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How to find the best solar power bank for your needs

How to find the best solar power bank for your needs

Today, we’re going to review three different types of devices that will recharge your gadgets using solar power.

  • Power bank with embedded solar cells. These are the most compact option, but they take the longest to recharge via solar energy.
  • Power banks with external foldable cells. These devices take up more space but they can charge significantly faster as they have a larger solar panel area.
  • Dedicated solar cells that can be used to charge your devices directly. They can also be used to charge an existing power bank or to provide reserve power for other devices. These have the largest cell surface and thus can provide the most power.

Best Solar Power Banks With External Foldable Solar Cells

Power banks with external foldable solar cells have the best of the two worlds:

  • They can be (realistically) fully charged via solar power
  • They also work as a classic power bank.

Depending on the amount of sunlight you’re getting, they can generally charge in 15-30 hours of direct sunlight exposure. Most of them are even designed to be hung on a tent or backpack. This provides a great deal of versatility. On the other hand, the foldable solar cells require more space than a power bank with built-in cells. Without further ado, here are the models that we believe you should take into consideration:

BLAVOR Solar Power Bank with Qi Wireless Charging

BLAVOR 20000mAh Solar Power Bank

  • Battery Capacity: 20000mAh
  • Solar recharge time: ~18-20 hours
  • Regular recharge time: ~3-4 hours
  • Ports: 2 USB type A, 1 USB type C (input only), 1 micro USB
  • Size: 6.1 x 3.2 x 1.5 inches when collapsed
  • Weight: 21.7 oz / 615 g
  • Easily detach panels via the magnetic strip
  • Wireless charging

Check Price on Amazon.com

The BLAVOR 20000mAh solar power bank is also a very strong contender. Like the Panergy 26800mAh, it also features a USB type C port, however, it can be used for power input only. Besides the USB types C input port, it also features 2 USB type A output ports which can deliver up to 2.1A each, and a micro USB input port too.

But what sets it aside from many of its competitors is the Qi wireless charging feature. It’s compatible with almost all phones what can be wirelessly charged and it works by simply placing the smartphone on the backside of the power bank. This is a neat feature to have as it makes it more seamless to use the device by eliminating the need for attaching charging cables.

The capacity is quite generous too, enough to charge 6-10 average smartphone charges and for 2-4 tablet charges. All, in all this power bank can charge up to 3 devices simultaneously using the BLAVOR 20000mAh: two via the USB output ports and one via wireless charging.

For increased ease of use, the folding solar panels can be detached from the power bank itself. The connection between the two parts is made by a magnetic sealing bar that incorporates the power connectors. This part of the solar power bank is sensitive to water, so you should avoid getting it wet.

As an added bonus, it also comes with a complementary compass. Although it’s not a professional-grade compass, it can still be a useful item to have with you during outdoor expeditions.

Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank with 4 Solar Panels

Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank

  • Battery Capacity: 25000mAh
  • Solar recharge time: ~35-50 hours
  • Ports: 2 high-speed USB charging ports
  • Size: 6.1 x 3.4 x 1.4 inches when collapsed
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds / 590 g
  • Solar panels can be detached
  • Built-in LED flashlight
  • Can recharge via USB or solar
  • IPX7 water-resistance
  • Includes a Micro USB cable and owner’s manual

Check Price on Amazon.com

The Hiluckey HI-S025 comes with a pretty high capacity of 25000mAh, which offers enough juice to recharge your phone around 8 to 10 times. This battery capacity is quite generous and it’s actually very close to the maximum limit allowed on flights.

When collapsed, it’s fairly compact, and the four solar panels unfold easily for recharging. The actual power bank can be detached from the solar panels, which can be pretty convenient during periods when the solar panels are not in use such as when it’s being charged via a power outlet.

This solar power bank is also IPX7 water-resistant, which means it can withstand submersion. Furthermore, it’s also shock-proof and dust-proof, making it a great choice for almost any type of outdoor adventure. On the back-side, it comes with a powerful 9 LED flashlight which can come in very handy during camping trips or in case of emergency situations.

Read our full review of the Hiluckey HI-S025 solar power bank

Best Solar Power Banks With Built-in Cells

This type of portable solar power bank is the most portable by far. The reason for this is that they feature a single panel that is built into the power bank case. This makes it lighter and much more compact compared with a power bank with foldable solar panels.

