Just a short time ago, a friend of J., my husband, told him about a great LED camping lantern he bought through LL Bean. We had just come off of yet another extended power outage due to a freak fall storm, so our interest was piqued. When we received the Bean outdoor catalog a couple of days later, J. pointed the lamp out to me. On the facing page, however, I saw another product of interest: the Brunton Restore Portable Power Device. What caught my eye is that this item is something that I have written about before–essentially, a solar cell phone charger/solar battery charger. Although I did what I considered rather extensive research on that subject, I had never heard of this particular brand. Since I feel that LL Bean carries products a tick above average in quality, I thought I might look into this solar charger to see what others thought of it.
Gadget Sites Loved the Brunton Restore
I had no problem finding online reviews of the Brunton Restore portable solar charger, the majority of which were extremely positive. A GearGuide.com review praised the myriad ways (sun, electrical outlet, car battery, computer) than one can charge the Brunton’s battery. Once fully charged, the reviewer was able to speedily charge all the gizmos he had on hand. Solar charging was the slowest, a common complaint with solar cell phone/gadget chargers. The tester suggested adding another solar panel to the Brunton solar charger setup to speed up the solar charging aspect.
A blogger at UtahOutside.com tested the product as well, and was also impressed. He noted that the unit must be in direct sun to charge up at a respectable pace, something that requires outdoorsy types to hang around the charging site to make adjustments as the day wanes. This, naturally, was seen as a major inconvenience. He also had problems charging his GoPro camera. Overall, though, he was pleased with the performance of the Brunton device.
Another tester at PracticalTravelGear.com also liked the Brunton Restore, even noting that he completed a solar charge of the device in seven, rather than the 10 hours stated by the manufacturer. He found it to be a solid recharger, pumping up his hungry gadgets with power to spare. While he found it to be a bit heavier than other portable battery chargers, he found its book-style design easier to handle than the windmill style of the Solio.
Retail Sites Not so Flattering
Next, I checked the LL Bean site to see what their customers thought of the Brunton. Of seven reviews, those who liked it really liked it, whereas the two negative reviews said it barely worked at all. Still, five positive reviews out of seven is pretty good, and there is always the possibility that those two customers recieved duds.
I found similar results at Amazon and REI.com. The Brunton Restore received customer ratings of 3/5 and 2.7/5 stars at these sites, with users either loving or hating the unit. The common complaints were slow charging, lack of power, and the fact that it takes 10 hours in the sun to recharge the device’s battery. One user did note that the manufacturer states this fact very plainly in the literature, so this is not really a fair criticism. Another poster said that he recieved a full refund for his Brunton, but was still disappointed with the product’s performance.
Overall Satisfaction Wins the Day
For the most part, the Brunton Restore seemed to deliver on its promise of a rugged portable charger, and all of the manufacturer’s time specifications were quite accurate. For those consumers and testers who did not appear to have received a defective unit, the Brunton really performed admirably. The product costs right around $100, which some may find pricey. But, as they say in the portable power industry, “you get what you pay for.”