General Purpose Tools

PowerPort Solar Lite

Best portable solar charger

In this video I’m going to show you a portable solar charger made by Anker called the PowerPort Solar Lite. I picked this up for around $52 on Amazon. At the moment it’s The Wirecutter’s Pick for Best Portable Solar Charger. I’m going to show you what I like and didn’t like about it, and if you want to pick one up, using the link in the description helps support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

Here’s the PowerPort Solar Lite. You get two, thin, somewhat flexible solar panels, plus a pouch here that has two USB ports for connecting whatever it is you want to charge.

The whole thing folds up nice and compact, around 11 inches x 6 inches and sticks closed with some hook and loop. It’s small enough to fit in a backpack. And unfolded you get all of these loops you can use to hang it up in the sun. It also comes with a standard, 3ft micro USB cable and an 18 month warranty.

There were two reasons I spent the $52 to get this. One was that I honestly wanted to dip my toe into solar power. Specifically I wanted to see if I could use it to regularly charge my phone.

Second, it seemed like a great thing to have as part of a disaster kit. And I’m glad I have it for that.

But for the most part, this thing is pitched as an outdoorsy way to directly charge your phone outside. It’s rated at 5v with a 2.1 amp maximum output and has a driver for the USB output that can automatically detect the best charge rate for your device.

But there’s three practical problems I found with directly charging your phone off this. One is that I’m filled with panic every time my phone leaves my pocket, plus I would never leave my phone unattended.

Two, putting your phone in a black bag in direct sunlight can cause it to overheat and not charge.

And third, I typically need to recharge at night, and use my phone during the day, which direct solar charging isn’t ideal for.

So for me, it made a lot more sense to buy a rechargeable battery for this thing. It’s actually kinda silly that it doesn’t come with one.

Not sure which would work best, I bought three different sizes. I have links to all three in the description here. Ultimately they all worked out fine, though the biggest one doesn’t allow the pouch to close.

It takes about a day and a half of direct sunlight to charge this big one up from zero, but it gets me over a week of recharging my phone. During that week I can charge up these other guys and rotate them in. These smaller ones take about a day to charge.

I haven’t plugged my phone into a wall for over a month now, which feels kinda cool.

But during that month, I did have some trial and error. I’m going to explain that in a separate video offering some tips and hacks for this system. Check the description for that video if you’re interested.

Otherwise, just know that the Anker 15 watt PowerPort Solar delivers. It’s well built, weather resistant, lightweight, and a good balance of power and size. It doesn’t come with a battery though, and I recommend picking one up. And it really does perform best with direct, outdoor sunlight.

Tool:
Anker 15W Dual USB Solar Charger, PowerPort Solar ($52)

Batteries tested with:
Anker PowerCore+ mini
Anker PowerCore 5000
Power Banks RAVPower 22000 Portable Charger

Reference:
The Best Portable Solar Battery Charger by The Wirecutter

-- Donald Bell 06/26/18