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Solar Chargers vs External Batteries: Which is the Better Choice?

Electricity – this is one of the most common problems in the campsite. More often than not, you are deprived of the power that is needed to charge your gadgets or run small appliances that you commonly bring with you when camping. The good news is that technology has made it possible to address this problem. Portable solar panels and external batteries can extend a helping hand.

In this article about solar chargers vs external batteries, we will let you know the similarities and differences between the two. We will also briefly tackle some of the most important considerations when buying a portable power supply, which will increase the likelihood of choosing a product that provides the best bang for the buck.

Before anything else, however, let me clarify one thing. In this article, we are talking about portable power supply that is used specifically for charging gadgets, like smartphones, laptop, and lanterns. We are not talking about the bigger ones that are meant to provide power to appliances.

Solar Chargers vs External Batteries

To get started, let us tackle some of the points where they are the alike and unlike each other. While the two can provide you with dependable electricity supply in the campsite, they differ in more ways than one.

Charging Mode

Solar Chargers vs External Batteries

This is perhaps the most obvious when it comes to the differences between the two. In the case of solar chargers, as the name implies, they are charged through the heat of the sun. They have panels that are made out of photovoltaic cells. Once the heat of the sun reaches the surface, it is converted into electricity, which, in turn, will be stored in the battery of the solar charger.

In the case of external batteries, on the other hand, you need to have them plugged in a source of power. Meaning, even before you leave home, it already needs to be fully-charged if you expect there will be no electricity in the campsite. It is a form of portable battery that comes with USB ports for connecting cords to charge your gadgets.


external batteries

Generally, external batteries are smaller compared to solar chargers. This is because the latter have panels. However, this is not a rule of thumb. There are solar chargers that are small nowadays while there are external batteries that are larger, especially the ones that are more powerful. As we all know, for campers, many would often prefer something that is smaller as it is more portable, but at all times, make sure that power is never compromised. Try to find the perfect balance between the two.


Because solar chargers are meant to be charged under the heat of the sun, it follows that they are weather-resistant. Many models are waterproof, which means that you can leave it even when it is raining. In the case of external batteries, on the other hand, most of the models available in the market have no protection from the harsh weather, which is why proper handling is a critical concern.


It is hard to distinguish which between the two is the more powerful. At the end of the day, this will depend on the specific brand and model that will be chosen. In the case of solar chargers, power is often expressed in watts. In external batteries, on the other hand, they are specified as milliamperes or mAh. Regardless of which one you choose, a higher number would mean that it is more powerful. However, you should also take note that if it is more powerful, the longer would be the time that is required to have it charged.

In many cases, you do not necessarily need to have the most powerful, especially if you plan to charge only your mobile phone.


solar charger

Both have their respective ups and downs, making it hard to define which is a true winner. With solar chargers, they are dependable because as long as there is sun, you can charge the panels and save electricity for use later on. However, what if there is no sun? What if it is raining? This means that you won’t be able to charge your panel.

With external batteries, on the other hand, they are dependable because if they are fully-charged, they can provide the power that you need, even if it is raining. However, this will be limited by the capacity of the battery. If it drains and if there is no electricity in the campsite, you will most likely end up in frustration.

Environment Friendliness

If you ate looking for a product that is good for the environment, solar chargers are the better option. This is simply because they harness the energy of the sun, which is natural and renewable. This is unlike in the case of external batteries that use electricity. Regardless of which one is chosen, see to it that their components are made from materials that are non-toxic.

A Quick Buying Guide

Below are some of the most important factors that should be taken into account when you are looking for portable battery supply:

  • Power: As noted earlier, this can be in watts or milliamperes. Before anything else, you should first think about how long will you be in the campsite? Also, consider how many gadgets will you plan to charge.
  • Charging Time: How long does it take before the portable power supply is fully-charged? This is one question that you should ask as you decide which one to buy. A lot of people do not have the patience to wait forever before it is fully-charged.
  • Portability: This is one of the most important considerations. It should be compact and lightweight, which means that bringing it in the campsite should not be too much of a burden. It should not be a significant addition to the weight of your camping gear. Recently, many manufacturers were able to develop technologies that allowed them to create powerful products in a small package.
  • Durability: The outdoors can be demanding. With this, you should also consider the way the portable power supply is constructed. It should be made from materials that will not be easily prone to wear and tear, providing you with the guarantee of long-term functionality.
  • Design: If you are opting for solar chargers, you should consider the types of portable solar panels. Some of them can be rolled, especially the larger panels. In most cases, however, they can be folded for ease of transport. Meanwhile, in the case of external batteries, they are often just a solid block, with the portable ones being easy to fit in your bag.
  • Ease of Use: The portable power supply must be designed in a way that it will be user-friendly. Pay attention to simplicity, not only efficiency. After all, for sure, you would not want to be dealing with a product that is filled with complications.
  • Charging Ports: For the smaller models, it is usual to have only one port, which means that you can charge a single gadget only. It is better to choose one that comes with multiple ports so that you will be able to charge more gadgets at once. Keep in mind, however, that this is most probably going to drain the battery quicker.
  • Warranty: This is one thing that can provide you with peace of mind. If it experiences any problem, if it is still within the warranty period, you can rely on the support from the manufacturer. In most cases, they will replace the parts and repair it for free. If you are lucky enough, they will even issue a replacement.
  • Price: At the end of the day, most people will decide on the basis of cost. For many, they would prefer a product that comes with a cheaper price, which is more budget-friendly. However, you should learn to look beyond the cost. It does not matter if the product is expensive. The most important this is that it has superior quality.

The Best of Both Worlds

Do you really have to choose between a solar charger and an external battery? The good news is that you do not need to have this dilemma. In recent years, manufacturers came up with a hybrid of the two. You can opt for a product that you can charge using electrical supply and the heat of the sun as well. this means that it will be more dependable as it can be charged either way, while providing you with the power that is needed when in the campsite.


From the discussions above about solar chargers vs external batteries, we hope that we were able to provide you with an enlightenment on how the two portable power supplies are the same and different. If you will ask us about which one is the best, we cannot answer this question. At the end of the day, it all boils down to budget, needs, and personal preferences. Regardless of which type you choose, the more important thing is to find the right brand or model.


My name is William, a family man with two kids and the passion for camping. I started Pandaneo with sharing memorable camping experiences back as a newbie camper, introducing my family to the love for the great outdoors. As time passed, we started traveling across states, trying to hit as many campsites we can!