One of the major hassles of bike touring is keeping those small electronic gadgets now so crucial to modern life charged and functioning. What's the point in a traverse of Wales by bike if you can't tweet about every minute detail to your followers, or keep your tunes ready to go? Flippancy aside, it's good to know you can keep your mobile phone charged and ready for any emergency situation, especially if you're likely to be in an area lacking in passers by.
But, if you're camping, or touring abroad, it's hard to keep plugging a charger in when there's a less than reliable source of power. This is where a gizmo like the powermonkey-eXplorer comes into its own. The powermonkey-eXplorer comes as a package comprising three elements- the battery, the solar panel and the mains charger. With these three main bits you also get a vast array of connectors that should accommodate most small electronic items. It also comes with several main charger options for various countries.
The principle is that you can charge the battery unit off either mains or solar power, depending on what's available and store the charge for when you need to charge your gadgets, wherever or whenever that may be.
None of the components is heavy (Battery 80g/Solar panel 80g/Mains charger 94g) and all are compact and reasonably rugged. They are quoted as being shock-proof and water resistant, but I'd always be tempted to store them in a small waterproof bag for additional safety. If you're going to be travelling across Africa, you'd probably not need the mains charger, being able to rely on a steady supply of solar power, whereas for European or UK touring you might want to pack both, to take advantage of any opportunities to plug in as they arise. The choice is yours, and dependent also to a great degree on where you'll be staying. The mains supply while wild camping isn't that reliable!
It's incredibly easy to use. Charge times are slightly lengthy, but other than the mains charge for an empty battery being 6 hours, you're unlikely to be inconvenienced by it. Solar charging varies hugely depending on the amount and quality of sun. Charging times for various gadgets are quite different, but with an iPhone 4, I found the powermonkey charged the phone from empty to full in 3 hours, taking 1 full charge from the unit and leaving it empty. A handy little LCD display tells you how much juice your monkey has left and whether it's charging etc.
Aside from its obvious usefulness in maintaining the ability to keep personal electronic equipment up and running whilst on tour, the powermonkey also doubles up as a useful gadget for more mundane day-to-day duties. Many of today's phones and MP3 players suck up a vast amount of power and die quickly, some lasting an inconveniently short space of time. Charge up the powermonkey battery pack and carry it with you and you've got a useful on the go top-up for your phone etc, with no huge weight penalty, making it good for train journeys and flights etc.
Available in blue, yellow, grey and pink.
An effective and useful gadget for touring, and good for everyday life too.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Powertraveller powermonkey-eXplorer
Size tested: Blue
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Aimed at anyone venturing beyond a reliable electricity supply.
Perfect for bike touring, travel and anywhere where you might run out of juice for your phone etc
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Small solar panel
Powermonkey battery pack with LCD display
Mains charger with various options (for over 150 countries)
Connector tips for Nokia and mini Nokia, Retractable USB cable, Micro USB, Mini USB, Samsung G600, iPod/iPhone tip, LG Chocolate, Sony Ericsson wide connector, Female USB, DC4.0 for Sony PSP, Nintendo DSi
Well made and pretty rugged. Water resistant and shock proof but still advisable to not kick it around and keep it out of water.
Performed reliably and effectively. Straightforward to use as well.
Should last well if you look after it. Solar panel will eventually become less effective but not for a long time.
Good weight, especially if you leave the mains charger behind.
Great value for something you can use in day to day life as well as touring and travel.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Ease of use, construction, weight, size
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely. Especially for an adventurous tour.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes. And not just a cyclist.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Useful, compact and versatile gadget for any situation where an electricity supply is not a foregone conclusion and keeping gadgets charged is a must.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 1.65m Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.