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Solar-powered devices for the road Add to ...

The summer cottage and camping season isn't quite over yet, and with the sun shining as much as it has this year, using solar power to charge portable devices could work both in and out of the car. This trio offers the same core feature, but they differ in size and performance.

Kiwi Choice U-Powered


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Available at: KiwiChoice.com, GoTrekkers.com

Like the Solio charger, the Canadian-made Kiwi U-Powered fans out, revealing three solar panels that work together to absorb the sun's rays and store a charge. Once fully charged, the Kiwi can channel that energy to charge almost any portable device you can think of. It comes with 11 tips that support the most popular portable gadgets, but its built-in USB port can handle any device's included charging cable.

The U-Powered's 2000- milliampere/hour (mAh) lithium battery can also be charged using a power outlet or the included car charger, which also doubles as a car adapter for your portable devices. The addition of an LED bulb at the end for use as a flashlight comes in handy, as do the magnetic grips for placement.

A status indicator showing remaining power left on the U-Powered would've been nice, but that won't matter as much if you consistently leave this out in the sun.

Solio Hybrid Solar Charger Magnesium Edition


Available at: ModernOutpost.com

Solio's Hybrid Charger is the most durable and well-constructed of the three, thanks to its magnesium alloy casing that is both tough and heat-resistant. Fanning out into three solar panels, the 1800-mAh lithium battery can soak in daylight or be charged using a wall outlet. No car charger is included.

An unusual accessory that comes with the Solio is a pencil used to prop it up on an angle facing a window, which proves to be useful in the back of the car. Despite its excellent performance, the Solio is hindered by the fact it relies on the iGo tip system www.igo.com/Tips. The proprietary plug doesn't allow for you to use your portable devices' charging cables.

The green indicator light has been nicely designed to flash depending on how much power is left, which works just as well given that the Solio can hold a charge for up to one year.

Scosche solBAT II


Available at: TigerDirect.ca

Of the three items here, the solBAT II has the smallest battery at 1500 mAh and one solitary panel, which means that it will take longer for the sun to charge it. It's also hard to say whether it would be able to charge your portable device from zero to 100 per cent.

This tends to be the case more at night, since it can simultaneously charge its own battery and a device (hence, the red and green indicator lights). The suctioned windshield cradle easily mounts the solBAT II's solar panel facing the sky, making it possible to charge a device fully this way - except the best results are in early afternoon when the sun is at its strongest.

But the fact it only has one solar panel proves to be its big downside. It takes more than four days to charge the unit with pure daylight.

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