Thursday, September 17, 2015

Gear Closet: EnerPlex Generatr S100 and Kickr IV Solar Panel

Keeping your electronic devices charged while in the field is an ongoing challenge these days. After all, we generally set out on our travels with an array of gadgets designed to not only document our adventures but keep us in touch with loved ones back home. Those devices have brought a great deal of convenience to our lives while on the road, but they also become nothing more than dead weight when they aren't working properly. Thankfully there are several companies that now offer solutions to help us overcome this challenge. One of those companies is EnerPlex, which is delivering some exciting new options for explorers and outdoor enthusiasts who need to stay connected while in the backcountry.

I first got a look at the EnerPlex line-up at this summer's Outdoor Retailer show. I spent some time with one of the company's PR reps who gave me an excellent introduction to their products, which includes the fantastic Generatr Y1200, a large scale portable battery that is capable of powering mini refrigerators or flat screen television sets. Most exciting of all, the Y1200 offers a lot of power in battery that weighs about half that of the competition, something to keep in mind when you're setting up base camp in a remote location.

The company also sent me home with two of their other products to test, and if I was impressed with their gear on the showroom floor, I was blown away when I actually had the opportunity to use them in the real world.

First up, I received a test unit of the EnerPlex Generatr S100, a smaller – more portable – version of the Y1200. This model tips the scales at two pounds (907 grams), and comes with two USB ports, a 19V laptop port, and an integrated AC inverter. In other words, it has all of the ports you need to keep your device charged while in the field. The USB ports will cover most portable devices, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, and GPS units, while the laptop port is specifically designed to keep common notebook computers fully charged using specially designed tips that are included with the S100. Best of all, the AC inverter allows you to plug any device in using a standard wall outlet adapter, which means this battery pack is capable of charging pretty much anything you carry with you.


Durable and rugged, the S100 feels very solid in your hands. It is built to be carried into challenging environments, and survive what ever punishment that comes its way. It offers about 100 Whrs of charging, which is enough to replenish your laptop one to two times depending on the size of the battery. It'll also recharge most smartphones and digital cameras 10-15 times, and tablets 2-4 times. That is a sizable amount of power to be carrying around in small package.

The S100 can be charged using its included wall adapter, but it also has the ability to be recharged in the field using EnerPlex's Commander solar panel. I wasn't able to test how well this works however, as the Commander wasn't yet available when I received the S100. In theory, it should be able to provide additional power, and fully replenish the Generatr in about 20 hours of exposure.

I did however get a chance to try out one of EnerPlex's other solar panels. The smaller and more compact Kickr IV is built to recharge your USB devices directly, and includes a built in USB port to help accomplish that task. This solar panel weighs just .6 pounds, and is built to be weather resistant.

In terms of performance, the Kickr IV is about as efficient as any other solar panel I've tested over the years. With direct sunlight, it can generate a surprising amount of power, recharging a smartphone or other device at about the same rate as a wall outlet. Of course, it can often prove difficult to get that kind of direct sunlight in the backcountry, so typically charging times are a bit longer.

One thing that truly sets the Kickr IV apart from the competition is that it is made of flexible solar panels that aren't mounted on glass or other rigid structures. That means that not only is this a lighter option than what most other companies are offering, it is a more durable one too. The flexible nature of the panels means that you can stuff this into a pack without fear of cracking the solar panels in any way. But should you manage to scratch or cut the flexible panels, they will still continue to operate at full efficiency, something that can't be said about some of the options from other manufacturers.

As with most other solar panels of this size, the Kickr IV can be mounted on a backpack to draw energy from the sun while you hike all day. I found that it works great when paired with a small battery pack such as the Limefuel Rugged. That way you can store power for when you need it, rather than simply topping off a smartphone charge.

All in all, I'd say EnerPlex is on the right track with their charging options. The company has an array of devices that can help to keep your gadgets powered while traveling, and they all have very smart design elements that help to set them apart from the competition. I am very impressed with the products that I got to test, and I look forward to seeing what this company has to offer down the line. If you're planning an expedition to a remote region, and are looking for solutions to help keep your electronic gear charged, take a look at what EnerPlex has to offer. You'll find that it is not only on par with what the other big names in this space are offering, but in many cases it exceeds them in terms of performance and capabilities, while still being very competitive in price.

The Generatr S100 has an MSRP of $349.99, while the Kickr IV costs $99.99.


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