Anyone who has spent more than a week in the outdoors knows that a battery charge, even with little use, falls away rather quickly in the wilderness. The Knog PWR 10w is a lightweight, portable, solar power generator that promises to charge phones, earbuds, and even cameras. My review:
The Knog PWR 10W is essentially a collapsible, foldable solar array that can fit into a small backpack. It is Built from four independent, exceptionally high quality, 5th gen monocrystalline Maxeon solar cells from Sunpower, which just happen to also be used by Nasa. These panels are rigid, but connected by flexible plastic like nylon seams that allow it to fold down into a small, tablet sized carry configuration. It is coated with ETFE, which provides resistance to sun, water and physical damage, and is mostly constructed from high quality plastic. It has one USB A output with a weatherproof lid, a handy D-Ring attachment point, and magnets embedded throughout to keep everything snapped shut. 4 LED indicators provide information on output power and general functionality. It weighs 450 grams and retails for $99.
What I liked
Despite the small size and 10W label, the PWR 10 provides and exceptional output for such a small panel. Yes, there are other 10 watt panels out there that theoretically provide the same maximum output, but few can do it in less than ideal conditions. The PWR 10, however, provides decent power even when direct sunlight isn’t available. This is probably due to their use of some of the highest quality portable panels I’ve ever seen. Even in shadowy areas, like pictured, it manages to provide a stable, usable power delivery, even if it isn’t at maximum output. 10 watts doesn’t sound like much, but even at half output it was easily able to charge my wireless earbuds, including the case, in less than an hour. It even completely charged my rather large phone in just a few hours in ideal conditions. Impressively, operating in the fading evening sun at obtuse angles, I generally had enough efficiency to top off every device I tested it with, including power banks and cameras. Due to the size of the panels it may struggle with most tablets aside from an e-reader, but I don’t see many of those on the trail anyway.
Build quality is quite good here. The panels themselves are sturdy with just enough flex to help them absorb some impact if dropped. The seams and joints all feel great and hold up very well to constantly folding and unfolding them, and the coating on the panels, both front and back, has yet to peel, flake or scuff up under normal use, even after being left in the heat on hot concrete and even on the dash of my black car for multiple days. The D-Ring feels solid enough to handle the weight of the panels themselves, but I probably wouldn’t use it to hang the unit off a backpack while actually in motion as it is connected to a fabric strap that could wear down with constant rocking back and forth. The port feels sturdy too, with no wiggle or play to be found.
The folded up size is quite impressive. It packs down to almost the exact size of my open hand, in all dimensions. It is not quite pocketable but certainly small enough to fit in any backpack or even most hydration packs. It’s light enough that it is justifiable for short or long term hiking or backpacking if you really need the supply of power, but not something I would keep in my pack “just in case”. At 450 grams I have actually tested lighter panels, but they weren’t built as well and didn’t provide as much power, especially in poor conditions.
The mounting options are generous for a solar panel. Not only is there the D-ring for attaching directly to something, it can be connected via carabiner, string or just by sliding it over a narrow tree branch. There are also magnets hidden inside the panels themselves. With these it can be placed on a metal surface if one is available, handy for anyone who might be backpacking through cities or traveling via car or train. It can also just be strewn across just about any surface, which is what I generally do. Clever use of soft bungee straps can also see it strapped to the outside of a pack. It has just enough mounting options that finding the best angle against this sun isn’t much of a challenge.
While a seemingly small detail, the PWR has 4 small LED indicator lights that display how much power the panels are generating. 4 illumined lights means full power. Two lights means 50 percent power, and so on. This is actually quite handy as small changes in angle or location can greatly affect the panels ability to produce electricity. So, move the panel just a bit and you might go from one LED being illuminated to two, signifying a doubled power output. If you’re dealing with waning evening sun and a failing phone battery, this can be a significant difference.
What I didn’t like
The USB cover is the only point on the PWR that I’m not completely sold on. It is essentially just thick and sturdy slab of rubber material, but doesn’t instill much confidence with the way that it just sort of flops into place. It doesn’t seem to have that tight of a seal, nor does it lock in place with much friction or pressure. It does have a small magnet inside, which may in fact be all that is needed, but still seems like it could be improved.
I would welcome the addition of a USB C connection. While USB A is fine for any devices, assuming you have the correct cable, many devices are now including C to C cables, and the smaller connector is easier to work with seeing as it plugs in either way.
I’ve always had an affinity for solar panels. Green energy produced from the sun? That is amazing. With the Knog PWR 10, it is possible to have that while hiking, traveling, camping or just for keeping around the house in case of power outages. It is light, relatively powerful, and provides a lot of utility for the size. It is extremely convenient to use with the multiple mounting options, and never felt like a burden to carry around or keep stashed in my backpack. It isn’t going to power everything, but the essentials like phones and headlamps are absolutely covered. Pair it with a battery pack and the result is a light weight, sturdy, reliable power station that can be used basically anywhere. It’s just a couple tweaks away from being perfect.
The Highest of Recommendations
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