Solar Powered Phone: Alternative Ways To Feed Your Device

Charging a phone has become a necessary thing for the overwhelming majority of people. Most advanced phone models require tons of energy to run all those apps people want to use. It is considered to be OK to charge it every night, but are there any alternative ways to do it, say, when you are hiking? Sure, there are! In this article, we will cover various ways of charging a phone (including some exotic ways!).



I. Solar charger panels:

1Suaoki 40 W Portable Sunpower Mono-crystalline Solar Panel With DC 18 V and Usb 5 V Output Charger

The monocrystalline solar panel in question is capable of charging laptops, cell phones, tablets and other devices. The dual port output enables the solar kit owner to charge two devices simultaneously. One is for USB charging, and the other is for DC output capable of providing up to 18 V, which means you can charge various devices. Another special feature is the ability to charge cars: solar energy can be used to power your storage battery using clamps (there’s a special car charger for it which is compatible with the DC port). The integrated TIR-C technology identifies the current of the device you are charging and makes the process faster. The panel is waterproof, which means it will not be damaged if it starts raining or you spill something on it. It’s not called portable for nothing: when folded, it does not need much space to be carried, so you can take it with you when hiking, travelling, etc.

What’s in the box?

  • 1 x 40 W Foldable Dual-Port Solar Charger bag;
  • 1 x Car Charger;
  • 1 x 10-in-1 Connector Cable for Laptops;
  • 1 x SAE-to-Clamp for Storage Battery;
  • 2 x DC-to-DC Cables;
  • 1 x DC-to-SAE;
  • 1 x User Manual.

Technical details

  • 40 W solar panel;
  • USB 5 V / 2.1 A;
  • DC max 18 V / 2.2 A output;
  • 10-in-1 connectors in the DC cable;
  • SAE or clamp;
  • Cigarette lighter adapter included;
  • Size (unfolded): 11.42 x 6.30 x 1.81” (290 x 160 x 46 mm);
  • Size (unfolded): 42.91 x 11.42 x 0.08” (1090 x 290 x 2 mm);
  • Weight: 0.94 kg / 2.07 lbs.
  • Amazon rating: 4,1/5
  • Price: $139.99


Feedback summary

This solar charger is recommended by many: it’s compact and capable of charging a laptop even if it’s cloudy. Out of 33 negative reviews about all versions (60 W, 40 W, etc.), only 4 concerned the version in question (40 W). Yet there seems to be an issue with some items: several people claim their devices got damaged because of the charger. Perhaps, these items were defect, since there are many other people who are satisfied with the product. Besides, one should remember that solar energy is still solar energy: it does not imply instant full charging, and performance gets worse if the day is cloudy. Still, when solar chargers are concerned, this seems to be a high quality product worth trying.


2ECEEN 26 Watts Foldable Solar Panel Power Kit

Less powerful than the previous model, this one is an option for those who prefer ECEEN products. Despite its 26 W, it can store the energy generated using a storage battery (it’s a kit, not a single panel). Besides small laptops, it can charge cell phones, tablets and other devices. The model is characterized by high efficiency, 22%. It can charge an external laptop battery within 18 hours (provided you put it under direct sunlight), which, in its turn, can provide enough energy for a laptop to work for 5 hours. When folded, it forms a bag, so it is easy and convenient to carry. There’s also an LCD display showing the capacity and voltage level of the external battery. 

What’s in the box?

  • 26 W Solar bag;
  • 16000 mAh Laptop external battery pack;
  • DC charger;
  • Laptop adaptor;
  • Phone adaptor;
  • Connector cable;
  • Carabiners (4 pcs);
  • User manual.

Technical details

  • Efficiency: 22%;
  • USB and DC ports: 5 V / 2 A USB port; 18 V / 1.44 A DC output;
  • Dimensions: 12.8” x 2.5” x 7.5” (32.5 cm x 6.35 cm x 19 cm);
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds (1.32 kg).
  • Amazon rating: 4.4/5
  • Price: $149.99


Feedback summary

As to the pros, this model is lightweight and flexible. Most people are satisfied with the performance of the panels. The customer service is responsive, which is also a bonus. However, several users did not manage to charge their devices using the product: perhaps, it was defect. Besides, there is a person claiming the threads are not suitable for suspending the panels from a backpack if you want to hike. All in all, the very good rating of the model suggests it’s worth trying to use it, because there are many people who love the way it works.


