For most of us in the current era, parting with our phones seems unthinkable. We have so much of our life, and indeed our own brain power, tied up in these wondrous little witch bricks that we could more easily part with a limb or an organ then do without.
This notion is the cause of some contention when it comes to prepping because common wisdom indicates we should not rely on any device that is dependent on the fragile, tenuous grid.
When trouble strikes the power grid is likely to go down and subsequently all such devices that are dependent on it, even ones with an internal battery.
That means our phone, with its wondrous combination of communications, navigation, data storage and other capability will not be long for the world.
Best now to learn to go without instead of fearing painful separation when the chips are down, right?
Not so fast. Alongside the proliferation of mobile devices off grid, personal power generation and storage technology has likewise grown by leaps and bounds.
Foremost among these devices are portable solar chargers, compact, efficient and easy to use.
These ingenious chargers allow you to harvest copious sunlight so you won’t have to worry about keeping your favorite device gassed up. Today’s article is bringing you the 10 best in the category.
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Solar Chargers are Compact, Efficient and Affordable
Probably the single biggest advancement when it comes to portable solar charging systems is not anything to do with their performance, which is undeniably excellent, but instead they’re manufacturer and subsequent proliferation through the consumer market.
The prices on these systems have come down, like way down, in the past decade.
Where once this stuff was the province of only the wealthy or well-funded scientific expeditions now it is completely within reach of anyone who can afford a phone in the first place by any means.
An entirely capable solar charger with built-in power bank can set you back as little as $50.
Larger, more expensive solar arrays naturally have their advantages and there is much to commend them, but for a user who is just trying to keep one or perhaps two devices online while on the go during a bug out, these systems are tops.
Thanks to the ever decreasing price of solar chargers preppers are truly without excuse when it comes to integrating personal electronics into their overall survival plan.
With the chief Achilles’ heel of smart devices removed thanks to on-the-go personal power generation technology there is no limit to what your device can do for you in a survival context.
What Should You Look for When Buying a Solar Phone Charger?
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solar charger. Despite how adaptable these devices are, there are a multitude of factors that will dictate which one is best for your purposes.
Choosing the wrong charger might mean wasted time or inefficiency at best, or total incompatibility with your phone and other devices at worst. Some criteria you should keep in mind when shopping for one:
The output of a charger must be capable of recharging your devices in a meaningful amount of time.
Output that is too low might not be capable of the task at all while output that is too high (if unregulated) would damage your device or its battery.
Some solar chargers convert solar energy to electricity and send it directly to your device so long as the intensity of the sun’s rays are at a specific level.
Others store the created electricity in their own onboard battery, or power bank, that may then be dispensed later on. Both have advantages and disadvantages that we will discuss on our list.
3. Size and Weight
Some chargers have a truly compact form factor barely bigger than an average smartphone. Others are large, bulky bricks and still others are broad, delicate panels.
The form factor of a charger certainly affects its portability, but will also dictate how large its solar cells are, to a degree, and therefore the efficiency of power generation.
4. Connection Type/Number
Though most devices rely on common connection types for plugging in, variation exists for non-typical or older devices.
You might need to connect your phone using USB, micro-USB, Type C USB, iPhone connector, or something else and the hookup on the charger itself could necessitate the same or a different plug.
Chargers can also provide power to varying numbers of devices, usually anywhere from one to four. If you need to service multiple devices at once, you must make sure the charger is up to the task!
For chargers with an integrated power bank, the capacity of the battery, rated in mAh or milliamp hours, will determine how “far” your stored juice will go.
Depending on the capacity of the charging device’s battery, you’ll be able to pull so many full recharges off of the power bank.
Devices with high-capacity batteries will be recharged fewer times off the same amount of power than will devices with smaller batteries.
6. Other Features
Depending on your needs, your solar charger might have other features like detailed usage and status displays, integrated LED flashlights, ruggedized casings, waterproofing and more.
These are rarely deal-breaker options, but can definitely be nice perks, especially in the context of a SHTF survival situation.
The Top 10 Best Solar Phone Chargers
On the list below you will find compact, integrated solar cell power banks and larger folding or one piece solar panels that can be connected to a separate power bank.
Both have advantages and disadvantages, and which one is right for you will largely be determined by your power requirements and how many devices you are trying to fuel.
