The popularity of solar chargers is growing and we present a comparison of selected solar panels. We will also advise how and according to what to choose a charger exactly for your needs.
1. Jackery SolarSaga 200
The Jackery SolarSaga 200 solar charger offers 200W of power with a solar module efficiency of up to 24.3%. The supply voltage is 18 V. It is equipped with monocrystalline cells and has IP67 certification, so it is protected against moisture and dust.
The weight of these solar cells, which can be folded for carrying, is equal to 8 kg. It should be noted that this device offers high performance, so a higher weight can be expected. It is also primarily an accessory for the Jackery Explorer charging station to connect via the DC 8mm connector.
If you buy this solar charger together with the charging station mentioned above, you will get a complete kit combining solar cells and a battery. After connecting the solar charger to the charging station, you will charge the integrated battery of the charging station directly from the sun, and you can then charge other devices from this charging station.
The dimensions of the solar charger when unfolded are 232 x 54 x 2.5 cm. The outputs are USB-C (5V/3A) and USB-A (5V/2.4A).
- An uncompromising solution for travelers demanding high performance
- Suitable to combine with the Jackery Explorer charging station
- Quality of execution
- You can only use the full potential with a charging station
2. SolarSaga 100 Jackery
The Jackery SolarSaga 100 outdoor charger is a solution in this category with a high power of 100W and, at the same time, an affordable price, although it is still a more expensive device.
This solution weighs approximately 4.7 kg, and the output voltage is 18 V. The solar panels have an efficiency of 23% and are intended for combination with Jackery Explorer charging stations, whose integrated battery can be recharged directly. Water resistance is ensured by IP65 protection.
Whether you will be charging your mobile device directly with this solar charger or you will be charging the Jackery Explorer charging station first, it is, of course, ideal to have the solar panels in direct sunlight for maximum performance, also because the solar panel is equipped with monocrystalline silicon solar cells.
The dimensions of the panels, when unfolded, are 122 x 53.5 x 2 cm. The outputs are USB-A (5 V/2.4 A) and USB-C (5 V/3 A); in both cases, there is one connector each. You can get additional connectors only after connecting to the charging station.
- High performance for travelers at a reasonable price
- Top manufacturer and quality
- Suitable to combine with the Jackery Explorer charging station
- You can only use the full potential with a charging station.
3. Goal Zero Nomad 20W
The Goal Zero Nomad 20W travel solar charger will offer a complete solution for trips with a power of 20 W. The total weight is 1.1 kilograms. When folded, the panel is 21.6 x 33 x 2.5 cm, unfolded it is 77.5 x 33 x 2.5 cm. Overall, there are three panels that you can easily fold into a relatively portable form.
It will suit more demanding travelers who are looking for something compact as a last resort on the go. The connectors are USB port (5V/1A, 5W max), regulated solar port blue, 8mm (14-22V/1.3A, 20W max), and mini solar port 2.5mm (6.5V/1.1A, 7W max).
In practice, we can confirm high efficiency in low-light conditions. Connecting the device to a Guide 10 rechargeable battery from the same manufacturer can recharge in 2.5 to 5 hours.
As a negative, we can give a higher price considering the maximum power offered, but of course, there is also a certain tax on the quality of this device and its reliability , which is not always the case with cheaper products.
- Quality and reliable equipment
- It charges decently even in lower intensity sunlight
- It also charges a power bank in a reasonable amount of time
- Higher price for performance
4. Sandberg 420-56
The Sandberg 420-56 travel solar charger will offer an 18 W / 12 V output power, which it can achieve by combining 4 folding panels. Remember, of course, that this is a maximum performance you will never quite reach. This is another of the compact devices for travelers, which is intended primarily for recharging small electronics on the go. The device is drop and water-resistant.
In this case, it is a set solution with an integrated Li-Pol battery with a capacity of 25,000 mAh, which is such a reasonable minimum for traveling today. In addition to solar cells, you can also charge this battery via the Micro-USB input, which, however, the manufacturer could have already replaced with a more modern USB-C.
