Don’t worry, it happens to all of us. In the excitement of planning the trip, getting things ready, and beginning the trek into the great outdoors, we often stash our cell phones away in our gear, a pocket for easy photo snapping, or elsewhere, and we even pack a wall charger. Before long, we realize that unless we’re getting stuck in a thunderstorm and happen to be packing a lighting rod, we’re not going to have free access to electricity, rendering our gadgets useless within hours.
Enter the StrongVolt Solar: 7 Portable Solar Charger, a way to charge the battery even while out hiking. We were sent a review unit by the company and have had a few days of heavy use (and sunlight) to give it a shot and see just how it holds up against the elements and our on-the-go demands. We’ve discovered the gadget to be greatly useful under a variety of circumstances.
The StrongVolt 7 is water resistant and makes a great companion for travelers or addition to emergency kits.
First, though, let’s touch on the charger’s build. The StrongVolt 7 is water resistant (though you’ll still want to avoid submerging it in puddles), and it did indeed charge the phone in the rain (more on that later). The panels are covered in a tough clear plastic to protect them from the elements. Weighing at 11.5 ounces, this particular model should charge a smartphone in roughly 2.5 hours and a tablet or e-reader in about 5.5 hours. It also has grommet holes to hang from backpacks or for use with a shoulder strap, quite useful for charging your device while hiking. It folds up small enough to fit in any case, and would also be a good use as part of an emergency kit.
Our first test with the charger involved simply unfolding it and leaving it in direct sunlight. We used a Nokia Lumia 822 Windows Phone that was nearly out of battery power to test the charger. Within 2 hours, we had a full charge, well ahead of the stated 2.5 hours in the product’s description. We also had no cloud cover during this test, though a repeated test with some minor cloud cover only extended charging time by roughly 15 minutes.
We even put the charger to test during a rain storm while our smartphone took refuge in the dry indoors (we had a number of USB extensions on hand to allow the long distance reach); the charger randomly disconnected and reconnected to the phone, likely due to the cloud cover. Our cables all worked perfectly on the in-house charger which led us to this conclusion. Solar panels aren’t really meant to work in the rain anyway, but you never know when you might find yourself in the predicament where you’ll need it. Luckily, it did indeed charge the device, albeit very slowly; our device was fully charged after about 4.5 hours of alternating cloud cover and rain.
As expected, cloud cover became a minor obstacle for the solar charger.
The biggest problem we ran into was during moments of even minor cloud cover. You’re probably not going to find a solar charger very useful without access to direct sunlight; we had to move it around a few times to get a good charge going. When you do get such access, you’ll also have to take steps to protect your device. We had to place the Nokia Lumia beneath the charger to protect it from the heat. If you’re going to be charging your device outside for longer than a few minutes, you’ll have to invest in a cover or case to protect it, as the charger does not include a protective pocket in which to put your smartphone.
The charger was certainly durable, though we wouldn’t recommend putting it anywhere it might be crushed, such as inside a backpack or bag. It would be a good idea to put it in a separate compartment if possible, or utilize the grommet holes to carry it separately with a shoulder strap if you have a spare one lying around.
Clearly, the StrongVolt Solar: 7 Portable Solar Charger does what it was designed to do, and does it quite well, whether it’s sunny, cloudy or rainy. The charger will run you about $59.99 USD with free shipping and a money-back guarantee included from the company, but TruTower readers receive a 10 percent discount. Simply use promo code STRVLT10 in your order on StrongVolt’s website. Before you plan your next outing or family car trip, you won’t want to leave without procuring one for yourself.