When it comes to powering things with solar – be it for camping or in an emergency – I’ve always been cautiously optimistic. I’ve had some inexpensive solar panels, and those proved the adage of “you get what you pay for” as they were, to put it kindly, junk. Then there’s the emergency radio we looked at recently, and there the panel worked as it was needed. So, perhaps these panels from BioLite are actually what I’ve been looking for.
For this option, you’ve actually got a choice of two from BioLite – there’s a 5W panel (for $89.95) or a 10W foldable panel for $139.95. Both of these have a built-in battery (3,200 mAh for both) so you’re not required to be directly hooked up to harvest the electrons when they’re hitting the panel.
One problem you can often have is getting things oriented to take full advantage of the sun. For this, BioLite has put a clever solution in to help you orient things. In the orange bit across the top (which is where I presume the battery is) there’s a clear circle with a dot printed on it. That will case a shadow, and you want to get that as close to the center of the cross-hairs as you can. Do that, and you’ve got your best alignment.
Additionally, BioLite has built in a wire stand that can both be a kickstand, or to be hung up from a tree or pole, whatever you need. I also spy some grommets at the lower corners of the panels, which means you could get clever with some cordage or even semi-permanent hooks on your gear to set the panels in place.
The big thing, of course, is going to be the efficiency of the panels. That’s just part and parcel of looking at solar-powered products. Of course, doubling the panels (with the 10) is going to double the amount you’re generating, but we’d have to go looking for real-world experiences out there to see how well the panels perform. You can check them out over at biolitenergy.com