Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my dinghy cruising blog about my John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. Built over three years, Arwen was launched in August 2007. She is a standing lug yawl 14' 6" in length. This blog records our dinghy cruising voyages together around the coastal waters of SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises and click subscribe.
On this blog you will find posts about dinghy cruising locations, accounts of our voyages, maintenance tips and 'How to's' ranging from rigging standing lug sails and building galley boxes to using 'anchor buddies' and creating 'pilotage notes'. I hope you find something that inspires you to get out on the water in your boat. Drop us a comment and happy sailing.
Steve and Arwen

Friday, 14 June 2019

First impressions of the Big Blue 5v 28W solar panel charger

Regular readers of this blog will know I am aiming to charge all electrical devices on Arwen in a sustainable manner using a combination of power banks and a portable solar panel charger. Previous posts on charging small electronic devices whilst dinghy cruising can be found by accessing the menu on the right - June 2019.

The charger I bought was the Big Blue 5V 28W solar charger – which came top in many online review sites. 

It helped that the price had fallen by £20 in a flash sale on Amazon as well – so I managed to get it for around £40. Right time, right place – it rarely happens for me.

I have tried the panel once so far and was impressed. In partially cloudy conditions it charged the phone up 15% in just under an hour – supplying an average v amperage throughout that time. I have nothing to compare this with but I felt it was fast and efficient. Accompanying literature suggests it has an amazing 21% to 23.5% solar efficiency.

POSTSCRIPT  update - today in fairly sunny conditions it charged the phone up 50% in just under an hour and three quarters. 

It comes with two USB out-ports but based on this initial test in partially cloudy conditions, I’m thinking it is probably best to use one port at a time rather than two simultaneously – so that you get maximum charging efficiency to a device. I know it contains a chip which assures a stable charge rate.

The Big Blue comes with an auto restart and charge interruption recovery function (so if a cloud passes over the sun, or if the sun angle changes to cause a temporary shadow on the panels - it starts recharging when the sun reappears) and a very cool integrated digital ammeter. Hence, I know what amperage was being produced.

The pack seems durable – a Cordura outer rucksack like material which should stand up to abrasion forces and it comes with four small carabineer hooks and a USB micro cable. You will need other cables for digital cameras and GoPros etc – but the panel will charge most of these devices. The carabineers hook to four eyelets so that it can be hung in various positions off rucksacks etc. There is a pocket for the device you are charging but in many reviews, it seems that your device could overheat in the pocket in the full sun and therefore the best option was to get a longer USB cable and keep the charging device in the shade in a bag.

The actual panels themselves are Sunpower panels and these seem to be generally regarded as the best.

Overall this seems to be a simple, uncomplicated charger and I’m already liking it just from initial tests. It will lie across my saddle bags, across one of Arwen’s thwarts or dangle from my 30 Lt day sack. It also comes with a two year warranty as well.

What are the cons? Well it is a bit big and bulky – not massively so – just over the weight of an Ipad I guess. On the kitchen scales it is weighing in at 22 ounces. Of course, this is a trade off as the larger the panel the more efficient it is but the heavier it will be. It isn’t fully waterproof (to IPX4) but is splash proof which is fine.

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