Gadgets Off The Grid - EnerPlex Portable Solar Panel and Jumpr Battery/Charger

GadgetsOfGrid_Enerplex_Photo_OnBike
My crusty old 1998 KLR 650 with packing that would make Jed Clampett proud. The Kickr solar panel bungied to the top of my bedroll was well shaken and covered with dust, but it charged the gear—one at a time in the bag—like a champ!

The Ascent Solar EnerPlex Kickr Solar Panel ($129.99)
My KLR may be ugly and utilitarian, but it gets me from A to B no matter how tough the road between. Reliable and durable beat sexy every time in the wilds of Montana. And so it was with the Kickr solar panels and Jumpr charger, they just worked.

As the ride began, I strapped the Kickr to the top of my bedroll with a bungie net. All my electronics were stored in a small camera bag, each wrapped in a sock to prevent them from rubbing together, and one by one I would let them charge for a few hours sipping juice from the USB cable that ran between. I had intentionally used up about half the battery life on each piece of gear before leaving home, by the time I got to Bloody Dick cabin that first night everything was at full charge.

Testing for durability isn't easily within the scope of reviews like this, but I probably did 200 miles of dusty, bumpy dirt roads with the Kickr strapped atop my load, and it seemed to weather the abuse with ease. The only care I took was to wipe it with a wet cloth at the end of the day.

The Kickr has five panels that conveniently fold up into a roughly 7"x7"x0.5" lump that's easily stowed in a bag for travel. What makes this product unique is the thin-film Copper Indium Gallium (di-)Selenide (CIGS) solar cells which are bonded to a Polyimide (high temperature plastic) substrate. Previously solar cells have been brittle and very prone to breaking, the EnerPlex by Ascent Solar product has significantly changed that with this extremely durable design. With applications ranging from solar recharging phone cases, to roofing materials, to backpack panels, the company has netted numerous awards including the R&D Magazine "Top 100" award in 2010. More about the technology can be found in this CEO blog post; Wiki entry on Ascent Solar; and this R&D Magazine article.

GadgetsOfGrid_Enerplex_Photo_Charging

Nobody was going to sit in this chair, so I used it as a rack for all the bike straps, and a stand for the Kickr.

GadgetsOfGrid_Enerplex_Photo_AdapterThe four solar panels are about 11.4% aperture efficient, delivering 4.5Watts at 5VDC in full sunlight. The last panel has a small junction box enclosing power regulation electronics and having a standard full-size USB connector into which you can plug any of your portable device's USB charging cables.

Included with the Kickr is an 10" long cable with USB connector on one end to plug into the solar panels, and on the other end a very unusual connector with an Apple 30-pin connector, and both sizes of small USB connectors commonly in use—I thought it was a pretty cool adapter all on its own.

Most phones will charge in about 1.5 to 2 hours, and small tablets take about 4 hours in full sunlight. Normally I'd just throw it on the ground, plug in the device I want charged, and the prop up the panel with the device to angle it to catch the most sun, and to keep the device under charge a little cooler. The panel did get quite hot, but the materials are designed to easily take it.

Vacation Photo Interlude
GadgetsOfGrid_Intro_Photo_BeansAndDogs

Beans and Brats—two of campings "B" list. Others are beer, bourbon, bacon, and buns, among many others.

EnerPlex Jumpr 4400mAh Storage Battery ($49.99)(also available 7800mAh for $69.99)
GadgetsOfGrid_Enerplex_Photo_JumprThe job of the Jumpr is to act as a storage go-between for the Kickr panel and your other devices. While my other devices were in use playing music, I'd leave the Kickr charging the Jumpr. At night before I went to bed, I'd connect the Jumpr to the music speaker to charge it up. Then, first thing in the morning, I'd hook the Jumper up to the panel again to recharge it. By the third day I had the system down pat, and with the Jumpr recharging my portable player in my bag, I didn't even need to deploy the solar panels while riding. This system of panel and storage battery/charger worked great; in fact, I had to intentionally stop charging things so I could get the batteries run down below 50% to get a feel for how fast I could charge the gear.