However, the downside is that the size of the solar cells is limited, which means these power banks take quite a while to charge only via solar energy. A mid-sized power bank of this size can take a week or two to fully charge, or even longer if you’re not getting direct sunlight.

So all-in-all, charging these devices via the sun only is not really that practical. Instead, the solar panel should be regarded as an added bonus, and it definitely should not be considered as the main recharging option.

Hiluckey 26800mAh 18W PD USB C with Wireless Charging

Hiluckey 26800mAh 18W PD USB C

  • Battery Capacity: 26800m capacity
  • Ports: 1 USB type C, 2 USB type A, 1 Micro USB
  • Regular recharge time: ~6 hours
  • Size: 6.9 x 3.46 x 1.18 inches
  • Weight: 0.99 pounds / 450 g
  • Built-in flashlight
  • It can charge laptops

Check Price on Amazon.com

One of the best features for the Hiluckey 26800mAh is the fact that it comes with USB C and Power Delivery. Generally speaking, USB C power banks with PD can charge other devices and also recharge themselves much faster than regular power banks. This feature is similar to Quick Charge and cand be a huge time-saver, and you’ll appreciate it most especially when you’re in a hurry. As such this power bank can charge itself via the USB C port in about 6h, while similar power banks without PD can take anywhere between 8 and 10 hours.

Another useful feature is the wireless charging ability which is capable of delivering up to 10W of power. Together with the USB C Power Delivery, the wireless charging feature makes the Hiluckey 26800mAh one of the best solar power bank options. There aren’t many other power banks in its category with both these features.

In terms of battery capacity, the 26800mAh is the absolute largest you can legally fly with, without needing a special permit. This makes it ideal for long-distance traveling. To put its capacity in perspective, it can deliver 8+ charges to an iPhone 11, 6.5+ charges to a Galaxy S10, and 3.8+ charges to an iPad Air.

The Hiluckey 26800mAh comes with a sturdy case that is waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof, which makes it a rugged companion for any type of outdoor activity. It also features two powerful flashlights for low-light situations.

That being said, you shouldn’t get the Hiluckey 26800mAh if solar charging is your main requirement. Similarly to the following power banks in the same category, this is definitely not a device to be fully charged primarily via solar power. Instead, you should aim to charge via a power outlet most of the time.

Anker PowerCore Solar Power Bank 10000mAh

Anker PowerCore Solar Power Bank 10000mAh

  • Battery Capacity: 10000mAh capacity
  • Solar recharge time: Several days
  • Regular recharge time: 5 hours
  • Ports: 2 USB Type A, 1 Micro USB
  • Size: 6.47 x 3.08 x 0.78 inches
  • Weight: 9.5 oz / 269 g
  • IP64 water resistance and dust resistance
  • Shock resistance
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Comes with USB-A to Micro USB cable

Check Price on Amazon.com

The Anker PowerCore is a mid-size power bank in terms of capacity, rated at 10000mAh. Although it’s not as powerful as other products on this list, it still provides a sufficient charge to any connected device. That’s because the solar power bank features two Type-A USB ports that provide a charging speed of 2.4A. When you use those ports simultaneously, it will reach a total max output of 3A. Overall, there is enough capacity to charge an iPhone 11 twice, iPhone XS 2.5 times, a Samsung Galaxy S10 two times, and an iPad mini 5 one time.

Moreover, you can recharge the power bank via the Micro USB port, which will take approximately 5 hours.  However, you will need to use a 10.5W wall charger to reach that time. You can also use the solar panels to charge the device, but it could take several days, depending on the sun’s intensity. The solar panels are made of monocrystalline material, providing solar efficiency between 21.5%-23.5%.

What’s even more useful is that the Anker PowerCore 10000mAh Solar Power Bank features a built-in flashlight with varying brightness levels for each of the three modes. It stores solar power throughout the day that provides power to the flashlight, which can be used during a blackout or the dark.

Lastly, this product has an IP64 rating, which helps to keep it safe from dust and water. It also has a shockproof quality, making it robust and durable enough to survive potentially impactful drops.

