Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Gear 1: SolarUno (out of the box)

Woohoo. New gear arrived from the other side of the world today. Modern Outpost, in British Columbia, to be precise. The box was well packed, and prtected the SolarUno inside. This 240mm long, 90mm wide device houses a solar panel which can recharge two AAA batteries. It also has a USB port on it. At the current exchange rate, it cost £40, including airmail postage. The 2-3 weeks quoted delivery only took 12 days.

So, in the box is 9" long length of soft plastic, with a solar panel and a box at the back to house two AAA batteries, and a manual. The manual states the device is made by SolarMio.

The batteries are held in place tightly, and 2 rechargeable NiMH750's are included (always handy). The clip also helps secure the batteries in place.

There's one switch and an LED on the top. If you have no batteries in the box, the LED shows if there's enough sunlight to provide a recharge. Once the batteries are slotted in, the LED increases in brightness until the batteries are fully charged.

The USB looks handy, as I have an adapter for my SonyEricsson mobile phone that allows me to recharge it via USB. According to the manual, moving the switch to "USB-on" will divert the solar recharge to the USB port.

Times stated:

  • 2nr AAA: 4-6hrs (100% sun); 8-12hrs (60% sun); low performance (30% sun)
  • MP3: 2.5hrs (100% sun); 4 hrs (60% sun); 7 hrs (30% sun)
Clips onto the wand holder of the backpack. I'll be able to give an action report after the West Highland Way trek. In the meantime, the unit is on the window sill but the sun is only now at an angle where it will be directly onto the solar panel. 2 AAA NiMH batteries, originally showing "2" notches on my GPS receiver.

Update: an hour in indirect sunlight, and another hour in 40% sunlight, and the 2 AAA batteries had already reached 3 notches on the GPS (4 notches is the maximum).

The manual warns not to over-expose the charger beyond the maximal charge time.

Reason for purchase: independance, pure and simple. I use a GPS system (AAA batteries), and the mobile phone batteries last if I have the phone switched off. Hopefully the SolarUno will free me from worrying about running out of charge on long trips. I worry about these sorts of things, so had looked around for a while, considering rotary chargers, but the SolarUno looked like it covered my needs - battery and USB. Time will tell.


Andy Howell said...

Looks like something well worth checking out that!


AktoMan said...

I'll do a proper after-action-report in a couple of weeks time, when I'm back from the WHW, Andy.

John Hee said...

total weight?

ps - you're on wikitrek now as well ;-)

AktoMan said...

Weight listed as 95g. I don't have a set of kitchen scales to check it, and assume it's without batteries.

ps: thanks, John, I haven't had a chance to look at the wiki before you mentioned it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Why did you opt especially for that product as they are several solar chargers out in the market right now? USB-Port?
Can you modify the battery compartment to accept one AA battery or even two (guess you need to cut the sides out of the box to accomodate 2 AAs)?
Interesting design...are you gonna cut off the radiancies from the sun to limit the danger to your equipment and save weight?

AktoMan said...

Went for the product as I have a unit from Maplins and that was too heavy to use. The Solio needed adaptors to recharge devices, and the SolarUno just looked to do what I needed. The USB means I can recharge the phone, and the AAA batteries are used on the Geko 201.

I'm not confident when it comes to making mods, so wouldn't like to try modiying the case for AA.

As to the 'sunny' protuberances : I think they look nice :) and also, provide additional security for fixing the unit to a rucksack. I think I'll keep them.

Steven Horner said...

How did it do on the WHW, doing it in May and was thinking about getting one of these. Is it worth buying or not?

AktoMan said...

Hi Steve, it didn't work for me as a solar charger, but was excellent for feeding power from batteries in to the mobile phone (via the usb port).

As the universal winding charger didn't fit my Sony Ericsson phone, this was a (bulky) alternative.

I hope I'll get to see some sun this year to actually use it as a battery charger. It is going with me on the Southern Upland Way.

Price-wise, may be cheaper to buy extra batteries, and a wind-up charger for your phone (which I'm still to track down for the Sony-E').