Solar power chargers are a great idea in the mobile digital world where everything needs to be charged and battery life technology has not been able to keep pace with power demanding technology. I have lost count of the times I have lost power in a camera, phone or other battery operated gadget. The answer is to carry extra batteries, but these can be heavy and some products, notably those from Apple, have integrated batteries. Another solution is to carry a power bank like the Aqua Trek I reviewed in an earlier post. These can be a little heavy but are able to supply enough power for charging several gadgets.
In my opinion the optimum solution is to use solar power to charge up a power bank which can then be used to charge whatever device needs it. I already have a solar power charger but it it is a little cumbersome and heavy when weight or space or both are at premium. What I need is something portable and powerful.
The Mobile Solar Power Charger from www.mobilesolarchargers.co.uk seemed like the ideal solution.
Basically it is a power bank with multi-charging capabilities. It can be charge via the micro USB charging lead include from the mains, a car or boat charger or a USB connected to a computer. However, its main attraction is that it can be charged using the built-in solar panels. There are two of these; the second is folded in at the back.
Internally there is a high capacity 5000mah lithium polymer. There are two USB sockets so there is the option of charging two devices simultaneously. Output is 5V/1A.
With the two rubberised flaps covering the USB outlets closed it is claimed that it is water resistant and not waterproof. As it is no bigger than most smartphones it could be placed in a waterproof cover such as FRIEQ Universal Waterproof Case which I review elsewhere on this blog
Testing it out
I charged the MSC Travel Solar Power Charger using the mains initially. It took almost 5 hours to fully charge. When I charged using solar power alone with both panels in direct sunlight it fully charged in approximately 9.5 hours over 2 days. As with the solar panels on the roof of my home the angle of the sun is critical with greater efficiency between 11:00 and 15:00. The charger was in direct sunlight during these times for 4-5 hours each day.
The MSC Travel Solar Power Charger comes with a clip to attach to belt or rucksack. This means it can be charging while you are on the move. I attached it to my camera backpack. For most of the time only one panel was used though when I was taking photographs I folded out the second panel. Over a couple of days it charged to about 75% capacity which I thought was pretty good considering it was not always in full sun.
When fully charged, by whatever method I used, the MSC Travel Solar Power Charger was able to charge my iPhone fully twice with a residual amount of charge left over. It took 2 hours 15 minutes the first time and 2 hours 30 minutes the second time. Using both outlets to charge two phones took longer but it was able to fully charge them both.
I also used it to top up the charge on my GoPro. As the MSC Travel Solar Power Charger was not fully charged and it was only topping up the GoPro it was not possible to give determine how efficient it was. Nevertheless it shows it can be used for other “on the go” devices.
Attaching it to the outside of a rucksack does mean there is a danger it is exposed to elements other than what it was designed for. It is also likely to get knocked more than a few times. The one I had was exposed to a light rain shower and received a good few knocks when accompanying me on my travels. Its robust shockproof build ensured it still worked even when knocked around when dumping my rucksack down. Despite being exposed to some rain it still works perfectly.
The one weakness I discovered was the hinging of the solar panel flap on the reverse. It seems to be attached flimsily and looks like it might not last over an extended period. When folding it back into the recess on the back it does not fit snugly but has to be wiggled to achieve a good fit.
There is an LED torch light built in which draws minimal power from the battery. I found this particularly useful for looking at my camera’s dials when taking lowlight photographs.
The MSC Travel Solar Power Charger is a handy device to have with me on my travels not only does it provide extra portable power for charging devices such as my iPhone and GoPro but it keeps topping itself up with free solar power. Even in overcast conditions it was recharging though not as efficiently.
Any power bank is useful when travelling and one that uses solar power to charge while on the go is even better as it is not always possible to be plugged in. For those who like a bit of “off the beaten track” or “off the grid” travel then this will be an essential piece of kit.
At £34.95 from www.mobilesolarchargers.co.uk this is pretty good value for money. It will stand up to being knocked about and will recharge itself if not stuffed at the bottom of your bag while you enjoy your travels.
Mobile Solar Chargers have kindly offered to provide an MSC Travel 5000mah mobile solar power charger as a prize for the weekly competition run on this site. Where in the World (208) will be the 4th anniversary of “the quiz with a twist” and one lucky person will win one of the above reviewed product.