If you use solar cells alone to charge the integrated battery, the manufacturer states an efficiency of 23.5%. The entire charging kit has short circuit and overvoltage protection. The execution is at a high level, and a decent processing quality is known.
- Price/quality ratio
- Integrated battery included
- Very compact
- Obsolete Micro-USB for charging
How to choose a solar charger
The solar charger is a recent hit. It will allow you to use the ubiquitous solar energy to charge your mobile phone or other device that uses its own battery. Even if you are far from an electrical outlet, you always have a power source.
There are, of course, different designs of solar chargers. There are small pocket models and large chargers that you can use to charge a car battery on a trip, for example. This is also why you need to answer a few questions before purchasing a solar charger:
What type of solar charger do you want – there are two basic types of solar chargers, one is essentially a power bank in itself, so they have an integrated battery that they charge from solar cells. Other solar chargers contain only solar cells and directly charge the connected device.
What power will you require from the solar charger – for the solar charger we have to count on a certain power of the solar panel, how much it is actually able to get energy from the sun, but we will also be interested in the output power of the solar charger, how much it is able to supply current to our device or to the integrated battery. This will vary greatly from model to model, and so will the ability to charge different devices.
What will be the use of your solar charger – also with regard to the two previous points, it is necessary to realize for what purpose we actually plan to purchase a solar charger. Of course, it makes a difference whether we want to recharge a fitness bracelet or smartwatch on the go or whether we want to revive a car battery or power various devices, for example, while camping in nature.
In particular, the required performance, as well as the available outputs and output voltage, will be significantly different here, and it will all be related to the size and weight of the entire solution.
What kind of outputs should the solar charger have – we already touched on it in the previous point, namely that each solar charger can have different outputs. If its main purpose is to charge small electronics, it will have classic USB-A or modern USB-C ports with an output voltage of 5 V. The solar car battery charger will also offer 12 V outputs. Powerful models in a kit with an additional charging station will also offer 230 V. socket.
How much are you willing to invest in a solar charger – in the end, of course, the price plays a role. The cheapest pocket solar chargers in the form of a power bank can literally cost a few hundred crowns, powerful large folding panels that can recharge large charging stations can cost over 10 thousand crowns.
What is a solar charger for?
Having the possibility of power at any time on the go, regardless of whether you have an electrical socket within reach, is attractive.
Many of us already solve such a situation with various power banks, from which less or more demanding electrical devices can be charged, depending in particular on the size of the power bank. However, one day, you will run out of energy in the power bank, which the solar charger solves.
The solar charger can add energy to its own integrated battery directly from the sun, or you can charge your device directly via solar cells. Of course, it is necessary to take into account that the performance of solar panels is limited, the smaller the device, the smaller the solar panels, the lower the performance.
Small solar chargers are combined with a power bank suitable for recharging minimal electronics. Still, there are also mighty solar chargers that can directly charge your devices or combine with a charging station the size of a smaller suitcase, and which you can take with you for example on camping in nature. They can even charge your laptop, some can revive a dead car battery, etc.
1. Types of chargers
As part of our review and selection guide, we will focus on different types of chargers, describe their important parameters and, in short, everything that is essential for the right choice for a specific use. We basically distinguish between two basic types of chargers:
- With direct charging
- With integrated battery
I will now describe both types in more detail and also mention their main advantages and disadvantages. It is usually a decision mainly based on the purpose for which we are purchasing the device and what we want to charge with it.
Solar charger with direct charging
A pure solar charger is a device that contains only a solar cell, from which you directly charge the device you are connected to. This solution is mostly larger solar panels that are usually used as accessories for large charging stations. But such a separate solar panel can also deliver a lot of power, perhaps around 100 W, for direct charging of, for example, a mobile phone or tablet.
Such a charger can only work effectively without a charging station if the sun shines directly on the solar cells. These solar chargers are usually collapsible, typically consisting of 3 to 4 panels that you lay out in the sun. It’s a relatively bulky solution, though still portable when folded.
