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What happens when the batteries in your gadgets die right in the middle of an adventure?
You’ll probably just toss it in your backpack and be carrying around dead weight. You might be annoyed that you can’t Instagram your adventure to make your friends jealous. You might be freaking out because your GPS or phone just died and that was the only way you know how to get home (please also carry a compass). None of these are the situations we want to be in.
With all the devices we have these days, we’ll need to charge one of them where there’s no power. Batteries are great but you have to charge them at home and carry them around.
So what’s the best way to do it?
Another option is to carry a small solar panel. You can charge your phone or GPS right from the panel when you’re hiking or stopped to have lunch. You can also charge up a battery pack and then use the power whenever you need it. iPad sized solar panels are becoming a very popular way to charge up your stuff without having to carry to much.
The panels are also great for emergency kits so you’ll have power if you’re stuck somewhere or other emergencies.
I got a chance to review the SunJack 14W Solar Panel and 8000mAh battery. This solar panel and USB battery come in a kit together but you also get them separately.Who’s SunJack?
SunJack is a cool little company making quality solar products for any use. They started when their Kickstarter campaign took off in 2014 and they’ve been making cool solar stuff since. They’ve got lights, solar panels and batteries so far but with gadgets with batteries and alternative energies taking off I’m sure they’ll be making more cool stuff soon.
Read more about SunJack on their about page.The SunJack 14W Solar Panel
Solar panels can range from smaller than your phone to as big as you want. The bigger the panel, the faster it will send power to your devices. Obviously you don’t want to carry around a massive panel on a trip so you’ll have to match how much you want to carry with how long you care to wait for a charge.
The SunJack 14w panel has 4 separate panels sewn together. They velcro together into a small kit about the size of an iPad and an inch thick. Unfold the panels and hang it or prop it in the sun to charge. The more directly you can face it to the sun, the faster it will charge.
The first panel has a zippered pouch on the back where the battery is tucked into an elastic strap. The pouch has 2 zippers on it which is nice. You can move the zippers to wherever you want if you have chords hanging out of it. The pouch is big enough to hold small things you are charging while the panel is hung up in the sun. I try not to leave my phone out in the sun to charge so it doesn’t get too hot but being hidden in the pocket on the back keeps it in the shade.
There are 5 loops around the outside and 2 carabiners so you can hang the panel anywhere and get it to face the sun. You can also stand or prop it up to get better light.The 8000 mAh Battery
You can plug your device straight into the panel or you can charge a battery and then use that to charge later. The SunJack panel will charge 2 devices at once. This splits the charge going to both. You can keep the battery pack plugged in and charge your phone at the same time. I tend to charge 1 thing at a time so it charges faster. The 14W panel charges a phone in around 90 minutes. It will charge the battery in about 5 hours depending on the conditions. Less light means a slower charge. The battery will charge a phone about 4 times or a tablet once.
You can plug in any battery pack you want so if you have 3 or 4 on a trip, or you want to charge a friends you can. The battery also has can be charge from a wall outlet if you want to stock up at home or in town and then recharge with the panel.
Tapping the button on the battery lights up 5 lights, each of which show 20% of the battery. All lights showing? Battery’s full. 1 light showing, battery’s at 20%.
The battery also has a little LED light built right it. It’s not bright enough to be hiking with but if you just need to find your headlamp or do something quick in the tent, it’s all you need. Holding down the battery button turns on the light.Qualcomm Quick Charge
An interesting feature with the 8000 mAh battery built by Qualcomm is their Quick Charge feature. Use the link to find out if your phone is compatible. iPhones are not compatible, just Androids with a Snapdragon processor inside. If you plug in a compatible phone it will charge 4x faster than a regular charger. You need to use the Quick Charge port on the battery and the Quick Charge compatible cable.Performance
The bigger than panel the battery when it comes to solar. Their efficiency makes a difference too. The SunJacks have a good power to weight ratio compared to some of the other adventure solar panels on the market these days like GoalZero.
The SunJack panel charges the 8000mAh battery in about 5 hours, depending on the conditions. Bright direct sunlight is your best charger. Shade or overcast isn’t so good. At some point it stops all together. I’m not sure how to measure this point but it was less light than I thought would do anything. The battery charges in less light than a phone will. Then you just charge your phone from the battery.
Plugged straight in a phone will charge in about 90 minutes. That all depends on how big your phone battery is and what it’s doing at the time. A phone in airplane mode is going to charge faster than one with music and map apps running. I like to charge the battery and then the phone if I can so I don’t waste any light when the phone is done charging.
The solar panel seems to pick up light in pretty low conditions. Bright shade and overcast will still charge the battery. It will charge through windows like on the dash of your car but it can’t be too far from the window.
This guy was charging his through a window in a blizzard.
