I love to check out new products especially if they are useful and can save me money over the life of the product. I came across three cool new solar-powered USB chargers from Anker, Nekteck, BigBlue, and Sooko that I wanted to test out.
As a family, we love to go hiking, traveling, and camping, the one problem we often came up with was how to keep all our electronics charged up. Our phones are needed in an emergency, so it’s important to keep these always charged up.
Sure you can use the small battery USB power banks, but when you go camping for over 1 week at a time these phone power banks just don’t cut it over the duration. Also using a cigarette USB charger will drain your car battery over the week so it’s also not the best solution.
So I started to do some research and came across three new generations of popular and powerful solar-powered USB chargers. These are made from Sokoo, Nekteck, Bigblue, and also Anker. Both these companies are world-renowned for making quality USB battery banks, so they sure know their stuff.
Solar-powered USB chargers reviewed
Anker vs Nekteck vs Sokoo vs BigBlue Solar Powered USB chargers.
I thought it’s best to talk about the 4 best solar-powered phone battery chargers currently on the market. They are mid-range and in my opinion the best bang for your buck.
These advanced solar USB phone chargers have been upgraded to use the latest in Sunpower solar cells. That means their conversion efficiency has been improved to over 20%
These second-generation solar phone chargers are all made very similar. The mesh outer sheath is water-resistant and provides strength and form for the internal solar cells. Perfect for bug out bags, or emergency situations like a blackout. When the grid goes down how are you going to get power?
There is a small circuit block in the pouch, that provides all the brains, voltage regulation, and safety features. This ensures that the panels output the correct voltage and current.
As I’m very safety conscious, I always travel with a small compact jump starter Not only does it jump-start our car in an emergency but it will provide USB power output for all our devices. The DBpower mini jump starter 2500A is what I use and is the best of the bunch.
I wanted a way to charge this up during the day without using a car battery. Hence the quest for the best solar powered USB fast charger for all our devices.
So let’s check out the real world tests.
These tests were done using an X-dragon USB detector at midday. I only had one of these but I have 2 USB battery booster packs that I use as a load tester. This way we make sure that we are pulling out the maximum load from of one of the USB ports on the Solar USB charger.
Anker: Full sun 1.64A at 5v output this is winter sun so not the best summer full sun. But still, it’s good. The angle you point your panels at the sun makes the world of difference.
Nekteck: Full sun I got 1.69A at the 5V output. Same as the above with winter sun. I’m hoping as summer comes along and the sun angles get higher and stronger that we will get a higher amp draw.
Sokoo: Full sun I was able to get 1.72A at the 5v output. Slightly higher than the other 2.
BigBlue: With full sun I was able to get 1.93 Amps. This is the most I was able to get but I’m sure if I had a few extra USB splitters I could get close to the full 2.4 Amps per USB slot.
The output of each of these devices are very similar and is dependant on lots of conditions such as:
- The angle of the solar panel to the sun
- Ambient outside temperature
- Dust or dirt on the solar cells
- Distance from the sun to the earth (angle of the earth)
- The temperature of the solar cell. (Hot solar cells are less efficient)
Anker 21W Dual USB Solar powered mobile charger, PowerPort for all smartphones, GoPro’s, and tablets
I like Anker as a brand. I have lots of their USB power banks and their heavy-duty cables. They do make quality gear which is well regarded.
- With over 10 million+ happy Anker users powered by leading technology. Anker will have you covered when it comes to solar backup phone power.
- Fast Charging Technology: Anker has special PowerIQ tech that delivers the fastest possible charging speed. this is up to 2.4 amps per port or 3 amps overall under direct sunlight.
- The 21-watts SunPower portable solar array is 21.5-23.5% efficient. Providing enough power to charge two devices simultaneously like LED tent lights. More if you use a USB splitter cable.
- Incredibly Durable: The industrial-strength PET (polyethylene terephthalate) polymer faced solar panels, are sewn into a rugged polyester canvas. This offers weather-resistant outdoor durability.
