Thursday, 16 August 2012

SEARCHING FOR ENERGY......

For the next few weeks my posts will all be PRE-SCHEDULED as I am currently away on a family holiday. COMMENTS have been left on but will be delayed in uploading.........
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Following on from my last post and my search for a form of energy supply for various electronic gizmos when away on touring trips- I decided to go back to basics and look at what it is that I really need. 
Even with a hub generator I would still require a battery system to store the power as I cannot charge the Garmin 605 whilst it is in use. 
After careful consideration I decided that what I needed was something that was flexible.... something that I could use for both cycle packing and backpacking trips. 

That eliminates power hubs anyway and puts me back into the solar power arena...
As I mentioned in the last post I have been using a 'Free loader' solar charging system...
it's major shortcoming has been that after loading power to a  device once, it then needed a full charge again and if there is no sun, another power source had to be found usually in the campsite toilets...
Maybe what I needed was something that has a much larger power capacity than the Freeloader battery offered...... 

When I had the opportunity to put a 'PowerMonkey Extreme'  (PME) to the test, the first thing I did was to contact one of my Backpackers Club buddies-Mike McEnnerney- as I knew that he had one...He told me he was pleased with it, so I agreed to put one to the test and see if it would satisfy my requirements........First up the current retail price of the PME in the UK is £120......
POWERMONKEY EXTREME IN SAFETY YELLOW
 When the unit arrived I was initially a bit taken back by the colour....
My test unit was in what the manufacturers call 'Safety Yellow'....apparently it also comes in Red, Blue, Grey and Black. 
After I thought about it I decided that the yellow was a pretty good colour, bearing in mind the number of times I have mislaid black devices in the tent due to the black groundsheet, at least with Safety Yellow I won't ever be mislaying this bit of kit when on tour. 
Also in the box was a 'LightMonkey' light that is being included for free in an offer that the suppliers are curently running - I'll tell you about that little unit at the end of this post. 

The main unit contents of the box consist of:- 
9000mAh Lithium Polymer Battery Unit.
High Performance Solar Panel with velcro strap.
International Mains Charger for UK / USA / Europe & Aus
8 Mobile Device Tips for fitting to various devices such as my Garmin.
Zipped Travel Case & Tip Storage Pouch.
USB Charging Cable.

For those of you that are interested in such things some Specifications for you:-
Battery unit size is 155x62x29mm & it's weight is 254g
Solar panel sie is 170x91x18mm (folded) & it's weight is 212g
Input is 5v 600mAh ~2.5A
Output is USB port 5v 700mAh & DC port 2.1A
Energy is 33.3WH
POWER MONKEY EXTREME IN SAFETY YELLOW
THE LIGHTMONKEY - CURRENTLY SUPPLIED FREE WITH THE PME
The unit appears to be very well and solidly made and it all fits very neatly into a nice black zipped carry case....
There is no on/off switch... instead you have a 'touch panel'...you just swipe your finger across the panel or tap it depending on the activation that you require. 
There is also a LCD screen that indicates the current state of the unit by way of little blocks and colour, similar to that used to indicate a mobile phones battery state of charge ie: Switched on / Needs Charging / Charging Indication / Fully Charged. 
The unit can also be set to turn off after it has fully charged a device so you don't need to keep checking it.. 

This unit has what is called 'Self Sensing Technology' and will detect what is charging and chooses the appropriate setting, it is also Shockproof and Waterproof up to IP67 which is obviously a must  when using for backpacking or cycletouring.

When away touring I need to be able to charge my Garmin 605 and also my Android Phone... so the way I tested the unit was over a two week period I charged my Garmin after each of my daily rides (about 65 miles) and charged the phone when it's power fell to the 20% level....
As I have most of the apps turned off most of the time this meant the phone needed to be charged about twice a week. 

The PME was left charging everyday whether the sun was shining or not. 
The daily ride used under half of the Garmin's power which seems about right, as a fully charged Garmin will run for about 15 hours. 
When I am on a tour my daily cycling time is usually between 5 & 7 hours. 
Therefore I figure that even if there was no sun at all and therefore no solar charging... a fully charged PME could give me about 10 half charges of the Garmin.....

This all seems to equate to about 7 days real world charging of the Garmin and my Android without taking into account any solar charging aspect....
The PME can also be charged from the mains or via USB if you are unlucky enough to not have any sun at all for more than a week. 

At the end of the two weeks test, my Garmin and Phone were both fully charged and the PME was indicating 5 blocks on the LCD state of charge indicator compared to the 7 that it had started with....an extra days solar charging returned it to a fully charged 7 blocks.... 

This all indicates that for me and my requirements this unit could work....it seems to improve my previous charging ability from one day to seven days which is a huge improvement......

The LightMonkey which is included as a 'free' extra currently by the supplier, is another flexible bit of kit....
I was thinking of replacing my current head torch and this little fella fits the bill perfectly....
It can be used on a bike..... in the tent....as a head torch..... and comes with an elasticated head band...a DC extension cable...a rubber bracket and a magnetic holder so you have lots of permutations as to how and where you can use it...
The LED Luminance of the LightMonkey is listed as 80-110 Lum. What I can tell you is that it's a mighty bright little unit.

I already own a purple PowerMonkey Classic (PMC) which will power the light for 7-8 hours but if you were to use the PME it could power the light for 30-33 hours... 
My intention would be to use it as a head torch in and around camp and also in the tent and for that my PMC will be the perfect power source, it can also be re-charged from the PME if I need to.

All of this kit will now have a full 'on the road' test starting on the 8th September when I will be riding the Lon Las Cymru cycling route which runs from Holyhead in North Wales to Chepstow England, but more about that in a later post......

4 comments:

Paul said...

Trevor, what is the cost of the unit?

John Romeo Alpha said...

I'm interested in the backpack and bicycle mounting methods, since there's a clear tradeoff between size and convenience of mounting.

Trevor said...

*Paul*
Currently it is £120 in the UK Paul.

*JRA*
I will be covering the various mounting methods when I use the unit on my 'road' test in early September....I will include some photos of the item fitted for touring and also on a backpack....

Chandra said...

Trevor,
Your post came just in time, for I have been pondering about these units for a while now. I may buy one to test out.
Enjoy your vacation!
Peace :)