I think we can just about all agree that the days of charging our mobile phones once a week are long gone. I have a HTC Desire and have to charge it twice daily no matter how many battery optimizer apps I download!
This is not in itself a problem when you are at home and a reliable electricity source is avaliable. Its when you get on the road and find yourself only turning your phone on a couple of times a day, terrified of running out of battery during the late night bus ride, airport run etc. that you have to consider alternative sources of power. As travelers we all like a bargain and theres not many bargains cheaper than free solar energy.
The new wave of Solar Chargers like the Power Monkey Explorer from Power Traveller are here to solve this problem. Not only can you charge your phone, but also your laptop, ipod, digital camera and pretty much any mobile device. The kit comes with a wide array of adapters to fit almost any of the devices we drag around the planet with us. If however you do find that you are missing the one you need Power Traveller can supply it at an average price of around £3.50.
The Power Monkey comes in a choice of 4 colours blue, grey, pink and yellow and is priced at £65 direct from Power Traveller (but you may find it a little cheaper on Amazon). This device can be charged in 3 ways, solar, mains and USB effectively making this unit a very useful power storage device as well as a solar charger.
Charging times to full charge are as follows:
Mains = 3.5 hours
USB = 6 Hours
Solar = 18 Hours
At first glance you may say, how long for a full solar charge, 18 hours! This was my first thought until your realise that a full charge of the Power Monkey will give you:
Ipod = 40 Hours
Smart Phone = 96 Hours
Digital Camera = 1600 Pictures
PDA’s = 48 Hours
Thats four days worth of phone charge in a single solar charge!
We put the charger through its paces as best we can in the sunny UK and had no problems charging from the solar panel and then topping up the ludicrous amount of electrical devices in our household. I can say that the figures given above by Power Traveler above seem accurate and actually we charged using Solar in around an hour less than the stated figure.
A feature that I found really useful is the LED on the solar panel which gives an indication of how strong the light is. This enables you to adjust the position of the panels to reach optimum charging. Also the water resistant casing is an excellent feature and one I put good use when I left our tester out in the rain! Everything about this item is high quality even down to the rubber plugs to stop muck from getting in the connectors.
In summary this charger is a great introduction to the world of solar. It has been designed with the traveler in might and feels rugged and hard wearing. The design, function and usability of the Power Monkey is very well thought out, even down to the velcro strap for hanging the solar panels and the little bag for keeping all the adapters in.
Whether you choose to buy one of these really comes down to the type of travelling you partake in. If you like to backpack around Europe staying in hostels then the use maybe limited as access to power is easier, you could however charge before you leave and then just take the power pack and leads which are very compact as a back up.
However if you are an adventure traveler, camper or hobo traveler then I would highly recommend this charger. Its versatility, high quality of build and rugged design make this an essential item that I will definetley be taking on my next trip out.