BLAVOR Qi 10000mAh Solar Portable Charger

BLAVOR Qi 10000mAh Solar Portable Charger

  • Battery Capacity: 10000mAh capacity
  • Regular recharge time: 6 hours
  • Ports: 1 USB Type C, 1 USB Type A, 1 Micro USB
  • Size: 5.9 x 3.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 9.3 oz / 263 g
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Wireless recharging
  • IPX5 water-resistance

Check Price on Amazon.com

Perhaps one of the greatest features of the BLAVOR 10000mAh power bank has to do with its wireless charging capabilities. This provides an efficient way to charge your Qi-compatible devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9 Plus/S8/S8 Plus, an iPhone XR/XR Max/ XS/X. However, the downside to this is that it consumes a lot of power, so you shouldn’t use it for very long. With that in mind, this feature has a rating of DC 5V/1.0A.

It also comes with a USB-C input port and a Micro USB port to recharge the power bank. Both of these have a rating of 5V/2A, so it will charge in six hours, no matter which port you decide to use. You will need a 5V/2A adapter. Additionally, the BLAVOR 10000mAh portable charger comes with a USB A port, rated at 5V/2.1A. You can use both the USB A port and Qi-wireless charging feature simultaneously, but it’s only suitable for 5V/2A devices. It will take a long time to recharge the power bank with the solar panels since it only has a 180ma rating.

The capacity is only 10000mAh, which can charge the Samsung Galaxy S8 1.8 times, iPhone X 2.3 times, and iPhone 8 3.5 times. Additionally, the portable charger is waterproof (IPX5), dustproof, and shockproof, allowing you to take it while you’re on a camping trip. Furthermore, this power bank has a built-in flashlight, which lasts for 100 hours.

Read our full review of the BLAVOR Qi 10000mAh Solar Portable Charger

Best Dedicated Foldable Solar Panels

The last type of device we’ll be looking at is a standalone set of foldable solar panels. These devices don’t come with their own power banks, just with the solar panels themselves.

They can be used in two different ways:

  • You can charge a power bank that your purchase separately. Using this power bank you can then charge your devices
  • You can use them to directly charge your devices. This means you won’t need to carry a power bank at all, just your solar cells.

Preferably, you’d go with the first option of charging a power bank first and then your devices. That’s because solar panels don’t produce constant amounts of energy. Depending on their angle or the cloud cover, the energy they put out can vary quite a lot in a short amount of time. This power fluctuation can harm the battery life of your devices, especially if they don’t have safety features built in to prevent these scenarios.

Compared with power banks that come with built-in cells, dedicated solar cells are generally larger and heavier. But their main advantage is that they can deliver much faster charging-speeds. A typical dedicated solar cell panel can recharge a 25000mAh battery in about 10 hours, provided you’re getting direct sunlight.

These days, most standalone solar cells have a USB output, which will be compatible with most power banks and cell phones. However, make sure to check the specifications before you make a purchase. Here are the models we believe you should consider getting:

Anker 21W Solar Charger

Anker PowerPort Solar

  • Max output power: 3A
  • Charging ports: 2 USB Type A
  • Number of solar panels: 3
  • Solar cells efficiency: 21.5% – 23.5%
  • Size: 11.1 x 1.1 x 6.3 inches when folded
  • Weight: 14.7 ounces / 416 g
  • Built-in protective pocket for devices

Check Price on Amazon.com

Anker did a great job with their 21W Solar Charger. Made out of high-grade solar panels, which have an efficiency of 21.5-23.5% and using their own PowerIq technology, this solar-powered charger is able to provide up to 2.4A per port or 3A overall. This is enough to fast-charge most smartphones and more than what the average portable solar panels in its category can provide. The Anker 21W Solar Charger also comes with short circuit and surge protection safety for keeping your devices safe.

It features dual USB type-A ports to which you can directly connect your devices. You can charge two devices at a time, but in this case, the maximum power supplied by each USB is 1.5A, still plenty for charging your phone. The USB ports are located in a neat protective pocket which also fits a phone. So you can simply tuck your phone into the protective pocket, hang the solar panels on your backpack and you can simply be on your way while your phone is recharging.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Anker 21W Solar Charger is exceptionally lightweight, weighing in at less than a pound. This makes it ideal for taking it on hikes and on camping trips.

Anker built this solar power charger with durability in mind. The solar panels themselves are covered with a layer of industrial-strength PET for extra toughness, while the canvas is made out of a rugged polyester fabric that can take the abuse of outdoor usage. The stainless-steel holes on the corners make it easy to hang the Anker 21W Solar Charger just about anywhere including backpacks, tents, trees, etc.

