Monday
Sep302013

Solar Monkey Adventurer

The Solar Monkey Adventurer is a 3 Watt solar panel combined with a 2500mAh lithium polymer battery in a ruggedised foldable case. It weighs exactly 9oz, not including case and cables. The manufacturers website is 

www.powertraveller.com

It comes with a well-made nylon case, charging cable,  an assortment of charging tips, and a carabiner. Overall, it feels like a well made, high quality device.

My interest in this charger was to see if it would keep my iPhone and my Sony Rx100 II camera charged up for a 220-mile hike of the John Muir Trail in California. This would be a two or three week trip with no opportunity to recharge batteries other than by solar panel. I was looking for something light, and with a built in battery. You cannot charge an iPhone properly with a solar panel that does not have its own battery, because every time the solar panel output drops due to a passing shadow, the iPhone decides to have a fainting fit, stops charging and goes into sulk mode for a random length of time that might be hours. It just doesn't work unless you can guarantee uninterrupted sunshine. The SolarMonkey Adventurer seemed to be one of the lightest panels around that had a battery and a decent capacity solar panel, so I gave it a go.

 

Here's how it looks with its blue case...

Here it is on its own, in the closed position...

And here is the unit folded open...

And here it is charging an iPhone with the included dog-bone cable...

 

Field Results:

I used the Solar Monkey for 13 days hiking the John Muir Trail. I had it strapped to the top of my backpack, facing straight up. I found that it could charge fully over the course of one day. Once charged, it could then fully charge an iPhone 4S and a Sony RX100 battery. That was more capability than I really needed, because the iPhone would last for three days on a single charge, and the Sony RX100 even longer. However, it was good to know that I didn't have to worry about using the iPhone all day long. I had a few rain showers, and that was not a problem.

 

Alternatives:

 

A rechargeable battery pack might be a good alternative for short trips. Figure that the Solar Monkey can provide about 2,000mAH per day. If you are out for five days, you are getting 10,000mAh. You could get that much energy out of a battery pack that weighs the same as the Solar Monkey, and you wouldn't have to worry about putting it in the sun all day. But if your trip goes beyond 5 days, then the battery solution is going to be heavier than the Solar Monkey, or you are going to need somewhere to plug in a charger. On the john Muir Trail, the Solar Monkey makes sense. you would be hiking for around two weeks, and there is only one opportunity in the middle to charge batteries, but you would be waiting all day to get that done.