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?
SunJack 14W Solar Panel charging a GPS and GoPro
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.
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.
SunJack 14W solar charger folded is about the size of an iPad
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.
SunJack solar panel charging a battery pack
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.
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.
SunJack solar panel charging a GoPro
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 ($200 USD)
- individual 8000 mAh battery packs ($30 USD)
- USB AA and AAA battery charger ($20 USD)
- LightStick Powerbank – a waterproof light and battery at the same time ($40 USD)
- coloured CampLight with remote ($15 USD)
- weather proof sleeve for the panels ($5 USD)
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.
The SunJack’s panels fold out
The small SunJack panel can go anywhere
The SunJack battery can hold power for later
SunJack solar panel charging