Freeloader Off the Grid Photographer solar power bundle
What Solar Technology say
The ultimate power bundle for amateur and professional photographers shooting in the great outdoors. No matter how remote the location and how long the shoot, the FREELOADER Off Grid Photographer delivers all the recharging power needed to keep a camera up and running and removes the need to carry multiple spare batteries.
The FREELOADER Off Grid Photographer bundle comprises the FREELOADER SiXER battery pack, the all weather FREELOADER SuperCharger 5W and the CamCaddy2 universal camera charging cradle, that work together to reduce charging times of the SiXER battery pack and deliver power as and when it is needed, night or day to recharge virtually any solid camera battery.
Power Your Adventures with the FREELOADER SiXER. Super compact and lightweight, the SiXER solar powered battery pack delivers all weather charging performance – providing a full days charge for all electronic gadgets.
With all-weather solar cells, the FREELOADER SiXER is the perfect companion for Smartphone/iPhone, Action Camera, GPS, Sat phone or Tablet with instant connectivity thanks to its integrated charging arms (Lightning/micro USB/USB C adapter) and USB socket. Rugged construction, a water and impact resistant gel case plus Velcro straps to fix securely to any rucksack or bag ensures the FREELOADER SiXER is as extreme as you are.
FREELOADER Supercharger 5W
The FREELOADER Supercharger 5W is an adaptable, portable solar panel charger that instantly delivers power to charge a full range of electronic gadgets, including Smartphones, Tablets, GPS, E-readers – Just add daylight!
With advanced, high density solar cells, the Supercharger 5W operates at temperatures from -20C to +60C , so you can have power wherever your adventures take you. The Supercharger 5W features a tough, rubberised and fully waterproof case and comes supplied with sturdy Velcro straps, so that is can be easily secured to your bag, clothes, kayak or sled.
Weighing in at 340g, the adaptable Supercharger 5W can also be used as a booster panel for the FREELOADER SiXER, significantly reducing charging times and providing extra power for your adventures.
The CamCaddy2 is the latest evolution of the CamCaddy and has enhanced features for even better camera battery charging performance.
CamCaddy2 can power any digital SLR or compact camera block style battery (max battery size 50mm). It can be connected to the FREELOADER SiXER and FREELOADER Supercharger 5w solar battery pack to deliver power in even the most remote off grid locations. The CamCaddy2 is also supplied with a USB cable so should the opportunity arise it can also be plugged in and powered from any laptop, PC or USB mains / in car plug.
An LCD screen indicates: battery voltage (range from 3v to 9v), charge status, charging time and bad battery cell indicator. Tough and lightweight the CamCaddy2 has a rubberised coating and at a featherweight 50g, CamCaddy2 is the ideal camera battery charger to power your adventures.
FREELOADER Supercharger 5W will charge the FREELOADER SiXER in just six hours (empty to full)
From a fully charged FREELOADER SiXER
SmartPhone – up to 3x
Action camera – up to 4x
GPS – up to 3x
Tablet – up to 1x
Camera – up to 3x
Getting off the grid has been a common theme this year for many and it’s not just a digital detox storm that has taken. Many are still pushing for renewable energy and surviving without the need of internet, power and waste. I for one am personally behind all of these and in this latest offering from Solar Technology this Off-grid package offers not just photographers but outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to stay unhooked and keep powering through there outdoor adventures.
For many solar charging sets can be irritating due to size and waste of space. However, it’s daft not to go out now without a power bank and whether you use the solar panel or not it’s a useful tool to pack and keep your mobile phone or GPS charged whilst out.
The full Off-grid package weighs a little over 640g which includes the Sixer battery pack, Supercharger panel and Camcaddy2. Of course, the standard Off-grid pack for outdoor enthusiasts lacks the CamCaddy which is an addition to the photographer’s pack as a universal charger for camera batteries.
The Sixer battery pack is the go-to product in the set up. You can charge not only your camera batteries with the pack but of course phones, GPS and even tablets with this. It’s lightweight, compact and weatherproof. Combined with the Supercharger you get a lot more juice and charge of course with a considerably larger solar panel to boost the power which again is not only weatherproof is fully waterproof.
In my trips recently, I’ve had nothing but rain and thick clouds and both packs have been through mud and the rain and continued to charge my camera and phones on the go. I could just leave them strapped to the exterior of my rucksack and just leave them to go and not worry about the rain or dirt causing an issue.
