Get power almost anywhere with this portable solar charger [Review]


Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel★★★★☆
Put the Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel in the sun and it's ready to recharge your MacBook, iPad, etc.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Place the Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel in the sun and it can power most devices with a USB-A or USB-C port. It’s portable enough to take on a multi-day hike, or to not take up much room in a closet for power outages.

I put the solar charger to the test and I’m quite pleased with how easy it is to use and how well it performs.

Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel review

We’re all dependent on our gadgets. From iPhones to MacBooks, they go with us to work but also on vacation. And that can be a problem if your idea of a fun holiday is hiking and camping in the wilderness. Those devices need power.

You can tote along a battery, but one that can hold enough juice to last for multiple days is prohibitively bulky. After your time off the grid stretches past a long weekend, you’re better off with a solar charger. That’s where the Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel comes in.

Stow it in a backback and it’s ready to keep your iPhone, iPad, etc. going no matter how long you’re away from civilization.

And it can be useful at home, too. If you ever experience an extended power outage – like after a hurricane – a reliable source of electricity can be a lifesaver.

Ready to head for the outback

Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel review
Lion’s solar charger folds to be reasonable portable.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

When folded, the Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel is 11.25 inches square. It’s generally 1.1 inches thick, but expands to 2.1 inches where the charging ports are. The charger is 4 pounds.

That’s smaller and lighter than many rival solar panels. It fits easily in the sort of full-size backpack you’d take for a week in woods.

Of course, you’ll need at least one charging cable. The portable charger includes a net bag for holding these.

I was a bit worried about durability but Lion Energy recommends it for “hiking, camping and backpacking,” so it’s intended to be stuffed into backpack. That said, I’d suggest wrapping it in clothing.

I accidentally did a water-resistance test by leaving the solar charger outside all night. When I found it in the morning, it was covered by heavy dew. The product wasn’t damaged in any way I can tell.

Portable power from the sun

Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel USB-C and USB-A ports
The Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel includes both USB-C and USB-A ports that can charge devices simultaneously.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The four individual panels of the Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel unfold to be 46 inches wide. There are two kickstands on the back to prop it up so it can face the sun.

It’s just that simple. As soon as the panels are unfurled and pointed in the right direction, power is flowing to the USB-C and USB-A port on the back of charger.

You can plug the cable for your iPhone, iPad or MacBook directly into the solar charger, but I recommend bringing along a battery that can charge at a fairly high rate. It’s another thing to tote but it’s worth it. You can leave the battery attached to the solar panels all day to get the maximum charge, then power up your devices at night while you’re asleep.

I used the Mophie Powerstation Pro for this review but any similar product will do. When connected to the USB-C port, the power bank takes in power at about 24W in my tests. It holds 20,000 mAh, and Lion Energy’s foldable charger was able to give it more than a 50% charge in about two hours of direct sun. You can have it at 100% in an afternoon.

My iPad Pro also charges at up to 24W.

The situation with iPhone is not so cut and dried. When I connect my iPhone 14 Plus to the Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel, electricity transfers at about 24W… but after a while power transfer will drop to 0W. There’s nothing consistent about when. I’ve charged the handset for half an hour with no problem. Other times it cuts off in under 10 minutes.

Over the years, I’ve found Apple handsets to be oddly picky about accepting power. I’ve tested a few third-party chargers that an iPhone simply won’t work with, though the charger sends power to every other device. Lion Energy’s charger has a similar problem with the iPhone and only it.

This is one of reasons I recommend connecting the solar panels to a power bank rather than directly to an iPhone. There were never charging problems with the panels and the Mophie battery during my testing.

These tests were all done with the USB-C port. I tested the USB-A port with a variety of devices and it topped out at 12W. That’s while also providing 24W to another computer via the USB-C port.

When juicing up is important, you’ll need to pick a campsite with direct sun. I tried Lion Energy’s charger where the sun is being filtered through the trees and the rate went down to 1W or 2W. You can charge an battery this way but it’ll take all day.

Incidentally, the Plugable USBC-VAmeter3 was a tremendous help writing this review.

Lion Energy Video

Lion Energy published a video showing off the portable solar panels.

Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel final thoughts

With Emergency SOS via satellite in the iPhone 14 series, the handset is now something people who camp in remote locations should always keep powered up for safety reasons. Lion Energy’s solar charger can do that, no matter how far you are from the nearest wall socket.

And it’s also nice if you just want to keep taking pictures on your iPhone or enjoy an ebook on your iPad mini while making a long visit the back of beyond.



The Lion 50W Foldable Solar Panel costs $229, and is currently available on Lion Energy’s website.

Buy from: Lion Energy

Lion Energy provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out other in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.


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