Sunlinq 12Watt 12V Portable Power Pack: A Lightweight, Foldable Solar Charger

Posted on: September 20, 2007


MSRP: $169

Weight: 11 ounces

Guided clients demand a higher level of safety and preparation than you might find in a recreational group. Part of being safe is keeping your packs lean without skimping on necessary safety gear. While guiding I often need a satellite or cell phone to schedule pick-ups with my bush pilot, check weather, or communicate in emergencies. Over the years, I have started to use a small solar panel to charge my phone, allowing me to get through a long trip with a single lightweight battery.

This summer I tested Global Solar's Sunlinq portable 12-watt panel while working in Alaska on Denali and in the Ruth Gorge. Three expeditions over 2 months put the panel to the test through wind, sun, snow, and rain in temperatures that ranged from -15 degrees F to 140+ degrees F (tent surface temp). The Sunlinq panel comes standard with a cigarette lighter adaptor (CLA) receptacle, CLA vehicle power outlet, battery clamps, a 4 in. barrel connector, and a 8 ft. extension cable. The package containing the folding panel and cords retails for about $169. Additionally you can purchase an iPod cable, or just use your iPod's car charger with the female CLA cable.

advertisement

The whole system (minus cables) weighs 11 ounces and is 9" x 5" x .75" folded and 29" x 17.5" open. The panel produces up to 12 watts, enough to charge a cell phone in about an hour, or a satellite phone in 2-3 hours. Power output varied with the intensity of the sun, but this panel charged well even in cloudy conditions and when the sun was low on the horizon.

The technology driving this panel is called CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide), and is currently the most efficient, durable, lightweight, and flexible option. The extra cost for flexibility is almost irrelevant as this panel seems to last much longer than more fragile, rigid panels. There is some cool science behind this, but more importantly: this is one of the few situations where a lighter product is also a more durable product.

A section of 3mm accessory cord tied easily onto brass grommets built into each corner of the panel. This allowed me to clip or tie the panel to the roof of my tent and run the cables inside so that I could charge a device from my sleeping bag.

Initially I was hesitant to leave the panel out at night or during rain and snow, but eventually I did this and encountered no problems with the brutal Alaskan freeze-thaw cycle.

[Photo] John Race

Most solar panels have some sort of proprietary plug-in system. As a result you end up buying and using their cables. The only two cables I find myself using in the mountains are the female CLA adaptor and a small cable made specifically for iPods. Additionally this system does not store power, which limits your charging to times when the sun is out. You can easily add this feature, but it adds considerably to the weight and cost.

If weight is a big issue check out the Sunlinq 6.5 watt panel, which weighs 7 oz without the cables.

Pros: The whole system (minus cables) weighs 11 ounces; brass grommets make the panel easy to secure; panel seems to last much longer than more fragile, rigid panels; durable, even when weathering the elements in harsh conditions.

Cons: This, like most solar panels, has a proprietary cable set; this system does not store power.

Rating:



Comments
Paul Crowder

These things are a near-mandatory item when you're going out for an extended stay in the boonies with something like a Sat Phone. A panel that folds up is much less disaster-prone than the rigid "roll up" type. If you're going out in really cold weather, remember to do something to keep your phone (or whatever toy you're charging) relatively warm, or its battery's chemistry will be so sluggish that it won't charge. Sometimes just setting your toy on your sleeping pad or a glove while it's charging will do the trick. If the weather's really hostile, you may need to stow your device in an inside pocket while it charges. This is basically the same approach that you may need to take in order to get the device to function at all in cold weather.

2007-12-14 15:40:07
Post a Comment

Login with your username and password below.
New User? Here's what to do.



Forgot your username or password?