3. EBAT Foldable Solar Panel 120 W

The most powerful of all listed models, the 120 W EBAT foldable solar panel is a good option for those who want better performance and can afford and a more expensive product. Using the two ports, DC and USB, you can charge two devices simultaneously. Despite the size (stated in the technical details), it is compact and foldable, as well as dust- and waterproof. With its eyeholes, you can attach it to a vehicle, tree or something else which can serve as an appropriate surface. As a bonus, there’s a 1-year-warranty.

Technical details

  • 2 ports: DC (12-18 V / 6.6 A) & USB (5.0 V / 2.1 A);
  • Materials: solar panel: PET laminated / fabric: PVC (IP64);
  • Solar Panel Peak Power: 120W;
  • Extend Size: 163 cm x 54 cm x 29 cm x 0.5 cm (64.2” x 21.26” x 11.4” x 0.2”);
  • Size (folded): 17 cm x 54 cm x 5 cm (6.7” x 21.26” x 2”);
  • Weight: 2,4 kg.
  • Amazon rating: 4.4/5
  • Price: $379.00


Feedback summary

There are only 4 reviews, but all of them are positive (more or less). It seems to be a good model, but it is slightly less efficient than advertised: with its 22% efficiency and size, its performance is at the level of 60 W. Still, it’s a product capable of charging a laptop (successful charging of a 13” macbook pro is reported too). However, there is a person claiming that he was able to get about 98% of its rated wattage during peak hours, so it really depends on your weather conditions.


Other products of this kind to consider:


II. Using a car to charge your phone:

Charging your phone in a car is one of the basic ways to do it: nowadays, almost any car owner has a car charger which fits most phone models. The chargers themselves are very cheap (consider this $9 charger or some other!) and convenient to use. All you need to do is to plug it in and connect your phone. Such car chargers have become so common that it seems to be unnecessary to introduce models; just don’t forget to buy a char charger if you are going to become a car owner!


III. Bicycle energy:

Siva Atom

Generating energy while cycling is a thing almost any cyclist would appreciate. With Siva Atom, you can do it easily. The device is equipped with a 1650 mAh battery and has the charge rate of 5 V at 800 mA. It mounts inside the confines of the frame and works well with fenders. As to racks, depending on the rack type and the mounting point on the frame, you may need a smaller spacer (about 5 mm / 0.2”). The resistance created by Siva Atom is insignificant: it can be compared to cycling when the tires are at 70 psi instead of 90 psi, or as if you were riding up a 0.3% grade.

The item costs $129 and is available at  

Other products of this kind to consider:

Tigra Sport Bike Charge Dynamo Light & USB Charger;


IV. Portable chargers:

1. Intocircuit Power Castle 26,000 mAh;

Sleek and elegant, this portable charger can store enough energy not only for your phone, but for all the electronic folks you have travelling with you, including laptops, flashlights, etc. It’s not called Power Castle for nothing: its capacity makes up 26000 mAh, which is quite impressive. The seller claims you can charge your phone up to 12 times with a single Power Castle if it’s fully charged. The AAAA Li-Polymer battery is said to be capable of enduring more than 1000 recharge cycles, so the product is supposed to be both reliable and durable. Better durability is also ensured by the aluminum alloy cover which is sturdier than plastic. The finis also improves heat dissipation. To fully charge the device, you need to do it for 5-6 hours, and that’s a good result for such a great capacity.

What’s in the box?

  • Intocircuit PC26000 Battery;
  • 12 connectors for laptops (they fit most models);
  • 10 connectors for phones and other devices;
  • 1 DC power wire / 1 USB spring power wire;
  • 1 18.5 V 2 A AC Adapter.

