I positively reviewed the Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit from Goal Zero, calling it the best option for charging gadgets while traveling in the backcountry. But that kit isn't the only option when it comes to solar charging while on the go and for adventure travelers looking for a more compact solution there a variety of options available. Take for example the Classic2 from Solio, which is a solid update to their original Classic model and a viable alternative for those who prefer to travel light.
The Classic2 manages to wrap three small solar panels into a compact design that collapses down very nicely for storing in your backpack. When you need it to collect sunlight for charging the built-in 3200 mAh battery, the three solar cells slide open like the pedals of a flower, drawing in as much light as possible. The device also includes both a micro and standard sized USB port. The former is used to charge the battery via computer or the included wall adapter, while the latter is used for charging your gadgets.
The addition of the full size USB port is one of the improvements over the original Solio Classic that was released a few years back. That solar charger came with a set of proprietary adapters which weren't exactly convenient to carry along when traveling. The standard USB port ensures the Classic2 will work with nearly any device out of the box, including smartphones, rechargeable headlamps, cameras, GPS devices and so on. Other improvements include a higher capacity battery, a thinner overall design and larger solar panels.
All of those design options add up to a far more efficient and useful charger. The Solio Classic2 is now capable of completely recharging my iPhone a total of about three times and it can do it much more quickly as well. A full charge took roughly two hours to complete, which isn't a whole lot different from plugging it directly into the wall.
The Classic2 is also much faster at charging it's own batteries using the sun, although it is obviously slower than the Goal Zero, which has much larger and more efficient solar cells. Solio says it takes about six hours to fully charge the internal battery, but I found that it varied greatly depending on exposure to the light. In my tests, it was not uncommon for a recharge to take eight or even ten hours, although it was a more consistent and steady process compared to the original Classic.
It should be noted that the Classic2 is capable of recharging a device like the iPad, but those tablets have large batteries and it will completely drain Solio's little charger before you get your iPad completely topped off. It isn't a bad option to extend the battery life of Apple's slate but it's just don't expect it to work miracles either.
For travelers looking for a solar charger to help keep their gadgets powered while away from a more traditional power source, the Solio Classic2 is an excellent option. It will definitely extend the life of your favorite tech toys without adding a lot of undue bulk to your pack. This diminutive solar charger weighs just 10.1 ounces (286 grams) and costs just $100. That makes it a cheap but useful travel companion that you won't want to leave home without.