The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

MSC Expedition 15W CIGS ETFE Lightweight Folding Solar Charger

Last year when we spent holidays in Greece we suffered from a hurricane. The result of this was 5 days with no water and no electricity. Fortunately I had taken a water filter so we didn't run short of drinking water as we filtered rain. Electricity though was another thing, we really struggled. So when I got home I bought a mobile solar charger. 

I am no expert on solar anything so I asked around and finally bought the 10W panel. It was the same as the above photo but with smaller panels. Unfortunately it didn't work properly with my iPhone, I kept getting a message that this accessory was not compatible.

I contacted MSC, explained the problem and they sent me the 3 panel 15W panel at no extra cost. Now that I am more familiar with the panels I found the problem, which I will explain later.

The specification of the 3 panel charger is:-

  • Copper Indium Gallium Selenide cells (CIGS) Lightweight folding solar charger
  • The CIGS cells are protected by an ETFE plastic coating.
  • Very flexible, compact and robust for Expedition power on the move.
  • Ideal to hang from a rucksack, charging directly into one of the available power banks
  • Works very well with the Qi 10Ah & PD30W Power Banks
  • It has robust sealed seams, ultra-light 320g and very compact for travel
  • The 15W has 6 attachment points for hanging from a rucksack or tent
  • Free power each and every day.
  • 2-year warranty
  • Weight 10w, 210gr. and the 15W 320gr.
  • Easily fits inside a rucksack.

(spec courtesy of MSC website)

This year on our holidays in Greece I used the charger almost every day for a month. Obviously in Greece the sun shines dependably, so if we had problems in Greece then the issue would be worse in UK.

Charging power banks with the solar panels is trouble free and certainly the best piece of kit to use to recharge your phone and other gear.

Charging phones directly, I have tried 2 brands, Apple and Samsung. If like in Greece the sun is constant then charging the iPhone is no problem but if the sky is sunny and cloudy then the output voltage from the charger to the phone will be variable. It seems that the iPhone was very tight parameters regarding charger voltage variance and this can make the phone reject the solar charger as incompatible.

The Samsung seems to accept the voltage variance better than the Apple.

Putting a power bank between the charger and accessory acts as a voltage regulator and that is why I say  the best setup is to use a power bank in UK.

Now that I have used it regularly I am glad I bought it, however if there is a panel available with a built in voltage regulator, I would get that one.

Costs. 10W £80, 15W £109.

4 comments:

Sir Hugh said...

Interesting. I guess it would be an asset if backpacking for several days without access to charging as one has when staying in b and bs or other accommodation. I am finding my iPhone 6, which has just had a new battery, lasts easily for a full day or more using Memory Map as my navigation aid. On rural footpath walks it does get a lot of use. I also have a Macally battery pack which I can plug directly into the iPhone and it charges up to about three quarters capacity - it weighs 157 gms.

AlanR said...

Hi Conrad. On trips where you have no electric accessibility it is ideal. If I was buying again I think I would go for the 10w simply because its a little lighter but to be honest the 15w is not much more weight anyway. A battery pack should be part of any long distance walk kit. With the iPhone 6 I am finding that many apps now want to use iOS 13 which the 6 will not upgrade to. I am going to have to upgrade my phone very soon. You will probably be finding the same.

afootinthehills said...

Very informative.My iPhone 6S plus runs iOS 14.8 but I’m not going to download iOS 15 because I think the hardware will struggle. I’m looking at the new 13Pro but can’t make up my mind whether the ‘ordinary’ 13 will do. I keep my phones quite a long time so should able to convince myself that the Pro isn’t unreasonable extravagance!

AlanR said...

Hi Gibson. You’re 6s will be ok for a while yet but if the new 13 pro is in your budget range then go for it. I would. My budget will probably stretch to an 11 after Christmas.

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