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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:

Panergy 26800mAh Solar Power Bank with USB C

Panergy 26800mAh Solar Power Bank with USB C

  • Battery Capacity: 26800mAh
  • Solar recharge time: ~17-20 hours
  • Regular recharge time: 8 hours
  • Ports: 1 USB type C, 2 USB type A
  • Size: 6.9 x 3.5 x 1.6 inches when collapsed
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds / 590 g
  • Solar panels can be detached
  • Built-in LED flashlight with mosquito repellent mode
  • IPX1 waterproof

Last update on 2021-06-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Panergy 26800mAh is arguably one of the best choices you can make when it comes to power banks with collapsible solar panels. First of all, it comes with 5 high-efficiency solar panels that can deliver up to 1500mA charge per hour, which is more than most of its competitors. At this rate, you could fully charge the power bank in about 17 hours of direct sunlight exposure. At the current state of technology, you can get much better than this when it comes to solar power banks.

This power bank also comes with a vast 26800mAh which is actually the exact maximum battery capacity legally allowed to be taken on planes without a special permit. Anything over this capacity and you’d only be able to travel with it by land. Overall, this is enough capacity to provide 4.7 full charges to the iPhone 11, 3.5 chargers to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, or 1.8 charges to the iPad Air 3.

Another important feature of Panergy 26800mAh is that it comes with a USB type C port. This port comes with Power Delivery and it’s capable of delivering 18W of power output, which means this power bank can charge the battery of your devices much faster than usual. Although USB type C ports are quite common in regular power banks, they are yet to be used on a large scale in power banks with solar power. Thus the Panergy 26800mAh is definitely an option to consider.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Panergy 26800mAh also comes with two different flashlights that have different lighting settings including a mosquito repellent mode! This solar power bank is also really tough, being shockproof, dustproof, and rainproof.

BLAVOR Solar Power Bank with Qi Wireless Charging

BLAVOR 20000mAh Solar Power Bank with Qi Wireless Charging

  • 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

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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 with 4 Solar Panels

  • 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

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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 with Wireless Charging

  • 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

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.

GoerTek Solar Powered Power Bank 25000mAh

GoerTek Solar Powered Power Bank 25000mAh

  • Battery Capacity: 25000mAh capacity
  • Solar recharge time: 3-7 days
  • Ports: 3 USB type A, 1 Micro USB
  • Size: 7 x 3.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Weight: 1.18 pounds / 535 g
  • Built-in flashlight
  • IPX6 water-resistance
  • Comes with a carabineer

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The GoerTek ES982 is a powerful, 25000mAh portable solar power bank and one of the most popular devices in its class on Amazon. It has a compact design, and only weighs a little more than a pound.

When charged by solar power, you can expect it to last between 3 and 7 days to get a full charge, according to the weather conditions. For best results, it’s recommended that you start charging via the sun once the overall capacity is 25% or more. In addition to recharging via solar, it can also be recharged via a power outlet, like a standard power bank.

In terms of output, it features 3 different USB ports: 1A, 2A, 2A. So, unfortunately, it does not come with any type of fast charging which can be a drag if you need to charge the battery of your devices quickly. But it compensates with its high battery capacity, enough to charge an iPhone XS up to  7.4 times, a Galaxy S9 Plus up to 5.7 times, and an iPad Pro for up to 1.6 times.

On the opposite side of the solar panels, it features a powerful 36-light LED flashlight with 3 different lighting modes. The flashlight can come in very handy during camping trips and other outdoor activities. As an added bonus, it comes with a carabineer that allows it to be mounted just about anywhere.

RAVPower Solar Charger 20000mAh

RAVPower Solar Charger 20000mAh

  • Battery Capacity: 20000mAh capacity
  • Solar recharge time: 7-10 days
  • Ports: 2 USB type A, 1 Micro USB
  • Size: 7.5 x 4 x 1 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds / 680 g
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Waterproof (IPX4)

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The RAVPower RP-PB183 is a standalone solar power bank with a pretty high capacity of 20000mAh. It comes with dual USB type A charging ports that output 5V/2A each. As most power banks in this category, it can be recharged via the built-in solar panel which would take between 7 and 10 days depending on the weather. But it also can be fully charged via a power outlet, case in which it can take between 6 to 8 hours if you’re using a 2.4A charger.

