The 8 Best Portable Solar Panels to Buy in 2018

Keep your devices charged when you're on-the-go

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Outdoor adventurers can never go wrong with a portable solar panel. Not only is it a source of green energy, but it's also convenient when you're camping or on a trail with no wall plugs.

After power capacity and efficiency, of course, the best portable solar panel charger for your travels ultimately depends on how much space you have and what kind of devices you need to charge. Size and weight are especially important when it comes to picking solar panels for your trip. Get a panel too big, and it'll result in cumbersome extra weight to carry around for several days. Luckily, most solar chargers weigh under a pound and take up the space of a magazine when you fold them up. Additionally, you'll want to consider what devices you're bringing along. Most solar panel chargers will work with USB devices for phones and tablets, but those with special cables may also be compatible with bulkier electronics such as laptops.

Keep reading to see our top picks for the best portable solar panel chargers, whether you're looking for an ultralight option or one that is extra shockproof for your rugged outdoor activities.

Our Top Picks

01 of 08

Best Overall: BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger

BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger

Amazon

The BigBlue 28W Solar Charger will be reliable for all of your outdoor travels. The device is compatible with most USB rechargeable devices and has up to a 21.5 to 23.5 percent efficiency rate — anything over 20 percent is excellent. Other features that a hiking or camping enthusiast might appreciate are its lightness (it's about the size of a magazine when folded) and waterproofness. Additionally, the panel has a built-in ammeter to measure electric currents and has a pocket with a zip to keep your phones and tablets clean. The package also comes with four hooks so that you can attach your panels easily to everything from trees to your backpack.

The BigBlue 28W Solar Charger works best on a full dose of sunlight, but it'll still perform on cloudy days. If your device comes with a chip that instigates shutdown when it overheats, it's best to use a long cable to keep your device in the shade (or in your backpack) and the panels out in the sun.

02 of 08

Best Runner-Up: RAVPower 24W Solar Panel

The 24W Solar Panel from RAVPower has a charging efficiency of 21.5 to 23.5 percent, using iSmart technology to deliver the best current for your connected devices. You'll be able to charge up to three things at once, all three ports capable of reaching a total of 4.8A. While clouds do affect the charging efficiency, many feel the solar panels work as efficiently as a wall plug in direct sunlight.

Besides its efficiency, RAVPower's solar panel is lightweight at 26.4 ounces, which is about half the size of a solar charger. In other words, you can put it into your travel or camping bag without it being too cumbersome. When you buy the set, you'll get one solar charger, four stainless steel hooks, and two micro USB cables.

Make sure that you don't place it on concrete, sand, or anywhere that conducts heat easily, or else the device will overheat and reduce wattage efficiency.

03 of 08

Best for Laptop Charging: X-Dragon Solar Panel Charger

The X-Dragon Solar Panel Charger is up there in price when considering the other costs on our list. However, you'll be able to use it to charge your laptop, as it comes with a USB port for 5V gadgets as well as an 18V DC output for laptops and other 18V devices, such as cameras. There are many different contents in the package that it comes in, including a 40W foldable solar charger, 10-in-1 laptop connector, DC cable, and USB cable. It has a smart IC chip, which allows it to maximize power and deliver 2.8A when right beneath sunlight. Besides its high capacity, it's also weather resistant and has surge protection, short circuit, and other advanced safety precautions. There's also an 18-month warranty as well.

The X-Dragon is sturdy, consisting of multi-layered solar panels. For its power output, the device isn't too heavy, weighing around 40 ounces and measuring 10.43 x 6.30 x 2.76 inches when folded. In other words, it’s roughly the size of a textbook.

04 of 08

Best Lightweight: Renogy E.Flex5

Renogy's solar panel charger might not give the highest output at 5W, but its ultra-thin and lightweight design could be advantageous when you have lots to carry. While it's not the best value item on our list, it will give you sufficient power without the baggage. At 6.7 ounces (or about half a pound), it's one of the most portable solar panel devices that you can get. In terms of dimensions, it's roughly the size of a thin paperback book, measuring 9.5 x 5.9 x 0.16 inches.

Besides its small size, the solar panel charger is also resilient against water and overcharging. When you get reduced power caused by shade, Renogy's solar panel device uses auto-optimization charging for recovery. The set also includes additional carabiners and suction cups for easy mounting when you're outside.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Best Weather Resistance: Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel

Wherever your rugged adventures take you, the Nomad 7 is weather-resistant for durability, and won't be harmed by rain and snow. The back of the device sports a mesh pouch that stores the junction box with connective wires. The portable solar panel device charges with most USB and 12V devices, including cell phones and GPS devices, but not tablets. You can charge two things at a time; the Nomad 7 will split the power evenly between the two devices. The solar panel works best with other Goal Zero devices, including rechargers, speakers, and lanterns. You can use the USB and 12V ports simultaneously.

While it has a weather-resistant casing, the output is not the strongest at 7W. Larger devices will require an external battery to charge. For more power, it is possible to chain together four Nomad 7 devices, though this can be pricey.

06 of 08

Best Value: Instapark 10W Solar Panel Portable Solar Charger

The Instapark Mercury 10 comes with two charging ports and will work with smartphones, tablet computers, and other USB mobile devices. There's no need for an additional battery; you will be able to charge on the fly, though many like to charge an external battery while in they’re traveling outdoors. It has 10W high-efficiency foldable solar panels for everything from camping to emergencies. The Mercury 10's solar panels close up to the size of a hardcover book, though thinner and lighter.

While it has a low capacity, its spread-out design allows for more surface area on the cells, so you'll be able to get power even in conditions that are not optimal. Like most solar panels, the Mercury 10 will work most efficiently in direct sunlight, but it will still operate in overcast conditions. On top of all else, it has a one-year warranty from the manufacturer.

07 of 08

Best Charge Speed: Nekteck’s 21W Solar Charger

Nekteck's 21W Solar Charger uses SmartIC Technology in its microchip to detect the device that you plug in through USB pin signals. This way, you get the full output of power and charging speed. The panels can reach a power conversion rate of 21 to 24 percent, so they’re fairly efficient. The dual charging ports will let you charge up to two devices at a time with a maximum 3.0A output. Its compatibility range is extensive; you'll be able to get juice into iPhones, tablets, GPS devices, cameras, and more. Besides charging devices quickly, the solar panel charger is also light at 18 oz. and compact at 6.3 x 11.1 x 1.06 inches folded. Plus, if you’re expecting bad weather or conditions, it's reliable for your rugged hikes and outdoor activities, as its external surface consists of sturdy canvas.

Keep in mind that the panel won't store power, so you'll need a power bank to connect to your device.

08 of 08

Best Shockproof: WBPINE Solar Charger 24000mAh

The power bank from WBPine has a rugged design that's also shockproof and dustproof. It has an Intelligent Protection System that keeps your devices from overcharge, overcurrent, and short-circuiting. The lithium battery-equipped solar device has three panels to absorb sunlight. The set that it comes with also includes a carabiner and micro USB cable. Additionally, should you find any problems with your device, there's an 18-month warranty. Compared to the other devices on this list, WBPine's is considerably slower, and will likely take a day for a full phone charge.

However, you’ll be able to charge two devices simultaneously, including phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. The power bank also comes with an LED light with an SOS strobe mode that you can use for nighttime outdoor activities or during an emergency. Colorwise, choose between black and orange.

Our Process 

Our writers spent 3 hours researching the most popular portable solar panels on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 20 different solar panels overall, screened options from 15 different brands and manufacturers and read over 45 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.