Hands-on Gear Review
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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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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