Hiking and camping in the Northwest is an ironic experience. We tend to like our gadgets, and we tend to like getting out into remote places. This combination doesn’t mean we like being disconnected from the interwebs. But without a way to charge those devices, “disconnected” is exactly what we become. Unless we have a backup battery like the Slate 5K, or some other way to charge our devices, like the EnerPlex Kickr IV portable solar charger.
The EnerPlex Kickr IV was originally designed for the military, so it’s no surprise to see how durable and packable it is. People tend to think of solar panels and envision heavy, breakable glass. The Kickr IV places its photovoltaic cells on a plastic backing, making it both lightweight (just 295g) and able to absorb drops from a picnic table or bangs in a backpack. As you can tell from the photo above, it also folds easily, making it easy to collapse into a 8.8″ by 7.3″ square that’s just 0.08″ thick.
The combination of form, weight and durability make the EnerPlex Kickr IV ideal for popping into a backpack for emergency power generation. But I wouldn’t recommend relying on it. My experiences using it this summer left me apprehensive about using the Kickr IV exclusively on a long backpacking or camping adventure.
Like others in the Northwest, I don’t go anywhere without my smartphone. Unlike many of them, I also tend to pack electronic warming devices, like these ThermaCell hand warmers. Now that Fall’s here, I’ll also start packing the Brunton HeatSync heated glove liners or some heated gloves. All of these things involve batteries, which means they all need a charge.
I took the EnerPlex Kickr IV portable solar charger on several campouts this summer, when the only device I needed to charge was my phone. I was excited to see how it would work. EnerPlex says the Kickr IV can recharge as fast as a wall outlet. At home, I regularly see my phone gain one-percent battery life per minute. If the EnerPlex charger could duplicate that, keeping my smartphone alive outdoors would be easy. Plus, it would be able to recharge all those other electronics I tend to pack with me to help stay warm.
Using the Kickr IV, it took a bit more than 10 minutes to gain one percent of battery life. I also had to chase the sun around the campsite, as those 10-minute results required full-sun exposure like the photo above. Any bit of shade, and the energy-capture rate slowed considerably.
Compared to not having any charging mechanism outdoors, I was happy to have the EnerPlex Kickr IV in my pack. But my enthusiasm was tempered when I realized it wouldn’t recharge as fast as a wall outlet, as was billed.
Being able to charge a device in a pinch is great. I can wholeheartedly recommend this for an emergency home-preparedness kit or backup charging tool. But I can’t envision relying on this solar charger exclusively over the course of a longer camping trip. EnerPlex’s Jumpr Slate 5K battery pack did a great job providing power from its slim form factor, but once that’s drained, it’s drained. And it’s hard to see the Kickr IV being reliable enough over the long haul to recharge it, or my devices, out in the field.
The EnerPlex Kickr IV and Slate 5K were provided for review. All opinions and words are my own and honest, and the article contains no affiliate links
EnerPlex Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger
- Lightweight (just 295g)
- Thin form factor makes it easy to pack
- Very flexible
- Drops don't damage the solar panels at all
- Even in full sun it doesn't charge as fast as a wall outlet, as was billed
- I really had to chase the sun around the campsite to maintain charging capabilities