Tools & Workshop

Solar Power On the Go from Solio

Solio Classic 2 Solar Charger

When you lose power, as many people have recently in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the lights going out isn't the only issue. Our reliance on mobile phones means that, when their batteries run cold, we're really left in the dark.

Perhaps the solution is simply tapping into the power source that predates our oldest ancestors-the sun.

When topped off, the Solio Classic 2 solar charger can give you enough juice to revive a smartphone up to three times (before the charger itself needs to be recharged).

The Classic 2, which goes for about $100, is three small collectors on a pivot. The panels are about the size of an adult's palm, and they splay out like you're holding playing cards.

The panels of the Classic 2 splay out like you're holding playing cards.

The center of the pivot is a hole through which you put a pencil-size stick. You use the stick to keep the collectors pointed directly at the sun. The flatter the panels are to the sun the faster the Classic 2 will charge. It's charming to use something as low-tech as a simple little stick (which comes with the device) to help recharge a smartphone.

Solio claims the Classic 2 can boast 1-amp output (from a 3.7-volt, 3,200-mAh lithium-polymer battery), and that the gizmo charges smartphones as fast as a standard wall outlet.

The Classic 2 is charged using an mini USB cable (included). Filling it from empty takes a little more than six hours.

The Classic 2 from Solio is just right for those who hate being disconnected-or love to be ready for anything. Photo:

If you are diligent about re-orienting the Classic 2 toward the sun as the Earth turns, it will charge in six to eight hours. That's a lot of fussing, no doubt, and you'd be hard pressed to get that much direct sunlight north of Cincinnati nine months out of the year, but hey-free energy.

The design is sleek minimalism. The soft, plastic body is as thick as a stack of several smartphones and about an inch longer. It feels like it could withstand a few falls. Given that the Classic 2 is most likely to be stowed until needed, that it requires a connecting wire to charge and be charged, and that it will get scratched pretty easily, it's surprising that Solio doesn't ship it with a drawstring sack or some other layer of protection.

Regardless, the Solio Classic 2 is absolutely something you want to have if you hate being disconnected-or love to be ready for anything.

For more on tech stuff for DIYers, consider:

Capturing Your DIY in TimeLapse
5 Free Apps to Keep in Your Toolbox
6 Home Improvement iPhone Apps to Know