In our never-ending quest for the best products to keep us powered in the great outdoors, we came across Energizer’s new SP200 solar charging solution. We’ll take a look at it today and talk a little about this very promising new product from Energizer.
Not satisfied with just producing high quality batteries for your personal power needs, in the past few years Energizer has really jumped into the high end electronics marketplace with both feet. Back when I was young, battery companies made a few things besides just batteries, but they were typically cheaper, also-ran products that you wouldn’t necessarily rate as top-tier items. But, Energizer has come out with some innovative, quality products that add real value to the personal power and electronics marketplace. One of those new items is their Energi To Go SP2000 solar charger.
Now, before you get too agitated with me for looking at more tech stuff, I’ll have you know that I did my penance up front this past month by picking up two Puuko style knives. I felt that would keep me grounded for a little while as far as primitive tools out in the wilderness go. But, as Scott Wickham illustrated not too long ago in another outdoors power article, there are more than a few of us outdoor junkies that like to have some modern conveniences along with us. We do have to remember that not all outdoors folks are necessarily going for the primitive living method of doing things. They like to have their cell phones, Ipods, GPS devices and other portable electronics to keep them in touch and to entertain themselves in the evenings. Personally, my cell phone and Ipod is a must. I can not only make calls on my cell phone, I can also access our website via the net and maintain things remotely if needed. So, the SP2000 is really a nice item to have along the way to keep me up and running.
Energizer’s solar charger models are actually two products in one. Aside from just being a solar charger, the SP series house lithium polymer batteries. The main advantage here is that you can charge the lithium battery any time it’s convenient, and use it to charge your personal electronics. The version that Energizer sent us to review was their SP2000 which has a 2000 milliamp battery. Now, you’re not going to run your Mr. Coffee on it, but where things like cell phones and MP3 players are concerned, that’s a decent amount of power to have on hand. Additionally, Energizer uses the now universal USB standard as the platform for its charger. I have been standardizing more and more of my devices to work on the USB platform since it helps me keep the number of different cables and charging solutions to a minimum. Energizer has done the same by including a cable that plugs into the charger’s USB outlet on one end and has various tip options for your different electronic devices on the other end. That’s a pretty handy implementation, and worked well for me right out of the box.
When you first take the SP2000 out of the box, you’re instructed by the manual to charge the lithium polymer battery fully. I suppose that’s just to condition the battery, and it took about 8 hours to complete. There are five blue LED lights on one edge of the unit that gives you an idea of the charge level of the lithium polymer battery. Once that process is done, you can use the SP2000 on an as needed basis. You can either charge the battery via the AC adapter, or you can unlatch the solar cells and flip them open to charge via natural sunlight (that’s where the outdoors part comes into play). As soon as I got done charging the SP2000 the first time, I turned right around and charged a couple of my items with it just to get an idea of what I could expect in a normal charge routine. I charged my XV6700 cell phone and my Ipod, both of which were running very low on fuel. After I got done charging the two of them, the SP2000 was pretty much bone dry.
But, I wouldn’t take that as a sleight against the SP2000. When I got my XV6700, I picked up a heavy duty, extended capacity battery for it. I’d rather deal with a little extra bulk in the phone’s form factor than deal with running out of juice all the time. So, the fact that the SP2000 charged both it and my Ipod fully was actually pretty impressive. Once fully charged, I wouldn’t need to recharge those items again for several days, so that leaves the SP2000 open to power some of my other items as needed. Since the SP2000 was tapped, I set it out on a nice, sunny day to get an idea of the charge time needed to bring the lithium battery back to full capacity. I found that my experience paralleled the literature’s claim of 6 hours fairly closely. It wasn’t exact, but certainly close enough for government work. Again, your mileage will vary depending on the amount of available light during your recharge periods. And, to help you along with the process, the SP2000 has a solar tracking mechanism that helps you find the best position for charging the battery via sunlight. So, you’re not having to guess if you’ve got it in the right spot or at the best angle anymore.
Some of the other specs listed by Energizer include:
- 2000 mAh at 5V
- Lithium Polymer battery good for 500 charges
- Three solar panels (5.5V/150 mA each)
- PowerSafe Technnology for charge, temperature, and short circuit protection
- Built in power shut off mode to maintain longer charge life
- Guaranteed Tip availability for any wireless phone on the market.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to spend a tremendous amount of time with the SP2000. It’s a brand new product just hitting the streets and there were limited review samples available, so we had to turn it back around in just a little bit of time while coordinating its use with our other review items. That’s part of the reason we didn’t have more pictures of it in use–particularly in the outdoors. But, we got enough experience with it to get a good idea of its capabilities, and its weaknesses as well. Because of the short amount of review time, I didn’t get to really expose it to the elements in a real-world, wilderness adventure. But, after my years of dealing with different products outside, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of build quality and what’s required for something to stand up to getting knocked around on the trail. I really liked the SP2000’s platform, and its performance was right where I needed it to be as a viable personal charging solution for myself and the stuff I carry. However, I would throw one caveat in here to anyone interested in this product.
Energizer built this as a regular consumer item, and I don’t know or haven’t seen where it was actually targeted to the outdoors crowd. But, that’s an assumption I’m making based on it being a solar charging solution. I would suggest that if you’re going to take this item on a real knock-about adventure, that you go ahead and pick up a hard case to protect it while you’re out. Something along the lines you would see made by Pelican or Otter Box would suffice. I say this because the SP2000’s construction isn’t ruggedized, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking it out as is on most of my outings. I’d feel a little more at ease knowing it was inside a hard case for protection. By itself, the current construction might work just fine for the RV and car camping crowd, but I think it needs a little beefing up before going out to the wilderness on its own. In fact, for those hard core outdoors folks, Energizer might even consider how much it would cost to provide a ruggedized form factor that performs as well as the SP2000 does. Until that time, I’d suggest some form of hard case protection for you extreme sports advocates out there.
Aside from the caveat about protection from bumps and bangs, I liked the SP2000 a lot. Unlike some other solar charging solutions out there, you’ve already got 2,000 mA ready to go in the battery when you hit the trail (if you charged it at home). Once you’ve tapped that reserve, you can flip out the panels and set it out to charge at your convenience for further use as well. If you’re feeling really froggy, you could probably rig up something to carry the charger open on your pack so it can charge while you’re on the move. A couple of ranger bands or commercially available elastic straps might just do the trick to keep it secure on your pack. Just be careful when you unsling your pack to set it on the ground!
I’m really digging the direction Energizer is taking in bringing out some of their new products. They aren’t just mimicing other companies by bringing out “me too” items. We’ll illustrate that further with our review on their Night Strike line of LED lights early next week which we had a little more time to use and test out in the field. Energizer is putting some real time and thought into the products they are developing, and the SP2000 is just the latest example of their efforts. The SP2000 is a compact, portable charging device that allows different ways to charge its internal battery, and it also offers a large number of tip options to connect to your personal devices. Given its size, the SP2000 banks a good amount of energy, and is extremely easy to deploy for charging au naturale for those long trips away from home. I think they’ve got a winner here!