If you’ve read my disappointing review of solar chargers, or rather the poor summer that made them rather redundant, you’d know that I’m on the lookout for a different option. While I’d considered spare batteries for my phone, you’re still in the position where you need to leave your phone unattended if you manage to get a socket in a hostel and the idea of an external charger doesn’t appeal. What i need is a 6km extension cable so I can recharge everything from my Garmin to my Motorola and my Tablet.

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The New Trent (already nicknamed the David Brent, I see what you did there) is an external battery pack that packs in a massive 11000 mAh of juice. Compare that to a typical smartphone battery of about 1500 mAh, and you quickly realise that you’ve got a lot of power in the palm of your hands, enough I’d expect to charge my phone 5 times at the very least. It’s also suitable for charging the iPad, so I was keen to see how it fared with my Asus Transformer.

The New Trent boxy thing is a simple device that comes in a simple cardboard box, though there’s still some plastic inside the package (check to see if recycleable) the packaging isn’t over the top. Sleek, glossy and black with rounded corners and the minimum of ports. It’s very much like holding a smooth pebble in your hand, and about the same weight too. It’s a hefty 285g, which is probably heavier than the equivlent in spare batteries but as you can charge almost anything it’s much more flexible.

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Beware if you buy this expecting it to be compatible with your device as It only comes with a mini USB and a Micro USB adaptor, so you’ll need your USB charging cable if it doesn’t come in one of those flavours. The provided cable is very lightweight and retractable but some reviewers seem to think that it doesn’t charge as rapidly as your regular cable, so it might be worth trying that out in case you find there’s a problem (we were fine with it). There’s a battery level indicator that’s rather vague, but with the power this packs you won’t be that concerned until it’s at the final indicator. Finally, there’s a nifty little velvet bag to keep it all tidy, though you’ll probably need to look at a dry bag in the hills.

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Sexy and cool this may be, but is it any good? We tested it at home first with some Android smartphones, an old N97 just because it was flat, a phillips mp3 player, Garmin Forerunner 305, HD camcorder and the Asus eee Transformer. You could also use it, in conjunction with a micro usb battery charger to top up your rechargeable batteries. The bottom line is that it works with anything that charges via USB, so it worked with all the items above except for the tablet which for some reason only known to Asus, doesn’t charge via USB.

In the field,we tested this on a weekend away which was followed by a wild camp. It charged the smartphone twice from flat, was used to keep the charge topped up while using the phone as a mobile wi-fi hotspot and GPS  and it still displayed the highest charge setting. Then taking it camping, the phone’s music player was kept on overnight (12 hours) with the mobile connected to the iCruiser all the while. The phone showed a full charge in the morning and that charge indicator on the iCruiser still hadn’t moved. It easily does the five charges expected and would be just enough for a week away.
In the past I’ve avoided devices that charge only from USB and don’t use a spare battery as once they’re flat, there’s no way to charge them on the hill. Well, now there is and I’ll have to totally rethink my philosophy. A recent headtorch and camera purchase was influenced by the ability to replace batteries easily, while in the future I’ll already have my spare batteries so long as the device is rechargeable via USB. If it isn’t, then I’m not buying! This is an essential piece of kit if you take any sort of electronics on the hill and could prove to be a lifesaver if you can

Summary: Your own personal 6km long extension cord. While the force is strong in this one. You can play angry birds to your heart’s content (which may not be that good). But it does not charge via USB itself and is heavy at 285g.

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