Brunton Solaris i6
I liked my first panel so much that I bought another…
Price Paid: $63 each
I liked my first panel so much that I bought another one. This panel folds into the size of a National Geographic magazine.
I have had these items through an entire season, and they have performed flawlessly in the back country while snowshoeing, at the beach while camping to power/support an ipad, iphone, nintendo DS, rechargeable batteries, etc. They are worth every penny, and the solar panels can be linked together to create even more power. Having 2 gives me an output of 12watts.
The durability of the flexible panels is excellent, as my kids and other less than observant family members have stepped on it several times. They are flexible, but I don't try to bend them. You can crease the solar panels, but they will still function. Power output in partial sunlight is particularly impressive.
Brunton's CIGS thin-film solar technology is first rate, offering high efficiency with low weight. These panels fold small and weigh only 7 oz a piece (without the accessories shown below). They are easy to stuff into a backpack if needed, but I typically use the stainless steel grommets built in to strap them to the outside and let the Sun do its thing. The panels appear to be water resistant, but living in SoCal, I haven't had them out in the rain.
Linking my two Solaris 6 panels together allows me to charge even my small laptop on a trickle charge, although it takes a long time and I've only used it once for that purpose. The car adapter works great for connecting straight to my children's Nintendo DS when they wanted to charge them up during the day and play them at night. I will say that I have not conducted charging time tests for the single i6 and the linked pair, but may in a follow up when I have a lot of time and uninterrupted sunlight.
The only reason I didn't give these panels 5 stars is because they don't direct charge my Apple products, meaning my iTouch 2G, my iPad 1 or 2, or my iPhone 4S. Here is the reason:
Newer Apple products have such sensitive and refined voltage regulation that they require a consistent charge, something that doesn't always occur with a direct connect to a solar panel (unless that panel has a built-in voltage regulator—I don't know of any that do. I can sometimes get a direct charge to work, but only if the panel is stationary and there are no clouds.
I get around that by using either my Brunton Sync as a power storage battery (see my review here: http://www.trailspace.com/gear/brunton/sync/review/24544/ ) or the car adapter with my Apple USB car adapter. I have only done this once on a full day hike, and it kept my iPhone charged all day. I would have liked for the design to include a built in regulator so I don't have to carry the extra weight of the car adapter and my apple adapters, but this is a minor gripe. I most always carry a sync power storage device for my overnight trips, both for reliable power and for safety.
The Apple adapter will power my older iPod, commensurate with the year this product was designed (2009). I will say that I've recharged AAA and AA batteries in a matter of hours, great for keeping the compact tent light and headlamps in the ready.
I highly recommend them, especially after having gone through failure experiences with "lesser" brands of chargers.