Unfortunately, you can use the full potential of this solution only with a charging station, which is a device with its own battery that can be the size of a small briefcase.
Although the solar cells themselves can already offer some outputs, the charging station will extend these possibilities, even with a 230 V socket.
Acquiring a charging station is especially ideal for achieving maximum stability of the charging current for your charged devices. Note that individual solar cells are not necessarily suitable for charging a laptop, for example, even if they have the power to do so.
This is because it does not have to have voltage regulation. This is also the reason why it is advisable to buy a charging station for them, when you charge the charging station with a solar cell and only then your device is charged from it, even if the sun is not shining at that time. But such a kit can cost you quite a lot of money, depending on the performance.
- Typically powerful solar cells
- In combination with a charging station, it will enable stable power supply for more energy-demanding devices
- Considering the dimensions and weight, it is mainly suitable for camping and transport in a car
- They recharge meaningfully only in direct sunlight
- You can use the full potential only with a charging station, which usually needs to be purchased separately
Solar charger with integrated battery
You can imagine the solar charger solution with an integrated accumulator as a small power bank supplemented with solar cells. It is a solar charger with a power bank that can add energy to your devices even without current energy intake from the sun. You can throw it in your backpack and charge it.
Once the sun is available, you can leave the solar charger in the sun and it will slowly charge the integrated battery. Please note that this charging will be very slow.
Considering the limited dimensions of the portable powerbank, there is only a small amount of space for solar cells, which will therefore only offer such a “trickle charge”. The integrated accumulator can thus typically be recharged directly from the mains.
The integrated accumulator serves as a store of energy, which the charger then transfers to your devices. The systems we described in the previous type actually work on this principle if you connect a charging station to the solar panels, but I described an incomparably more powerful and powerful solution and cannot bear comparison with the small solar charger with an integrated power bank that we are talking about here.
A solar charger with an integrated accumulator in the form of a classic power bank is a very compact and mostly light solution, it is actually a “tuned” power bank. You can take such a solution with you in your backpack on hiking trips. There are also more powerful solutions, offering more powerful solar cells, and it is somewhat reminiscent of the system of large folding solar panels that we described in the previous type.
You can think of it as a bigger wallet where you spread out several panels on the table and have an integrated battery as part of the device. Of course, the performance is not the same as that of large panels, but still slightly higher than a regular power bank with a small integrated cell.
- The integrated battery offers energy as a power bank at any time, regardless of the sun
- Available models with smaller and larger batteries
- Larger capacities with Power Delivery can also be handled with a laptop
- Most models are storable and easily portable
- Recharging the integrated battery from solar cells is more of an add-on
2. Important parameters
Now let’s look at the important parameters that are associated with the choice of a solar charger. We will focus on data such as performance, available outputs or the capacity of any integrated battery. All this and more should be taken into account when choosing.
For each solar charger, be sure to observe the power, which is given as standard in watts (W). Power is also typically available in relation to a specific output current (A) and voltage (V) at the output.
In most cases, for these devices, the supplied power (W) is also indicated for a specific output current and voltage. It is therefore similar to a classic power bank. You have to take into account that there are also some losses when transferring this power.
Generally speaking, the more power a solar charger can provide, the faster you can charge a specific device. In addition, some devices can only be efficiently charged from a certain power, otherwise you will not charge the device, but you can only partially keep it “alive”.
Higher performance and specific characteristics of chargers are typically required, for example, by laptops or recharging a car battery. We can define the following performances that you can expect from solar chargers:
Solar chargers can be equipped with different outputs. You will most often encounter outputs of the USB type, possibly also Micro-USB or today’s modern USB-C. Classic USB connectors are mostly intended for charging various small electronics.
The USB-C connector is used for more modern and energy-intensive devices that increasingly use this connector, or for recharging a laptop, if the power of the solar charger is sufficient for this and if the charger supports it.
