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Best Foldable Solar Chargers For Camping
If you did not already know, a lightweight foldable solar charger is a small solar panel that absorbs sunlight and stores it as energy which can be used for a variety of purposes. Unlike solar panels fitted on roofs, these are smaller, they are compact and lightweight, and they are ideal for camping purposes. If you have a higher demand of output power (100 Watts), you should consider these portable solar panel kits instead.
The benefit of having one of these solar panels is that you can collect energy, so you can charge all of your favorite devices like your smartphones, tablets, radios, and even to power specialized cooking gear. Folding solar panels can cost as little as $50 and as much as $400, depending on what you are looking for. Let’s get to it and tell you what you need to know in order to find the best foldable solar charger for camping on the market right now.
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Top 6 Lightweight Portable Solar Chargers
Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose Your Best Foldable Solar Panel For Camping
Let’s talk about all of the most important things you need to know before you start buying any foldable solar panels.
Important Features and What to Look For
Before you get started with any foldable solar panel, there are some really important features that you do need to look for.
For one, you do need to look at how durable the item in question is. If you are going camping, you are probably going to be exposed to a lot of dirt, moisture and rain, and extreme temperatures too. If you expect your foldable solar panel to last for any amount of time, you need to get one that is impact resistant, dustproof, water resistant, and can withstand extreme temperatures. On a side note, if you are going camping near the ocean, being resistant to salt and corrosion is something else that you will want to look for.
You do also need to look at the size and weight of the foldable solar panel. If you are going camping, chances are that you already have more than enough gear on your person. This means that you do not want to be lugging around a big and heavy solar panel. Now, do keep in mind that a small and lightweight solar panel will often not be able to generate as much power as a larger one, so you have to consider what your needs are when camping. Do you want something bigger and more powerful, or something a bit smaller and more compact?
Of course, as we will discuss below in more detail, you should look at how much power the solar panel in question can produce. A small 20 or 40 watt setup will be more than enough to power some devices. A 120 or 140 watt setup should be enough to run larger things like computers and radios. If you want to power camping gear such as cooking stoves, you will probably want to go with something that has 320 or more watts of power. This has to do with the size of the solar panel and the size and type of the individual cells, something we will discuss a bit more later on.
Another thing to pay attention to before you make a final purchase is what kind of connections the solar panel in question has to power your devices. Does it only have USB jacks? Can it handle conventional power plugs? Does it comes with an AC to DC power converter? In other words, a foldable camping solar panel will not do you much good if you cannot plug in your selected devices to it.
Different Types Of Solar Panels
First off, you need to know the difference between thin film and crystalline solar panels. Crystalline solar panels tend to be much more efficient than thin film solar panels, which means that they generally produce more watts of power per square inch. This is of course a good thing, but the drawback here that you need to be aware of is that crystalline solar panels need strong and direct sunlight to work well; they usually do not fare too well with indirect sunlight.
On the other hand, thin film solar panels do work with less lighting, such as when the sky is overcast, but in general, they tend to produce a bit less power per square inch. These thin film solar panels are best used when camping in higher latitudes.
You should also know the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. To put it simply, poly solar cells tend to be the worse of the two. They are not hugely efficient, and they tend to be less compact than mono solar cells. However, another big difference here is that poly solar cells do cost a lot less than mono solar cells.
So, if you need something that is very small and compact, well-built and durable, plus quite efficient too, you will want to go with a mono solar cell panel. Keep in mind that these will cost you more than a poly solar cell panel type of setup, but they do also work better.
Typical and Maximum Power Delivery
Of course, one of the most important things that you need to pay attention to when buying any portable and foldable solar panel is how much power it can actually deliver. When it comes to small portable solar panels, such as ones you would use to charge smartphones and tablets, you should aim to go for a model that can provide between 2 and 20 watts per day. In terms of the “typical power delivery” it does really depend on the size and quality of the item in question.
A small poly solar panel setup may only be able to produce 10 watts per day, while slightly larger setups might be able to put out as much as 50 or 60 watts per day. If all you are doing is charging phones, 5 or 10 watts per day is enough, but if you have a lot of items that need to be charged, especially larger things like laptops, you will want to go for something with a bit more power. The cool part about foldable solar panels is that many do come with extension capabilities. Some of them can handle extensions which can produce as much as 400 watts of power per day, which could potentially be enough to charge the battery in your RV or just to power camping stoves too.
As you can see, there are quite a few different types of foldable solar panels out there, each of which has its own benefits and disadvantages. When going camping, there are quite a few things you need to look for, with how much power a panel can generate in comparison to your needs being one of the most crucial aspects to pay attention to.
