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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Chargers > BioLite SolarPanel 5 > Test Report by Bob Sanders

BioLite SolarPanel 5

Test Series by Bob Sanders

Initial Report: September 20, 2016
Field Report: December 2, 2016
Long Term Report: January 30,2017


PERSONAL INFORMATION
Name: Bob Sanders BobBackpacking Background: I went on my first backpacking trip as a Boy Scout at the age of 16. Over the years I have hiked the Wonderland Trail in Washington and section hiked parts of the Florida Trail, Appalachian Trail, Colorado Trail and 740 mi (1191 km) of the Pacific Crest Trail. I continue to backpack and hike year round in the Colorado mountains. I have evolved from a heavyweight backpacker to a lightweight backpacker and sometimes reach ultralight weights. My three day spring/summer solo adventures (using a tarp) have me hovering around a 10 lb (4.5 kg) base weight.
Age: 59
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Email: sherpabob(at)mac(dot)com
Location: Pagosa Springs, Colorado USA

INITIAL REPORT

September 20, 2016

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Listed on website)
Manufacturer: BioLite BioLite SolarPanel
Manufactured: 2016
Website: www.bioliteenergy.com
MSRP: US $59.95
Listed Weight: 12 oz (340 g)
Measured Weight: 11.6 oz (329 g)
Warranty: One year

Features:

• Kickstand: Use this to position the panel from
any angle or uneven terrain 360° Rotation.

• Charge Strength Indicator: Shows the strength of the sun
• Solar Panel: High-efficiency monocrystalline panel
• Sundial: Adjust alignment to capture direct rays for the best charge
• USB Charge Out: 5W output to charge phones, cameras, etc
• Auto reconnect when the sun is obstructed or cloudy out
• Corner Latches: Attach to a pack
Dimensions: 10.12 x 8.19 x 0.94 in (257 x 208 x 24 mm)



BioLite SolarPanel
BioLite SolarPanel Front View

BioLite SolarPanel Sundial
BioLite SolarPanel Sundial

BioLite SolarPanel USB Charging Port
BioLite SolarPanel USB Charging Port

Corner Latch Points
Corner Latch Points

SolarPanel Side View
SolarPanel Side View


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The BioLite SolarPanel 5 is a charging device that through a USB connection will charge small electronics directly. The SolarPanel 5 does not have a battery for storage. It is referred to as "Real Time Power". The company does offer the SolarPanel 5+ that does have a battery to store the energy collected for use later.

The retail packaging was rather unique. An outside sleeve with a simple corrugated cradle for the Panel. The sleeve covers about 3/4 of the Panel so you can see it but you can't remove it without completely removing the sleeve. It actually took me a while to figure out how to get the panel out of the packaging. Upon inspection the SolarPanel was in excellent shape. It is lightweight yet seems robust. It is well made and I believe it should stand up to use in the field.

I took it outside for a quick test. The sun was bright and I used the sundial to position the panel so it was facing directly into the sun. I attached my iPhone which was at 75% charged. I rechecked the phone after 15 minutes and it was up to 85% charged. That seems pretty good to me. The charging was slower than normal when plugged into a wall socket but in the field I thought it was pretty respectable.


PROS & CONS

Pros:

• Lightweight
• Robust construction

Cons:

• None so far


FIELD REPORT

December 2, 2016

BioLite in the snow

FIELD USAGE

I have used the BioLite SolarPanel on 3 day hikes, 2 road trips and 1 overnight backpacking trip.

The day hikes and backpacking trip were in the 4-corners area of southwest Colorado. Temperatures were between 20 and 55 F (-7 and 13 C) and elevations were between 7500 and 9000 ft (2286 and 2743 m). I used the solar panel to charge my phone (iPhone 5s) for each trip. For the day hikes I attached the panel to the back of my day pack and I would set the pack in the direction of the sun whenever I would stop for a break. All day hikes were between 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km). I attached my phone to the panel with a USB cable and secured the phone in a side pocket. I would record the percentage of charge on the phone at the beginning and at the end of the hike. On all three hikes the percentage did not budge. I did not use my phone on any of the hikes. Sunshine did vary from cloudy to bright sunshine. Granted the panel was not always in the exact straight-on orientation to the sun while I hiked. I did anticipate that the phone would gain a bit of charge. For the quick overnight trip I did manage to sit the panel in the direct sunlight while I stopped and ate lunch for about 40 minutes and then at the end of the day for about an hour before the sun went down. When I unplugged the phone that night it did gain about a 12% charge. Better, and enough of a charge to use the phone if I needed it for an emergency. I thought this was a reasonable charge based on the time and the available sun which did vary from cloudy to slightly overcast. The trip back to the car the next morning was very cloudy and light rain at times. I kept the panel stowed for the trip home.

