Time to cut the cord on that laptop of yours and charge up off the grid. The 12- volt 18 watt Folding Solar Panel and 8 Amp Controller by Nature Power does just that. It comes with 10 adapter tips, which allow you to charge a wide variety of laptops. Unfortunately, it does not include one for Apple MacBooks, nor does it come with a 12-volt car cigarette adapter. This is something I would have thought to be a very simple, inexpensive, and useful thing to include. It does, however, include a battery clamp adapter cable, which allows you to hook the solar panel directly up to your 12-volt car, trailer, boat, or motorcycle battery. An 8 Amp charge controller is also part of the package, and it regulates the solar panels max voltage down to 13-14 volts. This is highly recommended if your laptops or other gadgets can’t handle 18-volts. I recommend some kind of battery hooked up between your laptop and this solar panel to regulate the power as well as to tide you over during those shady days.
The solar panel weighs in at 2 pounds. When folded up, the dimensions are 7×6.6×2”. When unfolded, it measures 27x15x0.2”. A 12” wire is included so you can find a spot in the shade while the solar panel remains in the sun. The fabric the panels are set in is a rugged and weather resistant canvas. A nice touch with this solar panel is the inclusion of metal grommets at each corner that can be used to attach rope or carabineers. These come in handy when laying it on the ground will not do and a more creative positioning is necessary.
One major issue I ran into while testing was that after a week or so in the sun the panels started to exhibit signs of bubbles forming in the solar cells. Though I don’t know for certain the cause, I believe it is due to overheating from extended exposure to the sun on very hot days. This is quite problematic for a solar panel since they are fairly dependent on being in the sun to fulfill their purpose. It has been several weeks since the bubbles began forming, and they seem to get progressively worse the longer they are left in the sun. This has not yet stopped the solar panel from functioning or even caused any drop in performance. Though, I do believe that after a few years of steady use, the solar panel will slowly become less efficient as the bubbles start to impair the suns rays from reaching the solar cells below.
During testing of the Nature Power 18W solar panel, I found it to be very capable of keeping my spare 12-volt car battery topped off. Combined with a car cigarette clamp adapter cable attached to the car battery (that fortunately I already owned), I was able to power/charge a wide variety of devises from the solar panel battery combination. For several weeks, I was able to charge my iPhone, ham radio, AA batteries, several cameras and various other gadgets. Upon inspecting the 10 charging tips that were included with the panel, I found that one of them perfectly fit my Yaesu handheld ham radio. What luck! Many of the included “laptop” plugs are really just generic plugs and can potentially be used for other 12-volt gadgets they may fit. Later, I successfully tested the panel by keeping a camper trailer battery charged on a two-week camping trip.
To sum things up, I think this is a decent fold-up solar panel to have if you have a non Apple laptop and/or you want to hook it directly up to some kind of 12-volt battery system to be trickle charged. If you were planning on hooking your cellphones car charger up to it, wanted to keep in on your dash and plug it into your cars cigarette lighter outlet, or wanted to charge your Apple MacBook from it, then you better enjoy soldering and making your own adapter cables because this panel doesn’t come with anything like that. It does exactly what it says it does. I just wish it came with a few more adapters that come standard on many competing panels in this class. The bubble issue might also be a big turn off for many people and could prove to be a big problem in a year or so. This really shouldn’t occur on a product so quickly when it has a $100+ price tag like this.
- Comes with 10 laptop adapters and can directly charge them from the sun
- Can directly connect to a car battery with included clamp cable
- Folds up small enough to fit in most backpacks
- Great for trickle charging small trailer or car battery
Power controller included
- Able to directly charge a Yaesu handheld ham radios
- Doesn’t come with a car cigarette lighter adapter port
- Doesn’t come with USB port or adapter cable
- No adapter included for charging Apple MacBooks.
- Solar panel started forming bubbles
- Power controller not built in and doesn’t fit in the built in pouch
Amazon Price: $141.35
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