It’s all very well having a smartphone with GPS, mapping, geocaching and the ability to make you dinner at the end of a hike, but with all that running the battery is only going to last until you’re the furthest possible point from home, bed or the loo.
So rather than end up chewing your nails because you’re lost, out of contact or up a creek without a poodle, why not take a look at the Power Monkey Explorer.
Firstly, has there ever been a better name for anything than ‘Power Monkey’? It’s just awesome and opens the way for endless “Don’t touch my monkey!” gags on any camping trip.
The Power Monkey is, I suppose, a rechargable battery encased in a very tough rubberised and waterproof body, which you charge up at home and then use to re-charge a phone, camera, iPod or other small electronic item without needing a power source.
The ‘Explorer’ bit means that the Power Monkey comes with a palm-of-your-hand sized solar charger to top up its own charge as you walk/cycle in the sun.
And the whole thing works brilliantly!
Supplied with a simply astonishing array of sockets and jacks (full list here), the Power Monkey itself can be charged from a wall-socket in just about any country. It can also suck juice from a USB connection which would be brilliant in an internet cafe in some far-flung country.
The jacks supplied will fit everything from iPhone/iPod through to PSP, DS, a massive number of phones, and of course USB. And they all come in a handy pouch for stashing on your travels.
I tested the Power Monkey Explorer straight out of the box and it had enough juice in it to re-charge my iPhone 3G(a particularly power-hungry piece of kit) from near empty to full. A full charge of the Power Monkey gave me two charges of the iPhone, which in practice (if you turn off 3G and WIFI) gives me 9 days of phone charge.
Lesser power-hungry phones will get more recharges from one Monkey charge.
The Solar Monkey add-on is thing of beauty. It flips out from a rugged, rubberised and phone-sized unit to reveal two solar panels. Supplied with an elasticated Velcro strap it’s perfect for hanging from a tent, attaching to motorbike luggage or simply hanging off your pack as you walk. I made the mistake of having the Power Monkey turned ON when I connected the Solar Monkey and it took a very long time to charge. Perplexed, I resorted to reading the manual where it clearly states that the Power Monkey should be turned off so it charges more rapidly. A 6 hour session on a sunny British Spring day gave me enough Monkey Juice to power up my iPhone to 3/4 level. Pretty damn impressive considering!
A little button on the Power Monkey lights up an LCD screen to tell you how much charge is stored, and it’s a no-brainer to use. I purposefully never read the instructions on gear until I’ve had a play with it, and the Power Monkey is one of those pieces of kit which you just ‘get’ instinctively – great design.
The price is £65, which is more than a simple solar charger, but not too expensive considering what you get could replace the standard chargers for most of your travel gear – GPS, phone, iPod etc. And the Solar Monkey means that potentially there’s no more having to plug your phone into a socket in some campsite toilet and hoping nobody nicks it.
SUMMARY: The Power Monkey Explorer is an awesome piece of gear. It’s unbelievably comprehensive in terms of jacks and sockets for use in 150 countries and with pretty much every gadget. It’s rugged and chunky, yet lightweight and dispenses with the need to carry a phone charger. The Solar Monkey works well and doesn’t fail to get people asking you what it is. At £65 this is slightly more expensive than a simple solar charger, but you get much, much more in a package suitable for the outdoors. Awesome, and now an essential part of my touring gear.
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