Creative Edge Solar 5 Review

UPDATE 10/12/2015: The Creative Edge Solar 5 just isn’t cutting it anymore, considering my extended time off the grid and need for an efficient solar charger.  Read about how I’ve switched to Goal Zero.

The Creative Edge Solar 5 is a portable phone charger, used as a 5,000mAh external battery recharged by the sun.  It’s small (about the size of an iPhone 5), rugged, and water resistant.  The battery pack can be recharged with AC power as well before you set out on your trip.  The price is great at $35.

The Solar 5 comes with two cables – a Lightning connector for the latest iPhones and iPads, and a mini-USB cable for Android devices. These cables are shorter than standard, which is nice, since you won’t end up with a rat’s nest of cords.  It does not come with a wall socket adapter to recharge with AC power, but you’ll be able to use it with your phone’s wall socket adapter.

The Creative Edge Solar 5 charger works with Android devices, GoPros, iPhone 4/5/6, iPods, and some iPads.

The Lightning connector that comes with the Solar 5 isn’t compatible with a Lifeproof case though, it’s just a tad too big to fit through the charging slot. I had to use the standard Lightning cable to charge it without taking the case off (see photo).

Creative Edge Solar 5An Extra iPhone Battery

I was first able to test the Creative Edge Solar 5 as an iPhone 5s portable phone charger while waiting at the Miami airport.

The battery on my iPhone was down to 25%. My Solar 5 was fully charged from a wall socket the day prior. It brought my iPhone from 25% to 100% in an hour and a half, but the Solar 5 was just about completely depleted by that point, requiring a new charge via AC.

Creative Edge claims that the Solar 5 can be used as an iPhone external battery charger for 1,000 charges before you’ll see a decrease in battery efficiency. The unit was just barely noticeably warm during the charge.

Solar Charging on a Boat

My next test was to charge the Creative Edge Solar 5 during an offshore sailing passage. Sometimes I really need to budget my electricity usage on my boat, so I’ll take all the solar charging and renewable energy I can get.  You just have to be prepared to wait due to the small size of the solar panel.

From 50% I got to 75% in just over six hours.  This was six hours of sunlight mixed in with a few passing clouds.  So, direct sunlight would have been faster and with more clouds it would have been significantly slower.

At this rate, from completely empty to a full charge, would have required about 25 hours of direct sunlight.

Solar Chargers for Hiking

Solar charging camera

Solar charging the camera on Donahue Pass.

This one is trickier.  Because the device needs constant, direct sunlight to charge its battery, it will really only work when you’re hiking in completely exposed areas or when you leave it out in the sun while at camp.  If the device is drained and you’re hiking through trees or under cloudy skies, don’t expect the unit to charge at all.

I have various locations on my pack where I clip the charger based on the direction I’m hiking, time of day, etc.  Early morning traveling east or south, I clip it in front of me.  Traveling west or in the middle of the day I keep it clipped to the top of my pack.

All solar panels work best when the face of the solar panel is perpendicular to the sun’s rays.  I see many hikers who just clip a solar panel without regard to where the sun is and expect it to charge – it will charge, but maybe only at the rate of 1 mAh.  That would take 5,000 hours to charge this device!

For this reason, it works best when at camp or when you’re traveling in one constant direction in exposed areas.

Overall Thoughts

The Creative Edge Solar 5 charger is a nice cheap, lightweight solar charging solution.  Because it’s so small and light I was able to take it along the John Muir Trail without noticing the weight, but I wasn’t prepared for the shortcomings while operating it in a forest canopy.  It didn’t work well for my photography because I couldn’t get the batteries out of dangerously low levels with the solar panel.

 

There may be better options out there if you need faster charging.  But if you really just need a limited external battery source with a possible solar charging backup, the Creative Edge will probably work.

UPDATE 10/12/2015: I did find a better option, and it’s the Goal Zero Nomad 7 with Switch 10 battery pack.

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