Top off-the-grid phone chargers so you can stay connected when you unplug.
Most of us occasionally want to unplug from the hustle and bustle and head to the great outdoors for exciting adventures or some well-deserved relaxation, but that doesn’t mean we want to leave our phones behind. Smartphones offer many useful features for wandering off the grid, including GPS, maps, survival apps, and of course the ability to make emergency calls – not to mention access to our favorite games, books, blogs, and social media sites. The only problem? Keeping your phone charged when you’re off the grid.
No outlet? No problem! Here are some off-the-grid phone chargers so you can stay connected when you unplug.
Types of off-the-grid phone chargers
Before you can buy the best off-the-grid phone chargers, it’s important to understand the differences between each type. Several different kinds of outlet-free phone chargers are available, including:
• Solar phone chargers
• Hand-crank phone chargers
• Camping/thermoelectric phone chargers
• Water-powered phone chargers
• Wind-powered phone chargers
• Kinetic phone chargers
• Bicycle phone chargers
Each type of charger has its own pros and cons, listed in the table below:
|Phone charger type||Pros||Cons|
Some have batteries so they continue to work
in overcast conditions
No manual power required
Free, easily-accessible energy source (the
Not always efficient
If no battery, will not work in overcast
Some have lengthy charge times
Some have batteries that are charged by the
hand-crank, so you can charge the battery and then use your phone
Requires manual power
Conversion process is inefficient; best-used
for emergency calls
If no battery, must crank while you use your
Works anywhere – set it and forget it
Not affected by conditions
Excellent for camping
Portable between campsites, but not on-the-go
(for example, hiking)
Requires water or wood and a heat source, such
as a camping stove
“Pods” are filled with water to activate
battery cells and generate power
Easy phone charging when you have access to
Must purchase individual pods and have access
to expendable water
Pods could get expensive and charger could cut
into your drinking water supply
Unlimited free charging where wind is
Requires steady supply of ample wind force
Must position charger to catch the wind
Unlimited supply of power
Requires manual power to operate
Inefficient, lengthy charge times – best used
for emergency calls
Charges while you ride
Duplicates manual power (requires no
additional power beyond pedaling your bicycle)
Requires a bicycle and typically a special
Will not charge when you’re not riding your
Best off-the-grid phone chargers
Once you determine which type of off-the-grid charger will work best when you bug out, it’s time to decide which model to buy. The following looks at models in each category.
There are many contenders for the best solar phone chargers, each exhibiting its own unique benefits, but this one has the perfect blend of features for most off-the-grid trips. Unlike large (and expensive) solar panels, this is about the size of a smartphone so it’s ultra-portable.
The diminutive size doesn’t mean it’s not powerful; once fully-charged, the inboard battery has enough juice to recharge an iPhone many times. Moreover, the device features two USB ports so you can charge two devices at once. Because they’re USB ports, it is compatible with just about any popular device, including the Galaxy, iPhone, and even iPads and Kindles.
The only drawback is that it’s limited by its size: because it’s so small, it can take a long time to charge. That means you need to charge it completely before you leave the grid, then leave it in the sun all day and save charging your phone for overnight if you want the power to last. That’s easily within the realm of possibility for most contemporary campers.
Finally, it comes at a friendly price-point, having about a $30 price on Amazon.
If not for the $140 price tag, the SunJack might be top of list. The four-panel charger folds to roughly the size of an iPad and fully charges within five hours – faster than any other solar charger listed here. Even better, the SunJack charges an iPhone as quickly as a wall outlet (about 75 minutes from 35% charge, according to Offgrid Survival).
The SunJack features a removable backup battery, and you can charge your devices directly from the SunJack while it charges or use the charged battery as a stand-alone device. If you buy a second SunJack battery, you can always have one on the charger and one in-hand.
SunJack also has a 20-watt model.
Zebora Powerful Portable Solar Charger – Equipped with 4 Foldable Solar Panels & 10,000 mAh Dual USB Ports Power Bank for Mobile Devices, Pads and Other USB-charged Devices at $47.
