I was able to demo a new piece of equipment from StrongVolt that may be of interest to the hiking community. I’m also going to give it away to a lucky LFAHNH reader (so keep reading)! I can see a lot of great uses for it, but for this gear review, I wanted to look at it strictly from a day hiker’s perspective. It’s a solar charger which has a USB female connector so that you can plug in any device that powered through USB. In most instances, that’s all cell phone and smart phones today. I’m not sure if that is the case for GPS devices or not, but if so, that may be a good use for it as well.
As a day hiker, I try not to use my cell phone much on the trail. I put it in my pack and pretty much leave it alone. I do keep it on in the event I get an urgent call, but for the most part, I’m not checking email or social media when enjoying nature. Once I’m on the summit, I will typically pull it out and start checking Facebook and/or emails. I’ll usually take a photo from the top and post as well. Now, depending on how long the hike is, and if I have service on the trail or not, my battery may be anywhere from 50%-70% drained. Being able to charge my phone or possibly, GPS device, is great for peace of mind. These are devices that may be needed in a survival situation and sustaining power in them through solar means could be very valuable.
So how does the product work? It’s important to understand first that it’s simply a converting tool to convert solar energy into battery energy. In no way do the solar panels store energy. The device they sent me was a StrongVolt Solar:7 Portable Solar Charger. It was packaged in a heavy canvas material, held together with Velcro. Once you release the Velcro, the solar panels roll out with a small cord exiting the casing. Again, the cord has a USB female connector on the end. My first impression was, for a day hiker, it’s a bit bulky and also kind of heavy. It did also come with a small instruction card on how to use the device.
To test out the equipment, I decided to drain my iPhone pretty low, to below 10% of the battery charge level. I plugged in the USB cord and placed the panels in direct sunlight. At first, the little charging icon did not show up. I thought at first maybe I had a defective unit. But after about one minute, the charging icon (the little lightning bolt) showed up. It started charging! One thing that I thought of right away was that leaving your device in the direct sunlight isn’t a good idea, so the user must remember to cover it or put it in the shade while the panels stay in the sun. After taking a closer look at the instructions for use, I did see that there is cautionary terminology regarding having your device in direct sunlight.
My iPhone took about 60 minutes to fully charge. I’m sure this varies depending on what type of device you’re charging, the amount of direct sunlight you have and maybe even your geographic location. However, I didn’t think it was too bad as plugging it into my PC or truck takes about the same amount of time. Note, the AC power of my house charges much quickler, maybe 25 minutes or so! So, from the standpoint of a day hiker, I would say the following:
Pros: Great survival tool in an emergency situation (sustainable energy source), charges in a reasonably timeframe
Cons: Heavy, bulky
I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons and I would recommend purchasing one of these items for your survival kit. I thank StrongVolt for giving me the opportunity to review this product. Now for the giveaway opportunity. I’m going to make it pretty simple. Leave a comment on here as to why you’d like to use one of these power charging devices for hiking, camping, etc. and your name will be entered to win this item. I’ll pull a random now on February 16th, so please come back here to check who won!