Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Durable, rollable, can link together multiple panels.
Cons: Expensive, not as compact as other foldable panels.
Best Uses: Rugged backcountry base camps where durability and connectablity are at a premium.
This is one of the most durable panels out there but it is way too expensive compared to other panels with just as much functionality for a fraction of the cost.
The Goal Zero Nomad 7 is a almost as versatile as the 9 watt SolarRoll but is much more compact and $120-300 less expensive.
If you do want a system that lets you link multiple panels, the Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Adventure Kit or the Goal Zero Sherpa 120 Kit are the way to go. They give you much more value per watt AND an awesome battery to store the power.
If you want a 12-14 watt system that is as light as the SolarRoll 14, we would much rather have the Sunforce 12 Watt Solar Panel. It is less than half the cost of the SolarRool 14, lighter, and more compact.
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
For this review we tested the 9 watt model. It also comes in 4.5 and 14 watt sizes. The 4.5 watt does not seem that useful as it is not powerful enough to charge many smart phones like the iPhone 4.
Solidly built, with moderate charging capacity, the SolarRoll 4.5 can charge smaller electronics even with some overcast. It survived nights out in the rain and fog unscathed, and is light enough to make expedition use feasible.
It stands out for its durability. There is no stitching to come undone around the cells. It was harder for us to scuff the cells than with many other panels.
It is possible to link together multiple panels for more output. This is especially critical if you are trying to charge bigger items like a laptop. Not many other panels other than the bigger Goal Zero panels give you this option.
It comes with a number accessories for charging different devices: multi-cord, 12-volt cigarette socket, alligator clips.
This panel does not fold up very small, especially compared to a foldable solar panel like the Brunton Solaris Solar Panel. It does come with a tube case that is the only truly waterproof case we tested. If you are short on space, you can fill the tube inside the rolled solar panel with your stuff. But otherwise, transporting this around involves having a bunch of dead space. If you lose the tube, you can wrap the SolarRoll around a water bottle.
The main problem with this panel is the price. Brunton lists the price of the SolarRoll 9 at $489. You can usually find it at most retailers for about half that. However, even at half off, this is still a lot more expensive per watt than just about anything else.
This review coincided with the installation and testing of an off-grid system at a reviewer's place on the coast. Here it was rainy, foggy, and downright miserable all winter long, and the shiny new installed system often hit the low-voltage limiter. When this happened, two things saved the day. The SolarRoll could charge an iPhone even with overcast skies, and a set of those Ikea UFO-looking outdoor lamps would cast a feeble glow for a few hours. Truly low-wattage living, but enough for lights and music. Which is all one actually needs to not feel like a cave dweller.
Brunton SolarRoll Promo Video
— Chris McNamara and Kevin Swift
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 9, 2010
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