The $18 Cobra CPP 300 SP doesn’t require direct sunlight (which can actually cause the batteries to swell), only daylight, and takes up to 28 hours to charge – a full 22 hours faster than the Apollo 2. That’s because the 300SP folds out into two solar panels, which nearly cut charge times in half.
The 300SP can deliver three to four iPhone charges on a single charge from its 2.1 Amp rapid-charge lithium battery. It’s small and lightweight, making it ultra-portable, and features three USB charging ports for simultaneous multi-device charging. An onboard illuminated LCD screen eliminates battery level guesswork.
It also has the CPP 100 SP model for around $47 an has 3.7V/6,000mAh Lithium Polymer Battery Pack.
At $89, the Voltaic Systems 4.0W might be one the best deals. That’s because its dual monocrystalline waterproof solar panels are capable of charging the average smartphone after just 3.5 hours of indirect sunlight – and a single hour of solar panel charging will generate enough juice to power a smartphone for three hours.
The Voltaic Systems 4.0W is unique in that it features a removable battery you can keep in your pocket for portable charging. If you get a second battery, you can always have one battery charging at your campsite and another in your pocket during hikes and other adventures.
Best hand-crank phone charger
There’s not much to be said about hand-crank phone charges, other than the fact that they require a lot of manual cranking to get a decent charge. That’s why they’re best-used for emergency situations only; all the more fitting for the American Red Cross to partner with Eton to produce an off-the-grid charger that not only charges your phone, but also doubles as an AM/FM/NOAA weather band radio. Add in the secondary solar charging panel – though small and slow-charging – and you can’t ask for much more at this model’s $39 price point.
For a no-frills, charge-only experience, check out the K-Tor 120 Volt 10-watt hand-crank phone charger. It’s unique in that it uses an AC plug to charge your devices for universal compatibility; plus, it’s capable of charging at the same rate as a standard wall outlet (though it would take hours of cranking to achieve a full charge). It’s a great emergency device, but at $50 it’s simply not as good a deal as the Eton American Red Cross model.
Nice combo unit for Solar and hand crank power
The FRX5 BT is solar-powered, splashproof², smartphone and tablet charging, Bluetooth streaming and with S.A.M.E. technology. With the rechargeable lithium battery, super duper solar panel and hand crank power generator, it is an essential for everyday use at home, at work, or in the great outdoors. You now are essentially getting two products in one – a rugged weather radio with alerts and a speaker system where you can stream anything at anytime and anywhere for just $86.
- AM/FM/NOAA weather bands
- S.A.M.E. and NOAA weather alerts
- Bluetooth ready
- 2000 mAh rechargeable lithium battery
- Digital tuner and display
- 5v—2.1A USB output
- High efficiency solar panel charging
- Hand crank power
- Rugged¹ and IPX4 splashproof²
- Bright LED flashlight, red emergency beacon
- Ambient light with dimmer
- Drop-proof from a height of 3.3 ft. (1m). Drop protection varies depending on drop conditions.
- Water resistant to IEC 60529IPX4. It is not waterproof and should not be immersed in water.
- Dimensions 5.8 x 7.1 x 2.3” (W x H x D) 14.8 x 18.1 x 5.8 cm (W x H x D) Weight: 1 lb 6 oz (0.62 kg)
The FRX3 which is a multi-powered, multi-function, smartphone charging, weather alert radio which will give access to news and information in an emergency. at $59 it is small and easy to transport.
- Receives AM/FM (digital radio)
- Receives all 7 NOAA/Environment Canada Weather bands
- ALERT function broadcasts in emergency weather alerts
- Hand turbine and solar power charging in emergencies
- USB smartphone charge
- Long-lasting LED flashlight
- One red LED flashing beacon
5.8 x 6.9 x 2.6” (W x H x D) 14.7 x 17.5 x 6.6 cm (W x H x D) Weight: 0.93 lbs (0.42 kg)
Best camping/thermoelectric phone charger
Toss a few twigs in the chamber, and the BioLite Wood Burning Camp Stove lets you charge your smartphone while you boil water and cook meals. Charge time is dependent on the strength of your fire, but generally speaking you can get an hour of smartphone use per 20 minutes of charging.
