Keeping your phone charged on the go can be a hassle – hunting for an outlet isn’t how anybody wants to spend their day. Whether you’re traveling, camping, or simply walking around, there’s an easy and environmentally-friendly solution to your charging problem: a solar phone battery charger.
- Solar phone battery chargers use the same technology as rooftop solar panels to charge your phone or other devices.
- There are four key things to look for when purchasing a solar phone battery charger: how much power it produces, if it has a built-in battery pack if it’s portable, and if it’s compatible with your device you want to charge.
- You can power more than just your phone with solar! Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to receive quotes from local installers and save money by powering your entire home with solar.
What’s in this article?
- How do solar phone battery chargers work?
- What to look for in a solar phone charger
- Buying a solar phone charger
- Frequently asked questions about solar phone chargers
How do solar-powered cell phone chargers work?
You don’t have to install solar panels on your roof or subscribe to a local community solar farm to benefit from renewable solar energy. Instead, you can start small (both for your wallet and in physical size) with a solar-powered phone charger.
Solar phone chargers use the same technology as regular solar panels but on a much smaller scale. The sun hits a small solar panel, which in turn either charges a battery bank or directly plugs in to and powers your phone, much like solar panels on your roof can either power your home directly or charge a battery system.
What to look for in a solar phone charger
One of the critical factors to consider if you’re in the market for a solar phone charger is the size of the product. When we say “size” in this context, we mean how much power the charger produces, in watts, and stores (if it has an attached battery). For example, a charger with between 10 and 15 watts of power is usually sufficient for charging one, maybe two phones. Importantly, the wattage of a charger is basically the amount of solar electricity it can produce, so larger panels will usually mean more wattage.
Type: direct charger vs. attached battery
There are two main types of solar phone chargers to keep an eye out for:
Direct phone chargers do just that – they are usually a couple of small solar panels (often that fold up for easy transportation) that you can plug your phone right into. However, these chargers only work when the panels are in the sun, as there’s no attached battery to store any generated electricity for later.
Panel/battery combo chargers are direct chargers with an added battery. This means that you can charge the battery separately from your phone, which frees you up from having to have your panels exposed to the sun for your phone to charge. In other words, you can keep the panels out during the day when it’s sunny and charge your phone at your convenience later in the day.
The beauty of a solar charger is that you don’t need a wall outlet to juice up your phone. You’ll probably want a device that’s easy to move around and easy to lay out in the sun. Many solar phone chargers can hang off of a backpack on the trail (or sit on the dashboard of a car if that’s your thing) and fold up, making them perfect for on-the-go power.
Device compatibility is less of an issue these days, but you’ll want to keep an eye out for device compatibility in solar phone chargers, just in case. Most chargers come with a USB port that can be used for just about any phone, but it’s worth double-checking to ensure you won’t have any connection problems.
Buying a solar phone charger
There are thousands of solar phone battery charging products out there. We went ahead and took a look at some of the more popular options to see how they stack up against each other. At the end of the day, most solar phone chargers will get you where you need to go, and it’s more about subtle aesthetic and functionality differences between chargers.
Buyer’s guide: solar phone chargers
|Brand||Price||Watts||Direct or battery||Weight||Highlights and compatibility|
|Blavor Solar Power Bank||$30||5W||Battery||10 oz||Doubles as a flashlight, compatible with all USB charging phones/devices|
|BigBlue 28W Solar Charger||$70 - $80||28W||Direct||21.5 oz||Collapsible, compatible with all USB charging phones/devices, three USB ports|
|Anker 24W Portable Solar Charger||$80||24W||Direct||39.7 oz||Collapsible, compatible with all USB charging phones/devices, three USB ports|
|Goal Zero Nomad Chargers||$99 - $599||10W to 200W||Direct||18 oz - 422 oz||Collapsible, compatible with all USB charging phone/devices, multiple sizes come with a kickstand|
|LuminAID Solar Camping Lantern and Phone Charger||$50 - $70||10W - 20W||Direct||8.6 oz - 9.4 oz||Collapsible, compatible with all USB charging phone/devices, both size options double as a camping lantern|
Blavor Solar Power Bank
Best features: Size and backup power
The only solar phone battery charger on our list with attached backup battery storage, the Blavor Solar PowerBank, looks like a small black and orange brick with solar panels attached and is perfect for a little charge boost on the go. While it won’t charge as fast as some of the other options in this article (the panel is less than 20 square inches), the all-in-one design lets you charge up the built-in battery and juice up your phone later. One fun feature on some newer Blavor products is Qi charging compatibility. This technology allows for wireless charging in many newer smartphones.
