It’s a problem I’ve spoken about a few times before, but one that can be a real pain for all travellers on the road: smartphone battery life. Whether your using your phone as a camera, for GPS or maps on a hike, or for music on a long bus ride, no one wants to see that little red line on their mobile phone or tablet. How to get around it? Phone charger suppliers Enerplex have a few products that could help…
The EnerPlex Kickr series is a range of solar chargers that allow you to harness the power of the sun to charge USB electronics like smartphones and cameras; perfect for camping trips and long hikes. The Kickr IV is made using a patented technology which allows the solar panels to be “the most rugged and flexible on the market”: apparently the device can be dropped, kicked, run over by a car, and gotten wet and will still be fully functional- exactly what a traveller needs from such a device.
- Weighs 0.6 pounds
- Unfolded: 774mm x 185mm x 2mm
- Folded: 225mm x 185mm x 2mm
- Weather Resistant
- Easily foldable
- Solar made with flexible and rugged plastic
- Power: 6.5 Watts Unregulated/6.0 Watt, 5 Volt System Regulated
- Output: 1.2 Amps (USB Port)
- Powerful enough to charge mobile electronics at the same rate as a wall outlet (under Standard Testing Conditions)
When I saw the pictures of the Kickr IV online, I thought it was going to be too bulky and heavy to be suitable for a traveller’s backpack, like similar items I’ve reviewed before. But, as you can see from the specs above, this fold-out solar charger is beyond backpack-friendly. It’s unbelievably lightweight, and small enough when folded to easily fit in amongst your luggage.
Small but definitely mighty, the Kickr has survived eveything my clumsiness has managed to throw at it so far. I’ve dropped it a few times and there’s no hint of damage. In extensive testings, I also pulled the Kickr apart with my full strength (and, I can assure, I am incredibly strong) and couldn’t rip it at all, and I’ve run it under the kitchen tap with absolutely no negative effects.
So, does it work? I tested it in fairly bright sunshine with my Samsung Galaxy S4, and it was able to recharge the phone fully. The speed was probably a little slower than my wall charger, although maybe in brighter sunshine this would work better. The only downside, of course, is that you need the sun to come out in order to use the Kirck IV.
If you’re heading on a long hike, a fold-out solar charger like the Kickr might not be ideal if you’re not going to stop for long enough to use it. Unless you fancy walking along holding it in front of you, there’s always the EnerPlex Packr: a very clever backpack featuring a solar panel across the back. As with the Kickr series, the solar panels are super tough and very hard to damage, while the backpack itself is well designed as an ordinary backpack which is perfect for hiking.
- Revolutionary solar integrated backpack
- 495.3 mm x 381 mm x 165 mm
- Rugged, Durable Design
- Made with ﬂexible CIGS solar
- Integrated 3 watt solar panel
- Has classic amenities like water bottle holders, reflective stripes, and a laptop pouch within the bag
- Solar made with rugged and flexible plastic
- Can power up most smartphones in under five hours
Sam is normally the backpack-carrier on our hikes, so I turned this one over to him for testing straight away, and he loves it! The backpack itself is a cool, well-thought out design that is really nice and lightweight, pretty roomy, and has lots of pockets and clever storage solutions. I particularly like the padded-mesh side pockets with neat drawstrings. Inside the backpack there are a few clever pockets which can almost be folded up, so that you can either have one big space, or lots of smaller spaces, depending on what your using it for.
The solar panels are just as tough as the Kickr IV, but where there are less of them they do have a lower output. We tested the backpack out on a hike in the Lake District recently, and while it didn’t fully recharge Sam’s phone, the USB cable is long enough that he could continue to use the phone while it was plugged into the backpack – so that the solar charge can be used to keep the phone going and prevent it from dying.
If your travelling somewhere where the sun might prove unreliable, and don’t want to take solar equipment, EnerPlex also have the Jumpr series; a range of power banks and portable chargers for USB equipment. The Red Dot design award winning EnerPlex Jumpr Slate 5K is an incredibly slim 5,100 mAh battery that is perfect for placing in a binder or folder for on the go. Also, the Slate 5K’s tethered Micro-USB cable makes it easy to charge a variety of USB-enabled devices whenever needed.
- Comes with tethered Micro-USB cable for easy charging
- Charges smartphones, tablets, cameras, GPS, MP3’s and more.
- Binder holes to easily place in folders and planners
- 170.0mm x 95.0mm x 7.5mm
- Battery Capacity: 5,100 mAh
- Power Output: 1A/2.4A
The Jumpr Slate is the perfect size and shape for a traveller, it’s very thin and lightweight, and is only a little bigger than my Galaxy S4! I love the feel of the material, which is really high quality and pretty tough (I’ve managed not to scratch it yet!).
The tethered micro USB cable is a brilliant idea; with other power banks you have to carry a separate USB cable in your bag and risk it getting tangle or damaged, but this one tucks neatly into the side of the Jumpr Slate keeping it safe and taking up even less space in your backpack! The Slate weighs less than 200g (I weighed it on a normal kitchen scale) so it’s light enough to carry in a daypack or handbag comfortably.
Charge-wise, this power bank is invaluable. Once fully charged, the Jumpr Slate had enough power to charge my Galaxy S4 about one and a half times, and it charged the phone at more or less the same speed as my wall charger – I was very impressed! It’s even able to recharge my Kindle Fire HD, which makes it perfect for those long bus rides while travelling.
Update July 2017 – Three years on, I am still using (and loving) this portable charger. It’s outlasted all the others I’ve used, and I love how slim it is.
The EnerPlex Jumpr Mini is basically a much smaller version of the Slate. The size is fantastic for portability; the Jumpr Mini is about the size of a credit card and is only 7.9mm thick, so it can fit into a pocket, wallet or handbag with ease and, as it weighs next to nothing, you’ll barely notice it.
- Provides 50-90% more battery life for most smart-phones.
- Tethered Micro-USB Output
- Charge multiple Jumpr Mini’s simultaneously via innovative magnetic stack and charge capabilities.
- 90mm x 58mm x 7.9mm
- Battery Capacity: 1,700 mAh
- Power Output: 5V/850mA
Like the Jumpr Slate, the Mini has a tethered micro USB cable meaning it stays nice and compact, and you don’t have to carry around a tangled up cable to use the power bank.
The power from this one is noticeably less than the Slate; it charges my Galaxy S4 pretty slowly, but I managed to get my phone about 50% extra charge from it. You don’t necessarily need a full extra charge, as about half should keep you going until you get to the next wall charger, so this is the perfect little gadget to stick in your day bag just in case you need a quick boost for your battery.
Have you tried out any of the EnerPlex products, or any other solar chargers or power banks? Let us know your experiences in the comments!