The Jumpr has a single on/off button: a short push lights a handy flashlight LED, a long push turns the Jumpr on to charge other devices. A row of four blue LEDS indicate charge state and status.

Conclusions
The Kickr solar panel and Jumpr storage batter/charger pair rocked! I heartily abused them for hundreds of teeth chattering, dusty dirt road miles and they worked first time, every time. It easily charged my speaker, player, and phone; it was convenient and simple to use; and very importantly for camping expeditions, it was light and compact when stowed. I loved these two products, and I recommend them without hesitation.

Now, if you'd like, you can turn the page to read about a product that drove me bananas.

But first a...

Vacation Photo Interlude
GadgetsOfGrid_Intro_Photo_CandleLight

The brats and beans were so good I forgot to take a picture of them. Couple of more minutes after this and we were smoking cigars and playing Farkle.

COMMENTS
johnjen's picture

Woods cabin that is.

Like I've been there, or something…

Great write up

JJ

audiozerro's picture

Haha, I do love this sort of test! The UE Boom is really one of the good Bluetooth speakers out there according to most expert, perhaps even one of the top ones. I personally like mine a lot, and will take it with me next time I go camping to play music around the fire.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

We've seen numerous places together...from desert Oregon to the hiegths of the Sierras. 

Now dust the fesh of that bike and meet me in a pasture on Labor Day, YFF!

:wave

burhan11's picture

semua tak sama dengan yang di harga besi beton tapi kin menga sangat bisa

paul's picture

The software on the AK 120 (100) is godawful. The "playlist" function is useless (and a LOT of work!!).

I use the app, Discovr Music to put a playlist together and make a Smart Playlist in iTunes. I then make a folder on the AK120 and drag and drop the results. Playlist!

Love the form factor on the AK120 and AK100!

audiozerro's picture

Haha, I do love this sort of test! :) The UE Boom is really one of the good Bluetooth speakers out there according to most expert.. perhaps even one of the top ones. I personally like mine a lot, and will take it with me next time I go camping to play music around the fire!

doublea71's picture

Tyll,

Saw your trip route and noticed you opted out of Missoula. I used to live there and I want to mention a record store, Ear Candy Music, that is co-owned by an old friend, John Fleming. I believe it is on Higgins Ave and it seems to be going strong in its 16th year - maybe check it out the next time you make it into The Garden City. Montana truly is the last best place and I hope to return again some day. I love how you incorporate your love of the open road into your gear reviews and sort of take us along for the ride a bit. The pictures of Montana's scenery take my breath away because it is a place that still resonates with me and will until my dying day. Thanks for the good read.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I think I've been there before, I'll check it out next time I'm in Miss Oola.

And yes, Montana is an incredibly beautiful place. There aren't many places left in this country where you can ride hundreds of miles on dirt roads through the mountains without seeing another soul. Wish I had more room for all the pix I took. 

Limp's picture

You can afford thirty-odd Sansa Clips for the price of an AK120, and they even do playlists properly.

And MC 500 Ft Jesus? That's awesome!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

MC900 Foot Jesus stuff is not only great music, but it also seems to be VERY well recorded.  I use a couple of tracks as listening references.

Next time I think I'm just gonna load up my phone...no need for hi-rez on a BT speaker anyway.

veggieboy2001's picture

I picked up a cheap solar charger (that didn't work) for a vacation in Croatia last year. I knew this could be a great solution, even if the one I had was very poorly done. I'm glad that worked so well for you...even if the A&K didn't. Nothing more frustrating that having high hopes, and watching (hearing?) them be dashed to bits.

Thanks!!

ultrabike's picture

Very kool gadgets there! (Solar panel combo).

"There's simply no excuse for loading that player with all the hardware to do a great job of playing hi-rez files and then not completing the task with a solid embedded software platform."

Amen! Some few products I've seen (and bought) have the HW specs but horrible FW implementation and support. At least the price point of some of those products was low so lack of support would be sort of expected... Not at the $1300 price point.

Very nice to hear the Boom does a good job.

Have not been to Montana yet, but it looks fantastic! Great pictures! That Bottlelegger Casino Bar and Grill in Lincoln breakfast picture is pure win!   

