When I started getting interested in solar, I wanted to start small, learn how it worked, and then gradually expand my system until my entire home was covered with solar. (I’m still not there yet!) I started at first with a Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel. It was nice for charging portable electric chargers that could later be used to charge my phones and tablets. It was slow, and the devices I charged would often get hot, so it wasn’t a good long term solution. Later I invested in a 30 watt solar panel, a 12 volt 1 kilowatt sealed lead acid battery with a solar charge controller. The battery resides in a MinKota Trolling Motor Power Center Battery Holder case to protect from heat and water. It also has a cheap tester built in, which comes in handy. After I hooked it all up, the rig has been working really well for over 1 year. The battery is usually full and stays topped off. I can periodically charge anything I need with the cigarette lighter adapters on both sides. If there is ever a power outage, I will be able to power my radios, charge my devices, and use an inverter to plug in home appliances that can’t be run off of 12 volts (i.e. a housefan).
While the larger 1 kilowatt battery & panel was a larger up-front expense for me, I feel better knowing my family and I have a backup source for power should an emergency strike. You can get similar benefits from an off brand USB solar charger which is much cheaper, but won’t help you when the sun is down since it won’t usually have a built in battery.
Let me know what solar gear you’ve built or used in the comments and if there’s interest, I’ll do a more detailed overview of how my current off-grid solar system was put together.