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August 9, 2017

Keep ’em juiced: Here are 8 of the best solar chargers that money can buy

by John_A

Dead phones and tablets are no fun, and it’s even worse when you don’t have access to a power outlet right away. 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? Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best solar chargers available, especially when it comes to performance and value. Most of them can charge several of your devices with a single charge — as long as there are clear skies, of course.

We’ve also compiled a list of ways to improve your iPhone’s battery life, along with a piece outlining various deals on some of our favorite camping gadgets.

Fuse 6W Solar Charger ($129)

  • Capacity — 4,000mAh
  • Outputs — 1 USB (1A)
  • Weight –1.3 pounds
  • Solar Panel –6.15 Watts

Many solar chargers are marketed as ultra-portable solar options, however, few measure up to the Fuse 6W Solar Charger. The unit comes with a universal attachment system, complete with a set of interlocking clips. This allows you to fasten the charger to the back of your current pack and adjust the straps for a firmer fit. The Fuse 6W charges an external battery, though you can also charge the latter component via a traditional wall outlet or USB. Either way, once charged, the device should provide enough juice to fully charge your smartphone at least once. We tested the Voltaic’s panel-equipped backpack earlier this year, so if you’re in the market for a dedicated solar pack, we suggest giving our Voltaic OffGrid Solar Backpack review a gander.

Buy one now from:

Voltaic Systems

Solartab ($129)

  • Capacity — 13,000mAh
  • Outputs — 2 USB ports (2.1A)
  • Weight — 2.65 pounds (1.2kg)
  • Solar Panel — 5.5W

Solartab really impressed us with its 13,000mAh capacity and the ability to charge an iPhone completely in as little as 90 minutes. The design of it reminds us a lot of the first-generation iPad, although at 2.65 pounds, it feels much heavier. The charger comes with a tiltable stand so you can always position the solar panel with the best angle to the sun, and a battery level indicator is available on the side. If you want, you can also charge the Solartab through the included micro USB cable, so you don’t always need to depend on solar power to keep the device fully charged.

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Arc 20W Solar Charger Kit ($265)

  • Capacity –19,800 mAh
  • Outputs — DC Output, USB Output (1A)
  • Weight — 3.25 pounds
  • 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 kit also includes Voltaic‘s V72 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 need not worry about frying your devices.

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Voltaic Systems

JOOS Orange ($150)

  • Capacity — 5,400mAh
  • Outputs — 1 USB port (1A)
  • Weight — 24 ounces
  • Solar Panel — 2.4W out of the box

While JOOS comes in as the most expensive solar charger we looked at, it’s worth it if you’ll be using it in places where it may fall or you’re likely encounter harsh conditions. The body is made of metal, and the panels are recessed to help prevent cracking should the device fall. You can also purchase reflector panels for an additional $25, which double the panel’s effectiveness and provide charging times that are close to what the Solartab offers. Another cool feature of the JOOS? It’s waterproof and capable of charing underwater.

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Yolk Station Solar Paper ($126)

  • Capacity — None
  • Outputs — 1 USB port (1A)
  • Weight — 4 ounces
  • Solar Panel — 5W

Solar Paper is the thinnest solar charger available. It measures a mere 0.45 inches at its thickest point, and though it doesn’t contain a built-in battery, a display on the top of the unit will let you know if the charger is receiving enough energy to charge your device. In theory, with no battery to worry about, this particular solar charger could last a long time. There are several different options available, from the basic 5W version ($135) up to a 15W version ($335). Just keep in mind that you’ll need the 5W model if you want to charge your phone, or the 10W if you want to charge tablets or more than one device at a time.

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Amazon Yolk Station

Anker PowerPort Solar ($60)

  • Capacity — None
  • Outputs — 1 USB port (up to 3A)
  • Weight — 14.7 ounces
  • Solar Panel — 21W

Despite having no battery storage capabilities, Anker‘s PowerPort Solar wows us with up to 21 watts of power production, which is more than enough to charge any portable device quickly. Another feature, called PowerIQ, also adjusts the amperage of the power supplied to match your device, thus ensuring your device charges quickly and safely. The device’s compact design — it measures 11.1 × 6.3 inches when folded and 26.4× 11.1 inches when opened — makes it easy to store, too, and eye holes on each end allow you to anchor it to just about anything. While it might not work the best when there are clouds in the sky, in direct sunlight, the PowerPort Solar has little competition.

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Solio BoltBattery Pack + Solar Charger ($70)

  • Capacity –2,000mAh
  • Outputs — 1 USB, 1 Micro USB
  • Weight — 4.8 ounces
  • Solar Panel — 5W

Weighing a mere 4.8 ounces and measuring less than 4-inches long, the Solio Bolt is one of the most compact solar chargers on the market. The device can also hold a charge for up to a year, rendering it ideal for an emergency kit. The Bolt utilizes a central axis point, allowing it to open into a pair of individual panels. The small hole in the center of the unit was specifically designed to fit around a pencil, enabling individuals to firmly plant the solar panel in the ground and then position it toward the sun.

If you’re looking to prepare yourself for an unforeseen disaster, we also have an article outlining what to put an outdoor emergency kit. After all, things happen.

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ECEEN Foldable Solar Charger ($40)

  • Capacity — Not specified
  • Outputs — 2 USB ports
  • 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.

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