I’m a big fan of hiking and once I moved to California from the East Coast, I ramped up the amount of time my feet and the ground visited each other. My basic accoutrements through the years haven’t changed, but as camping out became more a part of my life, I found that all those electronic devices being brought along were becoming a drag. A power drag, that is.
Times may have changed to where a laptop is no longer the prized item in a backpack, but a smartphone pretty much rides along with every step. And drains power big time, once GPS and other functions (be they serious or gaming) get broken out. Not being one of those folks who uses portable generators in the great outdoors, I knew I would need a battery backup to take up the slack. I just didn’t know how eminently useable Accessory Power’s ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL could be until I got it out and about.
The ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL is bigger than most battery backups and there’s no way you can put it in a pocket (that and its durable white plastic body making it stand out amidst the flora and fauna). But in exchange for its size you get some pretty nifty features. One side is a honking big solar panel to soak up the rays and charge the 4,000 mAH battery — on the other side there’s a big button whose pressing lights up an LED in one of the slots below to show you how much power is already inside. Accessory Power wants you to charge the solar panel in the sunlight for about 13 hours the first time and that’s about right — after that a few hours seated while you’re actively doing something should take care of it. Apparently you can even add an additional solar panel to pump up the speed of the charging — frankly here in SoCal that isn’t needed (overcast days being few and far between, as are rainy days).
There’s a USB socket for plugging in a device for charging — it’s on the same side as the “Charge/On tab (a blue LED glows on the edge to let you know whether you’re in charge or output mode). Also on the edge of the ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL, you’ll see where you can send it juice, courtesy of a USB connection. That kind of obviates the whole purpose of this “green” guy, but having an alternative is always good policy.
I mentioned before that the ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL is well suited for traveling — thank the built-in handle and the overall “build” for that. You also get a carabiner that attaches to the ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL, along with a suction cup (to use against a window or windshield — though the ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL’s weight precludes doing this safely, in my opinion). These accessories are nice freebies, along with a USB cable, and are appreciated.
Now as I said, the ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL can go out and about with the best of them. Or perhaps better, because there’s an LED flashlight along the edge. The same button that activates the charge “meter” also controls the light: a double-tap gives you a steady beam, while a triple tap brings up a pulsing light instead. Where the pulsing light comes into play I don’t know — maybe it’s just me — as all I can think it’s good for is having it aimed at you while doing impersonations of John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever. We all have our blind spots, I guess.
A real issue is the usability of the ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL. As in does it charge a power sucking device efficiently, and do so enough times to justify its being brought along. I was able to use it for charging my iPhone up quite a few times while I was out in the wild — basically the ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL removed the issue of my running out of power and it sat off to the side while I did some fishing (it was quiet too which made it an excellent companion for this fisherman wannabe).
Bottom line: The ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL fulfills its purpose of providing backup power when you need it, while obviating sucking on the teat of electrical power by using the Sun. Going green with a solar panel battery charger is good, but being able to get a value out of going green is better. The $109 retail price isn’t so daunting, once you find that the “street” price is around half that. But the real issue is that with the ReVIVE Solar ReStore XL you’re not just getting power when you need it, but a companion for your mobile devices that can handle any trek that you take it on.
- Large solar panel
- 4,000mAH battery capacity
- Black model available as well as white
- No dust covers for exposed sockets
- Side-mounted flashlight may be preferable to some
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.