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SunJack Solar Panel Charger and Battery Review

Travis Gneiting News, Reviews

SunJack Solar Panel Overview & Review

The SunJack 14W solar panel and 8000mAh battery bank are a great option for charging devices, or storing power while off the grid, emergency preparedness or roadside kits. The solar panel can be used to charge phones, tablets, camera, and other devices that can be charged via USB plugs. Additionally, the SunJack comes with a battery pack that tucks away in a zipper mesh pouch on the back of the solar panels. It can be charged while charging other devices as well, so you don’t run out of juice when the sun goes down.

Our initial thoughts when we received the SunJack panel and battery from SunJack was that the packaging was very nice and professional looking. We often find ourselves judging a product on their website and packaging. Currently, SunJack’s website looks a little dated, but their packaging was very nice. One thing that caught us off guard was just how heavy the charger and battery were together. Although you are getting a lot more panels that other solar chargers the weight to benefit might not be there for any ultralight backpackers.

There weren’t a lot of instructions with the SunJack and there are some lights on the battery that aren’t explained in the included paperwork.

  • Connector.

    4 Panel Solar Panels

    The SunJack works with 4 foldable solar mono-crystalline

  • Connector.

    Battery Pack 8000mAh

    Comes with Battery Pack, two USB output, one Micro-USB input, Charging Lights indicate power, Red use light indicates charging

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    Carabiners and Attachment Loops

    Panels can be attached to two included carabiners from the loops at top or bottom of panels

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    Included Cables

    Included is USB cables, not particularly high quality cables but seem to work well

  • Connector.

    Quickstart Guide

    Small information card, not extremely useful

Size & Dimensions

  • Solar panels: 14 watts of high efficiency mono-crystalline
  • Max output voltage/current: One 5V/1.5A USB port
  • Battery: 8,000mAh lithium-polymer battery ~ 5 hours
  • Panel Size folded: 9″ x 6.5″ x 1.75″
  • Panel Size unfolded: 9″ x 31″ x 1″
  • Panel Weight: 1.75 lbs
  • Total Weight with Battery: 2.00 lbs
  • Packaging Dimension: 10.5″ x 8.5′ x 2″

SunJack Panels Review

Each panel is wrapped in a strong canvas with heavy stitching. It feels very rugged and durable. The panels are very ridgid, with almost no flex to them. The panels must be connected, but we couldn’t detect any wires through the creases or folds in the sunjack.

On the last (bottom) panel, there are 4 loops sewn in for hanging the Sunjack from 2 included caribeners. They are located on the corners. Two on the outside, and two on the bottom. Additionally, on the top of th esunjack are 3 more sewn loops. Two on the outside top, and one on the top of the velcro flap.

One of our favorite features is the mesh zipper pouch on the back of the sunjack panels. With other solar panels we have used in the past, when hanging it’s near impossible to keep a phone close enough to it without a very long cable to charge. The Sunjack solar panel allows you to zip your phone, GoPro, etc with the panel. Additionally, this is where 8000 mAh battery can be stored. There is a strap that secures the battery from moving around and coliding with other electronics that may be charging in the zipper pocket.

SunJack 8000mAh Battery Pack Review

The battery is a Li-Polymer battery, is RoHS compliant. Meaning it is lead free. The included 8000 mAh is constructed of a metal shell. It has 2 USB out ports, and 1 micro usb input. Both USB ports offer 5V 2.4A, while one port can deliver 9V 1.67A. The total capacity is 8000 mAh DC. There is a caution printed on the battery “Caution: RIsk of electric shock. Dry location use only.” Keep this one out of the rain. Some other solar panels we have used in the past offer a water resistant battery. This is useful when you leave the panel out at base camp while on the trail, and it get’s hit by a unforeseen rain storm. The panels are water resistant, so just make sure you protect the USB ports and battery on the back. The battery is produced by Gigawatt.com, the parent company of Sunjack. A nice feature is the push button to check the battery charge. There are 5 blue lights that indicate 20% charge each. The real bonus is that the battery has a built in led flashlight. Just hold down the button for 5 seconds and it come on, hold it down again for a couple seconds and it turns off. This is great when coming home in the dark when the panel has been charging all day, and trying to unconnect caribeaners, or plug a dead phone into the USB ports in the dark.

Charging

In the Field

In an actual use case of the SunJack outdoors there were obvious pros and cons of the device.  We first strapped it to a backpack while hiking, and realized that it was not a very realistic use of the solar panels.  They move around too much, and trying to keep them out of shadows and pointed directly at the sun is next to impossible.  It makes for cool looking photos to have it attached to back pack, but is not realistic for the sun exposure to make any solar panel usable.  In an extreme case where you are forced to be on the move, and not trying to maximize the charge it would work, but not recommended.

For realistic use, the panels need to be pointed toward the sun, unobstructed, and if possible continually arranged to point toward the sunlight.  The variables are so many that it’s really hard to rely on the charger to produce needed power.  We found it best to use the battery to charge throughout the day, and charge devices after the sun was down.  This is also the recommendation by many professionals and instructions we have read online.