Stephen Mejias's picture

What an awesome trip. Thanks for taking us along for the ride, Tyll!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Glad you enjoyed it!

Lemme know if you ever feel like taking a vacation up in Montana and I'll show you around. 

Dan S's picture

I just got one of these myself, and I'm very pleased.

I couldn't find any reviews from my usual go-to audiophiles like you, Steve Guttenberg, or anybody at Head-Fi, so I decided to wing it for once. I listened to all the models that I could, and the only key one that I didn't get a chance to audition was the FoxL v2 Platinum.

The UE Boom ended up winning out because it's water resistant, louder than similarly sized competition, and it sounds as good or better than any of its competitors. It obviously doesn't compare to an amp and loudspeakers setup, or a nice pair of headphones, but it sounds a lot better and goes a lot louder than I expected.

The only real negatives are intrinsic to the Bluetooth speaker category in general. All the sound comes from one place, you don't get a wide field of sound. The lower treble is a little sharp if you're close to it and play it loud, although less sharp than competitors. The bass is a little weak, but not as weak as I expected.

Overall, a great buy! I'd love to hear what you think about running two of them together -- that's an interesting feature, for sure.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I'll post up a follow-up for the second Boom in stereo...

...and EnerPlex is sending me a bigger storage battery and Surfr (a case with solar panel built in) for my S3, so I'll mention them as well.

natal's picture

My wife and I drove through Montana last summer.   It definitely is Big Sky country.  Absolutely, beautiful.  

TheAudioGuild's picture

...looks like it could be a scene out of Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. cool

se

Bennyboy's picture

That AK thing is a massive ripoff. The company behind it must be laughing their heads off all the way to the bank at the gullibility of those forking out such eye watering amounts for it. 

You don't say if your Samsung S3 is the international 19300 version with the better DAC in it,  but I use one as my only music player. Rooted, with Siyah Kernel and Stweaks added,  it is simply beautiful sounding. Wouldn't want anything else. 

You are right - there's no future for standalone music players anymore, beyond the daylight robbery of these mad esoteric audiophile nonsense machines. 

 

 

 

 

 

rataplan's picture

Terrible customer service! Went through the same thing with how to apply the firmware update. They still haven't updated they're firmware page with instructions :/

http://www.iriverinc.com/download/downloadView.asp?selectPart=02&findWor...

Astell&Kern better improve their software. Hopefully the extra bucks they're making off the AK120 can pay for this.

Read my head-fi review to hear all of my gripes:

http://www.head-fi.org/products/astell-kern-ak120/reviews/9331

rich tanaka's picture

The AK120 is a very good high resolution player. It sells like hotcakes in Asia. Good and happy for AK.

But the customers service is a contradition. A good phsyical product along side customers service which don't live up to expectations.

First, sending request for assistance will received no acknowledgements. ie " Your request is received by us. We will get back to you asap." 

Next, one waits for almost a week for any reply.

Tyll said it correctly, ie their web page is more like a product sale brochre. There is no contact emails, no telephone numbers etc. So one has to go to iRiver to get their contacts addresses. 

My constructive suggestion is their management should look into the customers service area.

p.s. Language commuication problems ? The Koreans are the most literate people in the world and almost all younger generations ( after 1970 ) are required to study Englsih in schools. So the miscommunication problems are not an issue here. If this is China, we can undertsand.

rich tanaka's picture

Would there be a review on the product itself ?

jeckyll's picture

As a fellow KLR rider, I've got to recommend Eagle Mike's stand. No need to lay the bike on it's side if you get a flat. Cheap, packs small and functional. Maybe check it out before your next trip :)

Now to the audit comment: I was about to message you to ask what you're riding with these days as I'm thinking of replacing my Shure 215. But wow, those JH13's are spendy!

I'm heading out on Saturday for a week through WA/OR/ID and I think the Shure's will need to be my go-to riding IEM for another season or two.

Looks like you had a great ride, I'll search on "that adventure site" to see if you wrote up a ride report :)

Bjorn

Sean's picture

Usually I do my best to charge my phone before getting on the road, so I rarely need to charge it during my travels. I use Duracell Alkaline Batteries for anything else I need and they are a lot safer than Lipo batteries.

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