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1. Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel
One of the most popular names in off-grid electronics and solar chargers in particular, Goal Zero’s Nomad 5 solar panel is an excellent, all-purpose option for any prepper.
Measuring 7 ½” wide by 9 ½“ tall, about the same size as a typical sheet of printer paper, this is one of the most well-rounded and adaptable chargers on our list.
Providing five watts of output in ideal conditions, the Nomad 5 uses a standard USB output to connect directly to a power bank or any device being charged, and an integrated wire kickstand allows for precise adjustment of angle to the sun to ensure rapid and reliable generation of electricity.
A durable plastic frame with bumpers gives this solar panel the ruggedness to survive the jolts and dings attendant with life in the field.
Compared to other, integrated charges on this list, the Nomad five has a major advantage and then it can be set about handily on any flat surface, hung or attached to a backpack for a degree of on the go power collection.
This is one of the best options in its category, and if you did nothing else but pick one of these up you would still be ahead of the game.
Get the Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel here.
2. BytePower Solar Charger Power Bank 36,000mAh
The first integrated solar charger with power bank on our list, BytePower’s unit produces a peak 5 watt charge and stores 36,000 mAh with no connections and no cables required.
This all-in-one solution has a ruggedized plastic housing, integrated flashlight featuring multiple modes including a high visibility SOS pattern and options of plenty for the most demanding mobile user.
Charging can be accomplished wirelessly with compatible devices or through the use of one C type USB or two standard USB ports.
Even better, multiple devices can be charged at once, and even all four connections can seamlessly be utilized without any worries of mishap or overcharging thanks to built-in smart charge technology.
This is an all-in-one solution that does not sacrifice the elegance and ease of use expected of more specialized devices.
Perhaps the only shortcoming of this charger could be attributed to one of its strengths.
Though it is about the same size as a modern smartphone, only a little thicker, the built-in solar panel is limited in surface area.
It does not unfold, unpack or expand in any way and that limits solar charging to a relatively sedate speed.
Your best bet is to fully charge the power bank at home before departing and then depend on the solar cell to help mitigate consumption.
Get the BytePower Solar Charger Power Bank 36,000mAh here.
3. Blavor Solar Charger Power Bank 10,000mAh
Blavor’s compact solar charger power bank is an excellent, affordable and capable all in one solution for a prepper or camper who won’t be trying to keep the lights on for multiple, power hungry devices.
Hardly bigger than a typical smartphone, this unit is made of durable ABS plastic with prominent bumpers and standoffs on every corner to protect the delicate battery pack and solar cell.
Capable of charging most phones at least twice, this all-in-one solar charger features a twin LED flashlight and detachable compass lanyard making it a perfect and natural inclusion into most outdoor gear bags or survival kits.
Multiple USB and Type C ports make this a flexible option for charging multiple devices and highly adaptable.
The one major drawback of this unit is its comparatively light capacity compared to others on this list.
As mentioned, this is not the one you want to pick if you’re responsible for keeping a fleet of devices up and running, and combined with the typically sluggish charging rate so common to units of this type you might struggle if you are dealing with power hogs.
On the other hand, this is one that you can expect to fully recharge using solar power alone in a reasonable period of time, making it a perfect option for minimalist preppers.
Get the Blavor Solar Charger Power Bank 10,000mAh here.
4. Tranmix 4-Panel Solar Charger 25,000mAh
Now we come to an all-in-one option with serious solar charging capability.
Tranmix’s four panel solar charger is clever take on the format, featuring an ample, foldable four-panel solar charger married to a 25,000mAh power bank that is easily capable of charging most phones at least eight times, and charging even a large tablets up to four times.
This is a level of capability that most folks can rely on as a full-time power source for their devices, and the impressively sized four panel solar array can recharge the battery pack fully in just two days time in ideal conditions.
Happily, this charger is capable of refueling up to two devices at once, even high drain devices.
This means you’ll have to babysit the unit a little bit when it is gathering solar energy, and it is here that the conspicuous lack of a kickstand or other brace for the panels becomes most apparent.
Even so, not much of a drawback as you can use your pack, a rock, a few branches or anything else that might be conveniently lying around for the purpose.
This is another unit that comes seemingly purpose designed for survival and prepping duty thanks to its built-in flashlight with a multi-mode operation.
Constant, momentary, high beam, low beam and SOS modes are all included. Overall an excellent package with plenty of capability for a compact all-in-one.
