids while seeing whatever there is to see.

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