Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Light, inexpensive, simple, can charge two devices at once
Cons: Only charges USB devices
Best Uses: Backpacking, sailing, hiking, car camping
The Instapark Mercury 10 was easily the most underrated panel in our tests--that is, until we started stacking all of the specs of the panels in our review, side-by-side. There were panels like the Anker 14W, which isn't much bigger, has four panels instead of three, and packs some serious charging abilities--but that one was significantly heavier. Quickly, the Instapark Mercury 10, a Best Buy winner in our previous review, emerged this time as our clear Editors' Choice winner.
After doing all the math, the Mercury 10 held its own as a lightweight, efficient, powerful, and rugged solar panel. It is big enough to do some fast charging, and it only weighs slightly more than the smartphone-sized Poweradd Apollo 2--and though the Mercury 10 doesn't have a battery, it will charge your devices fast enough that it almost doesn't matter--or you can pair it with an external battery, which is, in our reviewers' opinions, the best set-up for reliable solar power in the backcountry or on the road.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Instapark Mercury 10 is not new to our awards list. Previously a Best Buy winner, this panel continues to hold its own in the solar panel market, and this time gets our Editors' Choice award.
At 10 watts, this panel was on the more powerful side of the panels we tested, but not the most powerful; however, the USB ports provide 2 amps of current, which makes a huge difference when charging energy hungry tablets or newer smartphones. One port is labeled for iPad/iPhone, which on some devices denotes the port with higher amperage, but from the best of our research, it appears that both of these ports charge at two amps.
Our testers were particularly pleased that the panel didn't drop the connection to our devices when we momentarily shaded the panel--this proved to be a particularly annoying problem with a few panels, which would drop the connection and fail to reconnect with our devices after someone walked briefly in front of the panel. That meant you couldn't really leave the panel unattended. The Mercury 10, however, was a reliable workhorse.
Ease of Use
This is an excellent panel for charging any devices that charge via USB, which is most modern personal technology items such as smartphones, tablets, many cameras, and some GPS consoles.
The Mercury 10 has a large, convenient pocket for stashing (and protecting) your device while it is charging, and keeping your cables organized while on the go. The panel has loops around the edges for hanging from trees, tents, etc. This makes it very easy to orient the panel for optimal sun exposure.
Our only complaints about this panel were (1) that the sewn loops for hanging the panel seem a little less robust than the metal grommets on other panels like the Anker 14W; and (2), the velcro flap that holds the panel closed when folded tends to fold over the third panel while propped in the sun. If you are easily irritated by minor design flaws, this panel may not bring you technological bliss.
This panel was one of the lightest full-fledged folding solar panels we tested. It has three decent sized panels that deliver enough power to charge a tablet with relative ease, and it only weighs a little more than some of the hard-shelled chargers like the Apollo 2, which has less than 1/6 the solar panel surface area. Many of the other panels that were about as powerful were almost double the weight. Pair this with a lightweight external battery for the ultimate dream team combo in backcountry solar charging.
The Mercury 10 was one of the most portable folding panels we reviewed thanks to its excellent weight-to-panel-size-ratio. This is a very light and compact panel for the solar surface area it provides.
This panel does not come with many adapters nor can you add them later. There is no cigarette lighter adapter capability or way to charge a laptop or device that does not have a USB cable. This means there are certain devices, such as camera battery chargers, that are not easily charged from this panel. This is a panel optimized for charging smart phones and tablets.
This panel is ideal for groups with 2 to 4 people that all want to keep their smart phones and tablets charged, but it is also light enough for solo travelers on longer journeys, or for someone who has a "mobile office" with a tablet and smart phone that will be in heavy use in the field. We highly recommend combining this panel with an inexpensive external battery so that you can charge the battery and a device at once.
Anyway you look at it, the Mercury 10 is an amazing value. It is on the less expensive side of the traditional folding panels, and boasts great price-per-watt and price-per-ounce ratios.
If you mainly charge USB devices and want high performance first, with light weight a very close second, then this is the panel to get. Even if you are on a budget, this panel is hard to beat.
This panel comes in a number of sizes:
Instapark Mercury 4S
Instapark Mercury 27
Instapark Mercury 10 with Battery - This is the same panel but comes with a 5200 mAh lithium rechargeable battery pack for an extra $20. While this is not a bad option, we would prefer to combine the Mercury 10 with one of our top rated battery packs, for about the same cost.
Below is a comparison of the three sizes of panels: from left to right: 4S, 10, 27.
— Lyra Pierotti and Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 28, 2015
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