Technical details

  • USB and voltage-adjustable DC outputs: USB (5 V 2.1 A) + DC (12 V / 4 A, 16 V / 3.5 A or 19 V / 3 A);
  • Finish: aluminum alloy;
  • Battery: lithium ion;
  • Dimensions: 7.3” x 0.8” x 4.9” (18.5 cm x 2 cm x 12.45 cm);
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg).
  • NOTE: for laptop compatibility list, see the corresponding Amazon page. Make sure your laptop is compatible with it, if you want to charge a laptop with it too.
  • Amazon rating: 3.8/5
  • Price: $64.99


Feedback summary

The key drawback of this product seems to be the abundance of lemons in the sellers’ stock. According to the feedback, there are quite many people who got devices which either refused to work at all or failed to charge phones and laptops after the first charging (or just soon). If you buy this product, make sure it works properly. Other than that, people like its style and capacity. It’s quite heavy, but it has plenty of power to keep your phone running for a relatively long time (depending on how fast your phone tends to run out of energy).


2. Anker PowerCore+ mini;

One of the most compact chargers, Anker PowerCore+ mini reminds of a lipstick and comes in different colours. Its sleek design is combined with great convenience. The charge speed is said to be up to 1 Amp. It takes 3-4 hours to charge it if you use a 1 Amp adapter (yet it must be noted that such an adaptor is not included in the package and should be bought separately; there’s a microUSB cable included, though). Despite its compact design, it can provide almost one full charge to most phones. Though it cannot ensure continuous phone operation for many hours, it’s a product worth buying because of its compact size and high quality.

What’s in the box?

  • Anker PowerCore+ mini (3350 mAh Premium Aluminum Portable Charger);
  • Micro USB cable;
  • Travel pouch;
  • Welcome guide;
  • 18-month warranty (12 months, according to the papers delivered upon buying).

Technical details

  • Charge speed: up to 1 Amp;
  • Battery: lithium-ion;
  • Battery capacity: 3350 mAh;
  • Output: 5 V, 1 A;
  • Max input: 1 A;
  • Colour: black, blue, pink, gold.;
  • Dimensions: 3.7” x 0.9” x 0.9” (9.4 cm x 2.3 cm x 2.3 cm);
  • Weight: 2.2 ounces (62.4 g).
  • Amazon rating: 4.4/5
  • Price: $14.99


Feedback support

With over 25,500 reviews (as of August, 2017), its rating can be considered awesome: the positive review share is 87%! In general, it’s a reliable, convenient and efficient device, so we’ll cover the cons mentioned only briefly. Some of the verified purchasers got defect items, and others claimed it’s not powerful enough to charge their phone. Well, since most people report normal charging, we assume that such failures are due to some breakage or damage, so the overall impression is that of a well-built and high quality (and highly portable!) charger.


Other products of this kind to consider:


V. Other devices:

1. Lutin Tech Window Solar Charger;

Actually, there are quite a few solar chargers capable of sticking to windows available, but the majority of them seem to be more of less inefficient. This one is not perfect too, but its rating is not as poor as other devices’ of this kind.

The device is equipped with a silicon suction pad which allows you to stick it to any glass surface. As to being waterproof, the seller claims it’s IP44. The kit comprises of a solar charger and a USB cable, and it has a built-in 5200 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery to support your devices when there’s no power outlet. One side of the charger catches sun rays to convert them into energy, while the other side has a picture on it (this green humanoid seems to mock you as you’re waiting for your phone to charge!). It’s quite small and portable, so you can take it to the office, university, school or wherever else. The product may also be favoured by those who care about environment, as all the materials of which the device’s made can be recycled.

Technical details

  • Solar panel: 5-5.5 V / 110 mA / 0.6 W;
  • Battery: 5200 mAh. Fully charged via micro USB within 1-2 hrs;
  • Micro USB Input: 5 V / 1 A;
  • USB Output: 5 V / 1 A;
  • Can be fully charged under direct sunlight within 10-15 hours;
  • CE, FCC & ROHS certified;
  • Material: Environment friendly ABS, 30% post consumer materials;
  • Dimensions: 1” x 4.5” x 4.5” (2.5 cm x 11.4 cm x 11.4 cm);
  • Weight: 5.6 ounces (159 g);
  • Warranty: 1 year.
  • Amazon rating: 2.8/5
  • Price: $30.99


Feedback summary

The reviews are mixed, and most of them are not that positive. Though some say it actually DOES charge, there are some limitations. First, one person reported it failed to charge his iPhone for some reason (though there are people who managed to charge their phones, at least partially, using the product), but he still could charge his skin scrubber, air cleaner, and flashlight with it. Second, several people claim the suction pad is poor and not capable of holding such weight. It’s one of the most frequently seen cons. Also, the device seems to be prone to breaking or losing its efficiency (users reported such cases after using it for a couple of weeks). Besides, there’s no good manual explaining how to maintain it and use it properly. We still include the item in the list, because it works at least for some users, and other window charger options available seem to be even less reliable.


