Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Light and compact for its power level, good value, lots of accessories.
Best Uses: Backpacking, sailing, hiking, any time you need lots of power in a light package.
The Brunton Solaris Solar Panel is a great panel but overpriced. The Sunforce 12 Watt Solar Panel is very similar and less than half the price. But there are other panels we would probably recommend over the Sunforce.
If you just need to charge a cell phone, camera or other other small device, we recommend the Goal Zero Nomad 7, which is just $80, allows you to charge two devices, and has a bunch of cool low cost accessories.
The Editors' Choice winner, the Goal Zero Sherpa 120 Kit is better if you need serious power and the ability to charge AC devices. But the Sherpa 120 kit is not nearly as portable and costs $600.
If you are an RV camper or doing some serious car camping, we would go with the Goal Zero Escape 150 Adventure Kit.
How does this panel compare to others? Check out our complete Portable Solar Panel Review
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This panel is very similar in its solar cell construction to many competitors: Sunforce, Sunlinq and Motomaster Eliminator (which is also may be Sunforce). We have also come across many other brands with nearly identical looking cell designs (only the output connectors seem to differ). Are all these cells made with the same design, then just re-branded with different connection points and accessories? We have used them all in the field extensively and can't tell much difference between any of them.
The Solaris comes in the following sizes (in watts): 6, 12, 26, 62. We found the 6.5 watt size charged devices slower, was not that much lighter, and generally not nearly as usable as the 12 watt. If you are looking at the 6.5 watt panel, you definitely should consider the Goal Zero Nomad 7.
This, along with the Sunforce, is the lightest panel per watt we tested. In a 12 watt size, it is about the same weight as the Goal Zero Nomad 7 watt panel.
Our panel came loaded with accessories: stuff sack, alligator clips, cigarette adapter, and various adapters to charge battery packs and other devices. There is also an adapter to link up to three panels.
The one accessory this panel does not come with that we recommend is the cigarette splitter (that link goes to our favorite model). This allows you to charge two devices at once. Since the panel is so powerful (for its size) at 12 watts, we highly recommend this.
While at 12 watts this panel delivers a lot of power for its weight, it still does not deliver enough umpff to charge an iPad or most laptops.
While it is possible to link multiple panels and connect to a Brunton battery like the Impel ($400), there is no Brunton inverter to power your AC devices. You can probably make something work by buying a separate inverter or adapter, but it is overall not nearly as easy and effective to use as the Goal Zero Sherpa system. The Sherpa UI lets you plug in just about any AC-powered device into a Sherpa battery.
Also, the Brunton batteries are more than double the price of the Goal Zero batteries when you compare storage capacity.
Brunton Solaris 12 Promo Video
— Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 13, 2011
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