Using the sun sounds like a good way to charge your phone when outdoors. But does it work? We test out the Xenta backpack solar charger.
When getting outdoors it’s good to unplug and switch off.
However, there’s no denying the usefulness of today’s mobile phones. Not only as a means of contacting rescue in an emergency, but also some of the navigational apps.
For example, we often use Geocaching as it is a great way to engage kids and encourage them to walk further to find the next ‘hidden treasure’.
The downside with mobile phones is that their battery doesn’t last for ever. You can take power banks to ensure you have enough power in an emergency, but what about using the sun’s energy too? After all, solar panels today don’t need bright sunlight to generate power.
So Xenta sent us over their lightweight backpack 5V solar charger, which could be a handy item to take with you on hikes or when camping.
Xenta Backpack Solar Charger Review
Not enough sun and how to get around it
The problems we found was that the Xenta solar panel would only produce enough power with good direct sunlight and the panel angled correctly.
That was a bit of a disappointment since many photovoltaics don’t require full sunlight to provide power, but I suppose the effectiveness of the solar panels have been compromised here for a lightweight solution that you an carry in your backpack.
When charging an iPhone, the phone detected when the power dropped and was insufficient. This would typically happen as soon as a cloud covered the sun. At that point the iPhone 5 would say that the device was unsupported and would no longer charge from it even when the sun re-appeared.
The iPhone 5 is doing a good thing here by protecting itself from potentially harmful devices, but it doesn’t help when you want to charge your phone and you don’t have glorious sunshine in a clear blue sky. And days like those you could probably count on one hand here in the UK! 😉
The solution, and our recommended way of using this solar charger, is to use it in conjunction with a USB power bank.
We used one from Go Travel that can charge both phones and tablets.
You simply connect the power bank to the solar panel and leave it in the pouch behind the panel. If the amount of sunlight drops the power bank will pause charging but resume as soon as the power level increases.
Once your power bank is charged you can then use that to charge both phones and tablets – something you can’t do with the solar panel itself.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Xenta who provided us with a sample of their product to field test. All opinions are our own.
- I couldn't get a steady charge. It's better to pair with a powerpack.