Hands-on Gear Review

Compare solar charger ratings side-by-side >

SolarMonkey Adventurer Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Solar Chargers

  • Currently 3.4/5
Overall avg rating 3.4 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: December 29, 2013
Street Price:   Varies from $95 - $117 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Light, simple, charges tablets, internal battery, good low light performance.
Cons:  Can't charge multiple devices.
Best Uses:  Backpacking, sailing, hiking, car camping.
User Rating:     
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (1.7 of 5) based on 3 reviews
Recommendations:  0% of reviewers (0/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Solar Monkey
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 20, 2013  
Overview
This is our favorite compact solar panel for charging iPhone/smartphones and iPads/tablets. It is only rated to three watts of power (a relatively small number) but that doesn't seem to matter. This is due to the effectiveness of the panel and the integration with the built-in battery. What stands out about this panel is it just works. That may sound simple enough, but we have found that most small panels this competes with come with little annoying quirks and reliability issues. Best of all, it almost always charges whether an object passes between the panel and the sun or there are a lot of patchy clouds. The only reason not to get this panel is if you are on a tight budget. In that case, we would recommend the Bushnell Bear Grylls SolarWrap Mini which is less than half the price and our Best Buy winner. The SolarWrap is even lighter and more compact. Check out our complete Portable Solar Review to see how this panel performed against others.

Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >

  • Photos
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge


OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

What stands out about this panel is the built-in battery. It is so thin that you barely notice it; this panel is more compact than similarly performing panels without a battery. That is why we included it in this review of panels that generally do not have batteries. In some sense it is not fair to compare it against the competitors with no batteries. But we felt that the Adventurer was so compact and versatile it needed to be in the review.

Performance Comparison
SolarMonkey Adventurer in the included case.
SolarMonkey Adventurer in the included case.
Credit: SolarMonkey

Output Power
This panel is a great example of why it's not just the watt rating that determines the effectiveness of the panel. It is only rated at three watts but performed better than many panels with much higher watt ratings. For example, the Goal Zero Nomad 7 is rated to seven watts but will not charge an iPad and consistently lost the charge to our iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. The SolarMonkey charged our iPhone about one percent every minute, or a full charge in about an hour and half. This is par for most solar chargers. But most importantly, it never lost the charge. It can be extremely frustrating when you lay out your panel and phone for an hour and come back only to see that 10 minutes into charging, the phone lost its connection.

Best of all, with the built-in battery you can continue to charge your device once the sun goes down. The 2500mAh battery has enough capacity to recharge most smartphones 1-2 times. You can also easily clip the panel outside your pack and get a charge while hiking. You can also pre-charge the battery from your computer or a wall socket using the included USB cable.

While you can only charge one USB device at a time, there is a workaround. If you buy an inexpensive external battery with two USB ports, you can charge that battery with the panel while two devices are charging from the battery. These batteries range in cost from $30-50.

Storage
A great benefit of this panel is it doesn't need a storage bag. There are no cables or adapters to keep track of other than the USB cable that you use with your phone or tablet. That said, it does come with a lightweight storage case. The case is big enough to hold your phone, charging cable, and any extra adapters you need. The case also is designed with a few loops that make it easy to hang the panel from a carabiner, tree branch, string or hook.

Click to enlarge
The SolarMonkey Adventurer just barely fits in a jeans pock for charging while walking. It easily fits in most jacket pocks.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Ease of Use
This panel could not be easier to use. You just flip open the clamshell design and point it towards the sun. There is a direct USB plug which means you don't need any extra adapters to charge your phone or tablet. A benefit of the clamshell design is that you can sit it on a flat surface and orient half of the panel perfectly to the sun for maximum charging. With most other panels it can be difficult to get the panel perfectly perpendicular without using a variety of objects or string to hang it just right.

Click to enlarge
The two ports on the solar monkey adventure. USB and the input so that you can pre-charge the battery from your laptop or the wall charger.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Weight
This is one of the lightest panels we tested. More importantly, it is one of the most compact. It is almost small enough to fit in your jeans pocket. It is small enough to fit in most jacket pockets. Because it has the internal battery, this means you can easily charge your phone while hiking.

