We spent over 30 hours testing and researching solar phone chargers to find the best way to harness the power of the sun to charge your devices. After testing on both sunny and cloudy days, we found that the X-Dragon 10,000 mAh Solar Power Bank collected and stored the most rays. Its four-panel design and large capacity make it ideal for backpacking and camping trips without access to a power outlet. For a little less money, the Hiluckey solar power bank has the same battery capacity and good solar charging speeds.
The X-Dragon solar power bank soaked up the most sun in our sunny and cloudy day tests, thanks to its four 1.2W solar panels.
The X-Dragon is available with three, four or five panels, depending on your needs and budget. The green or orange body of the battery is coated in textured ABS to make it shock proof, and it covers its input and output ports with a rubber plug to keep it safe from dust and water. However, the rugged texture across the back of the device makes the power button difficult to press. This same button is used to turn on the battery's bright LED flashlight panel, which has three modes: stead light, strobe and SOS.
One of the solar panels is on the front of the battery itself, and the other three are housed in leather leaves, so they're easy to fold for storage. When folded, none of the panels face outwards, so you have to unfold the panels each time you need to charge.
For charging while hiking, the battery has a small leather loop attached to a corner of the device that you can fix to the back of your pack. This is the only way to attach it, and since it's attached on the corner, it makes the rest of the panels hang at an angle. The loop also doesn’t seem very sturdy, so take care that it doesn’t break.
The X-Dragon's battery has a 10,000 mAh capacity. It has four indicator lights to keep you appraised of its current charge and one light that pops on when it's charging, green for sunlight and blue for outlet charging. Like most other products we tested, it takes a lot longer to charge your phone or tablet when the battery is low and it’s in solar charging mode. Overall, however, the X-Dragon is the best solar phone charger.
The Hiluckey solar power bank’s two solar panels and charging performance make it the best value solar power bank.
Many of the solar phone chargers we tested share a similar design. The Hiluckey solar power bank, for example, looks like the X-Dragon. Both products have similar rubberized ABS bodies, leather-bound 1.2W solar panels, super bright LED flashlight panels and difficult-to-press power buttons. Where the X-Dragon is available in three, four and five-panel options, however, the Hiluckey is only available with one or two. Even so, it's a great value. It may have half the panels of our top pick, but it's also half the price.
This power bank is made for outdoor conditions, its two USB output ports and microUSB input are shielded with a rubber plug to make the battery water and dust-proof. Its rugged body can also withstand bumps and short drops, which is good because the attached loop seems too flimsy to support the weight of the battery for a long hike.
The Hiluckey is designed to primarily charge from an outlet, using solar energy for topping up and emergencies. Because it has multiple panels, it does charge faster than many of the products we tested, but if the battery is too low, it cannot charge your device while it's charging its own battery.
Best Single-Panel Charger
This compact, single-panel charger is rain-resistant and dustproof, making it one of the most durable solar phone chargers we tested.
The Nekteck has dual USB ports for charging mobile devices, as well as a large handle on the top panel that makes it easy to attach it to a belt loop or backpack strap for charging on the go. The rugged rubber exterior is shockproof and has rounded edges to protect it against bumps and drops. In addition to its charging capabilities, the Nekteck has an LED flashlight that makes it a good companion for a camping pack or day pack for hiking.
The lithium-polymer battery is a safe design attribute, but it didn’t perform as well in our sunny- and cloudy-day charging tests as other products we reviewed. The Nekteck charged our test device to only 17 percent, which is much less than the 73 percent that our favorite solar charger managed. Luckily, the Nekteck comes with a micro-USB cable to plug the device into a wall socket. It took only a couple of hours to charge the battery to full capacity using a wall socket, compared with multiple days using the solar cell. There are four LED indicator lights on the side panel to denote how much charge is left in the battery.
Best User Experience
The Allpowers solar power bank is extremely easy to use thanks to its light quality indicator, which helps you find the perfect place for it to soak up some rays.
In our sunny day test, the Allpowers device soaked up the second-most rays and charged our test smartphone 61% after four hours in the sun. It performed well in our cloudy-day test as well. This performance was typical of the four-paneled solar chargers we tested, as more solar panels are always better. The power bank follows a similar form factor to other products we tested: it has a main body and attached solar panels in leather sleeves. The large battery level indicator is easier to see than others. It also features a light quality meter that lets you know when your battery receives enough sunlight to charge. Thanks to its USB-C input, it also charges faster than other products when plugged into a wall outlet. It doesn’t, however, have covered ports, making it vulnerable to dust and water ingress.
Why Trust Us
We put in hours of work to find the most popular and highest-rated products. We then spent hours testing and comparing the results side by side. We make recommendations based on our professional experience, research and testing, so you can quickly find the best products and buy with confidence.
The value of our reviews lies in our comparative testing. While customer reviews and specs can tell you a lot, they can’t always say definitively whether one product is better than another. We tested each solar phone charger in the same environment at the same time, and even though many of the products are very similar to each other on paper, our hands-on testing revealed some distinct differences. For example, The Dizaul and Plochy batteries we tested both have a single solar panel and a 24,000 mAh battery capacity, but the Dizaul power bank absorbs sun energy more effectively.
