Tag Archives: solar

Freeloader Pico – Cheap, portable solar charger

I was wondering around my local Maplin store and stumbled across a new gadget taking advantage of the sun.

Now if you read my blog frequently, you may be aware that I’m a big fan of solar gadgets. I love the fact that I can get free electricity for my gadgets with help from cheap(ish) solar technology.

This gadget is called the Freeloader Pico. It’s very clever because it’s no bigger than a standard mobile phone (if not a tiny bit thicker) yet it holds an 800mA battery and a 75mA solar panel. You can charge the battery via the solar panel or from a mini USB input. It can take as little as 10 hours to charge from the sun and 4 hours to charge over USB.

Once charged, it will charge a gadget for between 30 minutes and an hour. What makes it stand out for me is that it delivers it’s output via a standard USB port, meaning you can charge almost any device that supports USB charging.

It also comes with four output plugs and you can buy more online.

I think it’s great. I can carry it around in my pocket and get it out when I need juice. It charges fairly quickly from the sun and provides quick, efficient power. It’s ideal for walking trips or long trips without access to the plug.

Charge your gadgets for free… while you’re on the move – with the Black Hills Outdoor Solar Backpack (review)

Black Hills Outdoor Solar Backpack

I finally have my solar backpack – have been wanting one for ages. I just love the idea of being able to charge all of my gadgets for free, with the bonus that I can basically be doing whatever I want – whether it’s walking, cycling – whatever.

Anyway, I bought the Black Hills Outdoor Solar Backpack because it basically did exactly what I wanted. And at £49.99 it was hardly expensive.

It arrived in 3 days – ordered June 30th and it arrived today (July 3rd). It arrived it good packaging – no signs of damage in transit or anything like that. I was very pleased to find that they hadn’t wasted time and resources with stupid packaging – it was simply wrapped in a plastic sheet, which was in the postage bag. I hate companies that ruin the environment with pointless amounts of packaging, as you can probably guess.

I opened the back and I found the 17 adapters, battery back, and instructions. The adapters cover most phones and gadgets. It charges my Nokia 3120 Classic, PSP and my iPod Touch 2G very well so I’m very pleased with that. Sometimes the iPod Touch’s charge takes a little while to initiate and requires a bit of fiddling with the adapter, but it works well once it is connected.

Charging a device is very simple. You simply connect the charging cable to the ‘OUT’ socket, and then the adapter onto the charging cable. Then you just turn the switch to the 5.8V setting and off you go.

The solar panel is about the size of a 6″x4″ photo, so it isn’t huge, but on the other hand it catches light very well and is pretty efficient. You can tell how much energy is being captured by the solar panel with the LED on the battery pack. If you connect the solar panel up to the ‘DC IN’ port on the battery pack, the LED will show how much energy is being captured. The brighter the LED is, the more energy is being captured.

The backpack also comes with a USB cable for charging the battery by USB, and a wall adapter for charging via the mains. This is useful because you can charge the battery before you go out, so you always have power available even if there is no sunlight.

Another cool thing is that you can charge the battery pack and charge a gadget from the battery pack at the same time. This means you can have the solar cell charging the battery pack, and have the battery pack charging your gadget.

There is also a bright LED torch on the battery pack, which is not particularly big, but can light up small areas if required. I don’t really see the point of this, but it is an outdoor bag so I guess it could come in handy.

BHO say that the solar cell is waterproof and the bag is splash proof. I haven’t tested this personally, but it’s good that I don’t have to worry if it rains.

Overall, I’m really happy with the backpack. For £50 it’s very good value for money (solar cells aren’t cheap at the moment), plus it has a years warranty if it stops working for whatever reason. It will definitely come in handy for me, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to be outdoors.

I’ve posted up a photo gallery on Flickr, so you can have a look at the product for yourself.