Best Solar Chargers to Have for Emergencies

A review of some of the innovative small solar chargers to have available for emergency situations.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The chargers in this article are high-end, expensive, fancy - some are ultra-lightweight systems designed for backpacking. The smaller versions are often too low powered - with recharge times longer than one day's worth of sun - not too practical. They are very expensive compared to a budget charger you can put together that will work just as well at home.
Solar chargers are pretty simple. Here are some practical suggestions that will provide a reasonable recharge time and enough power to run devices for many hours.

You need three items:

  1. Solar panel - price varies depending on power requirements of what you are charging, see below
  2. Charge controller - about $35 on ebay
  3. 12V battery - varies, see below
  4. optional: automobile plug USB charger - attach to battery to charge USB devices - about $10
for charging cellphones:
  • 10 watt solar panel - about $30 on ebay
  • 5 Ah 12V sealed deep cycle battery = 5000 mAh will run a cellphone for many days - about $30 on ebay
for charging laptops:
  • 40 watt solar panel - under $100 on ebay
  • 25 Ah 12V sealed deep cycle battery = 300 watt hours will run a laptop for 6 hours or so - seen for $70 on ebay
Larger solar panels charge the battery faster. This can be important. Get the largest panel you can afford/transport/fit in your space. 100 watt panels with charge controller have been seen on ebay for $200. These would make a very robust laptop charging system that will work even on days with variable sunlight and quickly (a few hours) bring the battery back up to full charge in full sunlight.