Bushnell PowerSync SolarWrap Mini Review

by Brian Mullin on February 1, 2014

Portable
and powerful, the Bushnell SolarWrap Mini solar power charger gathers
power from the sun to charge your USB-compatible mobile devices when
you’re off the grid.

The Bushnell PowerSync
is a compact, durable and lightweight solar panel system with an
integrated high-capacity lithium-ion battery. It comes in several solar
roll models that would be applicable for biking, including the SolarWrap
400 and SolarWrap 200, and the smaller and lighter $90 SolarWrap Mini
(shown above), which I tested since its the most ideal for
biking-related activities. They also sell two larger foldable systems,
the SolarBook 600 and SolarBook 850, which are better suited for camping
and backpacking. The SolarWrap Mini kit comes with the battery pack
with its attached flexible solar panel, an instruction booklet, two end
caps with elastic cords and an USB-to-micro-USB connecting cable.

Features
The
PowerSync uses an Amorphous Thin Film panel to collect solar power to
recharge the battery, and works in less than ideal conditions, and
doesn’t require a direct angle to the sun. The PowerWrap and Mini solar
panels roll back around the battery body for compact storage. The Mini
weighs 3.1 ounces and is 4.3″ x 1.25″ in size when rolled up, and has a
2200mAh Li-Ion battery that outputs 5V/1A and takes four hours to charge
from home or 10 hours from the 11.25″ x 3″ sized solar panel. Once the
battery is charged, you can hook up a USB connector to the battery and
do off the grid charging of a smartphone, camera, MP3 player, etc. A
nice benefit of their systems, is that you can simultaneously charge a
device and keep gathering solar energy to replenish the battery, albeit
at a slower rate. The underlying technology of this flexible and
thin-film photovoltaic (PV) was originally developed for the U.S. Army,
in which they needed a lightweight solar panel that was durable enough
to be deployed in harsh military field environments.

You
can attach the SolarWrap Mini to the back of your pack to recharge the
battery while out on the trail, or just unfurl it and lay it in the sun
or hang it from a tree at camp or during a break. I do wish they had
some sort of tie down locations or straps on the battery body for
attaching the unit to a pack during solar charging, though I did end up
using the end cap covers and their elastic cord as a workaround for
attachment purposes. Although the solar panels’s material is thin and
flexible, it’s still tough and durable, and the solar cells are
independently wired so that even if a cell or two gets damaged, the
charger can continue to function.

The
input end of the battery body has a micro-B USB port for charging the
battery, and an indicating light which is colored Red while charging and
Green when the charge has completed. The opposing output end has the
USB port that is used for charging the portable devices in the field.
Charging the battery via the micro USB port can be done by connecting
the cable to a home computer, an appropriate wall wart or a vehicle
outlet, and it takes between 4-5 hours to recharge a completely drained
battery. To charge from the solar panel, just unfurl the panel and place
it in the sun, and it takes between 10-12 hours to restore the battery.

The
solar panel is permanently attached to battery body, and the panel
wraps back around the body and closes shut with a hook-and-loop system.
The USB port ends on the battery body are protected from contamination
and abuse by a set of rubberized caps with an attached elastic cord.

Impressions
The
smartphone has become a workhorse of a device for all sorts of
activities, including the phone calls, fitness apps, GPS mapping, social
media, email, texting, camera, etc., and all of this usage can quickly
devour the battery levels. The Mini not only allows you to recharge the
portable media device like a normal battery backup system, but it gives
you the extra advantage of replenishing the battery pack’s storage via
the solar panel when required. This makes it an ideal candidate for bike
packing, multi-day and 24-hour races, on top of normal everyday use,
and it not only provides all the required media and fitness tools, but
it offers more security by have smartphone working during an emergency
situation. On most shorter trips, you’ll likely never need the solar
panel, since the battery can recharge your device without draining its
storage completely, while long trips and multi-day adventures, you can
reap the benefits and almost keep electronics running indefinitely,
provided you have ample sunshine.

It’s easy to charge your device
from the Mini, just plug the USB cable into the output port and wait
until the charge cycle has completed. Since the Mini is a fairly simple
device, it doesn’t have a metering system to inform you of the battery
pack’s current storage level, which is sort of a bummer. To charge the
battery pack, you plug in a micro USB cable into the input port, and the
other end to a home computer, wall wart or a vehicle. When you’re out
in the field, just unfurl the solar panel in the sun, and allow it to
replenish the battery’s storage levels. The panel has a small hole at
one end to hang it from a pack or tree, though it doesn’t have anything
on the battery end to attach to things.  If you lay the panel on the
ground make sure to stake it down or use something heavy so it doesn’t
get blown around in the wind. The battery pack’s indicator light glows
red when charging from either the USB or solar panel, and turns green
when the charging has completed.

You can purchase portable battery
power banks on the market with varying storage capacity, but they don’t
have the backup functionality of the solar charging, which is highly
advantageous. I found that it was best to not completely drain either
your phone or the Mini’s battery, and when following that scenario and
attaching it to my pack, I never had any battery level/storage problems
on anything. The size of the solar panel and its power output aren’t
exceptional, so don’t expect fast replenishment of the battery storage
levels. It’s not the cheapest recharging system, but the solar
collection technology, simplicity, and battery backup make for an ideal
package.

Bottom Line
The
Bushnell PowerSync SolarWrap Mini is a great compact and lightweight
solar power charger with an integrated battery. You can charge your
portable electronic device remotely in the field via the battery or the
solar panel. In addition, the battery itself can be recharged at home or
through the solar panel, taking approximately 4 and 10 hours
respectively, allowing a sort of perpetual fully charged state for all
the devices. The system is simple to use, and the panel can be easily
unfurled and attached to a pack during a ride to replenish the battery
if required. The heavy demands placed on a smartphone for mapping, and
fitness can quickly drain the battery of the device, making it no longer
useful for those activities and for emergency purposes, the latter
being the most valuable necessity.

The $90 SolarWrap Mini allows
in the field and off the grid charging of portable devices (smartphone)
via its integrated battery pack, along with the added benefit of a solar
panel to replenish the battery storage.

Pros

  • Light and compact
  • Easy and simple to use
  • Well-made and durable
  • Convenient recharging of portable devices and the battery via the solar panel

Cons

  • No gauge to indicate internal battery storage levels
  • No tie-down locations on the battery body for attaching to a pack

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