BigBlue 28W Solar Charger
Price range: $70 – $80
Best feature: SunPower solar panels
The BigBlue solar charger uses a brand of solar panels that should be familiar to anyone who’s shopped for home solar panels before: SunPower, the industry leader in efficient monocrystalline solar panel tech. BigBlue says that their SunPower solar cells are up to 23.5% efficient, a surprisingly high efficiency rating. Aside from the top-notch solar cell technology, this charger must be in direct sunlight and connected to your phone to charge, as there is no connected battery pack. However, you can always buy a separate one and charge it up for power when the sun is not out. BigBlue’s solar charger is collapsible for easy transport, durable in most weather conditions, and lightweight. It also has three USB ports, allowing you to charge multiple devices at once.
Anker 24W Portable Solar Charger
Best features: Flexibility
Most solar chargers use the same kind of solar panels like the ones that go on your roof, made of the element silicon. The Anker Portable Solar Charger does something different and has solar cells made of copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS. These are a type of thin-film solar panel that is physically flexible, meaning you can bend the panel itself without breaking it. This added flexibility makes the Anker charger a good option for more rugged trips if you’re worried about damage to your gear. Importantly, the charger needs to be in direct sunlight and connected to your phone to charge, as there is no connected battery pack. However, you can always buy a separate one and charge it up for power when the sun is not out. Anker’s product still has enough power to be effective, and it can support charging three different devices at once.
Goal Zero Nomad line
Price range: $99 – $599, depending on size
Best feature: Integrated kickstand
Goal Zero makes plenty of eco-friendly outdoors products, from solar-powered coolers to phone chargers and everything in between. Available in 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 watts, their Nomad line of portable solar phone chargers stands up well to most options out there, and you can pick the size that works for you based on the number of devices you want to charge. A unique feature of Nomad phone chargers is the attached kickstand (except for the two largest sizes) – for any hikers out there, a Nomad solar charger could be the perfect solution for on-the-trail electricity. Importantly, these chargers need to be in direct sunlight and connected to your phone to charge, as there is no connected battery pack. You can always buy a separate one, however, and Goal Zero offers plenty of their own – check out their Sherpa or Venture lines as a starting point.
LuminAID PackLite Charger Lantern
Price range: $50 – $70
Best feature: Built-in lantern
These solar lanterns are a unique solar charging product specifically designed for camping trips. LuminAID’s solar lantern is a multi-use product: it’s an inflatable lantern and solar phone charger in one package. While it’s not the highest-powered option on our list, the LuminAID PackLite is a fun product that can provide extra charge on a trip while also functioning as a light powered by the sun.
Frequently asked questions about solar phone chargers
More than likely, the answer is yes! Make sure to check that they are compatible before charging, but a solar charger is a great backup power supply for a backpacking GPS system.
Yes, they are designed for backpacking, camping, and other travel. If you are hopping on a plane, make sure you do not put your solar phone battery charger in your checked luggage though – electronic devices of that sort are not allowed there.
Yes, you can, as long as it does not get in your way. This is a great way to charge while walking around or hiking. Just make sure you are conscious of it, so you don’t damage it.
Save money with a solar panel installation
Solar energy is capable of a lot more than just powering your phone! The best place to compare options for home solar installations is the EnergySage Marketplace. By registering your property to get solar quotes, you can compare offers side by side from qualified, pre-vetted installers near you and speak with an Energy Advisor to discuss which offer is the best for you. If you want to see how much you can save by going solar, check out our Solar Calculator for an instant estimate based on your unique property.