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Instapark Mercury 10 Review

   
Best Buy Award

Solar Chargers

  • Currently 4.2/5
Overall avg rating 4.2 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: October 16, 2014
Street Price:   $70 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros:  Light, inexpensive, simple, can charge two devices at once.
Cons:  No cigarette lighter adapter: only charges USB devices.
Best Uses:  Backpacking, sailing, hiking, car camping.
User Rating:     
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 (4.3 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (3/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Instapark
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ April 30, 2013  
Overview
This is by far the best deal in portable solar panels in our tests and it wins our Best Buy award. Even without its low price it is still an impressive performer. You can charge two USB devices at once including a tablet. It gives 10 watts of power in a relatively lightweight package. The charge does not get interrupted easily when a cloud or object passes between it and the sun. Few other panels of its size match its versatility, ease-of-use and price. If your main need is to charge a cell phone or small electronic devices, get this panel.

The Editors' Choice winner, the SolarMonkey Adventurer, is better if you want to travel light and want the want the benefit of internal storage. That said, if you don't mind a little more weight, you can combine the Mercury 10 with a $20-40 external battery for about half the cost of the Adventurer.

Our other Best Buy winner is the Bushnell Bear Grylls SolarWrap Mini. It is only half the power of the Mercury 10 but it is much lighter, more compact and comes with a built in battery. If you just want to charge a single smartphone, GPS or camera, we would go with the Bushnell SolarWrap.

If you need to charge a laptop, consider the PowerTraveller SolarGorilla or our Top Pick winner, the Goal Zero Nomad 13. There are a lot of options out there so we recommend reading our full Portable Solar Review and our upcoming Solar Battery Review to see how this panel compares to others.

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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

What separates this panel from competitors? It is one of the few panels tested to have two USB ports, a giant convenient pocket, and a lot of watts for the dollar and weight. Other panels will let you charge two devices at once, but generally you have to remember a second adapter if you want to charge two USB devices at once.

Performance Comparison
Click to enlarge
Mercury 10 Solar Panel Portable Solar Panel Charger
Credit: Instapark

Output Power
It is the only panel we tested that will charge a tablet and a smart phone without needing extra accessories. Perhaps more importantly, you can pass a hand over the panel and in most conditions it will keep on charging. With some of the competitors this was not the case; you had to monitor the charging much more often to make sure it hadn't been interrupted. Most panels that give 12 watts of power are much heavier.

Storage
There is a large convenient pocket for stashing your cables, phone and an external battery. Only the Goal Zero Nomad 13 had a more generous pocket. There are also sewn-in loops at the edges of the panel for clipping to trees, carabiners or string. This makes it very easy to orient the panel for optimal sun exposure.

Click to enlarge
InstaPark Mercury 10 solar panel with two USB ports and a generous pocket.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Ease of Use
If you are just charging USB devices then this is about the easiest panel to use. There are two USB ports that you can use at once. Most other panels have only one USB port or you need to remember extra adapters. We love the fact that you don't have to remember any extra parts if you are just charging USB devices.

Versatility
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 really a panel for charging smart phones and tablets. Other panels with a wider variety of adapters are going to be better for charging camera batteries, motorcycle batteries, laptops and a wider variety of devices.

Click to enlarge
When the InstaPark Mercury 10 is paired with an external battery, it's by far the best value in a panel and battery combo.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Weight
This panel is not light overall. However it is light per watt. All the other panels that were about as powerful were almost double the weight. Another way to look at it is that this is by far the lightest panel that can charge two devices at once.

Value
Anyway you look at it, the Mercury 10 is an amazing value. Overall it is one of the least expensive panels, and it is by far the least expensive per watt. It is also by far the least expensive panel that can charge two devices at once.

Best Application
This panel is ideal for groups with 2 to 4 people that all want to keep their smart phones and tablets charged. It is also ideal for a single person that 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.

Conclusion
If you mainly charge USB devices and need more power than is available in the SolarMonkey Adventurer, then this is the panel to get. If you are on a budget, then you really can't beat this panel.

