Many of today’s electronics, including cameras, cell phones, iPods, and laptops, have batteries as their power source.  While these traditional options are useful, they aren’t always helpful, as you lose functionality when the battery has discharged.  If you don’t have a wall outlet, or you left your charger at home, you may find yourself powerless.

 You’ve probably been in a situation where a battery died at an inopportune time, such as a cell phone battery that fizzled out right after you got lost or a camera battery that died right before a party.  If you had one, a portable solar charger would have been just the fix.

 Solar chargers work by harnessing the power of the sun.  The two components of a charger are solar plates and a storage unit.  The solar plates capture sunrays and convert the energy into low-voltage electricity, which gets stored in the storage unit.  This auxiliary power is available to get your device going again when you lose power. 

 Generally, these products require sunlight to charge the device.  However, some solar chargers also have an on-board battery that gets charged by the solar panel when not charging anything else.  This allows you to use the solar energy stored in the battery to charge your electronic devices when there is no sun, such as at night or on a cloudy day.  Most have the versatility to charge a range of electronics.

 If you are thinking of supplementing your power with a portable solar charger, here are some factors you should consider:

 Know your power input requirement in volts.  Be sure the charger is able to deliver the same or greater amount of output.

  • Think about weight and portability.  The more likely you are to carry the charger, the more lightweight you will want it to be.
  • Know in advance how long it will take to charge the battery fully with solar power.  Because weather is unpredictable, it’s a good idea to overestimate the time you will need.
  • Look for compatibility with multiple electronics so you get the most out of your charger.  Many chargers come with adapters.
    • Look for flexible or foldable models that will be as big as possible when opened up and as compact as possible folded back up.