#98 ArchaeoTech: The Solio Bolt

I previously reviewed the Zagg Sparq here. The Solio Bolt is a similar device but with a few major differences. First, what is it? The Bolt is a solar charger with with battery back-up. It's a tiny, 5.3 oz (150 g) device that can recharge a typical smart phone up to 1-2 times.

The Bolt can be charged in three different ways. The quickest way is to plug the micro-USB port into the wall. It will fully charge in about 4.5 hours, according to the website. My tests show that it can be fully charged in about 4 hours, which isn't so bad. Using the micro-USB port you can also charge it your computer's USB port. This method will take a bit longer and could be up to six hours. The most green, and longest, way to charge the Bolt is with the nearest star. I suggest using our very own sun. You could. Use other stars but you may need to construct a large collecting and amplifying device. Using the sun, the Bolt will take up to 10 hours to fully charge. I haven't tried this one out yet but I will be next week.

A neat little gimmick that Solio has for solar charging the Bolt involves a simple pencil. When the two small panels are folded out you can stick a pencil (they even supply you with one if all you have are electronic devices!) through the hole in the center. Then, you rotate the Bolt until the pencil no longer casts a shadow. This is the optimum angle for collecting those solar rays. When the pencil casts a shadow, simpler move it again. They call this the "sundial" mode. I won't be doing that next week. I'm going to fasten it to the roof of my tent in an average solar radiation position and hope for the best. My thought is that it will be fully charged when I get back from work and into camp.

There is only one button on the Bolt. The Bolt has to be turned on. This is a big difference from the Zagg Sparq which just works when you plug in a device. Before you turn the Bolt on, though, you have to make sure it's in the right charging mode. It has a mode for charging Apple devices and a mode for charging every other device. Of course, Apple has to be different, don't they? To change modes, hold the button down for five seconds. The button light will change from green, for other devices, to blue for all Apple devices. When you first tap the button it will flash one to five times to show the current battery level. While the device is being charged through its various methods the button will glow red.

So far the device has worked well. I haven't had to charge my iPad with it yet so I don't know how much I'll get out of that. I don't like that it doesn't come with a case because I'm worried about one of the exposed solar panels getting damaged. Also, it's easy to push that button and turn the device on or off when you don't want to.

The Bolt has a 1 AMP output, which is typical of most wall chargers, and a 2000 mAh Li-Poly battery that is easily replaced when it reaches it's useful life.

I bought the Solio Bolt at REI for $65 (US) so I can easily return it if I don't like it or if it goes bad on me. Amazon has it for $59.

If the ability to charge with the sun and carry less weight is a concern for you then I'd say get it. If you can stand a little more weight and don't need solar charging then I'd recommend the Zagg Sparq. With most of the battery back-up devices on the market you can charge an array of devices, from smart phones, to tablets, to digital cameras. Anything that charges via USB can be charged with one of these devices. They are an essential addition to the remote, tech-savvy, archaeologist's tool kit.

Happy hiking! I'll see you in the field.