Why would you need a solar powered phone charger? Odds are, your life is already filled with cables: specialized chargers that only work with certain devices, stretches of wire that fray at the ends, and an endless tangle of dongles that never connect to your device on the first try.
Why not get rid of all those cables and use a single charger instead?
Solar powered phone chargers provide a reliable way to harness the power of the sun. But they’re also convenient when you anticipate that you’ll be without a power source for any amount of time, like if you’re going camping or preparing for the end of the world. You know — basic weekend activities.
But how do you know which charger will actually power your devices quickly, reliably, and without failing just because of a little cloud cover? To answer that eternal question, we searched through the top-rated devices on Amazon to bring you a list of the best solar powered phone chargers available today. We also reached out to a few avid hiking enthusiasts for their two cents.
Our list is below, but before you get started, here are some basic specs to keep in mind as you shop.
What Is A Solar Powered Phone Charger?
To decide which charger is the best for you, you need to understand how they work in the first place. (This is less of a science lesson and more of a “buyer awareness” lesson.) Generally speaking, there are two types of solar chargers for phones and tablets:
- The Middleman: Instead of charging your phone directly, this device charges an external, portable battery.
- The Direct Hit: These chargers are designed to plug directly into your device — no external battery required.
The type you get depends on how you want to use it. Portable batteries can be great if you’re concerned that you might not get a ton of sunlight throughout the day. You can just load up the battery on a sunny day and forget about it.
On the other hand, devices that plug directly into your phone or tablet can be convenient because they have fewer parts, and you can use them to top off your charge as you go. If you’re a clumsy mess like me, the direct-charge style might be more realistic.
Your Solar Phone Charger Needs This Amount Of Amps
Whatever you do, make sure you’re shopping for a charger with the correct specifications. Otherwise, it’ll take approximately forever to charge your device with a solar phone charger (if it charges at all).
In terms of amps (A), most tablets draw 2 A, and phones draw about 1 A. Meanwhile, wattage (W) can vary: some mobile solar chargers can generate up to 20 watts, but anything around 10 watts will give you enough juice to power your phone in a few hours.
And yes, I said hours. As awesome as solar power is, it takes its sweet time.
Should You Just Buy A Battery Pack?
Today’s solar powered phone chargers require a few hours to convert sunlight into electricity, and another few hours to charge your device. It’s faster to plug into an electrical outlet, which is why some poser-solar chargers can also be plugged into your wall to charge.
Consider the iBeek Portable Solar Battery Charger Power Bank, which is currently a #1 best seller in cell phone solar chargers on Amazon. It retails for $21.99, but the product description comes with the following disclaimer: "The efficiency of energy transformation from solar to electric energy is really low … We suggest you recharge it via wall charger at the beginning to make the power battery fully activated.”
So, basically, it’s a battery case that happens to have solar powered functionality. But don’t hold your breath. With that kind of disclaimer, you’re better off just purchasing a regular ol’ USB battery pack, which you can find for about $20.
For our purposes, we’re looking at the real stuff: a solar powered phone charger that is efficient, reliable, and is actually powered by sunlight — none of this wall outlet nonsense. These chargers are built to capture as much sunlight as possible, so they’re designed to be spread out on the ground (or any other sunlight-capturing surface).
In the quest to find the best of the best, here’s what we found. All prices are accurate at the time of publication.
Solar Powered Phone Charger: The Best Of The Best
User Favorites: SunnyBag Leaf+, $129
The SunnyBag Leaf+ is a Kickstarter project that has just ended its Kickstarter after raising $75,896 — a number that far surpasses its original goal of $24,154. In response to the prototype’s success on Kickstarter, CEO Stefan Ponsold said, “Well, our SunnyBag Leaf+ is unique in its kind. We are combining two different world-leading solar technologies in one product.” So, what makes the SunnyBag Leaf+ so special?
- Lightweight: This solar panel weighs approximately seven ounces, which is half as much as the highly-rated Anker 21W Universal PowerPort.
- Innovative: Made from amorphous silicon, the SunnyBag Leaf+ can produce power even in partial shade.
- Virtually indestructible: The surface is scratch-resistant, impact-resistant, and durable in almost any type of weather. Plus, it’s flexible enough to affix to anything from a backpack to a tent.
The SunnyBag Leaf+ produces just 6.2 watts, which is a few watts below other selections on this list. But under direct sunlight, it’s still able to fully charge a cell phone in two hours, and it’s compatible with any mobile device that can be charged via USB port.
10W Outdoor-Solar-Ladegerät Watt 04, $70.68
This solar charger is designed to produce an impressive 10 watts to power your gadgets. It can easily be attached to a backpack, and since it weighs in at just 11 ounces, you’ll barely even notice it’s there.
- Splashproof: Don’t worry about this solar charger — it’s designed to hold up to wayward splashes.
- Two USB ports: Thanks to its double USB ports, you can charge a power bank and a small mobile device while you trek.
- Durable: The solar cells are monocrystalline and backed by a rugged nylon material.