Best Applications
This is the ideal panel for charging a smartphone, which is what most people want a portable solar panel for. It is great for backpacking as well as just keeping with you no matter where you are. We have use this solar device deep in the Sierra backcountry as well on as plane flights.

Value
This device is not cheap. That said we really enjoyed its performance, light weight and compact size. If you use this a lot in the backcountry like we do, then you should get a lot of long-term value from it.

Conclusion
If you are mainly charging a cell phone or a tablet this device is hard to beat. It is just so compact, simple and effective. The only reason not to get it is if you're looking for a less expensive option or you need more power. In that case, we recommend checking out our full portable solar review to see the other options.

Other Versions
The much bigger version is called the PowerTraveller SolarGorilla. It is large enough to charge a laptop. A very similar product is the PowerMonkey Extreme. This is similar to the SolarMonkey Adventurer but comes with an extra 9000 mAh battery for an additional $70. Considering that most batteries of that size can be found for $30-$40, we would probably just combine the SolarMonkey with a battery like the RAVPower 10400 mAh pack

Chris McNamara

Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >

Where to Buy?


Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 29, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (1.7)

0% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 25%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 50%  (2)
1 star: 25%  (1)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Dec 29, 2013 - 01:41pm
The Solar Monkey Adventurer looks great, promises a lot and simply does not deliver.

Maybe I got one of those 'Monday Morning' SolarMonkeys but, whatever the reason, mine does not do what it says on the tin.

I charged it up in direct sunlight (winter, admittedly) for 2 days and it managed to charge my iPhone 5 by about 20% before running out of juice. I then plugged it in to the mains and powered it up fully overnight. This time it did charge up my iPhone, but only once. It ran out of steam less than 15% through the second charge.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Aug 3, 2013 - 01:01pm
Free · Skier · Tulsa OK
Your recommendation of the RavPower battery is a bad idea for the Solarmonkey Adventurer. This panel will not charge it. You can pre-charge the Adventurer, plug up the RavPower PB07, and it will suck the battery dry on the Adventurer in full sun and then the RavPower PB07 will quit charging. You have to unplug it and let the adventurer recharge itself, then resume. Also with little to no charge the Powermonkey Adventurer will not charge an iPhone 4 or a 4s. It will give the dreaded, this device is not compatible or whatever when you plug it up. This review is ditto for the Instapark 4s. It reacts the same, and sucks. I don't recommend either of them. I have no idea what to recommend either as I've tried recharging the RavPower with many different configurations. These panels with built in batteries react the same way a normal solar panel does when shaded when their batteries aren't charged.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 23, 2013 - 09:23am
mcbrady · Backpacker · New Braunfels, TX
I just returned from a week of backpacking above 10,000 feet with the SolarMonkey Adventurer in hand as the sole method of powering my GPS maps on an iPhone 5 and was disappointed to say the least. It would not charge my phone at all either after sitting in the sun for half a day or leaving my phone plugged into it for long periods of time.

I kept getting an error message, something to the effect of "this device is not supported by IOS". I have to imagine that IOS users are the largest target customer group, or close to it if not. I was left scratching my head how compatibility issues have not been addressed when both the iPhone 5 and current version of IOS 6 have been out for so long. Seems it would be a top priority.

I'm open to the idea I had a one off experience, the reviewers had good enough luck apparently, but mine was a full week of non-functioning cool hardware. I like the concept, seems well built, maybe some tech issues to sort out.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No


Have you used the SolarMonkey Adventurer?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Click to enlarge
SolarMonkey Adventurer in the included case.
Credit: SolarMonkey
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Amazon $95.01  -  32% off!
CampSaver $116.95  -  16% off!
Compare prices at 2 sellers >

*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
The Best Portable Solar Panel Review

The Best Portable Solar Panel Review

What is the best portable solar panel? To find out, we took eight top small PV's and put them in head-to-head tests.
Video video review
Helpful Buying Tips
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Subscribe to our Newsletter