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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Solar Chargers > Bushnell SolarWrap Mini > Test Report by Dawn Larsen

Test Report
Bushnell Outdoor Products Powersync SolarWrap Mini


Initial Report - 8 August 2013
Field Report - 4 November 2013

Long Term Report - 7 January 2014

Name:  Dawn Larsen
Age: 53
Gender: female
Height: 5' 4" (163 cm)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Email address: vicioushillbilly AT gmail DOT com
Florence, South Carolina USA

Backpacking Background:
I used to backpack in college a zillion years ago and just in the last several years have backpacked private trails in Tennessee, Missouri and most recently South Carolina. I have been an avid car-camper and paddler in South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. I use a lot of the same equipment for both. I hike hilly/rocky trails especially in Missouri (my home state) and Arkansas. I live in South Carolina and am busy checking out the terrain here with my twenty year-old son.

Product Information

Manufacturer: Bushnell Outdoor Products
Maker's website: www.bushnell.com
Model year: 2013
Dimensions (measured unrolled for solar charging): 18 x 4.25 inches (45.7 x 10.8 cm)
Dimensions (measured rolled and capped): 4.5 x 1.375 inches (11.5 x 3.6 cm)
Photovoltaic panel (measured): 35 inches sq (232 cm sq)
Weight (manufacturer): 3.1 oz (88 g)
Weight (measured): 3.0 oz (85 g)
Battery type: Li-Ion
Power output: 5v, 1amp
Output ports: 1 USB
Supplied accessories: USB-to-micro USB cable
Advertised time to charge battery via USB connection: 4 hours
Advertised time to charge battery via solar panel: 10 hours
 
MSRP: USD $89.99
Warranty: one year


Initial Report
8 August 2013


Production Description
The unit was wrapped in hard plastic and a plastic bag. It included the solar charger, a USB/micro USB cable, a quickstart guide, and a registration card.


wrapped  parts

Initial Observations

I have some experience with solar chargers, but am not a technically oriented person AT ALL.  Last year I bought a small solar charger that was absolutely useless. It would only charge my iPhone if both were lying in the sun.  A more informed person told me that it's really all about how much of a charge the charger will hold.  I have high hopes for this one.

To unroll the device, I took off the protective end caps from the rolled charger.  There is a 5.75 in (14.6 cm) piece of fabric at the end of the roll.  In the picture below, the fabric is the piece that has the name, Bushnell, in orange and a hole outlined in orange.  The fabric has hook and loop closure on the back of it to secure it when rolled. The hole is for securing it onto my backpack or to stake in the ground in order to keep it from blowing in the wind. On one end of the roll, there is regular sized USB port labeled "output" and on the other end is a micro USB port labeled, "input."  On the micro end of the roll, there is also a lighted indicator.

unrolled

rolled

Per the instructions, I pre-charged it using my computer.  I attached the supplied USB cable by inserting the micro end of the cable to the device and the regular end of the cable to my computer.  Once I did that the indicator on the micro end of the roll glowed red.  The instructions said it would take 4 hours to charge the device, but the indicator changed from red to green (indicating fully charged) in a little over 2 hours.

Instructions
This device is very simple per the instructions.  As well, there are instructions printed on the device that say:  "Red light indicates charging.  Green light indicates charging complete.  Caution: Roll solar panel facing out to avoid damages."  Seems like that is all a non-techie person like me would need to know in order to use it.  I really like its simplicity!

How it works per the instructions (and my fiddling with it)
I can pre-charge it by using the supplied USB cable and my computer (see explanation above).  If I want to charge it via solar, I unroll the device and leave it in the sun for 10 hours in order for it to be fully charged.  Then, when I want to charge my iPhone, for example, I plug the iPhone cable into the phone and the USB end into the solar charger, and wait. It held the pre-charge for 24 hours.   

Design
& Materials
I really like the design.  I like its portability and packability because it rolls up to such a small thing.  I like the fact that it's thin and unrolls to attach to my backpack.  It seems to be well-built and sturdy.  The photo cells are so thin!  The fabric seems tough and I love the hook and loop closure attached to it so that I don't have to hold the roll in place with the end caps, smart design feature! That way the photo cells are protected when I'm using it to charge my electronic devices.  

Summary
Wow, I hope this thing works because if it does, it will be one of my favorite pieces of equipment.

What I like
The photo cells are so thin and the device is so small!
It rolls up very well.
It is simple to operate.

What I don't like

Nothing at this time.


Field Report
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.  

Observations

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 testUgh...)

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:

Charging

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.   

burningman

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 bungee 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.  

dirty wrap


Extra: 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.

Summary
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? ;-)


Long Term Report
7 January 2014


Field Use
I went on one overnight and two day hikes this period, all in the freezing temperatures of Southwest Missouri.  Temperatures during the day averaged 40 F (4 C) and at night below freezing (0 C).  All trips had clear weather.  The trails in Missouri are wooded, fairly steep and rugged.

New One
Because I washed the first charger, I had to order a new one (see my Field Report).  The new one arrived much earlier than expected on 15 November though the date they quoted was 28 November.

Observations
Use was consistent with my field reports.  I charged my iPhone and iPad during this test period.  It was very difficult to time charging in the field because the availability of sunlight on a wooded trail is inconsistent.  Obviously, it took longer for the Mini to charge up when sunlight was inconsistent.  Like at Burning Man, dust often accumulated on the panel causing the device to charge ineffectively. As well, when I strapped it to my backpack, it would continue to turn in the wind, so I was not sure when I was hiking if it was turned around or not.  I often wished there was some sort of gauge so I would have known how much charge was in the device. A couple of times, the light read green and I would try to charge my phone. It would drain the charge out of the Mini without really charging the phone much at all.  It really was guess work to know if it would charge my phone adequately.

This time I also used it in my car on the dash to charge up the Mini.  That way I could keep the charger in my purse and charge my iPhone or iPad when they ran down.  It worked very well that way and its small size made keeping it in my purse or backpack easy.

Summary

This is a great little item that I will continue to use daily, probably. It is so packable and simple to operate.  I really liked that.  And I'll try not to wash it in the future!  Though I really liked the Mini, please find some suggestions for easier use below.
  • Add some sort of attachment points along the long end of the panel to help keep it from turning in the wind when strapped to a backpack.
  • Make endcaps that stay attached when the panel is extended to keep dust and debris out of the ports.
  • Reduce the size of the hook part of the hook and loop attachment to keep dirt and hair from sticking to it.
  • Rather than a green or red light, how about some sort of gauge.
This concludes my Long Term Report. Many thanks to Bushnell Outdoor Products and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Powersync SolarWrap Mini.

Read more reviews of Bushnell gear
Read more gear reviews by Dawn Larsen

Reviews > Electronic Devices > Solar Chargers > Bushnell SolarWrap Mini > Test Report by Dawn Larsen



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