As technology advances, so does the need for energy to power all of that cool gear. Obviously having some spare batteries handy can make all the difference, but what if we’re talking about a cell phone and or a tablet, things that use rechargeable batteries. Last I knew, most people still don’t carry around backup batteries for their phones.
One example might go like this, you’re camping deep in the woods and you forget to turn off your cell. Now that you’re out of reach of the nearest cell tower, your battery drains twice as fast while the phone searches hard to find a cell tower to connect to. I’ve done this a few times and I can safely say that it takes just a few hours to go from a nearly full battery to having a useless brick sitting in your pocket. That being said, having the ability to charge your electronics will in the field can become a very inviting prospect. Enter the Rothco Military MOLLE Foldable Solar Charger.
For those who don’t know, Rothco has been around since the late 1950’s and they sell a very large variety of military clothing, outdoor and public safety gear and other related items as well. You can almost get lost looking at all the cool stuff on their website. For this particular review, I received their MOLLE Compatible Folding Solar Charger, and I was pretty pumped to get it outside and start testing it out.
My first impression foldable charger was the quality of the canvas material used. The body is made from a rugged synthetic material that you might find on other military-grade packs or canvases. Dirt seems with wipe of easily and small water spills are easy to wipe off. There’s really not much more that can be said about the material itself, other than it would certainly not be easy to wear or puncture it in any way. All of the edges are double-stitched and the stitching itself is clean with no pulls or strings hanging off.
As the name suggests, you get two long MOLLE straps that run down the middle of the back part of the case (when closed). Like most of today’s tactical packs and vests, you probably already know that MOLLE equipment is designed to be easy to attach, unattach and carry a load easily. To test the carry system, I got my favorite tactical pack, a Drago Tracker, and utilized the build in PALS webbing to attach the panel. As expected, it attached well and didn’t add any weight to the pack itself.
To keep the unit closed when not in use, Rothco has added two sturdy straps that pass through a plastic buckle and flip up to be snapped shut. It’s a good system for keeping everything in place, plus you could snap the closure around a tree branch or even to the back of your pack if you are hiking and would like to keep you electronics charged and ready. I thought it was pretty neat when I hung the panel from a long branch and had the panels facing towards the sun and my Android Smartphone plugged into it. The charge was a little slow due to the lack of a strong sun, but it worked.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a ton of knowledge in the solar power industry, so I can't tell you a lot about the actual panels themselves that come with this unit. According to the manufactures website, you have 5 volt / 320 MAH times four pieces. So unless my math is wrong, when conditions are ideal, you're looking at around 1000 MAH, peak. That's easily good enough to charge any smart phone, tablet, iPod or anything of the like with a compatible USB slot. The connection to the charger is provided by a standard female USB slot. Just remember to pack the proper cords when you're getting ready for your adventure, the solar panel becomes very useless if you can't hook it to your device..
Charging times vary in a big way. During a full-on sunny way with no clouds, I was able to charge my Samsung Android Smartphone (starting at 1/4 battery) in just under two hours. Not too bad considering my phone holds a pretty big charge. Without full sun, your charging ability greatly diminishes fast. If you have clouds covering the sun in any way, you may as well forget about it. UI was able to get a somewhat unstable charge with the sun peeking through the clouds, but still pretty bright. It would have taken most of the day to charge at that rate, but that's better than nothing at all.
The dimensions for the unit are as follows, when closed completely, 9.5" X 5.1" X 1.5". Unlatched and fully open, you are looking at 23.73" length X 9 3/8" width. Like I said earlier, it's so light; you forget it's there when packing it
When all is said and done, I would recommend this to the adventurer or the prepper who wants to keep their portable handheld electronics charged while away from an electrical outlet. When you have full sun, this charger is pretty amazing and does just what it advertises. With little to no sun, you're better off keeping your gear turned off and using it as-needed. A quick seach on some popular reseller sites lists the Rothco Black Military MOLLE Solar Charger at $78 and it goes up from there. I would say it's worth the price and think that it's good to have around. I very special thanks goes out to Camping Survival for allowing us to review this charger. Check out their huge line of indoor and outdoor gear.
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