Anker solar charger charging battery
Cory Gunther / How-To Geek

What to Look For In a Solar Charger in 2023

Before we get into what makes for a good solar charger, let’s clear up what we mean by “solar charger” since it’s distinct from concepts like a “solar power bank” or “solar panel.”

A solar charger is a device that converts solar power using solar panels into an electric current suitable for charging devices, usually in the form of a USB power port conforming to USB power specifications.

Solar chargers typically don’t have any power storage of their own, but you can use the charger with a power bank of your choice. In general, putting a lithium battery in direct sunlight is not a good idea, so it makes sense that most solar chargers don’t integrate them. Instead, you’d use a lengthy cable to connect devices under shade or in your bag, protected from direct sunlight.

It’s important to use a solar charger with the necessary safety circuitry to prevent device damage. In models with poor safety controls, too much voltage may go to the device, damaging it. The charger may also keep pushing charge to the device even though it’s full. So look for mention of overcharge protection and other similar features.

If you do use a charger that doesn’t explicitly mention these features, it’s usually a better idea to charge up an inexpensive power bank, rather than charge your tablet, phone, or other devices directly. Then use the power bank to charge your devices in turn.

Size, weight, and mounting features are other key considerations. Small, foldable, and light solar chargers are more common now. Despite their size, they can produce usable amounts of power thanks to advancements in solar panel efficiency. Chargers may come with backpack mounts, kickstands, frames, or other mounting solutions. It’s best to pick one that matches your use case.

For higher-capacity chargers, it’s always nice to have multiple ports to charge several devices simultaneously. Weatherproofing is a must since the odds of it raining at some point are virtually assured.

Finally, an oft-overlooked feature is “auto resume.” Many solar chargers will stop charging when the sunlight drops below a certain level, and then fail to resume unless you manually reinsert the charging cable. Chargers with auto-resume ensure you don’t come back after a few hours to find that your device stopped charging ages ago.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you charge a solar charger without sunlight?
Solar chargers don’t store energy, and they need sunlight to produce electricity, so sadly, you can’t use them without sunlight.
Do solar chargers charge on cloudy days?
Yes! Even if it’s cloudy or overcast, you’ll still get power from the sun. Things may not charge as quickly, but there’s still plenty of usable light.
Can you charge a solar charger with a flashlight?
In theory? Yes. In practice? Apart from the flashlight putting out a low total amount of power as light, it’s not in the same spectrum as sunlight, and it would be so inefficient that there’d be little point.
Do solar chargers charge as fast as a normal charger?
It all depends on the peak wattage of the charger in question and how much sunlight you’re getting. Under good conditions, it’s totally possible to get the same charge rate as typical wall chargers.

Best Solar Charger Overall: Anker 24W 3-Port USB PowerPort

Anker solar charger on patio


  • A big thin panel folds down into backpack size
  • Charge three devices simultaneously
  • Up to 12W per device
  • Auto resume if charge is interrupted by clouds, etc


  • Not 100% water resistant
  • No option for 18W fast charge

Anker has developed a reputation for affordable gadgets that perform better than they have any right to. The PowerPort Solar is a great solar charger, even more so for its low price point, and it’s the one we recommend most people in the market for one of these devices to look at first.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first, because if they’re dealbreakers for you, it’s best to know them upfront. First, there are no USB-C ports, so you’ll have to keep a USB-C to A cable handy for your USB-C devices. Secondly, this charger is not water resistant, so you’ll have to be vigilant for rain. The panels themselves have an IPX4 rating, but not the electronics box.

If you’re happy with these small compromises, you’ll find a lightweight, foldable, and flexible solar charger with a built-in kickstand and enough power output to charge most phones and tablets at rates similar to wall chargers. Each port can provide up to 12W of power. Considering that common “fast” chargers are 18W and typical iPad wall chargers are also 12W, this isn’t a bad result.

While it would have been nice to get more than 12W for single-device charging, Anker makes up for it thanks to its auto-resume charging if the sun is blocked temporarily. Whether you’re camping or want a backup power solution to keep in your car for an emergency, this is a fantastic choice.