While this device was highly rated by our audience, it isn’t available for delivery outside Europe.
Suntactics sCharger-5, $99.95
Suntactics has been “proven” by long-distance hikers, according to one expert. The company offers a two-year warranty on its solar chargers, and we love that their products are made in the USA. Here’s what you get with the sCharger-5:
- Powerful: This model has an output of “1200mA, 5V, greater than 5 watts,” according to the product page. That will power your iPhone in 1.5 to 3 hours.
- Water-resistant: Fell into a river? No worries — all Suntactic chargers are water-resistant. Just shake the water off the device with the USB hole facing down.
- Compact: The sCharger-5 weighs only 7 ounces, so it’s ideal for duration hikes.
Suntactics also offers models with higher output, which are ideal for disaster preparedness or simultaneous charging.
Solar Phone Charger: Top Amazon Picks
Anker PowerPort Solar, $59.99 on sale
Sure, it isn’t sexy. But Anker doesn’t care because it knows it’s the best. With 4.6 out of 5 stars and over 285 reviews, the Anker PowerPort Solar both kicks butt and takes names. This is why it’s hot:
- Ultra-durable: Whether you’re taking it hiking or just keeping it in an emergency kit, the Anker PowerPort Solar will last. It’s made of durable, weather-resistant polyester canvas.
- Portable: It’s about the size of a piece of paper when folded, and it expands to 26.4 x 11.1 inches when opened — which maximizes the amount of sunlight these solar panels can absorb.
- Powerful: This solar charger boasts 21 watts, which is more than enough to charge your devices. Plus, it comes with two USB ports.
The Anker PowerPort Solar does all this while weighing in at just 14.7 ounces, which means that it’s great to carry in a backpack while you’re trekking out in the wilderness. When every ounce of weight counts, you shouldn’t have to worry about your solar charger.
Runner-Ups: Solar Charger RAVPower, $49.99 on sale
With 4.6 out of 5 stars and an impressive 865 reviews, this solar charger from RAVPower offers a winning blend of efficiency and convenience. Here’s what makes it great:
- High efficiency: RAVPower’s solar charger can power up to two devices simultaneously, thanks to its dual ports and 15 watt output.
- Optimal charging: The device’s iSmart technology can automatically detect the optimal charging current for any device you connect, up to 2A per port. That can easily charge phones and tablets in two to five hours, depending on the device.
- Water-resistant design: Made of nylon, this charger is great for all weather conditions.
However, the RAVPower Solar Charger isn’t our top pick because, at 23.9 ounces, it’s a little heavier than the Anker PowerPort. If you’re just carrying around the device for backup use, that difference won’t be a huge deal — but if you’re carrying it around on an all-day outdoor trek, those extra ounces can be a dealbreaker.
Nekteck 20W Solar Charger, $54.99 on sale
This device hits the closest to a perfect score: 4.7 stars out of 5, with 385 customer reviews. It suffers from a less-than-glamorous name, but its specs speak for itself:
- Super efficient: With 20 watts of power, this solar powered phone charger will get your devices to 100% in a flash — especially since it has two ports.
- Smart tech: Nekteck is equipped with a chip that will automatically identify the best charging speed for your device — up to 2A per port, or 3A overall.
- Durable: This charger’s canvas is rugged and built to withstand outdoor use, so you’ll be prepared for any situation outdoors.
The Nekteck isn’t as compact or lightweight as other options on the market, but its reviewers are notably happy campers. One reviewer writes, “A must have for any hiker/camper. They say for a portable solar charger, you need to get at least 14W for it to charge in a timely manner. This one is 20W and charges fast.”
Voltaic Amp, $99
At 4.3 stars out of 5 stars on Amazon and a stellar 9.15 out of 10 on Top Ten Reviews, the Voltaic Amp is a small, but mighty solar phone charger.
- Multifunctional: The Voltaic Amp's battery can disconnect from the solar panel, which means you can use it as an external battery pack.
- Fast: It takes just 5.25 hours to charge a battery during daylight hours.
- Diverse: You'll be able to charge any 5-volt electronic that is powered by USB, including DSLR cameras, phones, and other small devices.
The Voltaic Amp's sturdy solar panels are coated in urethane, which makes it easy to keep them clean — and you can trust that they'll last during your travels. We love that it's small enough to be portable, but large enough to protect any electronics you store inside while they charge. It's not the cheapest solar powered phone charger, but it's definitely one of the quickest — and in a crunch, that could be a deciding factor.
Solar Powered Phone Charger: The Final Verdict
Currently, solar powered phone chargers fit the needs of a specific audience: people who expect to be without power outlets for an extended period of time. So, they’re popular among hikers and campers — but what about users who just want to lessen their reliance on the grid?
At the pace of renewable energy development, odds are high that we'll see even more efficient solar powered phone chargers in the near future. Once those chargers get your devices to 100% faster than wall outlets can, we can imagine a cordless future — or, at the very least, a future with fewer charging cables.
Do you own a solar powered phone charger? Tell us about it in the comments!
This article has been updated with expert insight and recommendations.