< Go to Solar Chargers
Hands-on Gear Review
Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer Review
Cons: Slow charging, small battery, not powerful
The Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer might be better called the Powertraveller Tortoise Adventurer. It is not fast, but it is reliable, and in some ways competitive. In the modern world of solar chargers, however, the Tortoise just doesn't have as much time to catch the Hare and win. The Solarmonkey is a slow charger, but it is not glitchy and works exactly as advertised.
The Adventurer has been recently updated, and the company addressed some of the most important flaws; however, we don't think the upgrades would boost the panel's competitive standing tremendously in this review, and overall, the score was relatively low. This solar charger is an interesting all-arounder, but it just didn't provide a competitive mix of features. To be stronger in this review, we would have needed to see significantly more battery strength and capacity, smaller overall size, lighter weight, or stronger amperage output, without compromising the other features. The upgrade gave it more amperage from the battery and a little more capacity, but the solar panel is the same size, so we are skeptical that the charging ability will be dramatically improved.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Portable Solar Panels of 2017 for Camping and Travel
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Solarmonkey Adventurer is a well-made and reliable solar charger that very well might meet your needs. In this competitive review, however, it didn't manage to eke ahead of the speedier and stronger competition.
The 3.5 watt panel of the Solarmonkey produces a maximum of 0.7 amps (or 700mA) of current to charge your devices. This is very low for charging tablets and newer smartphones, which typically function better at 2 amps.
The Solarmonkey Adventurer was updated during our review process, and they addressed some of the charging issues we had noted. They increased the battery capacity from 2500mAh to 3500mAh, and they made the USB output port 5V and 2 amps for modern, power-hungry devices. They also added LED battery indicator lights, which was a very necessary update (the first model was difficult to use because you never knew if you had much battery power after setting it out in the sun for a while). Otherwise, it is the same device, with the same size solar panel which still charges the battery at 0.7A (and, presumably, still only charges your device at 0.7A if you are charging via the sun).
The Solarmonkey was only supposed to put out 0.7A of current, but we found that it actually would provide about 0.9A when we plugged in an iPad. This was a pleasant surprise. The Solarmonkey made us think of the Tortoise racing against the Hare. In some cases, the slower, less powerful device might actually be a strong competitor.
Ease of Use
The Solarmonkey Adenturer is enticing in its design--it looks like a handy mini briefcase of solar charging independence. The case that holds the panel, however, is ultimately awkward to use. The top buckles into place and the bottom slides into two overlapping flaps, so that when you unzip and open the case, your panel is ready to go. We like this idea, and found the Goal Zero Venture 30 Recharging Kit with a similar design to be desirable for its ease of setup. However, on the Solarmonkey, the USB charging port is blocked when you tuck the bottom panel into those sleeves, which makes it fiddley to plug your device in for a pass-through charge (directly from the sun vs. the battery).
The weaker amperage of this device also makes it a challenge to fully charge devices, but otherwise the electronics seemed very well designed and rugged, and we liked the idea of the ready-to-go solar package.
The battery can be pre-charged on the Adventurer, but it requires a special DC 5V cable that is included in the box. This is not a bad thing, but our reviewers expressed preference for simplicity: it is nice that most of the chargers in the industry use a micro-USB cable to pre-charge via the wall instead of this more rare type of cable, which is just one more thing to keep track of.
At 9.3 ounces, this device was in the middle of the weight range of this review. It feels light enough for a short weekend excursion, and could be useful for longer trips if you have only one or two devices to power up and they are not super power hungry, i.e.an older smartphone. In the weight category, this panel makes somewhat of a comeback, seeming enticing for a broader-than-expected range of activities--so long as you don't have an iPad or two in your group.
The Solarmonkey Adventurer is the only solar charger with an integrated battery in this review that can also charge your device while sitting in the sun. Most integrated panel/battery systems charge the internal battery first, then you charge your device from the battery. This means that when the batteries are empty, you cannot set the solar charger out in the sun and charge your device directly. With the Solarmonkey, however, you can. This proves to be a great feature, but it is functionally replaced by the panel/battery kit combos which are even more versatile.
Despite the low amperage, the Adventurer will charge most 5-volt devices including phones, tablets, music players, portable game players, GPS units, e-readers, etc.
The Adventurer was clearly designed with portability in mind: it comes in its own handy protective mini-briefcase, a little smaller and much thicker than an iPad mini. On first examination, it would seem to be a great device for all your travel needs; however, the protective casing ends up being a little bulky for most backcountry trips, and the folding panel design doesn't garner enough of an advantage over the pocket sized Poweradd Apollo 3, Creative Edge Solar-5+, Levin Dual USB Port 6000mAh Panel or the SunFerno Flintstone.
The only real advantage of this charger over those smaller ones is that you can charge directly from the sun which, in our opinion, makes this a much better "emergency use" panel than any of those four: in a pinch, you can charge a device the moment you get to sunlight, then charge up the battery.
This fairly small charger is expensive for what you get.
Most of our reviewers love the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, and felt a special affection for the Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer. It was reliable, well made, thoughtfully designed. But it didn't provide an overall package that could edge out the competition and cross that finish line first.
Other Versions and Accessories
DC 5V to USB charging cable
Many adapters to 5V/USB plug
— Lyra Pierotti
You Might Also Like
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 16, 2016