Gear Review: Powermonkey eXplorer Portable Solar Charger

Bringing consumer electronics on the trail is always a tough decision.  There are so many to choose from: GPS devices, MP3 players, cell phones, avalanche beacons, VCRs, and others.  Survival and entertainment are the two contributing reasons to lugging all that hardware around the backcountry.  Powering that junk is an entirely different issue, especially when packing additional batteries.  Batteries suck.  They’re heavy and not exactly a “green” product – no matter how long they last.  Disposing of “dry” batteries is a nightmare.  Remember, leave no trace – what you pack in, pack it out.  Replace the dependence on the Energizer Bunny with a solar-powered charger.  In this case, use the Powermonkey eXplorer to rule your outdoor electronics.  Go solar on the trail!  Stellar!

The Powermonkey eXplorer is a necessary, “don’t leave home without it” item in my gear arsenal.  I love it.  I’m able to charge my MP3 player, cell phone and GPS device while hiking, trail running or snowshoeing.  Beauty!    

Each Powermonkey has a kit, which includes:

•Portable charger
•Portable solar charger
•Universal main charger, which will work in more than 150 countries and has interchangeable heads for the UK, Europe, U.S. and Australia
•Compatible tips for Nokia and mini Nokia, retractable USB cable, micro USB, mini USB, Samsung G600, iPod / iPhone tip, LG Chocolate, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson wide connector, Female USB, DC4.0 for Sony PSP
•Storage case
•User guide

The charge offers 96 hours of standby power on mobile phones, 40 hours on the iPod, five hours on a games console, 48 hours on a PDA, and six hours on MP3/MP4 players.

The real kicker to the Powermonkey’s versatility is the option to power directly from the portable solar charger (also known as the Solarmonkey), or directly from the eXplorer.  Here’s the difference between the two: The Solarmonkey is a folding solar charger and the eXplorer is a large portable battery/charger.  Any electronics device can be charged by using the Solarmonkey (which utilizes the energy from the large, bright star that makes life possible on Earth).  Or, the eXplorer can step in and charge at will.  

Of course, the eXplorer will need to be recharged once its battery life has been depleted: via the Solarmonkey portable solar charger, the universal mains charger, or via the USB connection.  Think of the eXplorer as a backup generator.  On the trail, the Solarmonkey is the weapon of choice – using the sun as its source.  At home or at the office, the main charger or USB connector can replenish the eXplorer.  The keyword here is flexibility.

To reduce charging time, it’s wise to turn off the eXplorer’s LCD screen – a nice feature that displays battery life and other information.  It also features short-circuit protection, over-charging protection and anti-discharging protection.  Very, very cool.  

The Solarmonkey includes a useful Velcro strap, so it can be attached to just about anything.  I was able to latch it onto my backpack.  While hiking around, my cell phone was charging comfortably using the eXplorer and my iPod charged using the Solarmonkey.  I am from the future!  

Additional features:

•Water resistant
•Made from rubberized casing
•Lightweight and versatile
•Available in four colors: blue, grey, pink and yellow.  

For more information on the PowerMonkey eXplorer, visit

About the author


Ryan Alford