Best Lightweight Portable Solar Charger Product Reviews
To provide you with some options and to help you find the best portable solar charger that your money can buy, let us review 5 different solar chargers right now. Who knows, we will find one that is ideal for you.
1. Vbestlife Waterproof Portable Solar Charger
The Vbestlife Portable Solar Charger is slim and lightweight, with a folded size of 10.8 x 7.48 x 0.78 inches and weighing 0.83 pounds. It has 2 USB ports suitable for charging a wide range of devices, and is compatible with iOS and Android devices.
The EFTE material makes it thinner and lighter than most portable chargers. These EFTE panels absorb sunlight more efficiently, and convert up to 20% of solar power to electricity. They are also water and dust resistant, and will charge in outdoor temperatures from -4°F to +140°F. This charger also has a built-in IC chip to intelligently provide the optimal charging input and speed up charge times.
The Vbestlife 12W Portable Solar Charger's dual USB ports have waterproof rubber caps, and it has an integrated adjustable stand to get the optimal solar angle from anywhere. The built-in sundial helps you optimize positioning. The design includes holes around the edge, and it comes with durable carabiners, so it can also be hung from a tree or tent pole. It is powerful enough to charge two devices simultaneously, and rugged enough for outdoor use.
Designed for hiking, camping, climbing, and other outdoor sports, this portable solar charger is lightweight and compact, able to fold into a thin, small size and be hung from a pack or tent. With hyper-efficient panels for harvesting solar energy, and smart technology that charges both Android and iOS devices quickly and at the same time, this is a great charger for anywhere your travels take you.
2. Nekteck 14W Solar Charger
The Nekteck 14W Solar Charger is compact and lightweight, weighing 14 ounces and with a folded size of 11.8 x 6.5 x 1.38 inches. The high-efficiency solar cells provide 21-24% energy conversion efficiency, with 2 solar panels harvesting approximately 800-1000mA per section in strong sunlight.
It has two built-in USB ports to quickly charge a wide range of devices. The canvas shell provides rugged durability, making it resistant to damp conditions and easy to transport. Built-in loops make it easy to attach to a backpack or any other surface, using a carabiner or a bungee cord.
The Nekteck 14W Solar Charger has SmartIC Technology that detects the device using USB PIN signals, and provides optimal charging power and optimal charging speed for both Android and iOS devices simultaneously, automatically adjusting to the demands of the device. It can output up to 2 amps per port, or 2 amps total. It also has a 12-month warranty.
The rugged canvas casing of the Nekteck 14W Solar Charger has a Velcro closure, and can withstand rugged outdoor conditions. The built-in zipper-closed pocket conveniently holds your cords and cables exactly where you need them, or you can use the pocket to protect your devices while they are charging, without slowing down your hike. With a small footprint and light weight, it's easy to take anywhere you may go. Intelligent technology provides optimal charging speed and a high solar conversion rate, so you can quickly charge almost any device you need, anywhere you are.
3. iNiCE™ Solar Battery Cell Phone Charger
The iNiCE™ Solar Battery Cell Phone Charger is compact and lightweight, with a folded size of 7.48 x 6.30 x 1.18 inches, and total weight of 12 ounces. It has 3rd generation silicon crystal solar cells that deliver up to 21.5-23.5% solar conversion efficiency.
Two USB ports can provide a total of 2 amps for high-speed charging, faster than a wall outlet, and it can charge two devices at once. Built-in Smart Identification IC intelligently senses connected devices and provide the optimal charging input that will speed up charge times. It has a waterproof layer, so it resists damp and wet conditions.
The foldable design is augmented with 4 stainless steel eyeholes, so it can be easily attached to a pack, tent, or tree for easy packing and optimal charging. It has an internal zippered pocket that is convenient for storing cables or for charging devices and protecting them while hiking, biking, backpacking, or camping. The internal fixed belt holds devices securely, for extra peace of mind.
With the iNiCE™ Solar Battery Cell Phone Charger, you can quickly and efficiently charge Android or iOS devices, no matter where you happen to be. The rugged and waterproof design allow you to take this compact and lightweight solar charger anywhere, whether it's camping, boating, hiking, or climbing. The high-efficiency solar cells provide high-speed conversion to charge devices faster, and built-in Smart IC technology automatically adjusts the current to optimize charge times for any device you may attach to the built-in USB ports.
