Nigh-on indestructible, waterproof mobile charger with 6000mAh lithium ion cell that's capable of charging most 5V devices including iPhones and iPads. On paper an ideal back-up power source for smartphones, GPS units and other electronic devices on the hill.
- £79 / 302g (complete)
- Waterproof rated to IP67 standard
- Aluminium case
- Lithium Ion rechargeable 6000mAh battery
- Micro USB in and out sockets/cables
- -30˚C to +50˚C operation range
- On/off button and LCD charge level screen
There are some great smartphone apps out there, particularly GPS ones, but use them continuously and they tend to eat through batteries like a hungry Pacman, which is where back-up power supplies like the Powermonkey Explorer 2 come in.
With its 6000mAh battery it can recharge a typical iPhone roughly three times over and will also cope with other electronic gadgets like GPS units.
Powertraveller hasn't bothered with a token solar panel, which suits us as they're next to useless most of the time in the British hills, instead its concentrated on making the unit super rugged and waterproof. Housed in a barrel-shapped, anodised aluminium case, the unit feels super chunky and solid. You can apparently park a Land Rover on one, but why would you do that?
Solid In Both Senses
The solid build has a downside, the unit complete with cables and the two USB plug-in adaptors supplied weighs a measured 302 grammes - that's a fair old whack when an iPhone in a Lifeproof case is just 170g.
Charging is straightforward, but the two leads and additional plug-in USB attachments supplied are a slightly clunky solution and those attachments would be really easy to lose. Add in an iPhone USB cable and you end up with a bit of rats' nest of wiring.
All of which is a shame as the rest of the charger works really well. Plug in a micro-USB cable to charge it up then when you want to use it, hold down the button for a long press until the useful LCD screen lights up with an indication of charge level. It goes to 99 rather than 100 mind, as it only has two numerals, but we can forgive that.
If you want to keep the battery waterproof - and it worked for us with the body completely submerged in a basin of water - you have to use those leads, but on drier days, you can simply unscrew the top of the charger to expose USB out and Micro-USB in sockets and save 102g in the process, reducing weight to just 200g and getting rid of the messy wiring.
Either way, we found it worked really well as a portable charger. No more worries about running down the phone battery using a GPS app and with enough capacity to charge a Satmap Active 12 GPS battery some two-and-a-quarter times making it ideal for longer trips without access to power. It's also a great call in really cold conditions where batteries generally suffer and lose power.
Mostly we were impressed, but the Explorer 2 does have limits. Powertraveller says the unit's 'tough enough to withstand heavy knocks and spills' but a 20-foot drop onto stone slabs killed our test charger dead. The case was merely scuffed, but something inside, possibly the switch had died - we could hear rattling gently - and it would no longer switch on or function.
To be fair, that's a pretty harsh test and up till then it had coped with everything we'd thrown at it. But be aware that even this very tough charger isn't indestructible.
Until we broke it, we'd have said the Powermonkey Explorer 2 was virtually indestructible, but let's revise that to 'very tough' and highly weatherproof. We did find the Y-cable and plug-in USB adaptor system a little fiddly and we'd love to see a neater solution that still retained the waterproof qualities of the original.
Otherwise the unit's very easy to use, has a handy power level indicator, which you'll appreciate if you've ever used a charger without one. It's also a little on the heavy side, but using it (carefully) without the waterproof cap and cable assembly cuts that weight by a third and works well on dry days at least.
Finally, at £79 it's an expensive bit of kit and given the claims for its robustness, we'd expect Powertraveller would give serious consideration to repairing or replacing the unit. We'll let you know what they say.
• Waterproof and mostly tough
• Easy to use with handy power level display
• Ribbed case is easy to hold and non slippery
• Ample power capacity
• A little heavy in full spec mode
• Cabling is messy and add-on plugs easy to mislay
• We broke it
[Scores reflect failure after drop]