Road trips were to Scottsdale, Arizona for the Thanksgiving holiday and to Rollinsville, Colorado where there was no electricity to charge my phone.

For the Arizona road trip, elevation 1200 ft (366 m) and temperatures in the 70s F (21 C) I placed the charger on the dashboard of the car whenever we were out and about. It laid mostly flat but did manage to charge the phone at least 20% over the period of about 4 hours. Once again the sun did vary from cloudy to sunny and never did I have the panel pointed directly into the sun.

For the Rollinsville road trip, elevation 9000 ft (2743 m) and temperatures in the 40s F (4 C) I worked outside during the day but I did have a couple of opportunities to re-position the panel to more of a straight-on orientation to the sun. It was snowy out and the sun did vary from cloudy to sunny. In the morning when I started the test the phone was at 65% charge and at the end of the day it was fully charged. I was pleased with that. Had I been more diligent and moved the panel more often I would have had even better results.

So far I have been somewhat pleased with the results. If the panel is strapped to my backpack and I am moving around under varied sun conditions the panel does a poor job of keeping my phone charged. However if the panel is properly aimed and stationary it does a much better job of charging whatever is attached to it.


PROS & CONS

Pros:

• Same as before
• Good job of charging if the panel is stationary

Cons:

• Poor job of charging if you are moving around



LONG TERM REPORT

December 2, 2016


FIELD USAGE

I have used the BioLite SolarPanel on 3 additional day hikes/snowshoe trips. Each time the Bio-Lite was strapped to the back of my daypack, pretty much in a vertical position. When I would rest, have lunch or remain stationary for any length of time I would prop the pack up and angle the panel so it was facing directly into the sun.

The day hikes were in the Pagosa Springs area of southwest Colorado. Temperatures were between 10 and 40 F (-12 and 4 C) and elevations were between 7500 and 9000 ft (2286 and 2743 m).

On several of these trips I had my new iPhone 7 attached to the panel. I was hoping with a new phone and possibly with a better battery that the charging results would be better. But alas they were not. The only other device I own, that is USB rechargeable, is a small portable, wireless speaker. There is no percentage scale on the speaker that shows the level of charge. Only a red light when it is charging and a green light when it is fully charged. So on one of my day hikes I decided to bring my rechargeable speaker and see if it would take a charge. I thought it was best to start from a zero charge and then plug it in. First, I let the speaker (at home) play until it was dead. My first test was at home and the sun was shining brightly. I positioned the panel so it faced directly into the sun. I plugged in the speaker and the red light came on. It was charging. About every hour I would adjust the panel so it was lined up with the changing sun. The red light stayed on all day.  It was a beautiful day, some clouds but mostly sun. At the end of the day, I figured the speaker had been charging for 7 to 8 hours, the red light was still on. It was not completely charged (no green light). I turned the speaker on and used my iPhone to stream music to the speaker via bluetooth. I let it play through dinner and I estimate it lasted about 3 hours before it died. The speaker received no additional charging. The next day I took it with me on a day hike. I attached the panel to my pack, plugged in the speaker (red light came on) and stowed it in a top pocket. I hiked for about 3 hours. Sometimes the sun was at my back, sometimes it was not. The weather was a mix of sun and clouds. When I got back to the car I unplugged the speaker, turned it on and again played music from my iPhone via bluetooth. The speaker lasted about 10 minutes before it died.


CONCLUSION

I believe that for backpacking or hiking when I'm moving around and changing directions the Bio-Lite panel is not up to the task of charging my electronics. I do think it does reasonably well if it is allowed to remain stationary and periodically repositioned it gives enough of a charge to use my electronic devices. So for me I will not be taking it backpacking. I will however bring it on car camping trips where I can leave it stationary to collect some sun. I think the dashboard or rear window of my car would be a an option so it stays secure and no one walks off with it.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and BioLite for the opportunity to test this Solar Panel.



Read more reviews of BioLite gear
Read more gear reviews by Bob Sanders

Reviews > Electronic Devices > Chargers > BioLite SolarPanel 5 > Test Report by Bob Sanders



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