I’ve had a soft spot for solar panels for a long time. It started over a decade ago, when I bought a solar panel to bring camping, using it to trickle charge our trailer’s batteries when camping off the grid. It worked (slowly), but the technology clearly wasn’t ready for mainstream adoption. Ever since that early experience, I’ve been waiting for the moment when solar charging for devices reached the point where it makes sense for more than diehards. I’ve been trying out the Jackery SolarSaga 100W portable solar panel, and for the first time, it feels as though I’m not making compromises by using a solar panel instead of a wall outlet.
Portable and Flexible
The $299.99 SolarSaga unfolds into a panel that’s four feet across and 21-inches tall. There are two built-in kickstands that let you adjust the angle to maximize sun exposure, and they keep it quite stable. A large, zippered pocket is sewn into the back of the panel. Inside is a charging hub with a permanent, integrated 3-foot DC 8mm output cable. There is also a 2.5V/2A USB-A port and a 5V/3A USB-C port.
You can use the SolarSaga to charge a portable power bank like the Jackery Explorer 500 I reviewed earlier this year. Jackery includes an adapter ( 2 x DC to single 18V Anderson output) in the box that supports the use of two panels in parallel—assuming you own a second one—to double-up the charging output for use with high capacity power banks.
You can also use the solar panel to directly charge your mobile devices. I plugged in a zero battery level iPad Mini and a smartphone and left the SolarSaga to do its thing on my back deck. It was a hazy day, not exactly blazing sunshine, and I made little effort to adjust the position of the panel through the day. I moved it once. After being outside for about eight hours, I brought the lot in. Both devices had been fully charged.
I tried it out with a high capacity 1,000Wh power station on an overcast day, and despite the cloud cover all day the solar panel was still able to boost the power station’s battery level by 10%. I used a Jackery power station, but you can use this panel with models from other manufacturers (although power cable adapters may be required).
The SolarSaga is portable, but that being said, it’s not exactly something you slip in a backpack. The panel folds in two, into a very easy to carry black package (there’s durable fabric on the exterior) with handy magnetic connectors and an integrated handle. This brings it down to 22 x 24-inches, 1.8-inches thick, and it weighs 9.1 pounds. The kickstands fold down and stay in place with Velcro fasteners, and the charger and cable remain integrated into the external zip pocket—which also has room to stow other cables.
The main constraint is that it’s not meant to be exposed to water. Cloudy days are no problem (although efficiency obviously falls), but if rain is in the forecast, you’ll want to fold it up and bring it indoors.
Using this solar panel was a night and day experience compared to the one I bought 12 years ago. That was roughly the same size, but far thicker. It had a metal frame, couldn’t be folded, and weighed at least twice what the SolarSaga does. Despite the size, the cells at that time were far less efficient and it was able to produce a maximum output of 15W. In addition, it was far from plug-and-play. I had to wire it to a charge controller every time it was used.
The difference is pretty striking. The SolarSaga is so much more convenient and efficient that it’s actually practical, and not a solution you use just because you want to embrace solar power…
If you’re interested in a green charging option—or one that’s not reliant on an electrical grid that could be offline during an emergency situation—there’s a lot to like about the Jackery SolarSaga 100W portable solar panel.
It’s not cheap, it’s not tiny, and you need to keep it dry. But it does the job when you need to directly charge your mobile devices, even on days when it’s not perfectly sunny. One (or two) of these panels can be combined with a portable power station for a battery-powered emergency or camping power solution that doesn’t need an electrical outlet, can safely be used indoors, and can keep devices running indefinitely.
Disclosure: Jackery provided a solar panel for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.