We were recently sent the SolarPanel 5+ from BioLite to test out before it hit the market. Below are our experiences with the charger, The pro’s and con’s of the solar panel, and other information that’s helpful in knowing if the BioLite SolarPanel 5 or BioLite SolarPanel 5+ is right for you.
The BioLite SolarPanel Claim
The SolarPanel and SolarPanel5+ both claim to charge your phone directly from the sun, without the need of a battery being charged first. This means that the in peak sun conditions the solar panel can deliver 5 watts of power. This is the same as your iPhone charger that’s plugged into the wall! That sounds like a pretty good deal, so how does it work?
SolarPanel 5+ Use
The panel is made using a monocrystaline cell type to convert the rays to usable power. To use the BioLite SolarPanel 5+ it needs to be placed with the shadow from the sun dial in the middle of the cross hair. Aligning the panel in directly perpendicular rays from the sun or light source will ensure optimal charge.
After the panel is aligned with a bright light source (i.e. the sun) you should see the lights on the top of the battery start to step. This indicates that the solar panel is generating power. There is not a way to know how strong the wattage is coming from the panel, but you can assume that if the sun is very bright, you should be getting close to 5W. Anything less than very bright sunlight will produce less.
We tested the power output using an app on our android phone called Ampere. In direct bright sunlight we could get close to 5W, with any sort of dark overcast or cloudy skies, the output was lower. This can also be verified by the battery strength indicator on the top of the battery.
We also tried shining various light sources on the panel to se if we could get any charge out of it. We have a 2000 Lumens light that was the only the only light that would register and only when held a few inches from the panel. It could only deliver about a half a watt. It’s still enough to deliver a little charge to a phone, and in an emergency could work.
What we like about the SolarPanel 5+
There is a lot to like about the SolarPanel. It’s very easy to use and attache to any portable or static object. Simply clip it to the back of a back pack with some carabiners, or throw the 360 stand around a tree branch. For optimal charging you will need to adjust as the sun moves so that the sun dial is perpendicular to the sunlight.
One of the stand out features of the SolarPanel 5 is how simple it is. The kickstand just works in any direction, and that’s really the only moving part.
Analog Sun Dial
The built in sun dial helps to position the panel in the precise location for charging by ensuring the black dot is in the cross hairs of the dial.
This is an Feature List Item that is part of an Feature List. Notice the connector between the three graphics to show that they are related.
As simple as a little rotating wire might be, it’s very handy. As you can see by our photo, it works well for hanging the panel as well as standing it up.
What we don’t like about the SolarPanel 5+
Some of the downsides of the SolarPanel are the size. For having a smaller battery onboard, it’s still a bit large. We would have liked to see a larger storage than a 2200mAh.
Small Onboard Battary
With the charging power, it would be nice to have more than just a single cell phone charge from the battery. There may be days where a cell phone is charged overnight, but the following day is cloud covered… This would leave you without the capacity to charge.
It would be nice to compact the panel even more or have a roll up capability. However, the solid structure dose ensure better sun gathering.
It’s hard to know if the panel is charging the battery or phone or both. When a phone is plugged in and the battery is partially charged, however it’s sunny shinning on the panel. The panel is equipped with what’s called “Auto-Reconnect” but we couldn’t find any information what this actually does.
When looking for off grid power option for camping and hiking there are so many options. You can choose from battery banks, stove options like the BioLite CampStove and other power pots. You can bring additional batteries, or just charge from a laptop or car charger. The BioLite SolarPanel 5+ is at the top of our list for the solar panel options. It’s simple, it just works (when it’s sunny outside) it can be used to charge anything with a USB port. We even used it to charge other power banks. It falls in line with the pricing of other solar phone chargers, but we felt like it performed a little better, and was smaller than most solar chargers in the category, that’s why it would be our current pick for a solar option to charge our phones when off grid. Also, the panel comes with a 1 year limited warranty.