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We continue our portable solar panel review series with a quiet contender that packs a big punch. Solar Camp isn’t a company you’ve likely heard a lot about, but when we spoke with them at Outdoor Retailer this year, they assured us their panel was awesome. After testing a demo unit (provided by Solar Camp), we’ve determined that the Solar Camp Solympic Hue is one of the best lightweight solar chargers on the market.
Whether you’re charging at camp or on the trail, it’s important that the panels and junction box are able to handle a myriad of weather conditions. Plenty of solar panels are weatherproof or weather resistant, but because of it’s durable material and lamination, the Solar Camp Solympic Hue shrugs water off like a heavy-duty raincoat. And, while the junction box is not 100% waterproof, it’s one of the few products we’ve seen with an official IPX6 rating, which means it can take on, “water projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction” without causing any problems.
In addition to being lightweight, this array is extremely durable. Solar Camp employs a military-grade CIGS solar cell technology that lends itself well to flexibility and durability. In-fact, we bent the panel at around a 30 degree angle with no diminished charging capabilities. On the Solar Camp website, they say the panels are shatterproof, shock-resistant, and kid-proof. After spending time with this panel, it’s clear they’re not underselling those facts. The Solympic Hue would get a 10/10 for durability if it weren’t for the somewhat awkwardly protruding junction box — it’s the only part of the setup that isn’t impact resistant and we’d love to see that changed for future models.
One of the best parts of the Solar Camp Solympic Hue is how lightweight it is. At less than an inch folded, and weighing in at a measly 10 oz, this solar charging rig is one of the lightest on the market relative to it’s charging capabilities.
The Solympic Hue comes with carabiners and grommets to attach the panel to a pack, tree, or stake to the ground. While the panel has a nice length that works well for pack attachment, it lacks kickstands or other accessories that would make it easy to hang at an angle. While it’s certainly not a deal-breaker, there are a few panels on the market that put usability ahead of weight and durability. Solid? Yes. Although you might have to fiddle a little when angling for maximum sun. We’d also love to see a way to attach a small battery to the panel below the junction box in future models.
We tested the charging capabilities of the Solympic Hue at around 1pm (high sun) under a clear sky in Austin, TX. The conditions were about as perfect as charging conditions can be in the real world for a solar panel. We then connected the panel to an inline meter to measure the draw that an iPhone XS Max and a PowerTraveller Extreme Battery Pack were able to pull from the panel’s energy. We were impressed that the Solympic Hue was able to generate and transmit more energy than other panels of similar size at a fraction of the overall unit weight. Here are the results (for reference, the wall outlet registered 10.9w):
|iPhone XS Max||PowerTraveller Extreme Battery|
|Watts||4.15 w||4.4 w|
A note on charging: Generally we’ve found that it’s best to charge a battery (rather than phone) when charging with solar for a couple reasons. First, in our testing, portable batteries accept power from the solar panel at a faster rate, and second, any time spent not collecting energy is sunlight wasted (you’re probably more likely to disconnect your phone from the panel at some point than you are a battery pack).
This solar panel combines durability, power, and pack-worthiness to outperform other solar chargers in it’s class. While usability is mostly left to the creativity of the user, the Solympic Hue by Solar Camp definitely earns our recommendation as a super solid backpacking-friendly solar solution.