Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Gear Closet: Bushnell SolarWrap Mini

Yesterday I posted a review of an ingenious little lantern that came packed with a host of nice features that are sure to make it a hit with adventure travelers and the outdoor crowd alike. Today, I have another product aimed at the same market that is also wonderfully designed, simple in its operation, and incredibly useful in the field. It is the Bushnell SolarWrap Mini, a small and light solar charger to keep our favorite devices operating while we're on our adventures.

Over the past few years, solar panels have gotten more efficient, and as a result, they've also become an increasingly viable way to keep all of our electronic devices charged while in the backcountry. Bushnell has taken a novel approach to the SolarWarp series by actually integrating its solar cells onto a piece of fabric that can be folded up for storage. In the case of the SolarWrap Mini those solar panels actually wrap around a tough, but lightweight, metal tube, that also houses a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, and two USB ports, one for storing a charge, and one for sharing it.

The entire package is 4.3" (11 cm) in length, and about 1.25" (3.1 cm) in diameter. It also weighs just 3.1 ounces (87.8 grams), which makes the entire solar charger incredibly lightweight and compact. In fact, it is so small and light, that you can toss it in a backpack, and completely forget it is there.

When you're ready to charge a device, you simply pull it out, and plug your gadget into the full-size USB port, which is located under the included rubber end caps. Those caps provide a nice level of protection to the delicate ports while traveling, and are a nice addition to the overall package. The built-in battery is capable of providing a full recharge to a smartphone, two charges to an MP3 player, or 2.5 charges to a small camera. The 1 amp output from the USB is fairly speed for such a small solar charger, and while it will work on tablets as well, don't expect it to provide a full charge for those devices.

A mini-USB port is located on the opposite end of the battery tube, which allows travelers to charge the device before heading out into the field. It takes about 4 hours to complete charge the battery from a laptop, although I found that time was considerably quicker when using a USB wall charger. Bushnell says it takes roughly 10 hours to fully recharge the SolarWrap Mini using the sun, but that time can vary somewhat depending on how much direct sunlight is available.

When fully extended, the pull-out solar panel stretches for 18 inches, and includes a conveniently placed eyelet for connecting it to a backpack. This allows the battery to soak up a charge all day long, and be ready for distributing that charge once you reach campsite for the night. To start charging, just locate your device's USB cable, and plug it in. The SolarWrap will take care of the rest.

The SolarWrap Mini carries an MSRP of $89.99, although it can be found online at discounted prices.  For anyone who needs to keep their gadgets charged while on the go, the Mini is a must-have device. It is compact in size, weighs next to nothing, and yet is capable of producing a solid amount of juice to keep our cell phones, cameras, and other small devices running. Personally, when you factor in the size and price, I think this is the best solar charger I've ever used, and I think other outdoor adventurers and adventure travelers will love what it brings to the table too.

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