The battery has two ports, one is 2 amp and the other is 1 amp. This is the measurement of how fast the electricity flows from the port. If you’re phone is recent then you can take advantage of the 2A fast charge port and charge faster. Newer phones will charge faster on these ports.Size and weight
The whole kit with panel, battery, 2 small carabiners, and 1 USB cord all comes to less than 800 grams (1.75 pounds). Unfold the panels and it’s about 79cm long and 23cm wide (31” long and 9” wide). You won’t be taking this on an ultralight trip but if you are willing to carry a bit and need the power then it’s a compact option.Compared to GoalZero Nomad 13 and Venture 30
The SunJacks’ are a great deal compared to other panels out there. Just as an example here are the prices for the Nomad 13 and Venture 30, a comparable option from GoalZero.
I’m using US dollars here because they made it easy to compare everything. I couldn’t find everything in Canadian prices. I did see some SunJack stuff on Amazon.ca but the prices are crazy. I’m not sure why they’re so high. Us Canadians might have to wait until the prices come down a bit for them to be a good deal.
SunJack 14w panel and 8000mAh battery $120 USD
Nomad 13 and Venture 30 (7800 mAh) $160 USD
GoalZero prices have come down recently but a similar setup is still $40 more with a less powerful panel and smaller battery.What else can you get?
SunJack also has a few other products and I’m sure more are in the works. These prices are from SunJack’s website.
- 20w panel with 2 8000mAh battery packs ($200USD)
- individual 8000 mAh battery packs ($30USD)
- USB AA and AAA battery charger ($20USD)
- LightStick Powerbank – a waterproof light and battery at the same time ($40USD)
- coloured CampLight with remote ($15USD)
- weather proof sleeve for the panels ($5USD)
The SunJack 14w solar panel and 8000 mAh battery pack are a great solar setup for small gadgets and charging things when you need power on a trip or in an emergency. The compact panel and fast charging make it a great option. My only gripe is they need better product names so I can stop typing 8000 mAh battery so much!
I’ll be reviewing more solar and portable power solutions in the near future but it’s going to hard to beat the size and speed of this setup.More Photos
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the 14W Solar Panel + 8000mAh Battery for free from SunJack in consideration for a gear review.
Day 3 of my trip to Cape Scott in 2015.
It’s decision day. My quads and calfs are tired and feet are blistered. My hiking speed is… slow. The plan is to hike to Nissan Bight and then down to San Josef the next day. Do I hike with the rest of the group and then 22 km down to San Josef Bay? Or do I break it up and hike to Eric Lake, a 15km hike, leaving the last 7 for the day after? That would leave an easy 3km hike out to the parking lot the last day.
I wanted to stay with the group but my feet were saying hike to Eric Lake. I didn’t want to do any solo hiking but there were many people on the trail. My feet would be much happier splitting the distance up. The group wouldn’t have to wait for my slow pace all day. But splitting the group up, what if something happened?
What to do?
I decided to do the solo hike to Eric Lake. A solo mission with lots of people on the trail and the rest of the group coming through the day after if anything went wrong. Done. Let’s do it.
* One thing with some of the photos below is they point north along the trail instead of south, the direction I was travelling. Some of photos were for a slideshow of photos showing the route from the parking lot to Nels and then the lighthouse. I turned around to take them facing north.Yup, wierd, I know. They still show what the trail is like at that point.
Get comfortable. Here’s the rest of the story from Day 3 of the Cape Scott Trail.
We should have waited to go up to the lighthouse. Today would have been beautiful for it. I’ve got a long hike ahead of me. Better get moving.
Tough choice to leave the group and head for San Josef instead of seeing Nissan Bight. One part of me, the explorer, my logical mind, wanted to see Nissan. To leave a place with a beautiful beach unseen, tore at that part of me. The other half, my legs and my feet, were telling me the smart decision would be to break up the hike, give those legs a break. I would be staying at a different campsite we hadn’t stayed at yet. Get some solo time in. Ok, feet. You win.
A few floats at the entrance to Nels Bight.
All sorts of things coming washing up on the beaches this far north. There’s not much to stop the bits and pieces coming from Japan to the island. Only the lucky folks find anything good and I’m sure it’s whisked away to someones treasure chest. The boring leftovers are hung up on trees.
Out onto the plains of Hansen Lagoon.
The trail to the first dyke. Still one of the most unique places I’ve seen hiking. It was a confusing place to be. Popping out of thick forest onto grassy meadow a kilometre wide was not in my hiking plan but there it was and it was beautiful.
You can still see the old fence posts heading out to the dyke in the photo below. The posts lead out to Hansen Lagoon and the first dyke. The settlers added to dykes to Hansen Lagoon, the first completed in 1899 and the second in 1905. On our way in, we were eager to the beach and didn’t venture out to see the lagoon. Here, on my way out, I wanted to keep moving. Long day ahead.