Read our full review of the Ankery 21W Solar Charger

Nekteck 21W Portable Solar Panel Charger

Nekteck 21W Portable Solar Panel Charger

  • Max output power: 3A
  • Ports: 2 USB type A ports
  • Number of solar panels: 3
  • Solar cells efficiency: 21% – 24%
  • Size: 6.3 x 1.1 x 11.1 inches when folded
  • Weight: 17.3 ounces / 490 g
  • Built-in protective pocket for devices
  • Includes 2 carabiners
  • IPX4 waterproofing

Check Price on Amazon.com

The Nekteck 21W portable solar charger is a foldable solar panel with dual USB charging ports for plugging in your devices. Unlike the Anker 21W Solar Charger, each of the 2 USB ports is capable of delivering a maximum of 2A, compared to 2.4A by the Anker device. This will result in a slower charge if using the Nekteck 21W portable solar charger, however, it’s also reflected in the price as the Nekteck is the cheaper of the two devices.

The solar panels have an efficiency of between 21% and 24% and are covered with PET polymer materials. They also have an IPX4-grade waterproof level, which means they can survive if you forget them out during a rainy day.

These portable solar power cells also feature a useful charging pocket. Inside the pocket, you’ll find the 2 USB ports. In order to charge your phone simply place it in the pocket, connect it to a USB port, and then zip the pocket up. After that, you can simply place the panels on a surface facing in the sun or carry them on your backpack.

In terms of practicality, the Nekteck 21W portable solar charger features 5 different eye-rings and also comes with two carabiners. This makes it highly easy to attach to various objects either during a long hike or as you’re camping down.

Read our full review of the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger

ROCKPALS SP003 100W Solar Charger

ROCKPALS SP003 100W Solar Charger

  • Max output power: 2.4A
  • Ports: 3 USB Type A, 1 DC port
  • Number of solar panels: 4
  • Solar cells efficiency: 21.5% – 23.5%
  • Size: 20.5 x 14.2 x 2.6 inches when folded
  • Weight: 5.1 pounds / 2313 g
  • Built-in protective pocket for devices
  • IPX4 waterproofing

Check Price on Amazon.com

The ROCKPALS SP0033 100W solar charger is the most powerful on this list! While traditional solar chargers have two or three solar panels, this one contains four. That alone is sufficient enough to provide 100W of power. You can charge your smartphones, tablet, GPS, camera, and any 5V USB-C device on the market. It’s also compatible with a solar generator, excluding the Jackery 440. As a bonus, this product comes with different connecter sizes, including an 8 mm DC adapter for Jackery, 5.5 x 2.1 mm for ROCKPALS 250/300/350/500W).

What’s even better about the ROCKPALS SP003 100W Solar Charger is that it has a high solar conversion efficiency at 21.5 – 23.5%. That alone should be enough to power your connected devices.

Overall, this solar charger has three USB-A ports and one DC port. However, only one USB-A port supports QC 3.0, which will charge your smartphone and other QC 3.0-compatible devices up to four times faster than other chargers. Meanwhile, the other two ports have a max output of 10W. Additionally, this product features built-in IC chip technology, which delivers the appropriate charging speed to your connected devices. It also protects against overcharging and overloading. If you use all three USB ports simultaneously, it will deliver 6A max overall.

Furthermore, this solar charger was designed with durability in mind. The outer cover is comprised of waterproof oxford cloth. It also features a handle, making it convenient for you to carry around. However, one downside is that the junction box does not have any water-resistant ratings, so you should ensure it remains dry at all times to prevent damage.

This is the heaviest solar charger on the list, weighing 5.1 pounds. Even with that weight, you can still carry it around with you on your hiking, camping, fishing, or even traveling trips. It also has a hefty price attached to it, which is completely understandable given how much power it provides to the user.

Key benefits of Solar Power Banks

So, why would you use a portable solar power bank, instead of a standard plug-in power bank? For many people, a plug-in power bank can be good enough. But there are several good reasons to consider a solar-powered option. Here are a few of them.