Get the Tranmix 4-Panel Solar Charger 25,000mAh here.
5. IXNINE Solar Charger 26,800mAh
If you don’t have time to waste while on the go and off the grid, IXNINE’s solar charger is the unit for you.
On the surface, it looks very much like the other compact all-in-one options on this list. But it is under the hood where this charger distinguishes itself.
Packing in an impressive 26,800 mAh battery, this charger has plenty of capacity for recharging a fleet of phones or a single device many times, even large, battery gobbling tablets.
The expected flashlight is there with multiple mode operation, including an SOS strobe, but what this charger has that many other lacks is quick charge capability.
You won’t be going about your day with your phone tethered to your charger haphazardly just waiting to snag everything on the trail.
A short stop can allow you to fully recharge some devices or meaningfully top off others.
Standard USB and type C connections are supported, and all outlets have built-in, full-time overcharge, short circuit and overcurrent protection.
Just as important, perhaps more so, this charger features overheating and fault protection to help prevent catastrophic destruction, injury and a likely accidental fire.
It struggles to recharge that big battery off of that one, small solar panel but it is possible, and for short duration outings it likely has more than enough energy on board to see you through.
Get the IXNINE Solar Charger 26,800mAh here.
6. Big Blue 3-Port Foldable Solar Charger 28W
Big Blue’s 3-Port foldable solar charger is an impressively capable, compact solar array that maximizes collected energy and conversion into electricity, but does so at the cost of any built-in power bank so you’ll need to provide your own.
Despite this disappointing lack of onboard storage, it is a small price to pay considering the speed and efficiency that this arrangement can lend to your charging operation.
Capable of charging three devices at once, including any mobile phone and many tablets excepting the very largest tablets and laptops, this should be at the top of a short list for Preppers with heavy power demands while off grid.
Capable of converting nearly 25% of solar energy directly into electricity, this charger supplies up to four and a half amps per outlet to your devices.
Embedded smart charging software recognizes and analyzes the attached device immediately prior to the charging operation, minimizing down time while maximizing battery health and protecting against mishaps that could damage your device or the charger.
Folding up into a footprint that is barely the size of a common clipboard and weighing just a little over 1 pound, there is hardly anyone that could not make room for this tiny solar array.
Ruggedized and protected against scrapes, dust, incidental moisture and other hazards, along with watertight closures for the charging ports, you can rest assured that this is one charger that will go the distance with just a little bit of care.
Get the Big Blue 3-Port Foldable Solar Charger 28W here.
7. Powobest Solar Phone Charger 20,000mAh
Powobest’s solar phone charger it’s sort of a greatest hits option on our list, combining many of the most desirable traits among the compact all-in-ones we have covered so far.
Ample capacity, an expanded solar charging array, wireless charging and multiple outlets make for a supremely capable all around unit.
The best feature of this unit is without question its multi-panel solar array, dramatically increasing the recharge speed of the onboard power bank.
Though still quite sluggish compared to AC recharging it is far faster than relying on a single, tiny solar cell that most devices of this type are saddled with.
And you’ll probably have cause to call on that capability since this charger is also capable of quick charge functionality with modern smart devices that can handle it.
The onboard 20,000 mAh battery can easily refuel a smartphone several times or most tablets as many as three times. Any of your devices that are Q-capable can be wirelessly recharged in addition.
Compact, water resistant and durable, this is one all in one unit that can truly cover all your bases.
Get the Powobest Solar Phone Charger 20,000mAh here.
8. PSO Solar Power Bank 50,000mAh
This is it, the big one. This is the solar charger all-in-one for those preppers who demand mega capacity or for those who got caught short once, and swore an oath that it will never happen again.
More of a power brick than a proper solar power bank, PSO’s solar power bank is a comparatively massive offering with a standout, best in class feature: a whopping 50,000 mAh battery capable of dozens of full recharges before running dry.
This stellar capacity naturally comes at a price, namely size and weight, but in return you’ll have an all-in-one solar charger capable of refueling on average Samsung or Apple smartphone over a dozen times, and many large tablets six or more times.
This is also an excellent option for the wireless family prepper since it is capable of recharging up to four devices at the maximum rate independently thanks to its abundance of ports.
A heavy duty ABS plastic body in bright safety orange means this unit can still survive the rigors of infield usage despite its increased bulk, and you have the expected flashlight with a multi-mode operation as a backup personal lighting solution.