Other Versions
This panel comes in a number of sizes:
The Instapark Mercury 4S is inexpensive and will charge your phone/tablet with its internal battery. It performed nearly as well as the Editors' Choice SolarMonkey Adventurer and yet was half the price.

The Mercury 10 with Battery, $83, 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.

The Mercury 27, $120, totals 27 watts and has two standard USB ports, as well as a DC 12v outport. A built-in pocket can be used for extra storage.

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 16, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.3)

100% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 25%  (1)
4 star: 75%  (3)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Oct 16, 2014 - 08:01pm
Sunhammer · Portland
I live in Portland, OR. which is just north of the 45th parallel. I have a Nomad7, a Powerfilm AA+USB and Instapark M10

Instapark uses the same type of cells that Powerfilm does, which work better in shade than the cells used by Goal Zero. Now, to be clear, if you live in Texas or something then by all means Goal Zero is worth considering.

For a 10 watt charger the Instapark is very compact and well built. There are some random reviewers complaining about the loops being weak, this is nonsense. They are every bit as well made and sewn in as on a GoalZero charger. And they only need to hold up 2 pounds (the cells plus the device you are charging) so there is no concern there.

My only complaint so far with the Instapark M10 is that one usb port is labeled "iphone". I admit I am an Apple hater, and the fact that I and millions of people will never own an i-anything but have to deal with the "iphone" name just irritates me.

One person asked, so, one USB port is 1.2 to 1.5 amps and the one marked "iphone" is supposedly 2 amps. I have not hooked up any meters and such because basically 99% of the people out there don't have meters and dont care. I just did practical tests, which I posted some time ago on Amazon. I forget the actual times, but in short in direct sunlight I was able to charge a Brunton battery on the 1.2A port and my Samsung smartphone on the 2A port at the same time, taking the Brunton from 25% to 100% and the phone from 50% to 90% in about 4 hours if I remember right.

I also tried the charger under my carport awning. When placed on a flat surface pointing straight up the Instapark would not charge anything. As soon as I tilted the Instapark towards the sunny yard (still under the awning) I was able to slowly charge the Brunton, or two Sony Eneloops in a Sony usb charger, but not the phone. However, after charging the Brunton I could use it to charge the phone, so just a two-step process.

I think anyone that compares the price of a 10watt Instapark and a 10watt Powerfilm the choice will be instantly clear. And you can believe that Instapark's quality is equal to Powerfilm's.

A final note, the Instapark has it's gear pouch on the outside and a lot of other chargers don't. It may not seem like a big deal but it is. No worries about bending or breaking the cells.

btw: Instapark makes a 27watt for under $120 on Amazon, which will be my next purchase. I was that impressed with the M10.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Jul 29, 2014 - 01:41pm
 
I · Hiker · South Africa
Forgive my confusion but when you receive a gift with no manual or info the net is not always the easiest way to find the facts. If anyone knows of a reference where I get get some real details I would appreciate that. I am still confused if the mercury10 deliver 2 A since isn't that the holy grail of numbers is these things. If it does is it split between ports or one port. I have iPhone 4s, the newest iPad best explained as same sized las the old original iPad just new and different with tiny tiny male insert at the end of the usb charger cord. The other thing is actually very significantly what would the best power pack to combine with the solar m 10, I hear allot about the E5 (Anker 15000 mAh 1st generation).i have to apologize to the all the pundits I share the same EQ just not the same IQ . So please put up with ignorance.
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   Jan 13, 2014 - 02:34am
pjeaje · Runner
Nice panel. It can charge my Samsung Galaxy S3 without too much trouble. Needs a better closing flap on the storage pouch to prevent little things falling out.

Does anyone know how I could hook up 2 of these panels to give out more charging power?

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 7, 2013 - 04:01pm
Rankin · Climber · Greensboro, North Carolina
Cool panel. Unfortunately, since Apple came out with iOS7, it's virtually impossible to charge an iPhone directly. I just charge an external battery with it, and it works great for that, as long as it's not too cloudy.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Mercury 10 Solar Panel Portable Solar Panel Charger
Credit: Instapark
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