To directly compare solar phone chargers side-by-side, we only chose products under $50 with a similar form factor: power banks with attached solar panels, at least 10,000 mAh capacity and at least 2.1V output. When we found our top ten highest-rated and most popular products, brought them to our lab for testing. We started by draining the batteries and putting them outside on a cloudy day for four hours. We then plugged each charger into one of 10 drained, powered-off Samsung Galaxy S5s and let them charge until the battery powered off. We recorded to what percentage the solar power bank charged the phone with its four hours of exposure, and then drained everything again and repeated the process on a sunny day.
Beyond our solar charging performance tests, we also evaluated the solar batteries based on ease-of-use features, build quality, battery specs and value. We assessed and weighed each data point to determine the best solar phone chargers for the fastest charging, biggest battery capacity and lowest price.
What You Need to Know
Shopping for a solar charger to take with you on your next trip is an easy task if you know what you need. We spoke with Angela Hawks, a self-proclaimed trekker and avid traveler about her experiences shopping for solar chargers. “I basically needed a huge battery,” she told us. “I needed something to last the 7-day trek up Kilimanjaro. The cold kills batteries very quickly, so I also wanted something with a solar panel I could just hang on my pack to recharge during the day.” The first time around, she tried a 12,000 mAh single-panel charger, which didn’t quite do the trick. “I had some troubles, but I figured it was just a quality thing. I ended up trying a higher end 24,000 mAh one, and I love it.” Her advice: get the lightest, highest capacity solar power bank you can find and keep it out whenever there’s sunlight.
We reviewed solar power banks within a price range of $20 to $50. Surprisingly, we didn’t find a correlation between number of solar panels and price, as our top-performing, 4-panel products cost about the same as other single-panel chargers. Prices did increase with larger power bank capacity, however. The two most expensive products both hold 24,000 mAh.
Types of Solar Chargers
There are a few types of solar phone chargers. While we focused specifically on solar power banks for our evaluations, other products may work just as well for you. Folding portable solar panels are another popular solar charger configuration. Because these have larger solar panels, they collect more energy at a time and charge your devices faster. They tend to be bulkier and cannot store energy, so if you need to charge at night, you're out of luck. We previously tested panel chargers from Nekteck and RAVPower both of which charge well on sunny days.
We chose to feature solar power banks in this round of evaluations because they charge by sunlight or by plugging into a wall outlet, and they're a little more compact. Many have the added bonus of a built-in flashlight as well. Most of the power banks cannot simultaneously solar charge their own batteries and charge your device, or they do so very slowly. Also, because the batteries on these devices have large capacities, it can take a while to charge them to full, up to 40 hours of strong sun exposure in some cases. They're meant to charge primarily from an outlet, using solar as a backup for emergencies. Even so, the top performers in our tests indicate that you could get a full phone charge from a day in the sun.
The amount of sunlight a device can convert into usable energy depends on a few factors. One of the most important is the surface area of the solar panels. The more surface area, the more energy. In our test results, every solar power bank with four panels outperformed products with fewer panels. The products we tested all have similarly-sized panels, but larger panels collect more energy.
Best Solar Charging Practices
Every product we evaluated is meant to be charged primarily from a wall outlet or computer. The solar power banks have high-capacity batteries and would take a long time to fully charge from sunlight alone. Of course, you can use them primarily as solar devices, but the batteries won’t fill up in one day. When charging via solar, the panels should be placed outside, tilted toward the sun. Though some products can gather a little energy inside from window-filtered sunlight or even fluorescent lights, they work best in direct sunlight.
Each of the panels on the devices we tested can convert 1-1.5W per hour of sunlight into storable energy. A 10,000mAh battery takes about 21W to fill, so a single solar panel would need 14 or more hours of direct sunlight to get a full charge. A typical smartphone can get at least two charges out of a power bank.
Besides being convenient when you don’t have access to an outlet, using solar power to charge your devices can be good for the environment as well. Charging one smartphone doesn’t take up much energy – according to multiple sources (Slate, Forbes, ZDnet, Tech Advisor and Popular Mechanics), charging your phone can use anywhere from two to seven kilowatt hours a year, depending on your charging habits. Depending on your energy company, each kWh from the grid creates up to 1.63 pounds of CO2 (according to BlueSkyModel), so if you’re using 7 kWh a year just for your smartphone, that’s 11.41 lbs of CO2 for a single smartphone. If all of the two billion smartphone users worldwide made this small switch to solar, we’d decrease man-made CO2 emissions by 10 million tonnes annually.
The X-Dragon 10,000 mAh solar power bank is a high-capacity lithium polymer battery with four solar panels to keep your phone charged wherever there's sunlight.
The Hiluckey solar power bank can keep your devices charged on a budget. This inexpensive device is water, dust and shock-resistant, so it’s perfect for outdoor use.
The Nekteck solar charger is durable and compact, making it a great option for camping trips and other outdoor activities that might require a battery bank.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Price||Charging Performance||Battery||Design||Phone Charge % (Sunny Day Test)||Phone Charge % (Cloudy Day Test)||Charge Progress Lights||Wall Charger||Storage Capacity (mAh)||Number of Solar Panels||USB Ports||Shockproof||Water-Resistant||Flashlight|
|RAVPower 15000mAh||View Deal||3/5||4.3||3.5||1.8||5||0.2||0.2||5||MicroUSB||15,000||1||2||✓||✓||✓|
|PLOCHY||View Deal||2.5/5||3.4||5||1.2||0||0.11||0.11||1||MicroUSB or Lightning||24,000||1||3||✖||✖||✖|