Whether you’re out on a long trek, spending all day at the beach or heading out on your boat, keeping your devices charged can be a big hassle. Unfortunately battery technology hasn’t moved on with our phones and tablets so sometimes you can run out of juice in less than a day.
Thankfully, help is at hand in the form of solar chargers which are able to put more life into your devices and keep them going all day. We have looked through the solar charger reviews to try and find the best solar charger for you.
In order to find the top rated solar charger we have compiled a list of the 10 best on the market so you can head out on your trip with the best solar panel, safe in the knowledge that you’re not going to run out of battery.
How To Choose The Best Solar Charger – Buying Guide
When it comes to solar panels they are either made from monocrystalline, polycrystalline or CIGS. The vast majority of solar panels though are made from either monocrystalline or polycrystalline as CIGS is new technology so is more expensive than the other two.
Polycrystalline is also more expensive than monocrystalline too as is it generally more energy efficient and can also perform better in lower light conditions. With the two it can often come down to a price issue so it becomes a case of whether you want to pay a little bit extra for the increased efficiency.
CIGS solar panels aren’t as rugged as the other two but they are flexible which can make them a great choice if you want something that is easy to carry. The panels are also very efficient too and they are made from copper, indium, gallium and selenide hence the name. All three different types of panels will give you great charging efficiency for solar technology has moved on in a great way.
When looking into which solar panel you can buy, then it’s important to look at its overall charging capability and not just what the solar panels are made out of. While monocrystalline may be seen as the worst material to make a solar panel from, it can still provide great charging capability and may be the best choice for you if it has other features that you’re looking for.
When it comes to any form of power, even those with little knowledge of electrics know how important wattage is. For solar panels this is even more crucial than usual as when you need to use them you want them to be able to charge your phones as quickly as possible, and that’s where having a high amount of wattage will really be of a great benefit.
If you’re looking at a solar panel that has a charging capability of just 5 watts then it’s likely not going to be good enough to charge the modern day technology. If you have something small like an MP3 player it could work, and also if you only want to use your solar panels in case of emergency if you want to give your device a little bit of life after it has died.
When it comes to modern technology, then you want to look for a product that will give you around 10-12 watts of power which should be more than enough for your requirements. Other factors obviously apply when it comes to charging your phone such as solar panel efficiency, but one of the most important aspects is the wattage power that it can provide.
If you have large devices that take up a low of power though, like a large tablet, then you should probably looking for solar panels that can give you an even greater level of power as you’ll find some which have a wattage of 20 or more which is enough for every type of device that’s out there.
When looking for fast charging capability, you also want to look for other features such as IC hips which will be able to recognize and adapt to your device and also ones that have a battery as well which will be able to efficiently store their power. While wattage isn’t the be all and end all of solar panel technology, if you want to have the best chance of finding a fast charging solar panels then it’s best to look for one with the highest wattage possible.
When it comes to solar panels and batteries then you have three separate options from which to choose from. You can either just get solar panels which don’t have a battery attached, you can have an integrated battery which is a permanent part of the device or you can also get an external battery that is able to provide power.
The advantages of not having a battery are clear as it cuts down on a lot of weight and makes it easier to carry. If all your looking for is an emergency solution with a battery that can store power, then it’s best to simply look for one which doesn’t have the solar panels attached. There are plenty of solar panels out there which are lightweight and flexible and will be able to give you all the power that you need without needing a battery.
A battery though obviously has its advantages as you’ll be able to use this at any time of the day and in any weather. Having an integrated battery means that you won’t have to rely on the sun and would have constant access to power, they can be fully charged at home before you leave and then their power can be replenished by the sun.
Having an external battery allows you to be more portable and to use the battery without the panels if its night time or you simply want it to be easier to use. Once a battery is fully charged then it’s going to be able to create a lot of power and charge your devices really quickly. Which option to choose depends on personal choice, but having that backup of having a battery available can be a great help to many.
Companies will tell you that all their solar panels are lightweight and easy to carry, but the reality is that you have to be able to find space for something which folds down to something that resembles a large tablet. If you’re going to be short on space, then you need to consider whether you would be able to carry a large number of solar panels.
