The Heavy Hiker

Sharing Hiking Experiences in Western Australia

Solar Powered Battery Pack

Like everyone, I hate it when my phone battery dies.

I hate it more when I’m out hiking and realise I can’t take anymore photos.

Hiking and photography often go hand in hand as there are so many views and experiences to capture out there.

I’m not much of a photographer and I don’t often heavily edit my pictures to enhance colours or contrasts- nature is beautiful just as your eye perceives it.

I do like to capture the memories though and for that I use my trusty Samsung 6’s camera. Yep, I’m not fancy – I use my phone camera!

When I’m out for the day I can often run down my phone/camera battery without a thought and so I decided to buy a solar battery bank for these occasions, both as a safety measure in case I get lost and so that I can take as many pictures as I like.

I purchased the AP 12000mAh Portable Waterproof Solar Charger Dual USB External Battery Power Bank.

What a mouthful.

The unit has Micro USB input and can be used to charge multiple devices at one time. The bank weighs approximately 150grams – about the same as an average tub of yogurt.

It also makes me look like a ‘real’ hiker. (You know the one- decked out in full ‘The North Face’ gear, wearing reflective sunnies and plotting his course out on his handheld GPS.)

The unit operates very simply. The solar panel charges the bank directly. Plug your device in to the Micro USB port, press the little button on the front of the device and your pretty little lights come on- the device charges. Unplug the device and the solar panel starts to restore charge to the depleted battery. Pretty simple right?

The technology utilised is definitely viable. Often when I test new gadgets I find that the desired utilisation doesn’t ‘work’ because the tech’ is underdeveloped. Charging banks have been around for a little while and it appears they’ve had enough time to iron out the kinks.

A few things to note:

  • The bank is touted as being waterproof. Well… probably not. I certainly wouldn’t be chucking it in a river to test it. The silicone surround does not appear to be a snug fit so while it can withstand a walk in the rain I definitely wouldn’t be submerging it.
  • The device comes with an Emergency LED Torch. I wouldn’t rely on it as your only source of light but it is handy when trying to plug in devices in low light situations.
  • The bank is shockproof on most sides with the silicone covering offering protection against the occasional drop or bump. However, if you drop it against a sharp edge on the solar panel, it will break the panel. So, while it’s ‘shockproof’ it’s no Nokia 6250.
  • Dual Charging? Not really. The unit charges one phone or one camera at an adequate speed that you won’t die of starvation before the phone is charged; but trying to charge two devices at the same time results in a painstakingly slow charge rate.
  • I paid only $21 via Ebay for my particular unit as I just wanted to test out the technology and for the occasional use, this model is suitable. Charging approximately 600 cycles in its lifetime I believe it is good value for money. If you find yourself in need of charging frequently then you may want to look at investing in a more heavy duty unit.
  • The 12000mAh claim. Okay, this is a Chinese no name model that I sourced off Ebay – 12000mAh is pretty unlikely given the price I paid. Simple, little old me can’t test this claim without a ‘doovey-thingy’ to test amperage so my claim is unsubstantiated. It is just my observation that many no-name brands overstate their product to obtain sales so I’d be cautious of relying on that 12000mAh amperage blindly.

For me, this sort of technology is really a last resort. I won’t rely on this kind of technology to be my only source of power on a multi-day hike but for the occasional extra charge on a day hike this unit performs to my $21 expectations.


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