The main drawbacks to the BioLite Wood Burning Camp Stove are that you have to continually feed fuel (wood) into the stove and it’s not really portable, save for transport between campsites. However, quick, easy charging makes the BioLite Wood Burning Camp Stove a good alternative to solar chargers – no sun required. The $125 price tag might be a bit much for a charger, but when you add in the cooking features this dual-purpose device is a good deal.
I have even seen this at local Lowe’s store for as little as $104.
Like the BioLite Wood Burning Camp Stove, the Power Pot 5 converts heat into electricity so you can power your devices. Unlike the BioLite model, you’ll need to provide the heat source to make the Power Pot 5 work. You also need to fill the pot with water (or soup or other liquid) during operation.
Though the manufacturer claims you can get 90 minutes of talk time per 20-minute charge, customer reviews indicate actual performance depends on the output (some struggled to achieve five watts) and the size of your phone battery. As one reviewer put it, if you have a 2,000mAH battery it would take two hours to fully charge your phone, refilling the pot with water every ten minutes. The Power Pot 5 is a great idea and doesn’t limit you to a single heat source, but at its $82 price you might be better off with the BioLite Wood Burning Camp Stove.
Best kinetic phone charger
Kinetic energy represents the next frontier in off-the-grid phone charging, but results to-date haven’t lived up to the hype. Several companies have gone out of business or received poor reviews (such as the nPower PEG). However, there is hope on the horizon.
For starters, you get AMPY, a $50 motion charger funded via a Kickstarter campaign. AMPY is said to convert the kinetic energy from a half-hour run into three hours of talk time.
If AMPY is successful, you can expect similar products to be released soon after. Some products are borderline wacky, including foot pump and yo-yo chargers. Scientists have even developed a battery that can be charged by your heartbeat.
These are all cool ideas, but until kinetic chargers have proven themselves you’re probably better off choosing a tested option when you’re going off-grid.
Best water, wind, and bicycle phone chargers
Similar to kinetic chargers, these types of off-the-grid phone chargers aren’t as tested others. Still, there are some notable options you can consider for your next great escape, including:
myFC Power Trekk – put pods (called “pukks”) in the device and add water to charge your phones; with lukewarm reviews, it’s probably not worth the hassle at $130. Keep an eye out for myFC’s upcoming saltwater card charger, which is about the size of a smartphone and uses saltwater cards to instantly supply hydrogen power (no pre-charging required), but still have to keep replacing cards.
Vindur – Portable Wind Turbine– for $400, sun is more reliable than wind in most cases
K-tor Power Box 20 Watt Pedal Generator –For $200 can use hands or feet to pedal charge items.
Which off-the-grid phone charger should you buy?
There are a lot of cool concepts out there, but if you’re going off the grid your best bet is to choose proven, reliable technology – technology your life just might depend on. In addition, it’s a good idea to have a second option in case your first charger fails. Our recommendation is to choose one of the solar-powered models featured here, backed up by a hand-crank model.
Ultimately, of course, you need to make the best decision for your environment. If you’re venturing through an Alaskan winter, a solar charger won’t do you much good. If you plan to spend a month in the outback, you’ll probably need a larger, more expensive charger than the models mentioned here. For most weekenders, however, keeping an emergency charge on-hand can be accomplished with a solar charger and a backup hand-crank charger.
You could also choose to load up emergency supplies and have them and you ready and use the SolarGoPack solar powered backpack. at $250.
Or if you want to go much bigger and money is no option, could always look at the Solar Powered Generator – 3.240 Kilowatt Max Output – 19ft Trailer – 24 Panels – NEMA 4X Enclosure at only $111,538.00.
or the SOLAR MAX POWER TRAILER 8000– (SMALL HOUSE ON WHEELS) for only $29,885.00.
another option the Quantum Harvest Model 6000 Portable Solar Power System for $14,995.00.
So many options you should be able to find or even build something yourself.
Don’t forget to check these posts out:
Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.