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The best solar chargers for your smartphone or tablet

It never fails — when you need your phones or tablet the most, it is teetering on the edge of shutting down because you drained the battery. Fortunately, the sun is always on (at least during the day), so why not harness the power of solar energy to keep your devices running even when you’re trekking through the middle of nowhere? After months of testing, we chose the BigBlue 28W as the best solar charger for backcountry power thanks to its affordable price tag and its ability to harness the power of the sun. If the BigBlue is too large for your needs, we have a variety of different models that will provide power on the go without tying you to an electrical outlet.

BigBlue 28W Solar Charger ($60 MSRP)

  • Capacity — None (panel only)
  • Outputs — 2 USB (2.4A)
  • Weight –22 ounces
  • Solar Panel –28 watts

Many solar chargers are marketed as ultraportable solar options, but few measure up to the BigBlue 28W solar charger. The unit isn’t the smallest panel on the market but delivers quite a punch when it comes to power. The solar panel charges quickly and reliably even under adverse conditions and then charges multiple devices rapidly. With a manufacturer suggested price tag of $60, the Big Blue is easy on the wallet as well. The only catch is that BigBlue doesn’t include a battery pack. You either need to charge your electronic devices directly or supply your own portable battery.

Renogy E.FLEX 10W  ($60 MSRP)

  • Capacity — None (panel only)
  • Outputs — 1 USB port (1.92A)
  • Weight — 13 ounces
  • Solar Panel — 10W

While the Renogy E.Flex has no battery backup (meaning it’s only useful when the sun’s out), it is one of the cheapest panel-only options that gets both high marks for durability and charging capability. A 1.92A USB port should give you enough amperage to charge your phone in about the same time as traditional power, and even power your phone without draining the battery in full sunlight, something many other panel-only options — most of which are more expensive — cannot do. There is a 5-watt model available on Amazon for only $24, but it produces less than an amp of power to the USB ports, making it insufficient for many applications.

NekTeck 21W Solar Charger ($50 MSRP)

  • Capacity — None (panel only)
  • Outputs — 2 USB ports (up to 3A total)
  • Weight — 1.3 lbs.
  • Solar Panel — 21W

Despite having no battery storage capabilities, Nekteck’s solar charge wows us with up to 21 watts of power production, which is more than enough to charge any portable device quickly. Unlike most solar-only chargers (ones without a battery), Nekteck’s model does allow for up to two devices to be charged at once. Just keep in mind you’re limited to 3 amps total, so charging two devices will take a good deal longer. Another nice feature is SmartIC, which will intelligently detect the type of device and deliver just the right amount of power to charge the device as quickly as possible.

Voltaic Arc 20W Solar Charger Kit ($230 MSRP)

Arc 20W Solar Charger Kit
  • Capacity –24,000 mAh
  • Outputs — DC Output, USB Output (2A)
  • Weight — 3.25 pounds including battery and solar panels
  • Solar Panel — 19.8 Watts

Unlike some of the clunkier, hard-shell builds on the market, the Arc 20 Watt Solar Charger easily fastens to a variety of awnings, packs, and tents, allowing for consistent charging throughout your adventure. This 20W kit also includes Voltaic’s V88 Universal Laptop Battery, which is designed with a DC Output, meaning you can charge most laptops at least once. The external battery also includes protection against short circuits and overcharging, so you don’t have to worry about frying your devices.

ECEEN Foldable Solar Charger ($40 MSRP)

ECEEN 13W 2-Port
  • Capacity — None (panel only)
  • Outputs — 2 USB ports, 2A
  • Weight — 9.3 ounces
  • Solar Panel — 13W

The ECEEN 13W 2-Port is one of the best 13W chargers we’ve seen. The entire unit weights a mere 9 ounces and measures an inch thick, rendering it exceptionally light and compact. A convenient pouch on the back of the charger also allows you to stow your mobile phone, iPad Mini, and other mobile accessories while charging or on the move. A simple stand on the back of the device extends functionality even further, giving you a means for positioning the solar charger in direct sunlight. And at under $40, ECEEN’s model is currently one of the more affordable solar chargers on the market. Just be careful not to lose the rubber coverings that protect the charging ports.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 ($80 MSRP)

  • Capacity — None (panel only)
  • Outputs — 1 USB port (1A)
  • Weight — 16.2 ounces
  • Solar Panel — 7W

Goal Zero is known for its quality solar charging devices, and its Nomad 7 lives up to this reputation. The charging panel is durable thanks to its rugged, weather-resistant design. It’s also versatile, offering both USB and DC charging options. The Nomad 7 is only rated for 7W, so it is best suited for mobile phones, GPS devices, and similar small electronics. If you need more juice, you should upgrade to the Goal Zero Nomad 20, which costs a bit more but delivers 20W of power.

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