March 2017 Update
In 2017, portable solar has evolved quickly. We include new brands as well as new offerings from established companies like Goal Zero. We also updated our reviews with new charts and graphs to better distinguish between the performance metrics that are most important to you.
Best Overall Solar Panel
Anker 15W Foldable Dual Port Solar Panel
Easy to use
Small accessory pouch won't hold average smartphone
The Anker 15W
has remained the top scorer for three years. The competition keeps getting better, and Anker evolves. It's durable, intuitive, and easy to use. It scored high for reliability and had no glitching or reduction in performance. This is a low-cost investment in connectivity. Now edging into our lightweight category, Anker's PowerIQ continues to make the USB connection and charging even smoother. No matter the insult, and never mind the length of interruption, the Anker 15W would always start back up and continue charging. The PowerIQ technology may have been partially responsible for the higher charging amperage when compared to other panels. If you need more charging power, consider it's sibling the Anker 21W PowerPort Solar
Read full review: Anker 15W
Best Bang for the Buck
Instapark Mercury 10M18U with battery
Can charge two devices at once
Included battery is clunky
The Instapark Mercury 10M18U with battery
is a great deal in portable solar technology. With 10 watts of power, two USB ports, and minimal weight, it continues to blow the competition away. It is versatile, easy to use, and affordable. If your primary need is to charge a phone or small device, this is an excellent option. When combined with an external battery, you can set yourself up with a smartphone and tablet charging powerhouse, all for under $100 (but we don't recommend the proprietary Instapark batteries). This panel has one of the most generous external pockets for holding phone, cables, and extra batteries (a welcome luxury, keeping your devices safe in blowing sand or snow). The downside to this panel is that you can't plug in a barrel adapter for charging anything that needs a 12-volt (cigarette lighter) connector.
Read full review: Instapark Mercury 10M18U with battery
Top Pick for Design
Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit
Good power-to-weight ratio
Lower wattage solar panel
Goal Zero is the most thoughtful solar panel company reviewed. The attention to detail is astonishing, especially the pairing of a 7W panel (lower powered but lighter weight) with a powerful (and well designed) external battery. The Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit
is a system that minimizes weight and maximizes the ability to charge demanding devices like newer smartphones and tablets that typically need 2A of current to charge at a reasonable rate. The Venture 30 also features a "smart charge" feature, which talks to your device and maximizes current by learning to speak the same language. The Nomad 7 panel resets automatically when it loses the sun, unlike many panels that stop charging when the sun disappears behind a cloud, and require that you unplug and re-plug them to "reboot" the system.
Read full review: Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit