Power when you need it

It’s odd that the word solar keeps on conjuring up all of these images of the sort of technological ideas that you get in Saga Magazines.

Devices that allow you to make a perfect cooked breakfast in a microwave if you stand on tiptoe and point in the general direction of Mecca.

The Namibia Desert - not quite Croydon

And for some strange reason solar panels, whether on your roof or your radio have always fallen into that category, which is probably a little unfair.

The reason is simple, people suspect that they don’t work terribly well.

They get dirty, look like some sort of tacky sticker for some event that happened five years ago and most important of all, do not work.

Which is why a little device called Freeloader is very refreshing, for me and my mobile.

The online blurb for Freeloader describes it as “the new star of the solar mobile charging world.….Sleek and robust … Covered in a hard wearing and stylish aluminium skin, Freeloader Classic has super powerful solar panels and can give power to an iPod / iPhone for 18 hours, a smart phone for 44 hours, a PSP of DS for 2.5 hours and an iPad for 2 hours.”

Which just about says it all, I have lost my Freeloader now but while I had it, it was invaluable.

It was light and small enough at 124g and 123x62x17mm for me not to notice it enough to have known I had lost it, but had become, as far as I was concerned an essential component of my travelling bag mainly because you can never know when your mobile phone battery is going to let you down, and the one thing you can be sure of is that you will want to make a phone call when it does And that was what I used my Freeloader for, to power up my mobile when it died.

As I have pointed out, if you follow the link above, a Freeloader is a very good idea because, while we are expecting more and more from our mobiles in terms of connectivity and functions, the battery technology is literally currently at the end of what it can do, so unless something new comes along, having a backup is a good idea.

What is also very sensible about the Freeloader is the USB  jack which means that most intelligent mobile phones that combine a USB charging cable with a plug can be hooked up to the Freeloader.

Which all sounds so eminently trainspotterish and sensible that most people will think that mine is packed in my anorak.

If so, that explains how I lost it because I do not own an anorak.

But in fairness my response to the minimalist style police is, let’s see how cool you look when your mobile has given out and you are a desperately hunting around the walls for a plug, while some smug trainspotter fishes in their bag and takes out their pre-charged Freeloader and powers up.

Yes, I did say pre-charged. Freeloader is a pair of solar panels that cleverly plug into a battery pack. If you plug it into a PC via either the mini-USB or USB jack it will power up to a full charge in three hours.

The alternative is to leave it on a window-sill for eight hours and use that old British standby staple, ‘the Sun’, which while it might give you the warm inner glow of political correctness and the feeling that you have plucked free power from the air, does take a little planning and forethought.

Or you can do what I did and frantically spread the Freeloader’s wings on an afternoon computer train on the way out of London in the hope of garnering enough energy to at least get one phone call because I had forgotten to top up my Freeloader before I had left.

And it worked,  just enough for me to get off a text and get a reply but without it I could have been left looking sort of foolish and coolish before having to ask someone if I could borrow their phone.

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