Battery Charge Time

We tried and tried to get a baseline for battery charge time.  Again, with the many variables, with moving sun, clouds, etc. it was next to  impossible.  Again our suggestions when using the SunJack is to point it toward the sun where it will remain in the sun throughout the day.  Don’t have any expectations on a given charge time.  We saw the battery charge in around 4 to 7 hours.

Phone Charge Time

We recommend charging the battery first, then using the panel to charge devices such as phones or cameras.  There are chances where there can be a negative draw if the panel is not delivering enough power.  Additionally, there is a chance of charging issues if the panel is consistently changing power output.

Phone Charge from Battery

Charging a phone from a full battery is straight forward, and with the built in light it works great to use at night to find the USB plugs.  Plugging in the USB to a phone and pushing the button on the battery starts the charging.  There is also remaining battery lights that show how much charge is left in the battery.  When the device is drawing power from the battery a red light will appear.

Multiple Charging

With the multiple USB outputs, there is the option of multiple charging. This worked better than expected.  As you can see in the images we are using an Android application to monitor the power as well as when charged a GoPro Hero 4 Session.  There was not much power loss when we had two devices charging at the same time.

Final Thoughts on Charging

After our testing, we suggest always charging the battery first, then using it to charge your phone.  This is because we typically don’t want to leave a phone connected to a charger for 4 to 7 hours during sunlight hours.  We want to be out on the move, using our phone for GPS, photos, etc.  Then recharging at night.  As we mentioned before, many experts also suggest this is a good safety precaution to protect your phone.

Automatic reconnect, was never an issue when charging our Galaxy Note.  We have read that some phones will halt charging when interrupted (if a large black cloud completely blocks the sun for a given period of time).  Although SunJack doesn’t specifically call out the the panel will auto reconnect if power is lost, it appears that it did with our experiment.

A tip for charging is to bring multiple battery banks. You can plug 2 of them in at a time and easily charge them both throughout the day with the SunJack charger.  Then at night you can use them to recharge the devices that you have been using all day.  This just made the most sense to us, and we assume it will to you as well.

Nice Extras

One of our favorite things about the SunJack Panels were the mesh pouch on the back. This allowed you to use a small cable and keep the charging device close to the panel when hanging from a tree. It also allows to keep the battery pack in a secure strap inside as well. One of our biggest complaints with other chargers is that you need a really long cable or another way to secure your phone in the tree if your hanging a solar panel.

Additionally, the durability and construction doesn’t go unnoticed with the SunJack Solar Panel.  There are multiple hanging options with the loops around all of the corners.  We do wish it came with more than 2 carabiner, but they are cheap and was easy to find a couple more to help get the proper angle of sunlight.

Comparison Personal Solar Panels

For size comparison, we have the new BioLite solar panel 5+ next two the SunJack panel. The two are different in that they produce different outputs and battery size. The BioLite is only a 5W max and 2200mAh battery, The SunJack is a 14W max, and 8000mAh battery. From our experience we prefer the largest panel and battery. We have tried a few other personal solar panels, and continue to lean toward the larger form factor. While the idea of a small device with solar panels built in, or attached seems nice they just charge too slowly.

Conclusion

The SunJack 14 watt currently sells for $150 with other models ranging from $100 to $200 depending on the power output and battery size.  There are some additional accessories that SunJack sells like the weatherproof sleeve, and battery charger that are some nice to haves, and worth looking into if you are going to purchase the SunJack Solar Panel.

When searching on Amazon, you can find a lot of 14w Solar Panel chargers in the $40 to $50 range.  In fact you can buy the SunJack 14w Portable Solar Charger for $49.68 with free shipping with Prime (affiliate link supports our reviews) and the 8000mAh Battery pack for $34.95 with free shipping Prime. (affiliate link supports our reviews) That will save you $65.37 off the retail price of $150.  There is no indication that these are any different model than the package sold together with the carabiners for $150.

Click here to view current prices on GearChase.com

The SunJack claims are not extravagant like some other solar panels we have tried, but there are some skeptical claims made on there website like “Worlds most powerful solar charger”, with no real empirical data to back up the claim.  Most of the claims we were able to back up like charging two devices at the same time, and “rapid charging”.

We would have to give the SunJack a positive review, as one of our favorites we have tried.  The biggest downside is the weight, but as for performance, and cost to watt ration, it’s a pretty good deal if you are in the market for off grid power.  We also used the a tool that searches for fake reviews on amazon, because it had a 92% 5 star rating, but the reviews checked out using fakespot.com.

For the discounted price above, this is an outstanding deal.  The battery pack is one of the best and easiest to use.  If you have used a bad battery pack in the past you know what we are talking about.  Sometimes it charges, sometimes it doesn’t, or it starts and then stops charging, or you can never get it to start charging a device.  We never once had an issue.  Just plugged in the battery to a device and pushed the button and it started charging right away.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the SunJack 14w 8000mAh for free from SunJack in consideration for a gear review