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Solio’s Rocsta Solar Charger is Flexible, But Lean on Juice

The iPhone is a phenomenal tool for a bit of tromping about in the bush; navigationstargazing, photographing/filming and even staying alive can all be accomplished with the help of the little gadget. That is, if it’s got any juice left.
Solio’s Rocsta ($80) — a solar panel mated to a thin slab of a battery in a sleek, flat, user-friendly housing — seems to have been created with a nod to minimalist adventurous types who want a rugged, no-fuss solar charger aong on their next Iditarod or photo shoot for National Geographic.
Probably the biggest advantage to the Rocsta over other solar chargers is immediately visible: the clever design of its Lexan housing. It’s a flat, thinnish, light (130g) plank with a carabiner clip at one end and a securing slot at the other, making the Rocsta incredibly easy to position toward the sun —  which is key when soaking up sun to charge the battery. Clip it to a pack lid, attach it to a bike rack or tie it to your arm — the shape, size and attachment options make it extremely flexible.
Charging its 1000 mAh battery to full capacity from empty took about eight hours under a clear desert sky with optimal placement of the panel. A button on the back starts and ends the charging process, and a green LED displays capacity in five levels. The Rocsta can also be used as a backup battery sans-sun by charging it directly with the supplied charger.
Some reviews seem to indicate that the Rocsta’s charging performance is over-sensitive to its angle toward the sun. Our testing showed that wasn’t the case, and that it could handle a fairly decent deviation from being pointed at a 90-degree angle toward the sun. Luckily, a red LED lights up to confirm the battery is dining on sun-juice.
The Rocsta seemed pretty rugged and water-resistant, and even pretty major splashes didn’t faze the unit; you probably wouldn’t want to submerge it though. Conveniently, it’ll let you charge your iPhone while it’s juicing up.
There’s a tradeoff to the unit’s svelteness though: the battery is on the skimpy side, and I only ever managed to eke out about a half-full iphone 4 charge from the Rocsta before its battery emptied. That means iPhone use must by necessity be pretty judicious or survival-mode only, especially in less-than-sunny locales.
It also comes with just about every connector ever devised; a micro-USB adapter, a mini-USB adapter and a bucketload of manufacturer-specific phone adapters are all included. It even comes with a triple-LED flashlight head.
One final note: None of my repeated attempts to contact Solio directly with questions about the Rocsta resulted in a response; I even tried a bit of Cult of Mac name dropping, which usually results in an almost immediate response. Still not a peep from Solio.  We haven’t altered the rating of the Rocsta to reflect our experience with Solio’s (lack of) customer service, but we thought our readers might like to know.
Rating: ★★★½☆