  • They’re a great choice for camping. If you’re spending a week or more in the wilderness, it can be almost impossible to keep your phone charged via a standard power bank. It’s feasible if you leave the phone off except for occasional check-ins. But if you’re taking pictures or videos, you’re going to need to recharge a few times. A solar power bank will extend the power you have available in remote locations, so you can enjoy your camping trip without fretting over batteries.
  • Ideal for off-grid power. Solar power banks are also a good choice for hunting cabins and wilderness retreats. You won’t be able to run a house full of lights, but you’ll be able to use your phone for an extended amount of time. You’ll also be able to recharge flashlights that have USB charging ports.
  • Great for emergencies. In the event of an emergency or natural disaster, you might not have access to wall power for charging your devices or your power bank. In this case, a solar power bank gives you a way to keep your phone charged, so you can stay in touch with relatives or for contacting emergency services.

Answers for your questions

Before we wrap up, we thought we’d answer a few common questions about solar power banks. Here are a few things people usually want to know before purchasing a solar power bank:

How does a solar power bank work?

A solar power panel consists of a photovoltaic cell, with silicon layers on either side. One layer of silicon has been infused with negatively-charged phosphorus, while the other has been infused with positively-charged boron. This creates an electric field, with electrons traveling between the two layers.

When sunlight strikes the photovoltaic cells, light particles called photons strike some of these electrons, knocking them out of the circuit like billiard balls. These free electrons are then collected by a conductive plate, which allows the electrons to recharge the attached battery. Generally, the battery itself will be either lithium-ion or lithium-polymer, since lithium allows for easy electron flow and, hence, easy recharging.

How long do solar power banks take to charge?

To understand this, we first need to understand what a milli-amp-hour (mAh) is. As its name implies, a mAh is one one-thousandth of an amp-hour, and an amp-hour is the amount of power drawn by a single amp device over the course of a single hour. So, for example, a 2-amp USB device will draw 2,000mAh of power over the course of an hour.

In order to calculate the charge time, you would do the reverse. You would measure how many amps the solar panel is putting out, and multiply that by the number of hours the power bank is charging for. So, a 1-amp solar panel will charge a 25,000mAh battery pack in 25 hours of direct sunlight.

However, most solar power bank charger manufacturers don’t tell you how many amps their solar panel puts out. Even if they do, the number assumes direct sunlight. In practice, you’re almost never going to have your solar panel in direct sunlight all day long. There will be periods of shade, clouds, rain, and other conditions that lower the panel’s efficiency.

As a result, the best we can do is give you a general rule of thumb. A 25,000mAh solar power bank with a built-in panel will take about a week to two weeks to fully charge the battery. By contrast, a similarly-sized power bank with a foldable panel will charge in 2 or 3 days, and a standalone panel will get the job done in 12 to 13 hours. To get a better estimate, consider your location. If you’re using your power bank in Southern California chaparral, your performance will be towards the faster end of the spectrum. If you’re in the woods of New England, your performance will be towards the lower end of the spectrum.

This sounds slow. Why not just use a traditional power bank?

Yes, even a foldable solar power bank takes a while to charge. But the reason for using a portable solar power bank is that you have no other electrical source available. If you’re hiking for the weekend, or if a natural disaster knocked your local power grid offline, a solar-powered power bank might be your only source of power. Essentially, a solar charger power bank is a high-quality power bank with an emergency backup feature.

What are the different types of waterproofing these devices have?

Solar power banks are waterproofed in the same way as other electronic devices. Look for an IP rating. Normally, these devices will be rated IPX4, IPX5, IPX6, or IPX7. IPX4 indicates that the device is resistant to small amounts of moisture. IPX5 indicates that the device is splash-resistant. IPX6 indicates that it’s resistant to streams of water, such as a shower. An IPX7-rated battery pack can withstand total submersion.

How to best use a solar-powered power bank?

In order to get the most of your solar portable charger, make sure to follow these simple tips and tricks:

  • As much as possible point them towards the sun throughout the day
  • Do not charge them behind windows, as this will drastically reduce the efficiency of the solar cells
  • Don’t charge them during cloudy days, or in shadowed places. Solar power is the most efficient in direct sunlight.
  • Don’t place the devices on hot surfaces (sand, tarmac, concrete etc). This can both reduce charging efficiency and also harm the circuitry due to overheating
  • Do not submerge the devices, even if they’re water-resistant

This wraps up our curated list of the best solar power banks. In our opinion, these are some of the best options in the market today. However, as new products are being released, we will make sure to update the list and include the latest and best possible options. So, if you’ll revisit the page at a later time you might find other suggestions. And last but not least, if you believe a certain product is good enough to be included in our list, please get in touch with us and let us know.