The Bushnell PowerSync is a compact, durable and lightweight solar panel system with an integrated high-capacity lithium-ion battery. It comes in several solar roll models that would be applicable for biking, including the SolarWrap 400 and SolarWrap 200, and the smaller and lighter $90 SolarWrap Mini (shown above), which I tested since its the most ideal for biking-related activities. They also sell two larger foldable systems, the SolarBook 600 and SolarBook 850, which are better suited for camping and backpacking. The SolarWrap Mini kit comes with the battery pack with its attached flexible solar panel, an instruction booklet, two end caps with elastic cords and an USB-to-micro-USB connecting cable.
The PowerSync uses an Amorphous Thin Film panel to collect solar power to recharge the battery, and works in less than ideal conditions, and doesn't require a direct angle to the sun. The PowerWrap and Mini solar panels roll back around the battery body for compact storage. The Mini weighs 3.1 ounces and is 4.3" x 1.25" in size when rolled up, and has a 2200mAh Li-Ion battery that outputs 5V/1A and takes four hours to charge from home or 10 hours from the 11.25" x 3" sized solar panel. Once the battery is charged, you can hook up a USB connector to the battery and do off the grid charging of a smartphone, camera, MP3 player, etc. A nice benefit of their systems, is that you can simultaneously charge a device and keep gathering solar energy to replenish the battery, albeit at a slower rate. The underlying technology of this flexible and thin-film photovoltaic (PV) was originally developed for the U.S. Army, in which they needed a lightweight solar panel that was durable enough to be deployed in harsh military field environments.
You can attach the SolarWrap Mini to the back of your pack to recharge the battery while out on the trail, or just unfurl it and lay it in the sun or hang it from a tree at camp or during a break. I do wish they had some sort of tie down locations or straps on the battery body for attaching the unit to a pack during solar charging, though I did end up using the end cap covers and their elastic cord as a workaround for attachment purposes. Although the solar panels's material is thin and flexible, it's still tough and durable, and the solar cells are independently wired so that even if a cell or two gets damaged, the charger can continue to function.
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The input end of the battery body has a micro-B USB port for charging the battery, and an indicating light which is colored Red while charging and Green when the charge has completed. The opposing output end has the USB port that is used for charging the portable devices in the field. Charging the battery via the micro USB port can be done by connecting the cable to a home computer, an appropriate wall wart or a vehicle outlet, and it takes between 4-5 hours to recharge a completely drained battery. To charge from the solar panel, just unfurl the panel and place it in the sun, and it takes between 10-12 hours to restore the battery.
The solar panel is permanently attached to battery body, and the panel wraps back around the body and closes shut with a hook-and-loop system. The USB port ends on the battery body are protected from contamination and abuse by a set of rubberized caps with an attached elastic cord.
The smartphone has become a workhorse of a device for all sorts of activities, including the phone calls, fitness apps, GPS mapping, social media, email, texting, camera, etc., and all of this usage can quickly devour the battery levels. The Mini not only allows you to recharge the portable media device like a normal battery backup system, but it gives you the extra advantage of replenishing the battery pack's storage via the solar panel when required. This makes it an ideal candidate for bike packing, multi-day and 24-hour races, on top of normal everyday use, and it not only provides all the required media and fitness tools, but it offers more security by have smartphone working during an emergency situation. On most shorter trips, you'll likely never need the solar panel, since the battery can recharge your device without draining its storage completely, while long trips and multi-day adventures, you can reap the benefits and almost keep electronics running indefinitely, provided you have ample sunshine.
It's easy to charge your device from the Mini, just plug the USB cable into the output port and wait until the charge cycle has completed. Since the Mini is a fairly simple device, it doesn't have a metering system to inform you of the battery pack's current storage level, which is sort of a bummer. To charge the battery pack, you plug in a micro USB cable into the input port, and the other end to a home computer, wall wart or a vehicle. When you're out in the field, just unfurl the solar panel in the sun, and allow it to replenish the battery's storage levels. The panel has a small hole at one end to hang it from a pack or tree, though it doesn't have anything on the battery end to attach to things. If you lay the panel on the ground make sure to stake it down or use something heavy so it doesn't get blown around in the wind. The battery pack's indicator light glows red when charging from either the USB or solar panel, and turns green when the charging has completed.
You can purchase portable battery power banks on the market with varying storage capacity, but they don't have the backup functionality of the solar charging, which is highly advantageous. I found that it was best to not completely drain either your phone or the Mini's battery, and when following that scenario and attaching it to my pack, I never had any battery level/storage problems on anything. The size of the solar panel and its power output aren't exceptional, so don't expect fast replenishment of the battery storage levels. It's not the cheapest recharging system, but the solar collection technology, simplicity, and battery backup make for an ideal package.
The Bushnell PowerSync SolarWrap Mini is a great compact and lightweight solar power charger with an integrated battery. You can charge your portable electronic device remotely in the field via the battery or the solar panel. In addition, the battery itself can be recharged at home or through the solar panel, taking approximately 4 and 10 hours respectively, allowing a sort of perpetual fully charged state for all the devices. The system is simple to use, and the panel can be easily unfurled and attached to a pack during a ride to replenish the battery if required. The heavy demands placed on a smartphone for mapping, and fitness can quickly drain the battery of the device, making it no longer useful for those activities and for emergency purposes, the latter being the most valuable necessity.
The $90 SolarWrap Mini allows in the field and off the grid charging of portable devices (smartphone) via its integrated battery pack, along with the added benefit of a solar panel to replenish the battery storage.
- Light and compact
- Easy and simple to use
- Well-made and durable
- Convenient recharging of portable devices and the battery via the solar panel
- No gauge to indicate internal battery storage levels
- No tie-down locations on the battery body for attaching to a pack
Overall Rating: 4 Flamin' Chili Peppers
For more information visit: Bushnell PowerSync