"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn." ~ John Muir

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Giveaway and Gear Review: Strong Volt Solar-7 Portable Solar Charger

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!

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23 comments:

  1. I'd love one for multi day hikes, when you just don't know where the next outlet is and yet you still want to capture regular pictures.

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  2. i could really use this as i being training for my threw hike of the AT hopefully next season im going to be on the trails a lot this season getting ready

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  3. I could see this coming in handy on my hiking/flyfishing trips. I'm usually carrying a decent amount of gear and, having a dead camera/phone when you catch a nice backcountry trout is quite a bummer. Alternatively, I could see this finding a home in the glove compartment of my car as a "just in case" item. Thanks for the great review!

    - David

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  4. This would be great for our hiking trips - you always need to be prepared.

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  5. I would like one of these to use for my section hikes on the AT. Also this would be great for when I am fishing to charge the phone.

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  6. I need it because my BioLite stove is lonely and tired of being my only power source

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  7. I would actually give it to my husband because his phone constantly is dieing and he never has a power source nearby. Thanks for the chance (linadanna at aol dot com)

    *waves across the border from VT* :)

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  8. I would either use this in the backcountry of California or share it with my hunting partner who could use it, too!

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  9. This would be great for stage races on the trail or multi-day hikes. Between stages of trail races, I could pull this bad boy out and charge up any device I needed before the next race.

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    1. Hey Tim - I actually saw a cool pic on their site of people rolling it out and hooking it to their pack, so the device charges while you're on the move...may be good for some of those long distance runs!

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  10. This item would be a godsend in the field for me & my hunting partners. I do multi day trips in SoCal for bear deer & hogs. We attempt to capture all the beauty & excitement of out trips on Gopro cameras but the camera is always dead before we finish the first day pack in. This item would allow us to recharge our gopro's & phones so we can really capture start to finish of the hole trip.

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  11. My husband and I both love to go camping and hiking. This would be great to take along with us so we would be able to charge our devices and not have to worry about the batteries dying on us! Thank you for the chance.

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  12. I see using this camping. You know, the days you don't even walk back to the car, you just stay at the campsite. This would give you that extra time on your cell phone or tablet for emergencies and leisure.

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  13. The kid's tablet would last a week's outing. My daughter would be able to read her ebooks off the iPad even towards the end of a week of camping. (Thanks for the chance of trying the charger.)

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  14. I'd love this for when my hubs takes the kids camping, and they can talk to me as much as they want because the phone won't die!

    coriwestphal at msn dot com

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  15. For me, this is a safety precaution just as equivalent as a first aid kit or the correct clothing in winter. A cell phone to a solo hiker like myself (most of the time) is a life line if anything were to ever go wrong. Having an extra charge, and even recharge with the solar panels, would be an incredible peace of mind. I had one mishap hiking back in the spring where I lost the trail and ended up 9 miles from my car and out on the mountain 4-5 hours longer than expected. This would have really come in handy!

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  16. Neat gadget. Perfect for the week that I volunteer at scout camp

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  17. I spend most of my time on hikes, in most of that time I'm far from a place I could charge my phone, thus it is usually off. This charger would help me greatly, keeping my phone charged and helping in case I get lost or during an emergency.

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  18. That's awesome I would definitely pack this if I'm mountain biking, hiking or snowboarding. Just in case my gps or Ipod die on a run and they need to be recharged, I imagine this could really come in handy.

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