Best Solar Charger Overall

Solar Charger, Anker 24W 3-Port USB Portable Solar Charger with Foldable CIGS Panel for Camping, PowerPort Solar for iPhone 12/SE/11/XS Max/XR/X/8, iPad, Samsung Galaxy S20/S10/S9/S8, and More

Read Review Geek's Full Review

The Anker PowerPort strikes the perfect balance between price and performance. It's thin, flexible, and supports multi-device charging with auto-resume if sunlight is interrupted. It's not 100% water resistant, but in every other way it's a great deal.

Best Budget Solar Charger: BLAVOR 10W Portable Solar Charger

BLAVOR solar charger on backpack


  • Foldable, waterproof, dustproof
  • Can charge two devices at 5W 2A max


  • Low wattage for slow charging

The Blavor 10W portable solar charger is a robust, foldable solar charger that offers just enough juice to keep a typical smartphone topped up. Although it has two USB outputs, with only 10W of power (at best) you’re unlikely to have much luck charging two devices at once. However, having low-power USB gadgets with two ports isn’t something to complain about, even if it’s a little ambitious.

The charger has an Oxford cloth exterior, giving it water and dust resistance. It’s equipped with a carabiner, so attaching it to a backpack is simple, though, at those angles, the output may drop depending on conditions.

While the Blavor is priced well and takes up very little space, charging at some fraction of 10W (depending on the sunlight) may be too slow for some. Blavor does sell a 30W charger at around double the price, making it cheaper in dollar-per-watt terms, but that charger is significantly larger and heavier.

If you’re on a budget and are happy to charge a single device at regular speeds, the 10W Blavor is hard to beat.

Best Budget Solar Charger

BLAVOR 10W Portable Solar Charger

One of the most affordable panels that still maintains good build quality and features, the Blavor won't charge your phone very quickly, but it's small, weather-resistant, and a potential lifesaver in a pinch.

Best Portable Solar Charger: BigBlue 14W SunPower Solar Panels

Person with BigBlue charger on backpack


  • Truly compact 5.8x6.02x 2.12in at 0.8lbs
  • Includes smart charging to avoid overvolting or overcharging
  • High solar conversion rate


  • Only 14W
  • No auto resume

All of the solar chargers we’ve highlighted here are “portable,” so why is the BigBlue 14W the best for portability? First, it’s only 5.8 x 6.02 x 2.12 inches when folded, and weighs 0.8 lbs.

Can you go smaller? Probably, but not without dropping to lower power output levels. In this case, 14W peak power is a great number for single-device charging. Assuming good sunlight, you should charge your phone as quickly as a standard wall charger with similar wattage.

The BigBlue is IPX4 water resistant, so a bit of rain or wet fog won’t faze it. It is also equipped with safety features to prevent overvolting—where more voltage is sent to an electronic than it was designed for, risking burnout or worse. We’d feel confident charging a phone directly in a pinch, rather than using a power bank as an intermediary.

Unfortunately, this panel doesn’t feature auto-resume, so you’ll have to unplug and reconnect your device if your charging stops thanks to an interruption of sunlight.

Best Portable Solar Charger

BigBlue 14W SunPower Solar Panels

It's tiny, yet packs enough power to charge a phone at wall-wart speeds. If you're good with charging one device at a time and are travelling light, the BigBlue is a little wonder.

Best Solar Charger for Backpacking: Goal Zero Nomad 20

Goal Zero Solar charger being used on table
Goal Zero


  • 11.5x7.4x1.25" folded at 2.2lbs
  • Good balance of power and weight for backpacking
  • Includes a backpack hook and a kickstand


  • Price

Goal Zero is a well-known name in the renewable and backup energy business, so it might be no surprise to see that the Nomad 20 has a mild price premium over other solar charger brands with similar specs.

However, for that extra bit of cash, you’ll get a charger that looks and feels premium, and this translates into something that can take a little more wear and tear, exactly what you’d want in a backpacking accessory. Goal Zero says the Nomad has specifically been designed for rugged use cases.

Speaking of which, the Nomad 20 includes both a backpack hook and a kickstand, so you can charge devices while hiking. However, as with all solar panels, if you’re turned away from direct sunlight charging won’t be optimal. The kickstand has multiple set angles to help optimize the angle of light.

