Please find my field report below. Thanks in advance for your edits. I know, I know... wait until you see what I did this time.... sigh... The url is: http://tinyurl.com/md6u7ou
4 November 2013
Field Conditions and Use
The most extensive and roughest use the charger got during this reporting period was the week I spent in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada for Burning Man, 26 August through 2 September. The temperatures averaged 100 F (38 C) during the day and 40 F (4 C) at night. It was dry, windy and dusty. The dust in the Black Rock Desert is very alkaline and gets in everything. I tested the charger on this trip with my iPhone 4s.
As well, during this period, I did two backpacking trips in South Carolina, one two-day and one three-day. Both trips were on private land at sea level. On both trips the temperature averaged 75 F (24 C) during the day and approximately 55 F (13 C) at night. I tested the charger on these two trips with my iPhone 4s.
As well, I have used the charger as a backup battery charger for my iPhone and my iPad 2 in my daily work.
Cleaning - First, I did a REALLY dumb thing and accidentally washed it in a washing machine about a week before writing this report. I left it in a bag after camping and threw it all into the wash. I am sad to report that it's dead. It worked for a little while, but now it will take a charge, but won't output. Incidentally, it did not clean the hair off of the hook part of the hook and loop closure. :-( (See the sleeping bag that I set on fire in a previous test. Ugh...)
I called the 800 number that I found on their website. I was on hold for 5 min. The charger does have a warranty, but since the manual says to keep it out of the water, the warranty would not apply. The customer service guy tried to find some way to help me though. He was very nice. He said by the time I shipped it to them, and they probably couldn't fix it, it would be cheaper to just get a new one and they could offer me a discount since I'm replacing it. They don't sell from their warehouse so it's backordered until the middle of the month. Including shipping and the discount, the total was $46.96 US. He said it would show up on my credit card as $1 until it ships.
So BEFORE I washed it:
I charged the device via my computer before I left for the desert. The first time I charged it using my computer, it took a little over 2 hours to fully charge. I thought that was quick considering the instructions say it should take 4 hours. Once in the desert, the first time I plugged my iPhone into the device, I placed it in full sun with a full charge in the charger. It took approximately 2.5 hours to charge my phone from 23% to 97%, completely draining the solar charger. The second time I attempted to place the drained device in full sun to charge my phone, which had also completely drained, it would not even register on the phone that the phone was charging. I had to recharge the device, which took approximately 7.5 hours in full sun before I could get it to register on the phone. Then it took approximately 3 hours to charge my phone to 85%.
As I had hoped, it can charge itself and a device at the same time when in full sun. The red light will come on to show that the charger is not fully charged while it is charging a device. Attempting to note charging time when the charger is partially charged and my iPhone is partially charged was tricky, whether in full sun or not. The time varied because though there is a light that tells me that the charger's internal battery is or is not fully charged, there is no meter to tell me how much charge is left in the internal battery.
Ease of use - At Burning Man, I charged the device by attaching it to my bike basket, which was always in full sun. The dust of the desert made it necessary to wipe off the device frequently so it could charge fully. On the backpacking trips, I tried to attach it to my backpack, but it kept turning around as I walked. I tried using a bungie cord to keep the device turned toward the sun, but that proved cumbersome. Instead, I limited the charging of the device to camp, usually for a half day, which made it only fully chargeable if it was completely drained, every other day. This would limit its use on longer backpacking trips if I needed to charge something every day. As well, backpacking in the woods proved to be challenging for the charger because it was not in full sun until we stopped to camp.
Construction - In my IR I said that the hook and loop closure was great. However, now that I have actually used it, I think maybe that is a design flaw. EVERYTHING sticks to it, including my hair, and it is getting difficult for it to remain closed. Maybe if the hook part of the hook and closure wasn't so large it would be a little better. I think the same thing could have been accomplished with the rubber ends and a snap, possibly.
Extra: I know this report is supposed to focus on outdoor use, but I wanted to mention that the charger is so small and packable that I carry it with me for day to day use when my phone dies during the day. As well, I have charged the device on the dash of my car in full sun and on a window sill with full sun part of the day with some success.
I think the key to success with the charger is not to let any device that I need to charge run down completely. I like the size of the charger and keep it in my daily backpack as well as take it on trips. With the new unit, I want to test it for how long it will hold a computer charge and a sun charge, as well as continue to test for charge times.
What I like
It is very small and packable
It is simple to operate.
What I don't like
Everything sticks to the hook and loop closure
You can't wash it in a washing machine? ;-)
This concludes my Field Report. Check back in a couple of months for my Long Term Report. Many thanks to Bushnell Outdoor Products and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test their Powersync SolarWrap Mini.