Most of them are lightweight, but naturally devices that include a battery are a little heavier. Once you’re out and about then you also need to consider where it’s going to be left to charge. If it’s right next to you on a beach then portability isn’t an option, and the same could be said of being on a boat as well. If you’re on a blow up kayak or similar and don’t have access to a lot of space, then portability becomes more of a concern.
If you’re going to be wearing a backpack when it’s going to be ideal to find a solar battery charger which has holes made so you can unfold it over the back and let it catch the sun while you’re out and about. If you’re going to be more relaxed and in one fixed spot, then this is clearly more of an issue.
If you want something really portable then there is also the option of having the smaller solar panels which can clip on to any piece of equipment. This will be able to catch the sun without you even thinking as it just hangs off your equipment, but the biggest downside with these types of devices is that they don’t have the same level of charging power.
If you are looking for solar chargers then it means that you’re going to be outdoors and will be exposed to weather and other hazards that could be coming your way. In that respect it’s important to find a solar cell phone charger that is durable and won’t break after the first use.
Thankfully, all the products we’ve reviewed here have some sort of resistance built in which should mean that you’re able to use them without too much fear of them breaking. Some are tougher than others and the need for this could well depend on where you’re planning to use the device. If you’re going to be near the water then obviously you’re going to be looking for some type of water resistance, and some solar panels are waterproof.
Others are shockproof and dustproof which is important to check, especially if you’re going to be near sand as well. Some of more protective casing than others and some simply come in a fabric casing, but due to their lightweight and soft nature, dropping them is usually never an issue.
It’s difficult for a device to have all of the USB charging options that you have on every device these days as there are numerous different options out there. Therefore, it’s important that you check the product listing to see which type of USB port they have and if it’s compatible with your device. If it’s not, then you will need to find a cable that will be able to adapt to you.
This is relatively easy to find and at a low cost, but you don’t want to set out with your solar panels only to find out that you can’t plug it into your device. It’s also important to check how many ports they have and if it allows for dual charging. Obviously you want to make the most of the sun while it’s shining, so only being able to charge one device at a time could be frustrating. Thankfully most chargers have the option to charge at least two devices at the same time.
Size & Weight
The importance of the size and weight of your solar panels increases in importance with how you’re going to carry it. If you’re taking a large rucksack anyway, then having something the size and weight of a foldable solar charger isn’t really going to be an issue.
The makers of solar panels know how important it is that the product is light, so they try and cut down weight as much as possible and none of the solar panels we have reviewed here could be described as heavy. If you’re traveling light though, then you might want to try and find the lightest possible model.
There are other options such as clip-on solar panels which take a lot less space, and don’t even require any extra bag space as they can be clipped to the exterior of your equipment. That will give you a huge amount of freedom, but comes with the price of having less charging capability.
When looking at the size and weight of a solar phone charger, you simply need to consider when and how you’re going to be using it and whether you can afford the luxury of having a five-panel charger or need something more compact like a one-panel charger.
Q: Are All Solar Chargers Waterproof?
A: The simple answer to this is a no, so if you were presuming that they would be then make sure to check the product listings before you purchase a solar charger. If you’re going to be near water then it’s important to use a device that can be as resistant as possible to the water should the worst happen.
While most solar chargers aren’t fully waterproof, most have some sort of water resistance. Their wording, however, can slightly change from product to product, so it’s important to try and read between the lines to check what type of assurances they are actually giving. You want a device that is at least not going to fail if it starts to rain.
As this is a product to be used outdoors though, most know the importance of having weather resistance so you’ll find most chargers will be protected from splashes and spills. Water resistant doesn’t mean it can be submerged which is an important difference to make.
Products like the Goal Zero Venture though do state that they can be submerged so that would be your solar panel of choice if you’re looking for something that is waterproof. As with many things here, it’s also the case of working out what you need. If you’re never going to be close to the water, or if you’re going to be on a stable boat then it doesn’t really matter.
Q: Can I Use My Solar Charger On Cloudy Days?