If this unit has a drawback, aside from its comparative bulk and weight, it is the fact that the meager single panel solar charger will take literal days worth of high quality, full value sun to recharge its mammoth onboard battery.
Aside from that, there is a lot to like about this monster!
Get the PSO Solar Power Bank 50,000mAh here.
9. Doobyby Portable Solar Panels
An executive option for those who want to depend primarily on ample sunlight and dispense with it how they will, this four panel array from Doobyby is slim, elegant and easy to use thanks to a multitude of smart features.
Boasting an impressive efficiency rating of 23.5% to 25%, this array features more than twice the conversion of typical solar panels in this category and that means less time spent charging and more uptime for any of your devices.
However, by far the most welcome feature this unit has to offer is its smart activation technology.
You see, most solar chargers depend on the user to follow a prescribed set of steps to initiate charging, typically unfolding the array and placing it in direct sunlight before connecting their device, and then being forced to redo those steps whenever charging is interrupted due to movement or passing clouds.
That is a thing of the past with this charger since it will automatically detect an interruption of current and will reinitialize charging once full value sunlight is restored.
Movement of the sun notwithstanding, this is as close to a set-and-forget option as you are likely to find for chargers like this.
Two-device charging, built-in LED indicators that help you determine when it is ready to charge or when charging is complete at a glance and the whole apparatus features multiple attachment points on its sturdy casing for a variety of placement options.
Get the Doobyby Portable Solar Panels here.
10. Zendergy Solar-6 Power Bank
If three is good and four is better than six must be best. That is the theory behind Zendergy’s Solar-6 power bank.
The claim to fame of this compact all in one is its quick detachable five cell array, making for a total of six solar cells including the one that is built into the power bank itself.
Mated to an ample 20,000 mAh battery, this provides users an ideal combination of rapid recharging and suitable onboard supply for modest power consumption requirements.
The genius of the design is in the attachment of the optional five cell array. Relying on nothing more than a magnetic connection, the optional array is quick to attach, easy to detach and easy to store.
But when it is connected, that allows this unit to fully recharge the onboard battery and as little as 8 hours with clear conditions and full value sun, a rate of recharge that no other unit in this category can match.
That means that longer stops can fully top off your power supply using nothing more than the sun’s energy, and do so fully before you die of old age! It also features the expected built-in LED flashlight.
If this unit has a shortcoming, it is that it is somewhat miserly when it comes to outlets.
A single type C and micro USB port means that you might have to do some rearranging when it comes to your included cables if you want to feed all of your devices, and you’ll have to rotate charging duties if you are taken care of a fleet of phones or tablets.
Despite this, Zendergy’s offering is one of the best in the category and worthy of inclusion in any bug-out bag!
Get the Zendergy Solar-6 Power Bank here.
You Don’t Need to Give Up Your Phone When Going Off-Grid
You’re not wrong for thinking that your phone might go kaput or that you don’t need it during an SHTF event, but you might want to tap your brakes before you give up the potentially life-saving capability that a phone can provide you.
The modern smartphone is a technological marvel, capable of sending various forms of long distance and nominally instant communications, utilizing navigational systems, holding many gigabytes worth of useful survival procedures, personal info and maps, and much more besides.
But, as with every electronic device, the chief limitation when you are off grid is the power supply.
Without an outlet around every corner and electricity flowing to said outlets, the up time of your device, whatever it is, is limited by battery life. Disposable or rechargeable, when the tank runs dry the screen goes dark, and that’s it.
In times past, you’re only other reliable option for producing electricity was the use of a portable generator system of some kind. I’m happy to say that those days are over.
The pairing of a smartphone with a portable solar charging system is the greatest matchup since peanut butter and jelly.
Both systems are lightweight and compact, meaning you’ll be adding only ounces to your overall load in exchange for tremendous capability, and not the least of which is freedom from worry about that ever diminishing state of your battery’s charge.
With the right tools, you won’t have to fear the loss of power in a survival situation. You can keep your smartphone and other devices juiced up on the go through the use of any of the above solar phone chargers.
Harvesting the virtually limitless power of the sun’s rays to create electricity, these wonderful gadgets will make you almost totally independent of typical, on grid power supplies.
With capabilities, format and prices to suit any need and any budget, you are sure to find one that will warrant inclusion in your survival kit.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.