Generally considered to be delicate technology, solar devices are nevertheless needed in the most unpredictable conditions. Waterproof and dustproof certifications are a must-have for basic accident-proof protection and usability in rough conditions on the trail. Weather “resistant” should never be confused with “waterproof.” Durable coating is a positive, but waterproof and durable construction is better.
A large portion of solar phone chargers on the market can recharge your phone–but only in direct sun. When a cloud passes over, or when you need a quick boost after night falls, the solar panels might as well be shiny paper. Battery packs on the other hand store energy and ensure uninterrupted charging, creating a more versatile solar device for charging whenever it’s needed–even if the sun’s out of sight.
Size and portability are among a gear junky’s biggest worries. Ideally, your solar charger will not only be compact but will also be fully integrated–no extra battery packs or cords. Design, and by extension efficiency, are what differentiate bulky chargers from practical ones. Make sure the solar phone charger packs flat for easy portability, and that it won’t weigh down your pack. Solar phone chargers on the market tend to weigh between 10 to 30 oz (280 to 850 g), including integrated or external batteries.
Ask yourself, “How much of a hassle will it be every time I want to start charging my phone?” Is there unfolding, unpacking, a whole struggle of finding the perfect rock to prop up the panels? If so, it may not be the solar phone charger for you. Ideally, the solar charger will be easy to hook to a backpack, or sit in one hand. It should be able to recharge its battery even when your phone isn’t connected (another important reminder about integrated batteries!). That way, you can take advantage of a sunny day, and recharge your phone later that night when it’s actually running low on battery.
Solar phone chargers are an investment in communicating more easily, and sharing moments no matter where you are. It’s therefore important to ensure that the solar phone charger has a solid warranty. This includes the length of warranty, as well as what it covers. It goes without saying that full warranties are always more dependable than “limited warranties”.