Remnants of one of the settlements. A sign in the top left corner talks about the Cape Scott Community Hall.
The sign says:
The Cape Scott Community Hall
With the arrival of the second wave of settlers, the community centre shifted from Fishermen Bay to the Hansen Lagoon area. The government, in response, reserved a plot of 40 hectares (100 acres) at this site for public purposes, and in 1910, a community hall with a classroom was built. During peak peak population years, 25-30 students of all nationalities attended school here.
Due to Cape Scott’s isolation, settlers developed a strong community spirit demonstrated by night-long dances, annual fairs, lively parties and general meetings held at this hall. The picture on the right shows the Cape’s first Agricultural Fair attended by over 200 people in 1914. Today, a moss-covered mound of rotting planks is all that remains of this structure.
To those who settled here, Cape Scott was something special. Though they had so little, they had so much!
A Building of Unknown Identity
The identity of the crumpled building between the Community Hall and the Hansen Lagoon road is not known. It is thought to be the relay station used by the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II to boost telegraph signals from the radar station at Cape Scott to the air base at Coal Harbour.
The Spencer Farm
One the north side of the Lagoon road are remnants of the Spencer farm. Alfred Spencer arrived at Cape Scott in 1912 with the second wave of colonists and settled into the abandoned King farm. He remained at Cape Scott until 1956, one of the very last settlers. His home, pictured on the right, stood in relatively good shape until 1969. It was then burned to the ground by a thoughtless visitor.
All that’s left of the old Cape Scott Community Hall.
Boardwalks through the bog.
Back into the forest.
Parts of the old telegraph line ran into the area in 1913.
Eric Lake. 15km done. Done for the day right? Well…
I had planned to stop and pick up some water at Eric Lake. Just out of the photo below to the right a couple were having their quiet romantic swim so I didn’t want to stay long. There was another entrance to the lake at the south end. There being some sort of dock there. I’ll head to the south end grab some water there, see what the dock looks like. We hadn’t checked it out on the way in.
The southern entrance to Eric Lake. Looks great from up the trail. When you get down to the water it’s a mud pit. All the goo that gets blown down Eric Lake by the wind ends up here. You’d have to wade out 10 metres to get fresh clear water. And that dock I had read about? It’s the rotted remnants of a shipping dock they would float supplies up the lake from. All that was left was a couple of pilings and some rotted wood half under water. Not a real dock.
I had a break but didn’t get any water. I was almost out of water at this point. Decision time.
I could head 1.5km back up to the north entrance to Eric and get some water and probably spend the night there in a buggy forest campsite. Or I could continue down to San Josef Bay from here, another 5km. Only 5km. That wasn’t the plan but it was so close. A few more hours trudging along and I’d be at the white sands of San Josef Bay with rivers of fresh water coming down onto the beach.
That sounds great. Let’s do it.
The trail to Cape Scott isn’t especially technical but it’s not easy. There are so many little rocks and logs and things to trip over. It makes for a tiring hike.
The marker! This is the fork to turn off to the parking lot or turn south to San Josef Bay. Less than 2k from here to San Josef Bay (I had to hike farther to get water which made it about 3k).
Easy hiking now.
My goal at last.My feet were screaming at me but just a little further I’d be able to get some water and lay this pack down for an entire day. I was already looking forward to the next day of relaxing on the beach, pina coladas and working on my sun tan.
Part of my work with the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association is to check on sections of the trail.
I’ve been working my way through the Tuck Lake section. Take a look at the VI Spine Trail map to see the route. The Tuck Lake section is west of Cowichan Lake and south of Port Alberni. One of the lakes the trail passes by is Tuck Lake, hence the name. It also passes by Francis and Darlington which are beautiful.
This trip report is from a recent trip to hike the section from Nitinat River west to Tuck Lake and report back on it’s condition.
This section is about 11km out and back. I hiked from the road just west of Nitinat River to the stream just east of Nadira Main. The maze of logging roads in the area can get you just about anywhere along the trail.
A few trees down on the trail.
Nothing better than fields of ferns. I never get tired looking at these views.
Any marked portion of the Spine Trail has these orange markers along the route.
One of the obstacles to creating a trail the entire length of Vancouver Island: logging. We’re running through working forest and have to reroute trail sometimes.
Some trail junctions have green and white Spine Trail signs near them. This one is just before the right hand turn off this deactivated logging road.
If you hit this stream bed you’ve gone too far. The trail on the other sign was strongly calling to be explored. I will be back.
I spy the Spine Trail sign.
Can you see it?
This was the end of my hike for the day. The trail continues on the up the other bank of this ravine to the Nadira Main logging road and west to Francis Lake from there. Another day. In the mean time this was a beautiful place to stop for lunch.
Tuck Lake from on the ridge after climbing back out of the valley.