As I mentioned in a previous post I received one of these for Christmas. Mine was probably pretty cheap as it was given away at a conference. However it performs brilliantly. Therefore I thought it deserved having its own little review put up on the site.
The premise behind these devices is that they are basically multi-purpose rechargeable batteries. Most come with a cable so that they can be charged through a USB computer port. Then once fully charged you can carry it around with you in case your smartphone, or any other USB charged device, runs low on charge. Then you simply plug in your USB charging cable for that device and it will begin to charge it up. Some have on/off switches so that you can control when you charge a device that is plugged in. However I don’t really see an advantage to this as you can simply just unplug the device and it will stop charging that way.
As we live in such a technological age people are taking more and more electronic devices on adventures and expeditions. Therefore a device which facilitates this, in my eyes, is something of great use. Whether it is charging a kindle, camera, bike light, GPS you do not necessarily have to have a smartphone to find a device like this useful. This is why I see them as having such a large appeal to cycle tourers. They enable people to travel further afield and go longer between conventional stops (like a coffee shop) to charge up your devices. Also as they are so small they take up very little space in your backpack or pannier. This means you can just have stuff charging while you are cycling in your bag out of the way.
My particular charger has an orange rubberised exterior, extremely rugged. This also makes it easy to identify at the bottom of a bicycle pannier. It also sports a key-ring however I think it is a bit too bulky for me to keep on my keys. One useful feature mine has is that when turned on there is a small light indicating that it is charging but also an entire panel lights up and provides decent ambient lighting, useful for night time or as a reading light inside a tent, although it also illuminates the name of the company who gave it out at the conference.
So although they were probably not designed for adventurers or explorers I think they have a very large market amongst us, and if you have a few can be very useful while cycle touring. This use can be extended if you have a dynamo hub and can charge them up as you cycle, truly harnessing some of the energy you are creating. Then you can be truly energy self-sufficient.