Pocket solar chargers (for phones/gadgets/etc)


Creative Writer
I go camping from time to time and spend 12-14 days out without electricity. I've always told friends and family I will have my mobile phone on for an hour each day, a set time when they can all quickly reach me and expect text messages from me.

This year I spotted a charger being used in a BBC production by some adventuring sorts. This got me into researching them and what they could do for me.

Whilst I have looked at making an entire house solar powered and the obscene cost that goes with that, I didn't think a little device could do the job really. So here is where I get to test a portable device soon. I've bought the Juicebar solar charger. Found it on ebay packaged up new and paid £8 ($16) for it (retails for a fair bit more than that!)

I've found a shopping channel sales pitch for this unit:

It has a 1500mah rechargeable battery in it you charge up via the sun and then use that battery with a range of connectors to power up your devices.

I think my mobile phone has a 850mah battery. Not sure on my Sony MP3 player (don't even think the manual with that is going to tell me battery size) And there is a possibility on taking a Nintendo DS that can be charged with it.

Now, living in the UK the sun isn't the brightest admittedly. So this is going to be interesting finding out exactly how long it takes in the sun to charge the battery up fully................


I have been reading a lot of disgruntled people stating their various branded and non branded solar chargers haven't been working. If we disclude those forgetting to remove the protective transparent cover, those using the device behind UV blocking glass, not using the USB connector on a pc/laptop a few times to give the battery a good memory, with dodgy units (wiring/etc) then we have a base of people probably living in the UK wondering why their devices don't charge under our generally cloudy skies!

Needless to say, this is going to be an interesting time, although I will be trying to charge the battery a few times by USB and fully discharge it before moving on to solar powered charging prior to going away so I skip the screaming by taking it out blind. But I have my fingers crossed that this unit will be useful to me. I have used a unit for my old Pocket PC in the past that works similarly to this. The lightweight plastic device plugged into the unit and you put two rechargeable AA batteries in it to power the PPC and charge its battery.

I'll have to remember to post back how useful it is in a months time when it's been properly field tested.
Update: Adaptor issues

It turned out that my mobile phone does not have a connector in this pack. I have emailed the company but they do not supply it. I have seen another charger sold on ebay (only one mind) that appears unbranded but comes with an adaptor for my phone. They are charging a premium for it just because it has that adaptor. This situation sucks, thankyou Samsung for continuing to move the posts (mine is a Soul B - U800)

I also found that where the packet said it powers MP3 players, it means ones that have a mini-USB port on it. Not the stick type players that plug directly into a female USB port on your pc to charge and browse files.

Again, I went on ebay and have managed to find a small adaptor, female mini-USB to female USB for a couple of pounds sterling that I believe will do the job for both my phone and MP3 player. Unfortunately there was only one seller of the adaptor and they are based in HK, so I am waiting 5-15 days for delivery of the adaptor now if everything goes smoothly (they process the order and customs and excise don't jump all over it) I only have 12 working days left before I field test the unit properly and hope it arrives before then!!!

Update 2: More adaptor woes

The pack says it comes with a "Nintendo DS" adaptor. The sales video for the shopping channel in the first post shows the female host plugging in a DS Lite to the adaptor to charge. I didn't know that there are different adaptors for the DS, DS Lite and DSi. I just tried to recharge my sons DS and failed because the adaptor is the wrong one :( Seems there is a typo on the packet, instructions and sales pitch wherever the Juicebar is sold. They really, really should have written "Nintendo DS Lite" When you're spending £20 sterling retail on a solar charger that says it can charge a specific device and it can't then that's not exactly fair and honest sales practise.
Okay, the results as such! Two weeks at a festival in England where I was only trying to use the Juicebar for one mobile phone.

The device was charged up before going and I topped my phone up and two thirds of a friends after a few days there. Down to no charge and no light signifying charging the panel! I thought I had broken it but awoke from a lucid instructional video like dream the next morning belatedly remembering the tiny reset button. Into my repair kit for a sewing needle and the red light came on after inserting into the hole and I was highly relieved!

But we only had four days of glorious sunshine. So I ended up with half a mobile phone charge worth of power before the clouds came over and there were light rains. The reduced charging capability meant I was no longer getting enough charge to keep my phone on the go and I had to start turning it off on a night. Worse, Being aware that each time it rained I had to put inside further limited the hours the device was in the sun till I ended up putting the unit in a sealable sandwich bag.

The device has no lanyard hole. This meant I could not hang up and secure the device to my tent. I was in a community where crime is virtually non existent, although you still don't leave things around or opportunity thefts might occur. I wouldn't recommend the unit for a commercial festival for sure! With a lanyard hole I suppose I could tie the device onto me and walk round with it on, just look a bit daft to be honest, but needs must!

I had to resort in the end to giving the device to someone in a campervan who had a large solar panel and inducer with a usb slot to charge the battery up and get me through the rest of the festival. This disappointed me as I really hoped the device would keep my phone topped up and running 24hrs continuously.

If you then (in British climes) consider this device an emergency unit for occasional charges then you must also look at where it is safe to leave out in the sun, thinking of rain and theft. To put the device on a window sill or car dashboard means the glass doesn't let about 40% of the necessary rays through to the device. This would further reduce its power availability for charging uses.

So, to summarise. For a British user at any time other than the heart of British summertime this device will not keep a single mobile phone on the go. It has weatherproof and security issues where leaving it out in the sun is involved. You may be 'green' but in all honesty it is easier for many mobile phones to merely pay £5 for each additional battery from a safe dealer on Ebay and merely carry two or three of them with you (precharged) to last a fortnights festival. Less hassle all round and actually cheaper, smaller and lighter!
Pocket solar chargers for phones/gadgets/etc

Hmm where do i start. LaptopPhoneiPodSky HD box19" Polaroid HD TVXbox360Sony 3 disc cd playerLogic3 SoundSystem2 surround soundPure "Bug" DAB digital radioHP Photosmart 3210
And thats my daily use, could include things at work, but I wouldnt call them gadgets