Perhaps most impressively, the cable is designed to chain additional solar panels, so you can buy additional Nomads and chain them together for faster charging. A neat feature if you’re in a group and each person carries one.

Best Solar Charger for Backpacking

Goal Zero Nomad 20, Foldable Monocrystalline 20 Watt Solar Panel with 8mm + USB Port, Portable Solar Panel Charger. Lightweight 18-22V 20W Solar Panel Charger with Adjustable Kickstand

A neat little solar charger that's rugged, offers a good wattage for its size, and allows you to chain multiple panels together for faster charging. Perfect for backpacking alone or in a group.

Best Solar Phone Charger: BigBlue 3 USB-A 28W Solar Charger

BigBlue 3 solar charger next to camping gear


  • Fast, strong charging and wide compatibility
  • Overcurrent, overvolt, etc. protection


  • Not quite effective on a backpack

The big brother of our best budget winner above, the BigBlue 3 28W solar charger offers up to 12W (5V at 2.4A) on each port.   While it’s not quite a replacement for a fast charger, you should get a strong charge on most smartphones while also charging a second phone or power bank.

This is a compact unit for its wattage and includes all the safety features you’d want to connect your phone directly without fear of overcurrent, overvoltage, or any of the other nasty things that can happen to a device hooked up to a charger that doesn’t play by the rules.

If you’re on a budget, the 14W model recommended earlier is still a great choice, but if you can stretch to this more powerful model you’ll be in off-grid phone life nirvana.

Best Solar Phone Charger

BigBlue 3 Solar Charger 28W

With all the protection features to keep your phone safe and a solid 12W per-port charge rate, this is a great solar charger for making sure your phone never dies as long as the sun is shining.

Best Solar Car Charger: ECO-WORTHY Solar Car Battery Charger & Maintainer

ECOWORTHY charger on grey background


  • Fire and forget battery maintenance and charging
  • Works with cars, boats, RV, bikes, etc.
  • Protection circuitry to prevent battery damage
  • Waterproof
  • Includes cigarette lighter adapter
  • Easy mount


  • Slow trickle charge

Even electric cars haven’t yet escaped the need for a lead acid car battery, yet this age-old battery technology is quite finicky if you don’t maintain it. While you can jump-start a dead battery, often a deep discharge may already have wrecked the battery. This makes battery maintenance for vehicles that aren’t used frequently essential.

In most cases, you’d use a plug-in trickle charger, but what if your vehicle isn’t near grid power? That’s where the Eco-Worthy solar car battery charger comes into the picture. Connect it to your lighter socket or directly to the battery, put the solar panel in a good spot, and forget about dealing with a dead battery the next time you try and start your vehicle.

While it charges far too slowly to be useful in an emergency, using this charger before you have issues won’t ever be a problem. If you’re worried about the panel being stolen, and if your vehicle is standing the sun, you can even stick it on the inside of a car’s window.

The Eco-Worthy has safety features to prevent it from overcharging your car battery, or discharging it overnight when it’s not getting sunlight. The panel is waterproof as well, so no worries about rain!

Best Solar Car Charger

ECO-WORTHY 12 Volt 10 Watt Solar Car Battery Charger

If your vehicle isn't near an outlet for a traditional trickle charger and you don't want to spend your first moments reuniting with your undriven vehicle ordering a new battery, this solar battery maintainer from Eco-Worthy is an essential purchase.

The Best Portable Chargers of 2023

Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 Portable Charger
Best Portable Charger Overall
Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 Portable Charger
 Iniu Portable Charger
Best Budget Portable Charger
Iniu Portable Charger
Omni 20 Portable Charger
Best Portable Charger for Laptops
Omni 20 Portable Charger
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Portable Charger
Best Portable Solar Charger
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Portable Charger
Techsmarter 20,000mAh Rugged Power Bank
Best Rugged Portable Charger
Techsmarter 20,000mAh Rugged Power Bank
Anker 321 PowerCore 5K
Best Small Portable Charger
Anker 321 PowerCore 5K
Mophie Snap+ Portable Charger
Best Portable Charger for iPhone
Mophie Snap+ Portable Charger
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Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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