- Extremely Portable: Its compact size of 11.1 × 6.3 inches folded or 26.4 × 11.1 inches opened means you can take it anywhere. With stainless-steel eye-holes on each corner enables you to easily attach the unfolded solar USB charger panel to backpacks, trees, or tents.
- Lightweight (14.7 oz) and ultra-thin design (1.1in folded or 0.2in opened) make it the ideal solar-powered USB charger for long treks.
- Advanced Safety Short circuit and surge protection technology keeps you and your devices safe.
- What’s in the box: Anker PowerPort Solar (21W 2-Port USB Universal Solar Charger), 3ft Micro USB cable, welcome quick start guide, 18-month warranty.
For more information check out our detailed Anker solar powered portable phone charger review. It has so many uses, and you will be surprised by what you can charge with it.
Nekteck 21W Universal Solar Charger Review with 2-Port USB Build with High-Efficiency Solar Panel Cells
What I like about the Nekteck Solar USB charger is the zipper electronics compartment. The Anker and Sokoo have a small velcro strap that holds your phone and the solar electronics in. The zipper is a much stronger and safer option.
- High Efficiency: Constructed with the same 21 watts High-efficiency Sunpower panels, as the Anker unit shown above. These new flexible solar panels have a power conversion rate of up to 21%-24%. Providing enough power to charge 2 devices at the same time. More if you think creatively and use a USB splitter cable or a multiple USB output block.
- Fast charging Technology: Nekteck has designed a built-in smart IC chip, each port cleverly identifies your device, and seeks to maximize its charging speed (up to 2.0A max per port or 3.0 A max overall)
- Highly Portable: Ultra-lightweight (18 oz) and ultra-compact (6.3x 11.1x 1.06in folded or 26.3x 11.1in opened). Its the perfect charging pack to bring out for a quick charge anywhere there is sunlight. Even if it is cloudy, you still will achieve a little bit of charge.
- Highly Durable: The canvas is designed to withstand rugged usage for outdoor use. It protects each solar cell and provides structure. Exposure to rain will not damage the exterior part of the solar-powered smartphone charger as it’s water-resistant.
- What’s included in the box: Nekteck 21W Solar Charging Panel, 80cm Micro USB Cable, User Manual, 12 Month warranty
FSC-22 SOKOO 22W 5V 2-Port USB Portable Foldable Solar Charger.
Sokoo makes a big deal about their universal solar chargers being water friendly. With its waterproofing coatings and rugged stitching, this is one of my favorite looking solar chargers. It’s also our winner for the best solar phone charger.
The other item that sets this one apart from the others is it’s rated at 22w and has a higher amp draw per USB port 2.4A or 3.3 via two ports. This means it will charge your devices faster.
I ended up getting the camo army color. This will help with keeping the panels cool. Black absorbs heat and solar cells become less efficient. Plus it looks cool out hiking and camping.
- Water-Resistant and Extremely Durable: The well designed smart Integrated Circuit with waterproof treatment and rugged high-wear PVC fabric canvas, will provide you with worry-free usage in any outdoor environments and activities. We have used this USB solar charger in areas such as water skiing, fishing, boating, beach use, hiking, and camping. As long as there is sunlight you can use it. Even cloudy days will give you a partial charge.
- High Conversion Efficiency: It’s updated SunPower solar panel array has a world-leading solar energy conversion efficiency. These panels are fantastic, with almost twice the efficiency of most of the other folding solar chargers in the market.
- Dual-USB Smart Charging Technology: The included smart built-in IC chip intelligently identifies your phone or tablet. This means it will maximize the charging speed while protecting your devices from overcharging and overloading. The charging current of USB ports is up to 2.4A max at 5V DC per port or 3.3A max overall. is monitored and automatically adjusted according to the sunlight level. This is a slightly higher charge rate than the other two units shown here.
- Highly Portable: Like the Anker and Nekteck solar USB charger the Sokoo is very compact. it has copper-alloy eye-holes on each corner to allow easy attachment to your backpacks, trees, rope lines, windows, or tents. Lightweight at 17.5 oz and ultra-thin design 1.6in folded makes it perfect to carry around all day for outdoor activities.
