One of the areas we like to continually monitor is portable power devices for folks that use electronic devices on their outdoor adventures. As much as I personally enjoy the outdoors, I do like the advantage of having the ability to use items like my Ipod, GPS, and cell phone (if necessary) while in the backwoods. One of the problems, though, is taking along extra power for those items. Brunton has been working on a number of solutions to this problems for several years now, and a couple of their most recent ones include their Solaris charger line and their Solo Batt Pack—both of which we recently reviewed. Even so, Brunton keeps pushing forward with new ideas, and I think they struck pay dirt with one of their new products for 2009/2010 that we saw at the recent Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.
The new Restore Personal Power unit from Brunton looks to be the flaship model of a line of products intended to help with the logistics of personal power needs in the outdoors. While I liked the Solo Batt Pack concept, one of its drawbacks was that it was intended for indoor use only. It wasn’t recommended to be used outdoors. To the contrary, the Restore system is actually has a ruggedized construction to help ensure it holds up under heavy outdoors use. The concept of the Restore is a two phase concept, and fairly easy to understand. First, there is an internal battery that is rated at 2,000 mAH. To charge that internal battery, you open the Restore’s case to expose the solar charging panels to the sun’s rays. Of course, the speed with which the battery charges will depend on the amount of available light. Once charged, you can close the unit for use at a later time when you need to charge a device with a mini-USB port. Such devices include PDA’s, phones, and GPS devices. For instance, when my Garmin 60CSx GPS unit is attached to a USB power source, the device switches to being powered from the USB source instead of the batteries. Though it will be powered by a USB source, the 60CSx will not charge batteries via that source. However, if I got in a pinch where the GPS batteries were depleted and I needed to use it, I could connect the Brunton Restore to the GPS unit to power it directly. I also have an XV6700 smartphone with a mini-USB port that can also be charged by the Brunton Restore. With just a little imagination, I have already figured out a way to easily charge my rechargeable NiMh AA batteries with this unit as well. So, it doesn’t have to be limited to just devices with USB ports.
As anyone who has used solar charging devices outdoors knows, it can sometimes be a little cumbersome to have to tie up your electronic device for several hours to charge it directly through a solar charging array. You have to time things just right to make sure that enough light it out to charge whatever device needs the power. So, while this is happening, you probably aren’t going to be able to use the device during that time. The upside to the Restore system is that you’re actually using the sun to charge the Restore’s battery, not your electronic device’s battery. That way, the power that’s in reserve in the Restore’s battery is always ready to be tapped by your electronic device–night or day. In essence, you can find a way to affix the Restore to the top of your pack to charge throughout the day while you’re moving about. Once you make camp that evening, you can then charge your phone or GPS while you’re doing other camp chores and getting ready for sleep. Doing the process this way keeps your device available for use during the daylight hours.
The Restore is a brand new product, so some information isn’t available yet like whether the internal battery is an NiMh battery or Lithium Ion or the length of the warranty. However, it has already been released that it is IPX 4 compliant (water resistent) and the solar panels are rated at 200 mA with both folded out for charging. Additionally, it also has a battery gauge that will help you know when it’s time to top off the internal battery so you’re always prepared. At an MSRP of $89.00, it’s a sure bet you’ll be able to get this item at a street price closer to around $60.00, and that’s money well spent to have instant access to power for your electronic devices no matter how far you are from civilization.
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