It’s always a good idea to carry extra battery capacity with you when you’re going out to shoot pictures or video. An extra battery pack may make the difference between bringing home that one unique shot, or running out of juice moments before it unfolds in front of your eyes. While they may not look elegant and won’t match luxury handbags, Solarmonkeys are excellent for the job. These solar panels have a 3500mAh battery built-in and come with daisy-chaining power capabilities: while you charge your camera, you can have the sun simultaneously charge the battery.
The Solarmonkey Adventurer 2015 is Powertraveller’s latest addition to the Solarmonkey product range. It’s a pair of solar panels with a battery built-in. Unique about it is that you can charge your device while simultaneously charging the battery, a feature which Powertraveller calls “daisy chain power”. The Solarmonkey Adventurer 2015 has the size of a big smartphone, except it is a bit thicker. When not in use, the device closes like a clamshell.
The Solarmonkey Adventurer 2015 comes in a protective storage case, fastened inside with a sort of suspension system. The case folds open with the hinged panels, so there’s rarely ever a need to remove them. You’ll also get a carabiner to hang the case from your backpack or tripod.
To power your device, you’ll use the USB port. The Solarmonkey includes a charging cable and a micro USB tip. When there’s not enough light to charge the Solarmonkey Adventurer, you can charge it from the mains with the cable plugged into the charging port. Both ports are protected against moisture (not water ingress) with a silicon rubber cover. The device has a coloured LED to indicate battery charge level and charging activity.
The Solarmonkey Adventurer will automatically charge your device as soon as you plug it in. It will set its output power (2Amp max) to the most effective for the device you connect to it. You can charge hand-held cameras/action cams like the GoPro series, iPhones, sat-navs/GPS, iPods and head torches. Anything that will charge or work at 5V and a maximum of 2A, in fact. This also includes powering an iPad, although charging one as fast as possible would require a slightly higher amperage.
The unit weighs 265g and the two solar panels output 3 watt max. I tried the Solarmonkey Adventurer 2015 with a GoPro HERO3+, but also a Powerchimp 4A — Powertraveller’s unique mobile solution for recharging four AA batteries on USB power. I charged the Solarmonkey while recharging the connected devices.
Everything worked the way I expect from a Powertraveller device. The unit even recharged in bright daylight, which is less bright than direct sunlight. Of course, there’s no measuring how long it would take to charge the batteries inside fully in such sub-standard circumstances.
Nevertheless, I do have a few points of criticism. First off, I found the LED charge indicator quite hard to see in direct sunlight. I also found the colours confusing. When charging, the LED cycles from red to yellow, to green and finally blue. Red and blue were easily distinguishable, but yellow and green are in my opinion too close to one another to really judge for yourself how much juice you have left.
Still, I would recommend the Solarmonkey Adventurer 2015 to anyone who wants a lightweight, general purpose clean backup power solution for any sort of use. To make the unit compatible with some cameras, you would need to buy extra tips (adapters), but those are inexpensive.
The unit itself costs approx. €56.50.