I’ve been testing the Powermonkey Extreme Solar Powered Charger since early spring for keeping my Android cell phone charged on backpacking trips where I use it for a off-trail navigation and to read ebooks at night. While the Powermonkey Extreme is a very durable and well though out product, I’ve found it to be excessively heavy and somewhat over-engineered for that purpose and have since replaced it with a lighter weight and lower powered external battery for those occasions when having a charged phone is important to me. I don’t need all the bells and whistles required for extreme backpacking adventures, but you might.
The Solar Panel
The Powermonkey Extreme has two main components, a ruggedized solar panel and a 9000 mAh lithium polymer battery that can be charged using the solar panel, a wall outlet, or using a USB cable.
Truth be told, I have found very little use for the solar panel because I live and hike mostly in New England which is now the most forested part of the United States. Between tree shade, cloudy weather, and the fact that I am always moving, there’s simply not enough reliable direct sunlight for me to recharge the battery using the solar panel. I could see the solar panel being more useful if I did basecamp-style hiking or during a natural disaster where it could sit in the sunlight all day on the outside of a tent, but the solar panel barely increases the amount of energy stored by the battery when I attach it to my backpack and hike with it.
That and the incessant thwack, thwack, thwack sound of the solar panel slapping against my backpack is really annoying and ruins the hiking experience for me. No the solar panel is not for me, given the style, duration, and locale of most of my hiking. That’s 7.2 ounces of weight I can do without.
The Battery Recharger
The Powermonkey Extreme Battery is a different story. At 9000 mAh it’s pretty powerful and and only weighs in at 8.8 ounces, sans recharging cords. It also can partially recharge an iPad or iPad mini, in addition to phones and other small USB-enabled devices
Powertraveller (makers of Powermonkey rechargers) claims that the Extreme can recharge a iPhone/smartphone up to 4 times, a Garmin GPS 6 times, and a iPad (depending on the model) up to twice, but I haven’t experienced those results. I get between 2 and 3 complete charges of an Android Samsung Fascinate phone or a 50% top-off on my circa 2012 iPad. Still that’s more than I usually need to keep my Android phone charged on a 7-day trip.
Value for Money
But is it worth paying $200 for a solar panel and a 900o mAh battery that can only recharge an Android phone 2-3 times? What are the pros and cons?
- The battery is close to the same weight as a comparable unit from Ankers (10000 mAh) or RAVPower (10400 mAH).
- The battery has an LED that displays the percentage of power remaining. This is very useful and rare amongst external batteries.
- The battery is waterproof as long as you keep the doors closed.
- The battery comes with a wide assortment of international wall outlet adapters and proprietary device adapters.
- The battery pack is a lithium battery, so it is better able to withstand cold weather without power loss.
- If you are someplace remote that doesn’t have reliable wall power available, a solar panel/battery combo may be the only means you have to recharge a USB-enabled device or iPad.
- The solar panel is weather resistant.
- The solar panel can recharge the battery in 18-24 hours with optimum sunlight (manufacturer’s claim)
- There’s no convenient way to recharge an iPhone in the backcountry without an external USB-battery because you can’t replace the battery.
- One battery pack will recharge multiple USB devices (so you can leave behind many different wall chargers) and save some weight.
- The Powermonkey Extreme is an all-in-one solution for people who need all these capabilities.
- Most people are never more than 5 days from a wall outlet and don’t need a solar panel to recharge the Extreme battery.
- You can buy a lot of spare phone batteries for $200. Spare Android batteries cost under $10 each.
- The Extreme battery doesn’t provide as many phone or iPad recharges as the manufacturer claims.
- It’s not worth paying extra for a waterproof battery because you can keep one dry.
- A solar panel is ineffective because there is no reliable or strong sunlight where you hike.
- You can’t wait 18-24 hours for the solar panel to recharge the battery.
- The minimal solar panel/battery combination weighs close to 1 pound. That’s a lot to carry for something that’s a luxury item you don’t absolutely need.
- The Powermonkey require a mishmash of patch cords between the battery, solar panel, and your USB or proprietary device.
Speaking for myself, The Powermonkey Extreme is a lot more than I need in a recharging solution for New England hiking and backpacking when I’m at most a few days from a power outlet. But I could see using it as an all-in-one solution like this if I was traveling completely off the grid in a backcountry location that did not have easy access to wall outlets.
I guess that’s why they call it the Powermonkey Extreme.
Reverse discharge current protection
Low voltage protection
Input: 5V 0.5A-3A
Output: USB port: 5V 700MAh and 12V DC port 800mAh, solar panel output 3 watts
Battery Chemical: Lithium Polymer
Energy: 33.3 WH
Static power waste <50 µA
Total weight: 456g
Disclosure: Powertraveller provided Philip Werner (Section Hiker.com) with a Powermonkey Extreme Solar Charger and Charger for evaluation and review.
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