- Consumer Electronics & Personal Gadgets
3 top portable solar chargers
Don't we all love our smart phones, tablets, and laptop computers? When they run out of power, simply plug them into a handy outlet and recharge them. Except, of course, when the power fails or when we're away from electrical outlets. Then what? Solar power rules!
Solar power encompasses a lot more than just an array of panels on the rooftop. I have a "solar" clock. It works on whatever light is in the room, whether natural light during the day or light bulbs at night. It doesn't ever require direct sunlight.
Solar chargers for your electric gadgets do require direct sunlight for the fastest charging, but the best ones will still charge in cloudy conditions or if the angle of the sunlight is less than ideal.
You can set them on a table or some other surface outside to charge your devices, or you can strap them to a backpack or otherwise carry them with you. The good ones are very versatile. Just make sure you get a good one. Here are three recommendations
Who needs portable solar chargers?
It used to be that we headed to the great outdoors when we wanted to get away from it all. Then came the smart phone and GPS apps. People like to take lots of other gadgets with them, too.
So the first category of people is hunters, hikers, campers, or even people who spend a lot of time out around the city. A portable solar charger is just the thing to make sure that the cell phone doesn't run out of power before you can get to an outlet.
The second category is broader. Anyone who lives in an area prone to long-time power outages will be very isolated very quickly if really bad weather knocks out the electricity for a long time.
More than storms can interrupt electric service. Excessive demand in heat waves can do it. This country has suffered a couple of rolling blackouts that wiped out power in multistate areas.
Full protection from this kind of disruption would require a solar or other alternative energy system capable of powering the entire house. A portable solar charger would at least keep iPads, iPhones, Kindle readers, etc. running.
Finally, survivalists love portable solar chargers. I personally can't understand people who stash away lots of food and other items in case the world comes to an end, but I have seen their websites and forums.
At the very least, they are prepared for the kinds of situations I have already mentioned. In a more serious and prolonged systemic crisis, as long as any vestige of wireless communication still exists, survivalists will be able to use it.
Here are descriptions of three of the most highly recommended solar chargers. I also have links to other hot-selling portable chargers that are less expensive, and therefore less versatile.
Goal Zero 19010 Guide 10 Plus Solar Charging Kit
This kit offers multiple ways to use the sun to charge your devices outside. It comprises both a solar panel and a battery pack: four rechargeable AA batteries and a charger.
- You can use the solar panel to charge the battery pack and the battery pack to charge your devices. The battery pack will be fully charged in 3-4 hours.
- You can charge your devices directly with the solar panel.
- You can charge the batteries using your car's cigarette lighter; the kit includes the necessary adapter.
- You can use the batteries in any device that operates on rechargeable batteries. Do you need AAA batteries instead? The kit also includes an adapter for that.
The solar panel has enough power to charge even tablets and readers, as well as smart phones. The battery pack offers more output, however, so it is the best way to charge a tablet.
The Goal Zero kit folds into a small package about the same size as a paperback book. You can easily carry it in your pocket when you're not using it.
The battery pack features a built-in LED light, which shines bright light for more than 150 hours on a charge.
Goal Zero video review
Joos Orange Solar Portable Solar Charger
You might expect something called the Joos Orange to be orange, not white. The product name appears to be a pun. It makes solar Joos. As a familiar advertising slogan puts it, a day without orange "joos" is like a day without sunshine.
This product can charge all manner of cell phones, tablet computers, GPS devices, MP3 players, and portable gaming devices.
It takes about 12 hours in direct sunlight (or 8 hours of plugging it in through the USB port) to charge its internal battery completely, but it doesn't need a complete charge in order to work. A fully charged Joos Orange can fully charge 2.5 smart phones, meaning a 40% charge is sufficient to charge a phone once.
The Joos Orange is also waterproof. Not just water resistant, but waterproof. If you leave it out on the ground to charge and it rains before you get back to it, it will keep recharging even under water.
The unit is thin and rectangular. With its adjustable legs you can find the best angle for pointing it to the sun, if you plan charge it from a stationary place. It also comes with an optional reflector kit, which makes it charge even faster.
But as I say, the Joos Orange is very forgiving about light conditions. If it keeps charging while under water, it will keep charging on cloudy days or if the sun angle isn't exactly ideal. That large hole makes a perfect way to strap it to the outside of your backpack and charge it as you go about your day.
Joos Orange video review
Suntactics sCharger-5 and sCharger-12
The Suntastics sCharger-5 is especially designed to charge your phone and other devices quickly. Unlike many popular chargers that can only give about half a charge to an iPhone, the sCharger-5 can charge one from 0% to 100% in about 2 hours. You can even talk on it or send text messages while it charges!
And when you're finished charging the phone, you can immediately charge something else: a GoPro camera, for example. In good sunny weather, it will charge an iPad. It will charge smaller devices in less than ideal conditions. And if it starts to rain? No problem. the sCharger-5 is water and weather resistant.
Energy available from the sun fluctuates depending not only on the weather, but time of day. That 2-hour time for fully charging a phone assumes midday conditions. Suntastics chargers can provide at least a 25% charge even late in the day. Enough UV rays get through window glass that you can get some charge even from the dashboard of your car.
Suntastics uses the same grade of solar cells required by industrial grade high output systems. Its case is durable and rigid, built to last. Even so, it is the lightest of the three featured products.
(If you need to recharge tablets or other larger devices frequently, Suntastics also makes the even more powerful sCharger-12. Of course, it still does phones!)