Charging stations for large solar chargers, ideal for camping and as car accessories, can then offer even more. There are, for example, the outputs of a classic car socket, they can even offer a 230 V electrical socket.
Most efficient solar chargers, which are meant to function meaningfully and deliver stable energy, tend to be combined with a certain backup energy source, i.e. with their own battery.
Whether it’s a small power bank with a small solar cell or a large solar charger, it pays to buy a charging station containing a large battery. This is important not only for a stable supply, but also to get energy available at any time, even when the sun is not shining.
A small solar power bank charger usually states the battery capacity in milliamp hours (mAh). Small power banks can have a capacity of up to 10,000 mAh and are typically enough for one or two charges of today’s average smartphone. Larger power banks with a capacity of around 30,000 mAh can then also charge a laptop. Large portable charging stations recharged by large solar cells can offer even greater capacities.
Weight and dimensions
This parameter depends a lot on how powerful a solar charger you are actually looking for. If you are basically only interested in a solar charger with a power bank in your pocket, then here the solar cell only serves as an additional energy source for the internal integrated battery. Such a device does not have to have a weight and dimensions that are much higher than a regular power bank.
A different situation occurs with very powerful solar cells, which are large in themselves (especially when disassembled) and can be over a meter on the longer side and weigh several kilograms. And that’s not to mention if you top it off with a charging station the size of a smaller briefcase, which is extra bulk and extra pounds.
Please note that solar chargers can be equipped with different panels. The very efficiency of the solar panel is important, which increases significantly with more modern devices, and of course, with the same area, it allows more energy to be obtained from the sun. We have these types of panels:
Amorphous photovoltaic cell – it captures a wider spectrum of light, so it charges behind glass, for example, but in reality it has a lower efficiency, only around 5 to 8%.
Crystalline photovoltaic cell – offers a higher efficiency, which ranges over 20%, but cannot capture scattered light, which reduces its ability to charge, for example, behind glass.
Please also note that crystalline solar panels cannot be recharged sufficiently in artificial light. They mainly require direct sunlight. Sometimes there is a note with such solar panels only in the sense of “does not charge behind glass” and you can’t read anything in artificial light, so be careful about that when choosing.
3. Important features
Solar chargers can have different features, depending on what the specific manufacturer offers with the charger. Likewise, these properties will vary according to the purpose of a particular solar charger and their ability to realistically charge different devices. We can list the following important features that you should look for when choosing:
USB connectivity – if you charge small electronics, whether it’s mobile phones, headphones, GPS navigation or smart watches, be sure to focus on the number and type of USB ports.
The standard is of course the classic USB-A connector, but modern electronics increasingly use USB-C. In some solar chargers, you can also find a Micro-USB connector, which is rather on the way out.
Lightning – some solar chargers may also be equipped with a Lightning connector, which is a proprietary connector used by Apple on some of its products. You can usually find it on small solar chargers with an integrated battery, which can then also be recharged via this connector, saving you the trouble of carrying another cable if you don’t need another. However, the selection of solar chargers with this connector is very limited on the market.
Car socket / 230 V socket – large charging stations, which also use large solar panels, may also have the option of connecting more powerful devices via a car socket or a classic 230 V electrical socket.
Strap – if you have a portable solar charger that is the size of a standard power bank, it can usually also be equipped with a strap that allows you to attach it to, for example, a backpack, clothing, etc. So you will always have it at hand on a trip in nature and you won’t lose it.
LED flashlight – many small solar chargers with an integrated battery are usually equipped with an LED light, so they serve as a classic LED flashlight. You can thus use the charger as a normal flashlight and light up whenever you need it.
Case – some manufacturers may add a case to their device, which is actually a protective cover that reduces the risk of damage to the device when it is not in use. You can put a small solar charger, for example, in your backpack with other things without worry.
Adapter – if the solar charger has an integrated battery, it can of course also be recharged from the mains. A power adapter for a classic 230 V socket is also used for this. Some solar chargers may also include this adapter.