- What You Get: SOKOO FSC-22 22W 2-Port USB Folding Solar Charger, user manual, 2 attachment hooks, 18-month.
The camo design looks amazing if they only included a zipper in the inside pouch then this solar-powered USB charger would be perfect.
BigBlue 28W Backpack Solar Panel
Now this monster packs 4 high-quality solar panels. Compared to the 3 panel little brothers mentioned here there is no competition.
I like how it has a little LED display that shows the current charge rate. This will be dependant on what type of phone or tablet you are charging as some have internal current limiting rates when the battery starts to warm up.
The new PET polymer fabric protects your solar panel and your devices from occasional rain or wet fog. Just be sure to wrap any non-waterproof devices in a plastic bag.
The BigBlue solar panel has all of the features of the smaller backpack chargers mentioned here but packs an extra charging rate. In a package and price that is hard to beat.
If you are after a fast solar charger for when you are out camping then check out all of the features of the Big Blue 28 watt. You will be impressed.
Outdoor Solar Power Phone Charging Tips and Tricks
To get the most out of your foldable solar phone charger it’s best to follow these handy tips and tricks.
Always face your foldable solar power charger towards the sun. This may mean placing it on an angle parallel to the sun. You may have to continue adjusting the angle over the day. A piece of wood or tree branch works wonders for adjustments.
Use the shortest quality USB cable you can find. The longer the cable the more resistance you will have in the USB cable and the more voltage drop you will get which will make charging your smart devices slower.
Always place your charging device under-cover and out of direct sunlight. The Lithium-Ion batteries inside smartphones and tablets hate heat. They will fail if exposed to direct sunlight and overheating. It’s best to place your phone either in the pocket of these Solar folding battery chargers or under something else to shade the phone or tablet.
If your device stops charging or is charging slowly, try unplugging the USB cable and re-plugging it back in when full sunlight is around. This is because the current output of these smart solar cell phone chargers will decrease when the sunlight is low. For example when there is cloud cover.
Sometimes the phone and solar charger will sense this low power draw and cap the limit. Only a removal and reinserting of the USB power cable will reset the circuit and fix the power draw issue.
Battery Bank Charging
As there is no included battery bank for storage of electricity there is nothing stopping you from buying one yourself and adding it. It would work like this:
Foldable Solar USB Charger — Battery Power Bank — Phone
I have always liked the Anker battery power banks so a small power bank included in the pouch will be a nice backup storage solution. It may also help with high power draw items like larger tablets and some Apple gear. As you can see from the picture above there is plenty of room to store a power band and smartphone in the solar cell phone charger pocket.
iPhone’s and iPad’s are designed to be charged with a stronger current than that of Android. Sometimes if it’s cloudy you may get an incompatible message on your Apple device when the current is not strong enough due to the strength of sunlight.
Please use it only in strong sunlight if you get his message. Or use a power bank to smooth out the power charge ripples. Make sure to unfold all panels before insert USB, and reinsert USB to activate charging when sunlight becomes stronger again.
How much Money will a Universal solar charger save me?
Most of us will only use these solar device chargers in an emergency. So for that reason alone, they are priceless. But let’s assume you want to go off the grid and use totally green energy.
So let’s say you use this once a day for 365 days a year. Only to charge one iPhone 7 plus.
The iPhone 7 has a 2900mAh 3.8V Li-ion Internal Battery. So to charge this battery up with one of these 3 portable fast solar battery chargers will take around 1.5 hours at full sun. This is around the same speed as most wall chargers at 2 amps output.
So if we consider a standard wall charger will use around 0.35 of an amp at full power charge, then we can work out the cost per year.
0.35 amps x 1.5 hours = 0.57ah for the day.
So for 1 year, this wall charger will use 208 amp hours. This is not considering the standby power draw. So if you leave it plugged in it will draw more power adding to the cost.