A: Solar panels are able to generate energy from both visible light and infrared light which is an important distinction to make. The amount of light will obviously affect the solar panels, but even on a cloudy day you are still able to see everything, it’s just that little bit darker. In this instance it’s a simple equation of the darker it is, the less charging capabilities the solar panel will have. If there is a light cloud cover and it’s still quite bright, then your solar charger is still going to be getting a lot of light.
It does, however, also capture infrared light which we can’t see. This type of light will actually penetrate through a cloud and therefore as long as the sun is in the sky somewhere, you’ll be able to get some charge into your device. Once the sun has gone away, then naturally both types of light fade away and the twinkling of the stars won’t be enough to put any meaningful charge into your solar panel.
Solar panels work throughout the winter and through rain or shine, but obviously their effectiveness is lessened when they are not in direct sunlight. If you live in a cloudy area then it’s still worth it to get a solar charger as they will still provide you with the emergency backup power that you need. It might be the best idea though to get one which has an additional battery attached. If you’re going to be low on power then it could be for the best to have a little storage available if your devices need charging.
Q: Which Devices Can I Charge With The Solar Charger?
A: The answer to this question is any that have a USB port, but naturally there are caveats to that statement. If you’re using a 20-watt solar charger then it will comfortably charge any tablet fairly quickly and will be able to charge smartphones multiple times.
If you’re looking into getting smaller device then its capability for charging a tablet is going to be minimal. In these circumstances though it could be used as a great emergency backup for when you want to add in a little bit of charge to your device to keep it going. Smaller solar panels will also be great for smaller devices such as a regular cell phone, GPS or an MP3 player.
If you’re looking to charge something bigger like a laptop, then even with a 20-watt charger you’re going to have the same problems as you would for using a smaller solar panel for a tablet. They simply take up too much energy to be able to be charged efficiently, so it’s best to look at other options. There are portable solar panel products that can produce figures like 60 watts of power, but these have much more panels and aren’t practical to be carried around.
These solar panels though are perfect for smartphones and tablet which notoriously can run out of battery quickly. As stated before, it’s important to check the USB ports on both the solar charger and your device to make sure that they are compatible for charging.
Globo Surf Overview
Having a solar panel on you can be a lifeline, it means that you will always have the power to charge your devices wherever you are, as long as the sun is in the sky. You could simply want to be by the beach and relaxing while not wanting to worry about battery or you could be on a starter kayak and don’t want to be left stranded without any charge on your devices, solar panels can be used in a wide variety of different situations.
These panels are all highly portable and could even be attached to the back of a safety life jacket for easy solar charging while you’re out on the water. Before you go to buy a solar charger though there are obviously a few key considerations that you need to take note of. One of the main ones is to determine how much energy you actually need. In simple terms, the more energy you get, the more space that is taken up by the solar panels. While some are more efficient than other, it is a general rule.
You wouldn’t want to be out there with a five solar panel product which you find difficult to carry around, and equally you wouldn’t want to be out with a one solar panel product only to find that it’s not giving you the charging power that you need. Thankfully there is room in between to find the solution that is right for you.
Generally the higher the wattage, then the more power that you’re going to get into your device. It’s not the only electrical measurement to look out for though as you’ll also want to be checking its mAH rating which is a measurement of a batteries storage capacity and its ability to transfer power. While not going into the technical specifications of what this measure, it’s simply another case of the higher number, the better.
With a portable solar charger you also want to make considerations such as portability, durability and size and the need and requirements so these all depend on what use you have for the product. Sometimes you have to compromise and while you might love the idea of having a 20-watt solar charger that can charge your devices quickly, you have to add that into the practicality of carrying it around.
Hopefully this buying guide has given you all the information you need to make an informed choice about your solar charger. We’ve all been there when your phone has ran out of battery, and if you’re in the great outdoors then this can be a huge inconvenience. Whether you’re out there fishing, hiking, kayaking or sailing then that fear is a thing of the past, as once you have your solar charger, you can start your adventure without worrying about whether your devices will last the day or not.
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Globo Surf Solar Chargers Review