This is a combo pack that combines the Freeloader Solar Charger, Super Charger solar panel, carrying pouch and various charging tips (though curiously no new micro usb!). The Freeloader Solar Charger is a compact battery pack (capacity) that comes complete with a pair of built in solar panels that you can use to recharge the unit if you ever see the sun. The Super Charger is a large solar panel that you can attach to your pack or panniers in order to charge the unit more fully. There’s a velcro loop one end and a couple of strong clips that will allow it to fasten securely on the other.
The battery pack is rather disappointing though, only managing to half charge our smartphone (N97 at the time of testing). I’d have hoped for at least a full charge. There’s a comforting green/red light while it’s charging from the usb socket, but no such indication when you connect the panels. At least by attaching the large panel to the outside of your pack you’ve got a slim chance of charging the unit during the day.
However, in our tests we have been unable to find enough sun in order to fully test this device during the summer. We’d consdered scrapping the review fully but then it dawned on us that this is truly one of the disadvantages of buying solar tech in the UK. We buy into the dream that when we do go on our backpacking weekends and long summer trips that the sun will bake the paths to dust and we’ll have difficulty finding any water as the burns run dry. So buying solar tech can only help reinforce that dream.
Reality is unfortunately rather damper and duller. We’ll certainly give this gear another shot next spring, because lets face it, we can’t have a fourth crappy summer in a row any more than we’ll get three decent winters.
The most positive thing about the device is the giant solar panel. We coupled this with the PowerMonkey, whose wimpy solar panel was barely adequate, and found that it did charge. Maybe next spring, when I finally get to reach Knoydart, i’ll be sauteeing mussels in white wine outside Sourlies while my batteries recharge in the scorching heat.
Dream on. I’ve come to the conclusion that for typical UK weather what you need is spare battery capacity, and I’ll be reviewing external battery packs soon.