Power usage is calculated by P= VI so 208a x 240v = around 50k watts (worked out in Australia power rating) the USA will be the same but use 110 volts.
Also, the price of power will be different in each part of the world and your electricity retailers deals, but I worked this out to be 50k watts at $0.35c = $17.5 for 1 year in power savings.
That’s nice little dollar saving for only 1 device. So if you have a window inside your home that gets a few hours of sun each day then it’s worth your while to charge all your devices with the solar powered battery charger. It would pay for its self within a year or two.
How do I use a portable solar cell phone charger?
All of these waterproof solar chargers use some sort of way to charge your devices while on the go outside. This is by the way of small holes in the corner of each solar cell phone charger. The benefit of these holes is to attach the solar-powered phone battery charger to backpacks, trees, chairs, or tents.
You can use each one either folded up with only 1, 2, or 3 panels exposed. Be aware that with only 1 panel exposed to the sun you will only get around 800-1000mah of power charge to your smartphone, tablet, or Tesla coil arc lighter. This will make charging slower.
It’s interesting to know that we don’t need to rub 2 sticks together or use a magnifying glass to start a campfire. All that’s needed is a solar USB battery charger and a Tesla arc lighter. Cool hey.
So to charge up your USB device be it a phone, tablet, GoPro, car jump starter, portable power bank with AC outlet, or even quadcopters.
- Firstly unpack and fold out the solar-powered portable charger.
- Angle the solar boost pack towards the sun, or use it as a smart wearable on your backpack while hiking.
- Plugin the USB cable into both the solar-powered mobile charger and your device.
- Place your phone or USB device in the shade or undercover.
- Sit back for a few hours and enjoy free power from the sun.
- You can also still use your device while it is charging.
Waterproof solar charger – for boating, fishing, and when it rains.
So these 3 USB waterproof solar chargers are rated to be water-resistant. We all know that water and electronics do not mix. By design, solar cells are waterproof, just like the solar cells on your roof they are fully sealed.
Sokoo actually shows their solar-powered USB charger floating in the water. This is because of a special waterproofing treatment they do to all their solar panels.
The only issue is the USB connections have an opening for water to enter. Also, your phone may not be fully waterproof. the new Samsung and iPhone’s have been engineered to be able to withstand rain and water.
Older phones and tablets may be susceptible to water ingress so make sure if you are charging your electronics outside, that they are protected from the elements if it rains or someone turns on a sprinkler.
A plastic bag will work wonders to protect your phone when out on the ocean or a lake from splashes and the salt air.
Is it worth getting a 15w or 21w solar panel charger?
For the price, it’s better to get the 21w solar panel charger. It’s only 1 extra panel and only a few dollars more. The 21-watt solar panels will charge your device faster with 3 panels, and you have the option of only folding out 2 if you are struggling for space.
These new Sunpower panels are the new breed of flexible high-efficiency solar cells. It’s great to see this new technology flowing down to us consumers. Blitzwolf is another company that has started to include these solar cells in their solar powered backpack charger station. So be sure to check out that full review.
At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with either one of these smart solar USB device chargers. The Sokoo 22 watt solar charger is the one I ended up buying as it comes in camo colors. But then came along the BigBlue 28-watt solar backpack charger. It has more power and it has a nice long warranty.
I wish Anker and Nektech would start to bring out some different colors or even a camo design. Just make it look so much cooler. I’m sure it would also help with the black absorbing the heat.
What’s the best solar phone charger?
Because the stats are so close on all 3 of these solar-powered phone battery chargers, if you find one on sale then go for it. You won’t be disappointed in any of these. But the BigBlue Solar charger with its inbuilt digital amp meter is the clear winner with is waterproofing and power extra amp rating.
28 watts of pure sunlight power will quickly charge your smartphone up in a few hours depending on the size of the internal battery. Also, a quick tip if you want to have longer mobile phone battery life while in low or no cell signal range, just put your device into airplane mode. Your battery will last heaps longer.
These are definitely on my list of most overlooked camping necessities. I just wish I had these like 10 years ago life would have been so much more fun.