< Go to Solar Chargers

Hands-on Gear Review

Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer Review

Price:   $130 List | $117.38 at Amazon
Pros:  Simple design, reliable, rugged
Cons:  Slow charging, small battery, not powerful
Editors' Rating:     
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Manufacturer:   Powertraveller

Our Verdict

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

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Panel Size (watts) Weight (measured) Battery kit?
78
$80
Editors' Choice Award
15 12.5 panel only
76
$170
Top Pick Award
7 (plus 12 W battery) 25.1 panel + battery kit
71
$80
Best Buy Award
10 20.9 panel + battery kit
62
$65
1.2 (reported on device) 5.8 w/ carabiner; 5.8 w/o hybrid battery charger
62
$100
1.2 5.3 hybrid battery charger
60
$130
3.5 13.3 w/ case and carabiner; 9 w/o case or carabiner hybrid battery charger
59
$80
not reported 7.6 hybrid battery charger
57
$110
5 22.1 w/ carabiner; panel + battery kit
57
$28
1.2 (claimed on website, math be damned--should be 1W) 6.1 w/ carabiner; 5.8 w/o carabiner hybrid battery charger

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Lyra Pierotti
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Saturday
January 30, 2016

Share:
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.

Performance Comparison


Testing the solar panels in the sunniest place on earth--for half the year. Acclimating and charging during a slow day on Mount Erebus.
Testing the solar panels in the sunniest place on earth--for half the year. Acclimating and charging during a slow day on Mount Erebus.

Output Power


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.

An iPhone pulls 0.53A out of the Solarmonkey  while an iPad pulls just about the maximum 1A output of the panel's battery.
An iPhone pulls 0.53A out of the Solarmonkey, while an iPad pulls just about the maximum 1A output of the panel's battery.

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 Powertraveller Solarmonkey Aventurer produces the same amperage to an iPhone whether open or closed to the sun because of the internal battery.
The Powertraveller Solarmonkey Aventurer produces the same amperage to an iPhone whether open or closed to the sun because of the internal battery.

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.

The Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer supplies the same amperage to an iPad whether open or closed to the sun.
The Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer supplies the same amperage to an iPad whether open or closed to the sun.

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).

Top: the buckle threads through the slot in the panel to hold it in place so you can unfold the panel when you open the case. Bottom: the sleeve that holds the bottom panel in place blocks access to the USB charging port and the input charging port.
Top: the buckle threads through the slot in the panel to hold it in place so you can unfold the panel when you open the case. Bottom: the sleeve that holds the bottom panel in place blocks access to the USB charging port and the input charging port.

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.

Weight


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.

Comparing solar surface areas. From top to bottom: the Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer  the RavPower 15W  the Instapark Mercury 10  the Brunton Explorer 5  the Anker 14W  and the Goal Zero Nomad 7.
Comparing solar surface areas. From top to bottom: the Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer, the RavPower 15W, the Instapark Mercury 10, the Brunton Explorer 5, the Anker 14W, and the Goal Zero Nomad 7.

Versatility


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.

Testing the solar chargers on the roof of a hut at 11 000 feet on Mount Erebus  Antarctica.
Testing the solar chargers on the roof of a hut at 11,000 feet on Mount Erebus, Antarctica.

Portability


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.

Best Applications


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.

Value


This fairly small charger is expensive for what you get.

Conclusion


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.

Testing the solar chargers on the roof of a hut at 11 000 feet on Mount Erebus  Antarctica.
Testing the solar chargers on the roof of a hut at 11,000 feet on Mount Erebus, Antarctica.

Other Versions and Accessories


DC 5V to USB charging cable
Padded case
Carabiner
Many adapters to 5V/USB plug
Lyra Pierotti

  • Share this article:
You Might Also Like

Where to Buy?

Seller Price  Shipping Cost Visit
Amazon
$117.38  -  10% off! Check Site

Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: March 16, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (2.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 50%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 1 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Mar 16, 2016 - 06:38pm
I've used the Powertraveller Solarmonkey Charger on several trips and have had very good results. Reading the review of the other chargers tested on Outdoor Gear Lab, my power needs are much different than yours.

As I primarily use this for backpacking several miles into the backcountry, weight is a major issue. Your #1 pick (Goal Zero Venture 30 I think) is WAY too heavy to justify taking it. The Solarmonkey saves me a pound of weight! One pound! If my electrical power needs were such that I needed to take something that heavy then I need to rethink why I'm in the wilderness in the first place.

I typically take a few items that need recharging, namely my iPhone 5s, Suunto Ambit watch, and bluetooth headphones. My phone gives me everything I need as far as entertainment goes (movies, games, books, pictures, etc.). I also use it as my primary camera and sometimes for navigation. The Powertraveller Solarmonkey easily charges these items (I own the 2500mA version). If you are wanting to charge iPads or larger electronic devices, the Solarmonkey is definitely not for you.

As far as charging it is concerned, I get up in the morning, secure the solar panel outside my pack on the top lid, start my hiking around 9am and by 2pm I have a full charge (light goes from red to green). This is, of course, if the sun is shining bright. If it is cloudy, then it takes until 4 - 6pm, or in other words, most of the day. However I generally only need to recharge my items at night. I don't use my phone much during the day, especially because I'm not using it as a 'phone' (no wifi or other features), but as a camera, listen to music, and for some navigation. There is more than enough power for these tasks. At night, I can watch a movie, listen to music, play games, read books, etc. and then I plug it into the Solarmonkey and go to bed. In the morning, my phone is 100% and ready to go! The Solarmonkey is designed as a complete unit to utilize solar energy to store electricity and for this it does the job well. One thing that I've been really impressed with is that it doesn't lose much power after sitting for several months. If it has been completely charged, after 6 or so months, I have about 95% of my charge still remaining in the battery.

In my opinion, the Powertraveller Solarmonkey Charger is designed for small rechargeable electronics for dedicated backpackers. For this purpose, it works well. It's rugged, highly water resistant, and reliable. In my experience it has worked exactly for what it was designed for and I have no complaints. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has the same needs as I have.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No


Have you used the Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
 
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Amazon $117.38  -  10% off!
Compare prices at 1 sellers >

*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.


Follow Us


Unbiased.