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Solar Charger – Powermonkey eXplorer

By Dave Roberts   

on May 16, 2011    No ratings yet.

Solar Charger – Powermonkey eXplorer

We’ve all been there. You need to make a phone call after your wild camp, possibly to sort out your lift or to let someone know you’re late and not to ring mountain rescue and it’s flat. You know you shouldn’t be using the battery to watch another episode of Dr Who on iPlayer before bed and certainly not listen to some radio after, but you do. No fear, you’ve got a spare battery off eBay that’s the mobile phone equivalent of a lemon with copper electrodes, which as usual you’ve forgotten to charge. If you had some way of carrying a mobile power source, aka the 15k power cord, or a diesel generator perhaps, you’d be fine. Or just take a Powermonkey.

[more]To start with, it won’t charge anything larger so forget it if you want to charge your laptop (you can get Power Traveller’s Gorilla range for that). This is a portable charger for mobile phones, or any other small electronic device that you can get it to fit. With the connectors it comes with, you should be ok with most gadgets, but might need to shell out for some like Nintendo DS. Even if it doesn’t come with the adapter you need, if you’ve got a USB charger with your device then you can just use that. You can charge it up at home via USB, in around 4 hours, or via the mains in probably any socket globally as it comes with loads of mains adapters to boot and claims to be useable in 150 countries. Once you’re fully charged for your trip you can then use the solar panels, giving it the eXplorer tag, in order to keep it topped up while you’re out and about.

The powermonkey itself is light and compact with a screen that shows you how much charge you’ve got left. This is vital if you know you’ve managed to charge it for a while in less than ideal conditions and need to roughly know what you’ll get from it. So far, we’ve got it to fully charge a N97 smartphone and a generic MP3 player from a full charge. As the battery capacity of the Powermonkey is double that of the phone, I’d have expected a bit more capacity. I’m rather concerned as the new phone I’ve got has a larger 1500mAh battery.

The beauty of the device is that once you’ve used up the charge, you can recharge it on the go with the solar panels. They attach to your pack with the supplied elasticated strap, but I was unable to get it to attach snugly without swinging about. The size of the panels are nice and compact, about the same size as a phone, but whether this will charge fully in typical UK conditions, I’m yet to have been out long enough! There’s a comforting red light and the display shows a moving graph when it’s charging. There’s also a tidy little pouch for carrying it as you’ll probably be carrying a couple of adapter tips with you and they’re easily lost.

The powermonkey eXporer is wonderfully light as well with the battery pack weighing in at 83g and the solar panel at 82g. If you take the bare minimum of the charger, solar panels, a couple of adapters and the bag then you’re looking at around 190g. Spare batteries would be cheaper and slightly lighter, but certainly not as elegant or flexible. That is of course, assuming that your device has a user replaceable battery.

The real test for this device will be on a 4/5 day trip to Knoydart in under a month’s time where we can put it head to head with the Free Loader Globetrotter and its huge panel. If it charges enough over that time to keep me powered up, then it’ll have served its purpose. With the long June days in Scotland, there should be plenty of daylight hours, if not the sunshine. If it doesn’t, then they’ve got a 9000mAh device coming out soon the Powermonkey-eXtreme that should provide a few good charges.


Manufacturer (RRP): Power Traveller ( £65)

Battery: 2200mAh

Compatable with : Nokia and mini Nokia, Micro USB, Mini USB, Samsung G600, iPod / iPhone tip, LG Chocolate, Sony Ericsson wide connector, Female USB, DC4.0 for Sony PSP, Nintendo DS-Lite – though ours didn’t come with a DS charger.

Weight: 190g (minimum useable weight – with 2 tips)

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Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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2 thoughts on “Solar Charger – Powermonkey eXplorer”

  1. Dave,

    I would be interested to know the result of your real test if you did it.

    I recently bought a TwoNav Sportiva GPS and a Powermonkey explorer with the solar panel. According to the vendor this would be enough to be autonomous from outside power sources weather permitting.

    I have since been on two journeys and have found this not to be the case. Leaving home with the Sportiva and the Powermonkey fully charged, the Sportiva ran out of juice definitively on the fourth day. The weather conditions could not have been better for the region (south of France) with cloudless days, though I was moving all the time, so the solar charging conditions were “real” rather than ideal.

    I can not get the maker to say whether this is normal or not.

    I used on average 60% of the Sportiva charge per day. The Powermonkey managed to charge the Sportiva from 35% to 100% on the first night after which it was completely empty. One full day’s solar charge on the Powermonkey gave me about 25% charge on the Sportiva.

    Weight and costwise, I would have been much better buying three spare batteries which would have weighed less and given me more autonomy.

    Did you have a better experience?


    Sandy Herbert

  2. Hi Sandy,

    I’ve intended on testing the Powermonkey along with the Freeloader, but since Easter when I took them both out for a prelim test, there’s just been no opportunity to use them! The summer’s just been atrocious. It sounds disappointing that you didn’t’ get a positive result from using this device in proper sun.
    I’m looking now at next summer for any realistic test of these items, but did find that the most effective use was plugging the giant solar panel from the freeloader into the powermonkey. Better solar panel (I presume only because it is larger!) from the freeloader and a better storage option in the powermonkey.

    I’m looking at getting one of these for a five day trip in a forthnight’s time: http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Trent-iCruiser-IMP1000-Blackberry/dp/B004CHMP50/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I3FZ0SGET3WK4A&colid=2GNWH0NPCK2OZ
    Should charge my droid phone five or six times, which should see me through any period I’m likely to be away from power.

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