Last summer I trekked across the Spanish Pyrenees for two months of pure bliss. Decided to try an idea, to keep track of it on an ongoing blog during the trek. (You can read the entries on this blog). To do that, I took with me an i-phone 5, a folding keyboard, a small but very powerful camera and to power it all, the above mentioned Powermonkey Extreme solar charger. I did not take any other chargers in order to save weight so I put all of my chips on the Powermonkey. I was not disappointed.
This is a British developed system made by Powertraveller, comprising of a folding solar panel and a battery. You charge the battery with the solar panel (or from the mains) and then charge your toys from that battery. It has two ports, for 5v and 12v which makes it remarkably versatile. I’ve used it before on a photoshoot in the Alps and it charged my Nikon D800 SLR without trouble. It comes with a very extensive adaptor bundle and cables but you will need to buy a battery charger for specific camera batteries to work with it. All easily available in the open market. It all comes in a nice protective case. Very clear instructions for use and set up are also included. The whole thing weights just over 1/2 kg, depending on what adapters you are using, which is very acceptable.
The solar panel folds in half for storage and is made of rugged plastic. It has an elastic velcro strap to attach it to rucksacks, tents or anywhere you need. There are slots that can be used for that purpose as well. At the bottom, next to the USB socket, there is a green light showing that the panel is creating a charge.
The battery is coated in protective rubber and again, is very rugged. It has a backlit info window that shows the charge and also, when the battery is charging. It has a slide touch pad to switch the unit on or off. There are two charging ports, one USB for 5v and a socket type for 12v. The unit is charged through a separate port on the other side. It is waterproof when stored but needs a waterproof kit to keep it that way when charging. That would be for Marine use only as it is useless to try and charge the battery on a rainy day anyway.
I charged the battery to 100% from the mains before I left. That gave me approximately 5 charges for my i-phone or alternatively about 3 charges for the camera. That kept me going for the first two weeks. Using the solar panel, I managed to charge the battery to around 60% of capacity and that is probably close to the max that the panel can do as it is not as powerful as the mains. Doesn’t matter, that was more than enough to keep me going and having all the gadgets charged when I needed them as it is a large capacity battery.
There were plenty of sunny days up there on the mountains and I took advantage of that. I would set up the charger on breaks or attach the panel to the top of my rucksack to charge the battery while walking. Both methods worked very well. Given the fairly small size of the solar panels, I found them very effective. On a days walk they would charge the battery to around 30% which in itself was enough for one full charge of all my gear. Another days walk and I would get it to the max of about 60% if I chose to do so. That should give a fair idea how effective this system is and in my opinion, very effective as I managed to do exactly what I set out to do. Write and upload a running blog during my trek, with photos.
To sum it up, your demands from this system may vary but I think you can safely say that it is a very capable one. For someone like me, who likes to camp in the wild and be as independent as possible, this is godsend. It is rugged, built for outdoor use, dependable and easy to set up. I never found it wanting and it kept my gear reliably powered for my two month trek and my Alpine photo shoot before that. This one will definitely be coming with me on future adventures.
Kudos to Powertraveller for building a versatile, dependable and very portable solar powered charging system.