Based on our own tests, there are 2 types of solar charger we recommend. The Solio and the Freeloader. They come in many flavours (colours and sizes basically), but they are excellent chargers.
If you’re out and about, either in the country or somewhere even more remote, then you’re unlikely to have access to a power supply to charge up your mobile phone, iPhone, iPod, MP3 player, game console, and any other portable gadget.
With a solar-powered battery charger, you can charge you gadget using solar energy. So as long as you have some sunlight for most of the day, you’ll be able to charge up your devices every day or two.
Type 1 – via Battery
The solar panel charges up an internal battery first. So you leave your solar charger in the sun whilst the internal battery charges up. Once the internal battery has been charged, then you can charge up your gadgets whenever you need to, including at night.
Type 2 – Direct Charge
The solar panel charges up your device directly. This was the first type of solar charger that came on to the market, but they are pretty much extinct due to the better type that uses a battery (as explained above). There might be a few direct solar chargers kicking about, but we’ve not seen any for a long time.
Solar panels are a relatively slow method of charging devices, so you’ll find that it takes around 10 to 18 hours to fully charge a solar charger. However, if the panels are larger, then the battery will charge more quickly. If the battery is larger, you’ll be able to charge more devices on a single charge.
Despite the slower charging times, a solar charger is extremely practical as you can just leave the charger in sunlight and forget about it until you need it. The charger will top up it’s internal battery until full, and then shut off once the battery is fully charged. So you can leave the charger on a windowsill, top of a backpack, outside a tent, on a car dashboard, etc.
Most solar chargers support the iPhone and iPod. For other types of solar charger, you’ll need to check what adapters those chargers come with. There’s not a great deal of support for older mobile phones generally, and the iPad is not particularly supported yet. The solar-chargers that have multiple adapters tend to support games consoles, the iPhone and iPod, popular mobile phones such as Nokias and Samsungs.
Many solar chargers come with a USB output adapter that allows you to use the USB cable that charges up your gadget. So if you had an MP3 player that can be charged via a PC’s USB port, then often you can use that cable with a solar chargers USB socket.
There are many factors involved with solar chargers, so these are some of the things you want to consider. However, cost should be your last consideration, as the more you play, the better the quality of the solar charger. This is because there are lots of cheap chargers available that perform badly.
Battery Capacity – larger batteries gives you more charges of your devices, but take longer to top up.
Solar Panel Size – larger panels mean quicker charging, but may make the charger too large for your requirement.
Embedded Chargers – sometimes you can have chargers built into bags. Consider if you want to use the charger without the bag.
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