Crosskase Solar 15 full review
The Crosskase Solar 15 is a rucksack with a built-in solar panel that could come in handy in 'dead iPhone' emergencies.
It’s not been the sunniest of summers, and solar power probably doesn’t seem like the best of ideas right now. But it’s clean, free, and easily accessible during most daylight hours. And it could save the day in an empty-battery emergency.
The Crosskase Solar 15 is a sturdy, well-made rucksack with comfortable shoulder straps and plenty of pockets inside: you can easily and safely carry around your laptop and iPad as well as other gear. It’s a medium-sized 25-litre container that would serve perfectly for mini camping trips or festivals but might be a little small for fortnight-long mountain treks, while conversely rather bulky for taking to the office.
The Crosskase Solar 15's front pocket has a solar panel built into it. It’s black with thin pale horizontal lines, and blends into the overall design quite well: the only real giveaway is the small red light that glows when the panel is picking up light. In general we felt comfortable walking around London with the bag – it’s not the embarrassing 'gadget freak' experience you might fear when walking around with a solar panel on your back.
The Crosskase Solar 15 rucksack comes with a slim battery unit that you tuck into one of the smaller pockets and plug into an integrated wire. If the panel’s getting enough light – direct sunlight, essentially, although it will ‘trickle-charge’ very slowly in rainy conditions (it’s splashproof) or even artificial light - the blue indicators on the battery will start flashing to show that it’s charging; at any point you can click this indicator to see a rough indication of how much charge it holds.
A full battery unit can charge up an iPhone 4S twice over, and will take a couple of hours to do so each time (roughly the same figures apply with a variety of similar mobile devices, using the range of provided adaptor tips) but getting it charged is a longer process: the manufacturer states that this takes 8 hours, but we’d add that this is 8 hours of solid sunshine, and the reality is likely to be more.
On a camping trip, of course, it’s not difficult to get the backpack several hours of sunshine in a day – carry it around on your back and it’s soaking up the rays, then pop it in a unshaded spot when you stop for the evening. But other circumstances may make things more difficult: an afternoon in the office is obviously a non-starter, unless you’re lucky enough to have a window seat and a day of good weather, but even days outside can be surprisingly difficult.
We took the Crosskase to a day of Test cricket and found ourselves having to constantly attend to the bag’s position: trying to avoid shadows from clouds or other spectators, gradually adjusting its direction as the sun moved through the afternoon but then at one point getting it out of the sun when the panel became noticeably (and to a bare leg painfully) hot, which alarmed us.
So don’t depend on the sun as the solution to all your mobile power needs. But as a backup power supply, the Crosskase Solar 15 is a nice option, not to mention a perfectly serviceable medium-sized backpack in its own right.