RAVPower Solar Charger 20000mAh is a sturdy device specially made for outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, fishing, etc. It’s waterproof (IPX4), dust-proof, and has shock protection too. You definitely don’t have to tread lightly around this device.

On the back-side, this power bank also features an LED flashlight, which can come in very handy. The battery pack comes with numerous safeguards which protect it from things such as short-circuit, overcharging or overheating.

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:

imuto 36W Solar Charger

imuto 36W Solar Charger

  • Max output power: 2.7A
  • Charging ports: 1 USB type A, 1 DC port
  • Number of solar panels: 6
  • Solar cells efficiency: 22% - 25%
  • Size: 11.89 x 7.09 x 1.97 inches when folded
  • Weight: 1.98 pounds / 898 g
  • Built-in protective pocket for devices

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The imuto 36W is a real beast when it comes to lightweight portable solar charges. For starters, it features 6 different solar panels, whereby similar models from other brands have just 2 or 3. As a direct result, the imuto 36W is capable of delivering more power than the average foldable solar charger. In fact, you can use it to even power up laptops, which is not possible with the average solar chargers on the market. That’s a big plus if charging a laptop or tablet is a requirement you have from a solar charger.

Besides the fact that it comes with more cells than average, these are also providing more solar power overall. These highly efficient solar cells have a 22%-25% yield, while the average is about 20% – 24%. It might not seem as much, but when it comes to charging your devices via sunlight, every single nudge matters.

In terms of ports, the imuto 36W features one USB port for charging phones and one DC port for charging laptops. This is just fine, but it would have been better if they managed to add one extra USB port so that you could charge two phones simultaneously if needed.

It’s made out of heavy-duty canvas, that’s water-resistant and dust resistant. It features a protective pocket that you can use for storing your phone while charging. And on the sides, there are several rope loops for hanging. Using the included carabiner, you can hang the imuto 36W almost anywhere for charging under the sun.

In terms of weight, it’s a bit heavier than similar devices in its category. However, at two pounds it’s still manageable for camping trips, hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. But it won’t be the ideal solar charger for trail running or other sports that require minimal weight. Another drawback is the pricing which is almost double than some other devices on our list. However, the extra power makes it worth its price tag.

RAVPower 24W Portable Solar Charger

RAVPower 24W Portable Solar Charger

  • Max output power: 3A
  • Charging ports: 2 USB type A
  • Number of solar panels: 4
  • Solar cells efficiency: 21.5% - 23.5%
  • Size: 11.8 x 6.5 x 0.2 inches when collapsed
  • Weight: 1.65 pounds / 748 g
  • Built-in protective pocket for devices

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The RAVPower 24W is a standalone foldable solar panel that’s compact when folded but expands to five times the size when unfolded. It comes with two USB dongles attached, which allows for the charging of 2 devices simultaneously. The dual USB ports come with iSmart charging technology, which allows them to regulate the power flow according to the requirements of the device that’s being charged.

Under direct sunlight, it can provide 3.2 amps of power, although performance will drop under less optimal conditions. One thing to be mindful of is that you should not place the solar panels on very hot surfaces such as sand, concrete, or tarmac. This can cause the RAVPower 24W to overheat, which will result in a loss of efficiency, but it can also damage the solar panels.

Overall, the device has a sturdy built as it’s enclosed in a durable canvas that also has a waterproof coating. For practicality reasons, the RAVPower 24W comes with 4 different metal eye-hols and 4 hooks which can be used to hang the device in the optimal position for charging via sunlight. Another handy feature is the canvas pocket which can store your devices while charging preventing them from falling or from getting exposed to the elements.

Anker 21W Solar Charger

Anker PowerPort Solar (21W 2-Port USB Solar Charger)

  • 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

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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, Waterproof Camping Gear Solar Powered Charger with 2 USB Ports

  • 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

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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

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.