No matter how much we run away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life our digital technology can still play a major role when out in the mountains. Whether it be a digital camera, GPS device or mobile phone, getting through a few days on a single battery charge can be quite a challenge.
We recently reviewed the brilliant ViewRanger application and one of our major anxieties was managing to get through a full day-hike on a single iPhone charge while it was polling GPS. This week we decided to put the Power Traveller Solarmonkey Adventurer solar charger to the test in an attempt to remedy this anxiety.
The Solar Monkey Adventurer
The Solarmonkey Adventurer is light, slimline, water-resistant and rugged and it even comes with its very own fold away carry case. We found the solar device was easily attached to the back of a rucksack (with the supplied carabiner) for charging the internal battery while we walked up through the hills.
The Solarmonkey Adventure offers a 5V supply and the recently released 2015 model incorporates a 3500mAh internal lithium polymer battery, the 2015 solarmonkey adventurer also features a 4-colour LED light to show level of charge left in the internal batter. (Blue – 100%, Green 75%, Yellow, 50%, and finally, Red 25%). The Solarmonkey is compatible with a wide range of 5V devices and the internal battery can charge an iPhone approximately 1-2 times, a GPS 1-3 times or an iPad by up to 25%.
The Solarmonkey uses a daisy chain format which means the solar panels chargers the internal battery and the internal battery then charges the connected device. The Solarmonkey features MPPT technology (Maximum Power Point Tracker) so optimises the match between the solar array and the internal battery, better still you can pre-charge the internal battery before you head off into the hills using the supplied USB cable and adaptor.
The Solar Monkey Adventurer in the Mountains
When we arrived at the base of the mountains my iPhone was on 90% charge. On a previous similar hike using Viewfinder reduced the charge by a massive 85% so without any external charging from the Solarmonkey Adventurer I was expecting to arrive back to base with around 5-10% charge.
I attached the Solarmonkey to the back of my bag using the carabiner, activated the ViewRanger tracking option and carefully attached my phone to the Solarmonkey using my usual iPhone lightning connector.
On checking the phone (about half way up the mountain) I was excited to find it was reading at 100% charged! I genuinely wasn’t expecting this to be the case, and felt if we got off the mountain with even 50% charge the Solarmonkey was a success. Obviously this charge was coming from the internal battery which was then being topped up by the solar panels.
It was reassuring to find the Solarmonkey Adventure was meeting the needs of the ViewRanger app and then some! We clambered our way to the top of the mountain, took in the views and returned to base which took just over four hours.
Back at base the Solarmonkey had maintained performance throughout with the iPhone still sitting at full charge with the internal battery still flashing yellow (50%), within half an hour of sitting open towards the sun the LED was flashing green. This isn’t a terribly scientific test but I would suggest it would take approximately 8-9 hours to charge the internal battery using just the solar panel which I think is quite impressive. At worst, even if you keep the clamshell closed and decide not to use the solar panel you will get two iPhone charges from the internal battery.
Low Light Capabilities
I was also very surprised at how sensitive the Solarmonkey Adventurer is even in low light, we were heading towards the sun as we approached the mountain but there was still enough light to keep the two solar panels happy while on my back. The low light capabilities are excellent, pair this with the fact the Solarmonkey has an internal battery and even when the sun goes down it is still supporting your USB devices.
As well as charging an iPhone we also used the Solarmonkey to charge the Fujifilm X100T camera. It was hard to measure the charge rate and given the Solarmonkey can only charge one device at a time I suspect it will be dedicated to the essential devices that don’t offer a removable (such as my iPhone). A common sense approach needs to be considered when in the mountains, it makes more sense to carry a few spare X100T batteries than to use a charging system.
It is great to find a device that exceeds your expectations. The Solarmonkey Adventurer is a lightweight and versatile solar charging solution and at £85 (approx,) it represents excellent value for money. The internal battery offers additional reassurance should the sun go down and the lowlight capabilities are fantastic.
The device is robust and water resistant and felt comfortable attached to my rucksack. If I have a single and albeit very petty negative, surprisingly I found the carabiner to be a little weak and would open easily. I think the fact this is my only negative pays testament of how much we love the Solarmonkey Adventurer, it excels! If you use a USB chargeable device in the outdoors the Solarmonkey Adventurer 2015 is an essential piece of kit.