Solar Paper: a kickstarter success
I love modern technology and I really like the idea of being able to power my USB items from the sun–even if the sun has forsaken England. I’ve seen a plethora of solar panels on amazon, and it’s hard for people to know which one to buy. Many sales pages say things like “20 watt solar panel”, and it’s usually fictitious information or it’s true but the solar panel itself weighs a ton. In my opinion, there’s only a few viable options for the average hiker to consider. My research initially lead me towards the Suntactics S-Charger 5, and as the name suggests, it’s a 5 watt solar panel. Judging from the reviews by others–including those that have through hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (as I wish to do next year)–it’s a good solar panel. It’s rugged, powerful and portable. I got close to placing an order, and shortly after I saw a small advertisement for the Solar Paper–a Solar Panel that claims to be the worlds lightest. It was originally a kickstarter project and unfortunately I missed the savings to be had; I still believe Yolk charge a fair price.
The Solar Paper’s construction
The Solar Paper looks to be constructed of some kind of carbon composite. The edges are metal, and they sit flush with the panels. The metal is gold plated throughout, and on the top of the main panel sits a screen that displays the load current (not short current) of the item being charged. The screen is somewhat difficult to see but it is not something you have to sit there and stare at; furthermore, Yolk have stated they’ve improved the screen in their latest model.
The Solar Paper can be fully submerged under water and so long as you dry off the ports, it should function fine. This is particularly useful if you’ve tied it to your backpack and it starts raining. The solar panels are held together by magnetism, and by using the included plastic nuts and bolts, you can fix the panels together with a bit more strength–this is useful if you’re in a windy environment. The Solar Paper also comes with a rubber bung to fit the USB ports.
You can add multiple panels and also subtract panels, and on the back of each panel is a positive and negative terminal should you wish to connect a device directly to the panel and not via one of the two USB ports. For the average USB device, two panels is enough to charge something as efficiently as a wall charger–two panels produces roughly 5 watts of electricity. I’m likely going to buy a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 within the near future, and it has a quick charge feature; however, I’m not 100% sure what the maximum current draw is.
The individual solar panels are extremely lightweight ~ 62.65 grams, and the main panel weighs slightly more than the others~ 76.91 grams, or 2.2099137 ounces and 2.7129204 ounces. Therefore, three panels weighs 62.65 x 2 + 76.91 = 202 grams or 7.1 ounces. This is marginally more than what Yolk claim but it’s still very, very good and I can’t be 100% certain my scales are completely accurate.
The Solar Paper is a great purchase
It’s lighter than the Suntactics S-charger 5 watt solar panel but it produces roughly the same amount of power as their 8 watt model. I ordered the 7.5 watt Solar Paper and I’ve managed to get 1.6 amps (8 watts) out of it–it has only been tested in England. It works better than advertised and I am highly pleased with it. My Garmin Fenix 3 watch draws about 0.18 amps (it’s only a 300 mAh battery), and even during a completely clouded sky, the Solar Paper is able to charge the watch as if were plugged into a wall charger. I am going to get a small USB battery bank but this has definitely lowered my pack weight for the PCT.
The only difficulty I’ve had with the solar paper is attaching it to my bag, but that’s partly down to my frugal attitude. I insisted on trying to get thick paracord (glow in the dark paracord is a must have for anyone–seriously, you deserve it) I already owned to fit into the holes, instead of buying thinner paracord. I am considering buying some spare shoe laces and using them instead. They’re not as strong as paracord but they should be strong enough–the solar paper doesn’t weigh much.
If you’re interested in other small items for mirrorless cameras, you might want to check out the tripod I made; it weighs less than 100 grams.