Even in poor weather I was getting enough charge to keep the pack alive throughout the day and charge my phone a couple of times over the weekend as well as two batteries. Of course, in better conditions and bright sunshine it would charge faster but considering how dark and miserable the weather had been I’m very surprised how effective the pack can continue to work.
Perfect in my opinion, the pack shouldn’t only be for good weather. The outdoors isn’t just for Summer and sunshine. It’s for all the wet, snow and dark nights and overcast days too.
With the Sixer pack I could get my phone charged up to 100% in a 3/4 hours and with the Supercharger plugged in with this I could half this time.
Charging the Sixer pack with the Supercharger typically took all day 8-10 hours in cloudy and overcast conditions so in better weather I expect far quicker.
Once strapped to the rucksack I didn’t notice either the Sixer or Supercharger on the back, I could completely forget they were there. It wouldn’t surprise me if they fell off I’d not notice. This won’t be an issue anyway as both packs come with Velcro straps which are very secure even in the wet and cold and hold the panels in place. For further reassurance the USB cable can be wrapped around and held in place.
If you are based at a campsite you could also leave the panels strapped to your tent to keep your kit charging inside the tent. I did this whilst at the campsite in the evening and used some guy rope to strap the panels to the tipi peak and left the CamCaddy and USB cables dropped inside the door of the tent to avoid the rain.
The Sixer battery pack can charge two, potentially three products at once via its cables. The pack itself has a micro USB and Thunderbolt cable built in plus the USB and micro USB slots at the base for charging or plugging in additional cables. Removing the case will mean the pack isn’t as protected but gives you the opportunity to use the built-in cables or even the kickstand to help keep the charger upright if required.
The Supercharger is a waterproof panel with the cable coming out, as simple as that but is provided with a high-power USB charger to plug in to the Sixer pack to give you that extra boost when the Supercharger is required. All the items come with additional micro USB cables and although useable I felt they were cheap and a little short so used my longer more robust cables I already own. This just gave me extra cable to play with and pack away. However, this is more a personal preference. It would be worse to not have supplied cables as most electrical products now come with them as standard, in all honesty I was surprised it came with a Thunderbolt cable included showing SolarTechnology have thought about both major users in the phone market rather than going down one route only like many are opting to now a days which is very frustrating.
The weakest of the three products I feel is the CamCaddy, it isn’t waterproof so some care is needed but it is still plenty robust to take a knock or two.
However some care is needed when a battery is plugged in to charge as I found when knocked it would stop charging the battery so where I placed the CamCaddy in my pack was cruel in keeping batteries charged on the go. It was far easier when I was sat at a campsite as I didn’t need to pack the charger away and could leave it still inside the tent door.
I had a few issues with the charger; the first issue was charging 3rd party batteries. I use a number of Hanhel batteries which came from with a duel charger and it wouldn’t charge these which I found most odd. The second issue was the percentage of charge I could get, although the read out would say 100% on the monitor when the battery was inserted back in to the camera I only had 90%. I had this issue whether I plugged the charger in to a computer, USB wall socket or the Sixer charge pack.
I typically carry a battery pack around me anyway and one that actually has more power in: 10,000mAh vs the Sixer 6000mAh so it lacks as much power but still gives me the same charges over all showing better performance and usage of the cells. This isn’t surprising as the price versus my other battery pack is £20 vs £69 so as battery packs go the Sixer is a lot more expensive and the Off-grid bundle packs can set you back £100 plus.
But for this extra cost you get a waterproof/weatherproof package that is super robust and can certainly take a knock or too. Cheap might be nice from now and then but I can certainly say my £20 pack isn’t weatherproof let alone waterproof so can only be charged in the sunshine, so I rarely used to charge it in this manner.
Both the Sixer and Supercharger panels are perfect for those getting off the grid and keeping charged over a weekend and not have worry of losing power or the weather as both are weatherproof and can survive more than a drop or two and both are easy to secure to tents and rucksacks to keep you on the go.
The CamCaddy is a useful tool but I had some issues with the battery charger at points but easy to get around by making sure the cable is secure and fixed and getting to 90% charge is adequate enough to keep you going. I’d rather 90% compared to a dead battery.