The Ergohacks Verdict

I’ve got a lot of devices. I went away last week camping and we took phones for each of us, a phone for Nightscout, my Dell laptop, a bluetooth speaker, a Canon DSLR and a couple of bluetooth headsets. All the devices have in common that they charge via USB and hence for our week I took a big stack of batteries. I’d guessed that that wouldn’t have been enough so I also reached out to Aukey and they were good enough to let me experiment with the Aukey 28W Solar Panel.

The unit is made of of four panels that unfold to one long strip. You can then hang or lie the strip angled towards the sun and plug your device into the two USB ports inside a small pouch at the top. There are also four hoops that let you attach the strip via included carabiner to a bag or just vertically such as to a tent. I found that I did better plugging an empty battery into the panel rather than my phone as that meant I could use my phone in the day and recharge from the battery overnight but I’m aware that this does make it a bit less efficient.

So how well does it work? That’s not a simple answer and goes between amazingly well and not at all. In short it depends on the amount of sun and the angle you get. My camping trip turned out to be the perfect test in real world conditions. Beautiful sunshine for the first few days followed by torrential rain for the last few. For the first two days I was able to hang the strip so that it got decent sunlight for most of the day and recharge two mid-size batteries. These kept my phone going overnight with a little bit of extra available. Aukey claim that the unit can provide up to 5V with 2.4A per port and I actually achieved this when the angle was perfect and the sun at it’s peak.

There isn’t always a convenient place to hang it so I also experimented with putting it in my car windshield (parked!) and was pleasantly surprised to get some power even in that setup.

The problem is that England doesn’t always have bright, warm, cloud free sunny skies. The solar panels that got great power on sunny days got a much smaller around on overcast ones and nothing in the rain. This isn’t a failing of Aukey’s technology but rather a built in issue with solar panels.

If you’re going to be away from the mains Aukey’s solar panel paired with a couple of batteries to fill is actually a realistic and possible way to keep your devices charged. I’ve yet to check how well it can do on cold sunny days but if the summer sun comes out it can provide decent power. It’s not magic and if you don’t get clear skies you’re going to be disappointed but it does exactly what it claims. It’s made its way into my trip kit – if it’s warm enough to camp comfortably I’ll probably get power out of it as well.

Ergohacks Essential

Buy it from Amazon  

Price: ±  £49.99
Included: Two microUSB cables and 4 carabiner. If you’ve an Apple device you’ll need your own lightning cable

About Aukey

Aukey is a Chinese manufacturer based in Schengen that produces a range of products. They’re best known for their batteries and charging solutions but also make speakers, some car products, cables and a few other more odd products such as a mini-drone and Android based projector.

Specification

Colour: Black
Waterproof: Yes to some degree. It’s designed to handle rain but not immersion and the USB ports are not waterproof.
Release date: July 2016
Output: Up to 2.4A per port under ideal best circumstances

Warranty: Two years free from manufacturer defect

Requirements

As a solar panel the device needs decent sunlight at the best possible angle. I found that the best compromise was to put a battery into the unit and then set it up at an ideal angle rather than trying to get my phone inside it.

ecologicalBuild quality

 We based our Ergohacks Verdict on three weeks of tinkering, testing and using the Aukey 28W Solar Panel provided by Aukey during July 2017. This article was first published on 7 August 2017.