2. Hymini;

This tiny wind turbine is not available on Amazon, so the details and feedback are from third-party sources.

In our article about the ways to charge your laptop, we covered many devices, including wind turbines. There we talked about Trinity, a fake crowdfunding campaign, and said that there are no portable wind turbines that really work. Well, actually, it’s not a full-scale turbine, but Hymini is a nice option if you want to get some eco energy and like cycling or running. It can be attached to your bicycle, or you can wear it as shown in the picture.

It has an internal lithium-ion battery with the capacity of 1200 mAh, which is not that much, but we assume this little turbine generates just enough to fill it. Besides the wind turbine itself, Hymini offers optional hand-crank and solar attachments to power the battery. If you use the basic product (i.e. the wind turbine only), then in order to provide it with decent conditions to generate energy, you will need to ensure at least 9-mph consistent wind. It may not be a very easy task, since running that fast or cycling for a very long time can be challenging. The device has an LED night light, a switch for charging and turning it off, and a power indicator which is either red or green depending on the state. If you use the solar attachment, note that it seems to be more efficient when charging in direct sunlight and not when charging through a window.

MiniWiz claims that charging for 20 minutes with a 19-mph wind gives you 30 minutes of charge in the case of an iPod, and 4 minutes of talking over the phone. According to the PCmag review, the actual efficiency is close to that. Yet it must be noted that if your phone has run out of energy completely, then Hymini will not be able to start it up: it’s better to keep your device charging with it when some power in your phone still remains.

Slow charge time is something that is obvious, since the product is portable and small, but it does work, so it can be a good option for those who like cycling.


VI. Hand crank generators:

Let’s be honest: you’re not likely to generate lots of energy using hand crank generators, but a poor option is still an option.

1. Venel Electronic Portable Hand Generator

This hand generator is designed to power your radio, cell phone, lamps, cameras, players and other devices and equipment, though the speed of charging isn’t supposed to be very impressive. Yes, it’s a plain device, but this thing can help you get some electricity even if you’re stuck in some desert in Africa without solar panels or a river to use a mini hydro plant. Just rotate to charge: it’s as simple as that. It also looks really military.

What’s in the box?

  • 1 x Hand generator;
  • 1 x DC-DC converter (0~28 V).

Technical details

  • DC converter 0-28 v output range;
  • Standard dual port interface, multiple titles;
  • Compatible with nickel metal hydride batteries, lead acid batteries and battery types;
  • Rotation Speed: 50~120 r/min;
  • Output Voltage: 0~28 V;
  • Output Power: 10~30 W;
  • Output current: Less than or equal to 3 A;
  • Average time without obstacles (as claimed by the seller): more than or equal to 1000 h;
  • Size: 106 x 64 x 39 mm (4.17 x 2.52 x 1.54").
  • Amazon rating: N/A
  • Price: $228.80


Feedback summary

There’s no feedback concerning this item yet, but we guess that provided it works as advertised, it may be a good emergency source of electricity (say, when you don’t have a creek to power your hydro plant or it’s too cloudy or your solar panels are broken). Of all things featured in the list (taking into consideration only full-sized devices and not their parts), this one is the most compact gizmo which is truly portable, though definitely pricey.


2. Eton BoostTurbine 2000mAh Portable Backup Battery Pack with Hand Crank Back-Up Power  

A way cheaper model, Eton BoostTurbine also has more high-tech design than the previous hand generator. If you don’t mind rotating this thing for a long time to get some electricity, it may be a nice option for you. It’s a hand crank which comes with a 2000 mAh battery pack (well, actually, vice versa). There’s also a version of 1000 mAh in case 2000 mAh is too much for you. Besides, they come in different colours: black, red, silver and white. There’s a button for switching on the LED which indicates charging. A USB cable is included.