4. Coocheer Solar Charger
The Coocheer Solar Charger is compact and lightweight, with a folded size of 7.6 x 10 x 1.2 inches and weighing .839 kg. The high-efficiency solar panels provide 17-19% efficiency in direct sunlight, providing up to a maximum of 3 amps of power to devices.
It has multilayered panels that speed charging times, and is CE, FCC, and RoHS certified. It has two USB ports to charge two devices at the same time, and is compatible with iOS and Android devices. It automatically detects the attached devices and delivers the optimal charging current to speed charging times, and has a voltage regular to ensure that the provided current is stable.
The mesh texture is evenly placed, for easy and secure attachment to a backpack, tent, or trees. It is water and mold resistant, for extra durability. Sturdy loops and two included hooks make it easy to hang anywhere. It has premium components, fail-safe protection, and comes with an 18-month warranty.
The lightweight foldable design of the Coocheer Solar Charger makes it as small as a thin book, and it can be tucked easily into a backpack. With 15 watt of high-efficiency solar panels, a fast charging speed of up to 3 total amps, and a rugged design that is water and mold-resistant.
The included hooks make it even easier to take this portable solar charger anywhere you need to go, and charge your devices safely with optimal voltage. The 18 months warranty lets you get this portable solar charger with full peace of mind, and it's ideal for camping, hiking, and travel of any kind.
5. SunJack Portable Solar Charger
The 14W SunJack Portable Solar Charger is small and lightweight, weighing 1.8 pounds, and with folded dimensions of 23 x 16.5 x 4.5 cm. It provides up to 2.8 amps of USB power to your device.
The built-in Smart IC chip automatically senses and detects connected devices, and automatically adjusts to deliver the optimal current that will speed charging times. It will also protect from overcharging, so you can safely charge any device with this portable solar charger. The weather-resistant panels fold down, into a compact size that is shock-proof, dust-proof, and drop-proof. It has an automatic restore feature should shade occur.
This portable solar panel has an indicator light to let you know if the USB is charging, and it can charge any device that uses a USB connection. It folds down to the size of an iPad, and can easily fit into any backpack.
The SunJack Portable Solar Charger is used by the US military, and designed in California. It is backed by a 12-month hassle-free warranty from an American company. The rugged design allows you to harvest the energy of the sun and use your electronic devices at night, and it is durable enough to withstand almost any adventure you may go on.
With this portable solar charger, you can have power anywhere that there is direct sunlight, and charge any device you may need. The warranty gives you peace of mind, and the fact that's used by the US military shows that these panels are durable, reliable, and high-quality.
6. CHOETECH Solar Charger
The CHOETECH Solar Charger is lightweight and portable. When folded, it is just 5.7 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches, and weighs .79 lbs. The highly efficient solar panels are powerful and stable, delivering 21-25% energy efficiency, and it is CE, FCC, and RoHS certified.
The USB port charges Android and iOS compatible devices, delivering 2.1 total amps at once. It has advanced charging technology that automatically detects devices and delivers the optimal current for the fastest and most efficient charge. The case is made of nylon, so it is durable, waterproof, and easy to clean. An indicator light lets you know that it’s charging. A heavy-duty buckle provides extra security and stability to devices while they charge.
The two stainless steel eyeholes on the sides make it easy to attach to packs, trees, or tents, and it comes with two D-shape buckles that make attachment fast, easy, and secure. You could hang it from a backpack and charge while you hike, so that your phone is fully charged at night when you need it. The fabric cover is attractive and durable, and this solar charger is easy to use anywhere. It also comes with a panda bookmark, and lifetime technical support.
The high-efficiency CHOETECH Solar Charger is a great way to have a rugged, durable, waterproof solar charger that can go anywhere, and quickly charge any USB-compatible device, with smart technology that provides fast charge times and protection for your devices. The indicator light lets you know it's working, for extra peace of mind.
When it comes down to it, all of the above lightweight foldable solar chargers are good to go with. It really depends on what you need. If you need something lightweight and super portable, we would Nekteck 14W solar charger. If you are under a tight budget, iNiCE™ Solar Charger is a good choice to keep in mind. If you want a hassle-free experience with a good mix of all of the important features, you might want to take a closer look at the first two options we have reviewed here today.
That’s it for now! If you’ve found this review useful, please share this article with your buddies and let us know in the comments below or leave a comment on our social pages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter has been installing PV systems since 2016 as a volunteer participating in over 30 installations events in the Bay Area, California. He has a mechanical engineering background and he has been involved in the solar industry since 2015. In his spare time, he likes to explore cool solar gears that make his camping trip more enjoyable and fun.
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