The Freeloader Solar Charger is a pretty cool external battery charger. It doesn’t look like much, but it definitely gets you what you’re looking for, which is a ton of battery. It’s not really on the scale of the Casemate or the Mophie Air, but it does power your phone up quite a bit.
A drawback of the Freeloader is that it takes quite a while to charge. It took three or four hours for mine to get to maximum charge, and that was using the USB power cord. Using the solar panels takes even longer. But once it was charged, it boosted my power total from 10% battery to nearly full in about an hour and a half. And it still had some power left in it to give to me.
Using the solar panels, you can’t make more power than you spend as you use it, even on the shiniest day (and it better be bright, or you won’t get anything out of it). Still, it slows down my power loss as I used my iPhone, so it definitely has an impact on your usage. The battery itself, once charged, is good enough for me to recommend, but adding the solar panels to cut back on how quickly you use battery as well as power back up in the field makes me consider the Freeloader a must have for most journalists toolbags. The fact that it has an adaptor that fits nearly any dock, be it a mobile phone, digital camera or other portable handheld device only sweetens the deal.
The only real drawback to the Freeloader is the fact that it can only be charged by solar power or USB connection, no car charger or wall plug. Still, if you’re using the external battery, chances are you have a computer nearby, and it will charge even if your laptop is shut, so keeping it powered up isn’t typically too much of an issue.
If you can, order one of these, or borrow it from a friend and don’t give it back, because it’s a worthwhile investment and you’ll find ways to use it.