Technical details

  • Capacity: 2000 mAh;
  • Colours: black, red, silver, white;
  • Battery type: lithium;
  • Dimensions: 5” x 2.2” x 1” (12.7 cm x 5.6 cm x 2.54 cm);
  • Weight: 7 oz (198 g).
  • Amazon rating: 3.3/5
  • Price: $22.95


Feedback summary

There’s a drawback mentioned in the feedback which is really important: the gear ratio is 2 to 1, so while it does charge, it takes a lot of time to charge something with it. Yet it’s easy to turn it, and it does work. One customer reported that it took hi 1-2 min of cranking to charge 1% (well, that’s not bad after all). Another one said it took 2.5 hours of cranking to fully charge the phone. It’s also not recommended to leave the device in a car on hot or cold days to prevent damaging. The battery is nice and works as advertised.


Other products of this kind to consider:


VII. Heat power:

The Power Pot Portable Electric Generator

Have you ever thought how much energy you spend in vain when cooking? Here we don’t mean setting the wrong mode or leaving your soup boiling for too long: it’s the heat and steam themselves that can provide you with energy if handled appropriately. Here’s the Power Pot – a device which is designed to be used when cooking over an open fire (actually, the manufacturer claims it can work if used with almost any source of heat) while generating electricity. The seller says it can work with almost any device that uses USB to charge. It may be a good source of electricity to be used in case of emergency, as the manufacturer advertises.

Technical details

  • Material Type: Hard Anodized Aluminum;
  • Size: 2 Quart (1.9 L);
  • Dimensions: 5.8” x 5.9” x 6.9” (14.73 cm x 15 cm x 17.53 cm) (with the lid);
  • Weight: 2.1 oz (343 g), 18.2 oz (516 g) with the lid and cord;
  • Capacity: 1.4 liter (46 oz);
  • Comes with a standard USB (5 V) port.
  • Amazon rating: 2.6/5
  • Price: $100


Feedback summary

The number of reviews is not impressive (there are 9 of them), and they are mixed. Some claim the pot didn’t manage to generate any electricity to charge their devices no matter how hard they tried. Others say that one has to understand how it works in order to make the most of the pot: the device generates electricity when one side is hot and the other is cold, and the greater the difference in temperature, the more electricity you get. So it may be a useful thing for those who spend time outdoors in winter or in the mountains where there is snow or cold water. Several people reported that they charged their iPhones using it, so it really works if used appropriately (at least the feedback suggests so!).

P.S. There’s another option available on Amazon which is based on the same principle, so if hiking or camping in the mountains in the kind of activity you like, you may be interested in it too.


VIII. I got none of these. What can I do?

You can say that all these devices are interesting, but it’s still unclear what a person can do if he’s stuck somewhere on an uninhabited island with no devices but with a need for electricity (yes, that’s a weird case, but only God knows what will happen, so such a thing is also possible). You are very unlikely to charge your phone with the method of generating electricity we’re going to describe, but it may be a nice experiment (the description is based on the article written by Janine E. Mooney).

What you’ll need:

  • 2 lemons (or some acidic or citrus fruit, like an apple, for instance);
  • 3 copper nails (or other small objects made of copper);
  • 2 galvanized nails (or something made of zinc);
  • A multimeter;
  • Steel nails (or something made of metal);
  • A USB charging cable.

What to do:

Push the galvanized nail into the lemon, then push the copper nail into the lemon close to the galvanized nail, but they must not be touching. Take a multimeter and measure the voltage between the galvanized nail and the copper nail and the current. Congratulations: you’ve made a battery cell! To charge an iPhone (which may get damaged in the process, though), you will need 12 lemons with the above mentioned augmentations.

Well, theoretically, you can charge your phone using these materials, but you’ll need plenty of lemons to build a “lemon electricity factory”.


IX. Conclusion.

With such energy consumption, it is important for everyone to have a way to charge their phones when there is no opportunity to use a standard cable and an outlet. It’s recommended to have a power bank regardless of your preferences, and add some other devices which you may need (say, cyclists may want a dynamo hub). And don’t forget to buy a couple of lemons! Just in case.

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