SunJack Solar Charger – Product Review

SunJack1 (5)I had the opportunity to test out the SunJack portable solar charger.  

What is the SunJack?

It is a portable solar charger by GigaWatt that can charge any USB device – phones, tablets, GPS, cameras, speakers, lights, and more.

Here is how it works:

The SunJack harnesses solar energy for direct charging or it can store power in a removable UltraSlim battery for use 24/7, rain or shine. After only 5 hours of direct sunlight, the 14 watt SunJack can power either 4 iPhones, 0.7 iPads or 8-9 hours of LED light using the SunJack USB CampLight. Unlike many other chargers, the SunJack kit includes a 1-2 batteries enabling you to simultaneously power 4 to 6 USB devices at a rate equal to on-grid charge speed (2 Amp).

Here is the SunJack right out of the box.

SunJack1 (2)

It comes with the four solar panels with USB charging unit, the battery pack, two carabiners and instructions for use.

I tried it out by leaving the SunJack outside on a small coffee table exposed to direct sunlight.

SunJack1 (3)You plug the battery to the charging unit and leave it alone in direct sunlight.

I left it out there for three hours

After three hours, I checked on the charge and found it was almost fully charged:

SunJack1 (1)There was only one more light indicator not lighting up at this point.    I asked my contact at SunJack about this and here is what he told me:

The last 20% charges a little slower to protect the battery and maximize the battery life. This is characteristic of Lithium batteries charge circuitry. Most likely if the battery is left in full sun for 5-6 hours the last led would also light up. 4 hours in full sun usually gets the battery 80% charged. Note this also occurs with iPhones as they charge to 80% really fast then charge speed slows down for last 20%.

It does make sense, as my own phone does the same thing.  After the final two hours, the fifth one lit up.

After the SunJack was fully charged, I charged up my phone and was pleased that the SunJack charged as quickly as am electric wall plug.  I’ve tested other solar chargers and the charging time is much slower than this one.  Granted, it was a smaller one with only three panels, but regardless, I was impressed at the fast charge of the SunJack.  Using the fully charged battery, I was able to charge my phone four times

The SunJack would be handy while camping to power up small devices – you can harness the power of the sun since you are outside already.  I think the SunJack is a great backup power source in the event of a power outage, or other emergencies.  As of this writing, it is available for $145 on Amazon and is currently on sale for $135 at LPC Survival.  The SunJack is well worth it.

 

An Ideal Stove for Outdoor Cooking

Long time readers know I am always on the look-out for lightweight portable stoves to test out, having had less than stellar results in the past. Living in an apartment in the city, we cannot deny the possibility we may have to bug out if there were an extended emergency.  In addition, we enjoy camping and backpacking, and a lightweight stove is a must.

Sole Stove box

I was excited to try out the Solo Stove.  It is a small, portable stove that uses biomass (twigs, dried leaves, etc) for fuel.  Not needing to bring special fuel is a big advantage:  since you can easily find branches and twigs, you are not adding weight to your bug-out bag.

Assembly

The stove is very easy to assemble:  just set the cooking ring on top of the stove so that the prongs are on top.  That is what your pot will rest on.

Starting the Fire

1.   First, collect your fuel:  in our case, Mr. Apt Prepper gathered up twigs, dried leaves and a few acorns out in the back of our building.  Place the twigs in the stove chamber.  The twigs or wood pieces should be roughly two to three inches in length.

Sizing Sticks for kindling for Solo Stove2.  Make sure the stove is on a level area, away from the wind.  We just set it on a  paving stone.  The Solo Stove’s instructions can be found here.

3.  Start the fire.   It would have been easier to use firestarter, but we wanted to see how it would perform by just lighting the fuel using matches.  The dried leaves caught fire instantly and in a couple of minutes, the rest of the twigs were burning nicely.

Burning leaves in Solo Stove  4.  We set a pan containing two cups of water on the stove.  We continued to add twigs to the fire.  The water started to boil in about 10 minutes, which is a lot faster than I’ve experienced with a regular campfire.

Pan on Solo StoveCleaning

Once the fire has died down and stove has cooled completely,  all you need to do is empty out the ash.  Since the fuel is all organic, you don’t need to worry about polluting the area.

Ash inside Solo StoveA bit of soot may cling to the stove but it is easily wiped off.

We put the stove through the paces and it performed well.  Mr Apt Prepper kept an objective eye over the test.  If we had to come up with an area of improvement it would be to provide more detailed instructions for the inexperienced portable stove user.  One thing that is not obvious to a new user is gauging the amount of fuel that is needed.  Using dried twigs, the stove did not give off much smoke at all, which is great for a bug-out stove, when you don’t want to attract a lot of attention with your cooking fire.   For those readers who are inclined to “do-it-yourself”  there are many plans found around the internet that provide instructions on how to make one.

 

 

For beginning preppers

Backpacking Stove Test

At my last post we discussed backup cooking methods when there is no electricity http://wp.me/p1dmhM-pv.   We purchased the backpacking stove for two reasons:  we would like to go backpacking one of these days, and we also wanted a lightweight stove in case we have to evacuate in an emergency.

It was still in the box with the rest of the supplies so we needed to test it.  When you are in the midst of an emergency the last thing you’d want is to find out your equipment does not work.    The fuel canister appears in the photo but it is not included in the box.

It is a separate purchase.  The fuel that goes in it also is separate.

Kerosene would also work on this stove.

Following the step by step instructions, you pour the fuel into the canister and attach the hose and pump to the fuel canister.  You had to pump the canister 20-30 times depending on how full it is to create pressure before attaching it to the stove.  You also had to assemble the stove and lay it on top of an aluminum heat reflector.  Once you had it all connected, and properly adjusted, you light the wick of the stove and the flame comes up yellow.


After a few minutes the flame turns blue and it is ready to use.

I think I would keep these instructions close to the stove, as I don’t think I would remember everything.  During the test, I noticed the stove does give off a distinct fuel smell so we had to throw open all windows and turn on the fans.  These little stoves are definitely for outdoor use and I do not recommend using them indoors.

Solar Battery Charger Test that Failed

A couple of days ago I was all excited to test a new solar battery charger we had purchased.  Per instructions I loaded it with four rechargeable batteries I had in the battery drawer.

I left the solar charger in the window sill under direct sunlight for about five hours.  Then I plugged in a drained iPod to see if it would charge it.  Well… nothing happened.   Perhaps I didn’t leave the charger under direct sun long enough.  I move it to another sunny window left it out for another three hours.  Again, nothing happened.   Read the instructions further and found I followed them properly.  So I replaced the rechargeable solar batteries with regular Duracels and sure enough, the iPod started charging.   The solar batteries weren’t charging, but the charger was working fine.  So I looked for the battery package and checked if it had a date.   The date on the package said 12/1/2006!   Arggghhh – five year old solar batteries!  Of course they didn’t work, they were beyond expired.

The moral of the story is, check those expiration dates!  I went and picked up some fresh rechargeable batteries.  I will repeat the test on the new solar battery charger and will post the real review soon after.