Given the popularity of our Anker PowerPort portable solar charger review, we thought we’d take the opportunity to find and review an alternative for those who need something a little different than the PowerPort. So, we came across the Instapark Mercury 27, which is, as of Feb 1st, on sale.
First off, the Instapark isn’t a single, small unit. Instead, it uses four flat solar panels to deliver 27 watts of power. While, when unfolded, this makes the unit a bit bigger than those little solar cell phone chargers, the use of four highly efficient panels enables this portable solar charger to simultaneously charge two devices and a battery pack. While charging three devices will slow the charge time somewhat, because of its high efficiency and good quality panels, the Mercury27 does not become unstable or unusable, like some of the cheaper, less efficient models.
You can connect a huge range of devices to this solar charger, including cell phones, tablets, and notebooks, as well as other USB-powered devices, including USB lamps, rechargeable flashlights, and wireless gamepads. The DC 12-volt port is a particularly addition. This model also has a wide operational temperature of 0 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, making it suitable for a wide range of outdoor conditions.
The Instapark Mercury27 portable solar charger boasts tough loops around the exterior, so you can lay out the panels and hook them to the exterior of your backpack so you can charge devices while you walk. Or use the loops to hang the charger from a branch or to the exterior of your tent. If you’re green and savvy, you can use this portable solar charger to power all of your mobile devices, whether you’re in the Great Outdoors or just around the home. Prop the panels against a sunny window and hook up your devices, and you’ll never have to pay for energy to charge your electronics. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with suction cups to stick to the window, but it’s easy enough to place something like a book behind the panels so they stay tight against the window.
One of the drawbacks of this particular model is that it’s encased entirely in black. That’s not the best choice for a device that needs exposure to direct sunlight to work at peak efficiency. It gets hot. Too hot to keep your devices in very close proximity for extended periods. This is a common problem with chargers of this type, unfortunately, so we’d strongly advise keeping your connected devices as far away from the panels (and direct sunlight) as possible.
The synthetic fabric cover is tough and durable and is classed as “weather-resistant” – so we wouldn’t advise leaving it out in heavy rain, but it should offer enough protection in a light drizzle. When unfolded, this Instapark portable solar charger measures a substantial 36 inches, but when it’s all tucked away, it measures just 11.5 x 8 x 2 inches. Weighing in at 2 pounds and 8 ounces, it’s compact, lightweight, and easily transportable.
We were disappointed that this particular model doesn’t have any internal power storage. Nor does it have any form of cut-off – it just keeps on charging. So, to use this solar charger safely and for optimal use, we suggest using it in conjunction with a solar charger controller. This gives you overload, short circuit, under-voltage, and over-charging protection. It also prevents back-drain and optimizes panel lifespan. Because there’s no internal storage with this charger, to make the absolute most of it – particularly if you want to charge all your devices in the long-term, we recommend investing in a compatible battery pack, like the Energybar 250 LiFe, which is an impressive product in its own right. Using the two in conjunction will allow you to store energy for use whenever you need it, including after the sun sets. The LiFe only loses around 0 to 2-percent of its stored energy per month, so it’s super efficient, too. You can simply hook up the battery to the 12-volt port on the Instapark Mercury27 and, thanks to the 10-foot cable supplied with the charger, you can move the battery pack out of direct sunlight.
While the Instapark Mercury27 is missing a couple of features, like internal charge storage and a controller charger, you can’t have everything, particularly not for around $100. For the price point, we think it represents good value. It offers fast charging and three ports, including a 12-volt DC port, and it’s versatile enough to charge an array of devices and to use indoors or outdoors on a daily basis. This portable solar charger lets you save money and reduce your carbon footprint and mains electricity consumption.