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Who needs plugs?
Harnessing the power of the sun to charge up gadgets is one of my favorite tech hacks. After all, living in Florida, where the sun is actively trying to broil me 10 months out of the year, I feel like I should be able to yoke some of that raw potential.
Luckily, I’m not the only one that feels that way. If you want to take advantage of the Day Star to keep your tech going on the go, look no further than this list of the best solar-powered chargers.
One important note: Some of these power banks require you to purchase a solar panel separately from the battery, and I’m mostly okay with that. Solar panels generate heat. A lot of heat. Putting them on top of high-capacity batteries is what they call in the tech industry a “bad idea.”
But here are some bright ideas for portable solar charging:
Goal Zero makes the most reliable, most versatile, power products on the market today. I’ve used their generators and solar panels for years and have been impressed, not with just how well they perform, but how they keep performing, barely losing any of their capacity as the years go by. With 25,600 mAh capacity and a max 60W output, the Sherpa 100 AC has more than enough power to keep everything in your pack running. It doesn’t lack for ports either. There’s one USB-A port, two USB-C ports and even an AC port if you are stuck using the power adapter for your laptop. And, yes, there’s a 5W Qi charger on top. The helpful OLED display on the front of the unit lets you know how much power is coming, going out, and lets you set roles for each port if you like. And the included magnetic USB-C, Mini-USB, and Lightning cables are a nice touch—you don’t have to worry about leaving yours at home. Pair this with a Nomad 28 portable solar panel and you can recharge the unit in 7-12 hours. Who needs the grid?
Okay, what if you don’t need the giant capacity of the Sherpa 100 AC and just want to bring enough pack with you to charge your laptop and maybe your phone? Get the Sherpa 100 PD. It has one USB-C port, two USB-A ports and a 5W Qi charger on the top of the unit. Instead of a fancy OLED screen, it has a simple LED readout of the current charge state. It also has the 25,600 mAh capacity and a max 60W output of the AC-enabled Sherpa, so you’ll be able to keep your devices running for a nice long time. And if you need to charge on the go? Use the included cord or hook the Sherpa up to one of Goal Zero’s Nomad solar panels for clean energy.
I like this pack by Revel Gear, not only because it has an impressive 8,000 mAh capacity, but also because it’s also weatherproof and has an integrated flashlight and emergency beacon. There’s even a low-light alternative illumination option that can give you up to 99 hours of light. It’s a great option to throw in with your camping or hiking gear.
Now this is what I’m talking about when it comes to portable solar chargers. Consisting of nothing more than a foldable solar panel and a USB port, the design is pure simplicity. Point the solar panel at the sun, plug in your charging cable, and you’re good to go. Just keep in mind that this is simply a portable solar panel. It doesn’t have an internal battery.
I know what you’re thinking: You can’t fool us. That is a flashlight. And you’re not wrong. But this device is an all-in-one emergency kit dream. It’s a flashlight, emergency beacon and 4,400 mAh capacity power bank. You can charge it via the integrated solar panel, integrated USB cable or even the hand crank on the side. It absolutely deserves its place in your go-kit.