Articles on TechWeekEurope are available in Google Currents Subscribe now!
Infinit Solar Backpack: Review
Solar panels have been proposed as a way to charge mobile gadgets for some time, but there are still issues with the practicality. At eWEEK Europe we like the idea of using energy efficiently, so I was happy to take the Infinit backpack for a trip.
Putting a solar panel on a backpack is a good idea, although combining two items into one isn’t always a good idea (for instance, putting a solar panel on the phone itself is another good option – but can be limiting in getting the phone charged).
In this case a solar panel and a backpack make a natural pairing. The outside of a backpack is a good place to put a solar panel, it will normally be used outside where the panel can get charged, and the backpack is where you are probably already carrying the gadgets you need to charge.
Taking the Infinit… to Paris and beyond
With all that in mind, I set off for a briefing south of Paris, with the Infinit, and three gadgets: my beaten-up Nokia E71 phone, an old Sony Ericsson phone I use as an ad hoc camera, and a MiFi Wi-Fi sharing device.
By chance, the trip also involved looking at solar panels – in this case used by Alcatel Lucent to part-power a mobile phone base station.
My first observation is an unfair one. This is a day-pack, and is a trifle small for an overnight geek stay with one laptop, one shirt, a change of underwear, a couple of books and three gadgets.
It has expansion straps at the bottom but it is not huge; on the upside it is definitely small enough for an aeroplane overhead locker.
Speaking of travel, I was very relieved to find that the backpack – with its built-in wires and panels – passed through an international security check (at the St Pancras Eurostar in London), without setting off alarms. The staff were interested to know how well it worked, and discussed the practicalities of solar charging, though.
Battery makes good use of solar power
The backpack comes with a 2.4W solar panel – about 8 in by 5 in – and that is not a massive amount of power. You can charge handheld gadgets with it, but you can’t charge or use a laptop on that power.
Infinit makes sensible use of what there is, by including a battery, with an input and a USB output. As long as the panel gets some sun, the battery will charge until it reaches its full 2000mAh, and as long as the battery is connected to a device it will dish the power out.
So the battery keeps topped up even when there’s no device connected to it, and the stored energy is then available. Having a battery adds little to the weight of the backpack – it’s about the same as having an extra mobile phone in there. The battery pocket is in a zipped red mesh compartment, intended for your gadgets, just behind the outside panel with the solar panel.