Solar power has come a long way in recent decades. What was once a prohibitively expensive technology has now been developed to a point that allows everyday users to harness the power of the sun in the palm of their hand.
You no longer have to be a wealthy tech enthusiast or off-grid eco-warrior to reap the benefits of portable, renewable, solar power. For a modest price, you can now enjoy the great outdoors knowing that wherever there’s light you’ll never be without an emergency phone charge, or a steady juicing point for your tablet.
Today, we’ve rounded up a selection of great portable solar chargers ideal for lovers of the beach. Why not take advantage of the sun-kissed sand and have your devices charging whilst you tan?
For those yet to dip their toes into the exciting world of solar power, there’s a few things worth bearing in mind when considering which charger is best for you.
Understanding how solar power can be generated and stored is important. Solar panels are the flat surfaces that help convert solar energy into electrical charge, ready to power our electronic devices. However, this energy has to be stored or used straight away, and a solar panel on its own is not able to store this charge.
Portable solar panels on their own are usually designed to plug straight into devices that need charging, often via USB. However, if you want to store energy for later use, you’ll need a power bank.
Power banks themselves come in various shapes and sizes, and are useful because they can often be charged via the mains, as well as via solar panels. A few of the solar chargers we’re about to discuss have small solar panels built-in to a power pack, meaning the pack will charge and store energy gradually if left in direct sunlight.
However, these built-in solar panels are usually low wattage, meaning they don’t generate a huge amount of energy and can take a long time to fill the power pack up.
This brings us to our next factor to consider. Most solar chargers and panels on the portable market have their power generation capacity rated in watts. Simply put, the higher the wattage, the faster your solar panels will be able to generate electricity and charge your gear.
Size of solar panels isn’t the only thing that determines wattage, but it’s the main factor. For that reason, the smaller and more portable a solar charger is, the slower its electrical flow is likely to be, and the longer it will take to charge your gear.
You don’t want to be hauling around a massive generator when travelling to the beach. Think carefully about the weight and size of your solar charger, and whether or not it can be carried comfortably in a rucksack or by hand.
The chargers we discuss here are all ‘portable’ in the sense that they’re designed to be moved around and used in different outdoor environments, but some are more compact and easier to transport than others. A few on this list are likely to be too heavy for hiking adventures, but are ideally suited to a lazy day on the beach where you’re stationed in one spot. Others are great for stowing in a backpack and taking into the mountains.
Jackery Explorer 240
Jackery makes a wide range of solar generators, but the model that’s perfect for a day at the beach is the Explorer 240. This solar charger is a powerful, fast-charging, and still relatively portable option ideal for long, lazy days by the sea.
The downside is that, at 6 lbs, you’re not going to want to haul this for miles and miles. The solar panel does, however, fold up easily and can comfortably be carried from the car to the sand via its in-built handle. Or just throw it in your beach cart and make it even easier to transport.
This is traditionally used for short, stationary camping stays, with the capacity to charge a number of devices at once and effective solar panels that can function even in partial shade. Fold-out legs make it easy to position.
Current prices stand at around $299. For family days out where the kids are going to want to juice their phones simultaneously, this charger is a solid choice.
This popular 28W offering from Big Blue is often tipped as one of the fastest charging, medium-sized portable solar chargers out there, with 4 highly functional, 7W panels providing the juice.
A built-in ammeter allows you to monitor its output, which should remain relatively steady even during shifting weather. There are also 3 USB ports, making this a good option for keeping more than one device ticking at once.
At 1.4 lbs, this is a much better option for those looking to fold it away into a backpack and roam around. It also comes with light weather proofing, ideal for dealing with a bit of salty sea spray.
Prices start at around $80.
Ryno-Tuff’s rugged addition to the market is often tipped as one of the hardiest budget-friendly options out there.
Its advertised as being tough, durable, waterproof, and easy on the wallet, with 2 USB ports and only a touch over a 1lb in weight.
This is a popular choice with campers as well as beach lovers. Testers indicate that, in full sunlight, its 21W panels should be able to charge a phone in around 2 hours. It will also stop charging if it senses that your device is overheating.
One downside is that it doesn’t always perform as well as its pricier competitors in partial sunlight, needing steady, bright exposure in order to perform well. However, at $60, its certainly one of the most competitively priced out there. To sweeten the eco-friendly deal, Ryno-Tuff have partnered with the National Forest Foundation to plant a tree for every purchase.
This is another larger, heavier portable kit, best suited to long days spent in one spot on the beach, rather than for carting around the dunes. However, with greater size comes greater power, and the EcoFlow is one of the fastest charging of its kind.
At 8.8 lbs it’s still portable enough to be folded and brought to whichever spot you want to sunbathe in. It’s also completely waterproof, ideal for if the weather suddenly turns.
Its handy carry case doubles as a stand, helping you to angle and position the panels so that they can make the most of the sun. This can also generate a bit of useful shade for your devices as they charge.
This is one of the pricier offerings on our list, coming in at around $299.
Goal Zero are a popular producer of solar solutions, selling everything from off-grid solar generators to small, portable power packs designed for mountaineers and backwoods wanderers.
Their Nomad series are an ideal, scaleable set of solar panels for those looking to charge their devices on the beach. If you want to store the energy generated for later use, pairing these with Goal Zero’s range of Flip Power Banks is the way to go.
The 5W Nomad with its 1 USB slot is a good, cheap way of ensuring your phone doesn’t die when you’re lounging by the waves. It weighs around 360g and costs less than $60.
Doubling the wattage will roughly double the price, bringing you up to around $100.
Finally, if you want to go for something with a bit more juice, the 20W Nomad option comes with both a USB and an 8mm solar cable, allowing you not only to charge your device or power bank more swiftly, but also hook it up to further solar panels if you want to really rack up your wattage. The Nomad 20 retails for around $149.95.
The most attractive feature of the BioLite 10+ is its integrated battery, making it one of the more powerful all-in-one solar panel and power pack options out there.
The panels themselves, capable of generating more than 10W of power, are also designed to reduce overheating via their dimpled plastic casing. This in turn boosts their efficiency.
The BioLite is also remarkably, well, light. At just over half a kilogram, it packs an impressive charging capacity when compared to similarly sized models.
An inbuilt sundial can also help you to gauge where best to place the pack and to find the optimum angle in relation to the sun. Prices sit at around $112.
We finish with one of the most popular power bank solar panel combos on the market. The Hiluckey comes with four fold-out solar panels attached to a durable battery.
It also comes with three separate USB ports, allowing you more charging options than most models this size, though the 6W power means that most pieces of kit are going to charge relatively slowly.
Still, this is a great option for outdoor adventurers and is as at home on the beach as it is in the mountains, the woods, and the valleys. Dust proof, water proof, and shock proof, it also comes with a bright LED torch to help you find your way once the sun goes down.
The fully charged power pack should be able to charge your phone anywhere between 6 and 10 times before it itself needs topping up.
At $72, this is also a competitively priced piece of tech.