I spend a lot of time in airports, on the go and away from civilization. I also am bound to my electronic devices as a writer, regular blogger and social media jockey. Combined with these roles is my occupation as a survival instructor who is usually far from civilization on courses and trips. Finding a place to plug in while out and about is a frequent problem. Electrical outlets are usually taken up by others, international outlets don’t accept American plugs and last I checked, trees don’t have USB ports. Recharging options are limited when excuses to my editors, readers and employers are not. Recently, Sunjack sent me a 14 watt Portable Solar Charger for review and it has eliminated many of the issues the traveler, outdoorsman and the electronically reliant previously experienced.
The Sunjack 14W Portable Solar Charger is compatible with all USB devices including GPS units, Phones, Cameras and tablets. The total package, monocrystalline solar panels and lithium-polymer battery weighs 2 pounds 6.2 ounces. When open, the panels lay out to 30.75” x 9.25”. Both max output and input are 5V and 2A. What does this mean to the layman? The Sunjack 14W will charge your device or fill the internal battery almost as fast as a wall outlet. In the past, I’ve experimented with lesser quality solar charging devices and was unimpressed. This is why I never recommended them as the weight to benefit ratio was off. Sunjack has me convinced that with the right technology, a good solar panel can be an excellent addition to the backcountry kit.
Sunjack is a California based company. California weather is some of the best around and there is no shortage of sunlight in the Golden State. I’m in Connecticut and as I write this, it is the middle of winter and during Blizzard Colbie. During the winter, when the sun is furthest from the earth and when the sky is filled with snow clouds, sunlight is weak and not ideal for testing. Despite this environmental handicap, the Sunjack 14w worked perfectly. In fairer weather, with stronger sunlight, I anticipate the Sunjack 14w to perform even better and recharge devices faster.
According to the instructions provided in the packaging, Sunjack doesn’t recommend using the solar panels through windows. I wanted to give it a go and found that from about a foot away from the window and closer, the solar panels will pick up the light and charge the internal battery. Any further away, the lights won’t activate and the battery won’t take a charge. The Sunjack 14w has an accessory loop at the top of the device which makes it easy to hang directly against a window with a length of cord or a simple hanger made from a wire coat hanger.
The dimensions of the Sunjack also allow for easy dashboard charging of devices. In years past, I would simply turn the ignition to auxiliary and charge my devices through the cigarette lighter. Now, rather than taking away from the battery which could drain my battery enough to strand me in the woods, I can simply charge my devices through the windshield. With two charging ports, I’m able to charge my phone and a passenger’s at the same time which eliminates fighting over the charger.
Also noteworthy are the potential scenarios this device will really shine in (no pun intended). Should there be a blackout, you can still power up. Should you have to leave your home in an emergency, you can still power up on the road. Abroad, if it is unsafe to remain in one place due to civil unrest, you can still power up on the run. While deep in the backcountry, you can still power up your GoPro, tablets or other devices to ensure your whole trip is documented. The list goes on and on.
I’ve learned a few tricks to using the Sunjack and they’ll hopefully help you. Carry extra USB cords. The Sunjack 14W has two outlets, USB1 puts out 1 Amp while USB 2 puts out 2 Amps. Carry good quality spare cords. The Sunjack Solar Charging system is exceptional in quality and the last thing you want to do is introduce a weak link. Also, one cord is included so charging two devices requires a spare.
While laying the device flat on a car hood will work at noon when the sun is directly overhead, putting it angled toward the sun at other times of day will improve the charge. Using the provided carabiners and loops, it is easy to keep the Sunjack pointed in the right direction. Simply suspending it by a single point allows it to spin.
Sunjack advertises the unit as durable, shock proof and weather resistant. I wasn’t ready to test these claims but know my occasional lack of awareness resulted in a few drops to the floor and amazement when the lights still turned on. A large zip lock bag will help make the unit more water resistant and carry inside, rather than strapped outside, will offer more protection from the accidental ding.
Finally, if you’re going to order one of these, save some cash with this order code, “GoGreenSolar” Be prepared to answer questions about your solar charger as they come from curious onlookers. You might want to keep a fact sheet handy or even share some energy to show how great this product works.
About the Author
Kevin Estela is the Founder and Head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education. He conducts private and semi-private wilderness and urban/suburban survival courses, tests and evaluates knives and equipment for various companies, is a Mountain Khakis Professional Ambassador, and is a life-long outdoors enthusiast with additional pastimes in canoeing/kayaking, fishing and cooking. Kevin's work has taken him from Los Angeles, CA to the United Kingdom and many points in between. Kevin is ranked in both Sayoc Kali and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a shooting enthusiast. Kevin is formerly the Lead Instructor for the Wilderness Learning Center. When not teaching outdoor skills, he is a full-time High School History Teacher and Track and Field Coach who lives in Connecticut.