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Tested: CHOE 19W Portable Solar Charger

choe 19w portable solar charger

Camping is not what it used to be. I remember taking a flashlight and spare batteries. Otherwise, if you wanted light, you built a fire. If you wanted directions, you looked at a map. If you wanted music, you listened to the sounds of flowing water, tree limbs dancing in the breeze, and crickets chirping (or wolves howling.)

Nowadays, your backpack is probably filled with all sorts of devices, electronics, and rechargeable batteries, all going out in the woods with you. But you can’t carry enough battery packs to support everything. So what do you do?

You need solar power. That means getting a portable solar panel, like the CHOE 19W Portable Solar Charger I’m reviewing today.

It’s basically a solar panel with a USB port attached, and you plug your device into it. If the sun is out, the panel will charge your device.

Keep in mind, this is just an interface. There are no attached battery packs to store the power. Ideally, you’ll want to store extra power for a rainy day (literally.) To do that, you’ll use the solar panel to charge your power packs like this one that I carry on my bike or like this super high power one made by CHOE. The power packs will store the power until you need to charge something.

Ready? Let’s see if this works…

To be fair, I have to point out that the testing was done in Pennsylvania, beginning in September. This far north, this late in the year, sunlight gets harder and harder to come by.

And solar panels, by design, require sunlight. The brighter the sun, the more power you’re going to get. Simple as that.

But even with the odds stacked against it, this CHOE panel really impressed me!

First of all, you unbox it, and there it is. It’s a solar panel. There’s nothing to assemble and no instruction manual.

Still folded up, it looks like this:

choe portable solar charger folded

Flip it over and you’ll see the connector with two USB ports:

choe solar charger usb ports

That’s where you plug in your devices.

Here it is with my iPhone plugged in to charge:

choe portable solar panel charging iPhone

To keep things neat and tidy, there’s a little elastic sleeve to hold onto your device, and a zippered mesh pocket to prevent you from losing anything. That’s a nice touch!

It works!

choe portable solar charger mesh pocket organizer

Now, with your device plugged in, all you have to do is unfold the solar panel and place it in the sunlight!

That’s it. If there’s sunlight, it will start charging automatically. You don’t have to hit any buttons or flip any switches. As long as there’s sun, and you have the panels facing it, you’re good to go.

choe 19w portable solar panels

It will be pretty obvious – one side looks like a solar panel, the other side is black canvas fabric!

If you’re at camp, or out rock climbing, just place it somewhere in the sun and let it sit.

If you’ll be hiking during the sunny hours, that’s no problem. You can actually place this solar panel on your backpack!

Look closely and you’ll see a few little loops on each side of the panel. I just take a couple carabiners and attach the solar panel loops to the gear loops on my Osprey backpack.

Like this:

choe portable solar charger loops

There are six possible attachment points, but all you really need to use are the top two.

Depending on your backpack, you might need to use paracord or some Gear Ties, but there will be a way to make it work.

Look, it’s a perfect fit!

choe portable solar charger on backpack

It’s the width of the center section of my pack, and just two standard Black Diamond carabiners hold it in place!

When you’re done for the night, the case closes upon itself to protect the solar cells. The magnetic closure is super easy and super convenient. No need to hassle with Velcro or anything like that.

Wondering how long it takes to charge something?

Great question! The answer is, “it depends.”

It depends on how bright the sun is and how many clouds are in the sky, and it depends on what device you’re charging and if you’re charging two devices simultaneously.

I did find that you don’t need much sunlight. Even at sunset, in the shade, and on cloudy, overcast days, this thing would still put out some juice! Getting a meaningful charge might take all day (literally,) but it will pick up the faintest bit of sunlight and convert it to usable power!

Look at the little red LED indicator between the USB ports – if it lights up, that means it’s charging.

I’m not going to state how long it takes to charge something, because I’ll need a full summer of testing a variety of devices in a variety of conditions. Even then, so many variables come into play that it’s not particularly useful. Worse, it could be misleading.

What I will say is that when the sun was out, this solar panel charged whatever I hooked up to it.

I can confirm it works with both the iPhone 4 and 5, and a variety of portable power banks. It will even charge two phones simultaneously.

[I did not test it with a larger device, like an iPad.]

Is there a way to store the solar power for use at night?

Yes. There certainly is, and it’s certainly a good idea!

You need to get yourself a portable battery pack (or power pack or power bank, as they’re sometimes called.)

Conveniently, CHOE makes one. It’s super powerful and offers lots of features, and you’ll find it for $40 on Amazon.com.

But I’d actually suggest one of these if you’re planning on using it for hiking and backpacking. It’s a little smaller and lighter, and still plenty powerful – for only $25.

Actually, I’d put the money towards the power bank first, since it’s more versatile, then get the solar panel.

Important Details

Here are the product specs and other pertinent details.

Weight

The solar panel weighs in at 16.9 oz (or 480 grams.) So, just over a pound.

Size

Folded Size: 10.2 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches

Expanded Size: 20.9 x 10.2 inches

Price

It’s listed at $100 retail, but it’s $54.99 right now at Amazon.

This is a common price point for portable solar panels.

Power / Amperage

Power: 19 watts

USB max output current: 3400mA

The solar array is 24% efficient, which is one of the best you can find. I’m no solar engineer, but it sounds like anything above 21% efficient is excellent.

Number of plugins

The panel includes two (2) female USB sockets with auto detect technology.

It even comes with a micro USB cable, but you’ll have to supply your own iPhone charging cables (like this convenient 4″ Apple-certified cable.)

It will charge up to two devices simultaneously *IF* there is enough sun. In moderate sunlight, it can only charge one device.

Durability

I’ve been using this for about a month now and see no signs of wear and tear.

That said, treat it with care!

Waterproof rating

I could not find an official rating on this product, but considering it’s generating electricity and you’ll have electronics plugged into it, you probably don’t want to leave it out in the rain or drop it in the water.

If it’s raining, it’s probably cloudy, too, so there would be no need to have this out and exposed to the elements.

Warranty

This panel comes with a 12-month warranty.

Which, if it comes down to it, means customer support. So I checked the company website and while the company is based in China, it looks like the phone number is out of Europe. It’s not a USA number or a toll-free number.

Basically, if you’re in the USA, you are probably emailing support through the website. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. It’s not like you need support to explain how to put it together or how to calibrate it. You would just need them to authorize a warranty return, and email is ideal for that.

Want something different?

Well, there’s the Goal Zero Nomad 20. This is essentially your fancy, designer label type of solar panel. It’s a little bigger and more powerful, but for $200, it’s also more than triple the price of this CHOE portable solar panel!

If you’re on a tight budget, there’s the Sunferno Flinstone, which is only $36 and combines a solar panel and power bank into one device. But it offers far less power (1.2W compared to 19W,) and takes 12-14 hours of sunlight to charge the power bank half way. It appears to be a good, budget-friendly option, but with nowhere near the power and performance of the CHOE.

As for the $50-60 price range, where this CHOE sits, there are a lot of competing products. I looked through them and I can’t specifically say if any one stands out more than the others. If anything, the CHOE looks like the most powerful!

My final verdict is…

This CHOE solar panel thoroughly impressed me!

Is it the best solar panel for the money? I have no idea. But I know it works and it works well, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for most hiking and camping situations.

Official website: www.ChoeTech.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: CHOE Technologies Co., Ltd
Product: CHOE 19W Portable Solar Charger
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Date last updated: 2015-10-10
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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