I purchased the Garmin External Battery Pack from ProBikeKit (PBK) in April 2011 for $67.00 delivered to Australia. My intention was and continues to be to use battery pack on tours where I make use of my Giant XTC 2 mountain bike. The XTC 2 is not equipped with a dynamo like my Surly Long Haul Trucker so the battery pack is my charging device for my Garmin Edge 800.
Garmin external battery pack specifications
So what is in the Garmin external battery pack box? The box highlights that is not really a Garmin product, rather it is cut down packaging of the Powermonkey-eXplorer by Powertraveller and it may well be a better deal to get the Powermonkey-eXplorer if the connections for other devices such as mobile phones are required. That said the battery pack does come with a female USB2 connector so it can be used to charge other devices with a suitable USB cable. My plan will be try to this approach with my Samsung Galaxy SII mobile phone.
The Garmin external battery pack comes with:
The power pack itself is sealed unit, which means that the internal batteries are not replaceable. It has a reported weight of 83 grams. The battery capacity of the battery pack is 2200 mAh and Garmin claims that it will provide 20 hours of life for a Garmin Edge 800, so just over one full charge. It has a display to indicate its battery status and that it is charging the Edge 800 or other other device. The power pack can be used in “always on” mode to continue powering a Garmin Edge 800 once the Edge’s battery is charged.
In terms of charging the power pack, the claimed times for using the solar panel are 15 to 18 hours and to use a USB cable, six to seven hours. Times for using the wall plug are reported as being 3.5 hours.
The specifications for the power pack are:
- Battery capacity 2200 mAh
- Input voltage: 5V 600 mA
- Output voltage: 4.5 – 5.5v
- Output current: 700 mA max
- Dimensions: 90 x 45 x 38 mm
One point to note is that the power pack is not waterproof, it is only water resistant.
The solar panel is 210 mm x 70 mm x 5 mm when opened out. The actual panels measure 83 mm x 53 mm. The solar panel has its own cable permanently attached which in turns plugs into the Garmin external battery pack to charge it. The reported output of the solar panel is 200mA depending of course on the amount of sun. The Garmin website suggest that it will take 15 hours to fully charge the power pack with the solar panel, whereas the manual says 18 hours. The panel seems pretty robust with two points where the straps could be used to secure it. The panel shows a green light when it is getting solar power and when connected and charging a red light on the power adaptor glows. This light turns to green when the adaptor is fully charged.
The bike bracket, which is a rubber sleeve which is meant to have the power pack fit into it. It is not a good fit and with a Garmin Edge 800 or solar panel connected it is quite an untidy look. That said with one of the Velcro straps in use the sleeve should do the trick; just not very tidily.
As per the photo there are four different power plug adapters for Australia, United Kingdom, United States and Europe.
Unlike the Powermonkey-eXplorer version, the Garmin External Battery pack only comes with two connectors as per the photo. One allows the use of a mini USB cable to charge via a USB port. I belive the other connector is for the Garmin Forerunner.
The complete kit is reported as weighing 553 grams, however my cut down on the road version weighs in at 230 grams. I plan to only take solar panel, the power pack, the mini USB adaptor, the bike mount and two Velcro straps. I will use a USB wall charger or the solar panel to charge the unit.
My weights are for the key parts are:
|Velcro strap small:||8|
|Velcro strap large:||10|
|Wall plug (Australian):||86|
|Mini USB adaptor:||3|
|Garmin Forerunner adaptor:||6|
Performance of the Garmin external battery pack
As it has turned out I only got to use the Garmin external battery pack on one tour since I purchased the unit 2011. The tour was my aborted ride of the Munda Biddi in July 2011; winter time here in Western Australia so not the best time for testing the performance of solar panels.
My initial use of the Garmin external battery pack on day one was not a good one but I did learn a very valuable lesson: read the instructions before using new gear on bicycle tour! My problem was that I didn’t turn the battery pack on properly and hence it didn’t charge the Edge 800 overnight at my first campsite as I expected. On the second morning I was thinking there goes my recording of my track etc, however by chance when I was fiddling with later in the morning I jagged getting it working. This meant I got to use it briefly during the morning’s riding and at lunch I used it to give a small boost to the Garmin Edge 800 battery before the Edge 800 battery ran out of juice. For the rest of the day’s riding I used the battery pack in “on the go mode” to keep the Edge 800 alive.
I did for some of the day’s riding used the Garmin external battery pack’s solar panel to charge the battery pack. As I was pulling a BOB Ibex trailer I laid out the solar panel on top of the bag. It did catch some sunlight and indicated it was charging, but it is definitely a slow process this solar charging.
As it turned out, I ended up aborting the tour early and never really got to put the Garmin external battery pack to the test again. That said I did learn a few things about the battery pack:
- The Velcro straps where not really necessary with my set-up for the Bob Ibex and Ortlieb handlebar bag. That said I have now sold the Bob and replaced it with an Extrawheel Voyager. I will need to revisit how I can use the solar panel when riding.
- The bike bracket was pretty useless for me as I simply used my Ortlieb handlebar bag to hold the Garmin external battery pack if I was charging the Garmin Edge 800 on the go.
In summary I think Garmin external battery pack is a good idea if one does not have a dynamo power source as the battery pack has the potential to give me a couple of extra days of battery life on the trail, so four days between full charges. I seriously have my doubts about the ability of the solar panel to effectively keep up with the power demand if I am looking at more than four days between power charges. I believe the solar panel is simply not large enough.
In hindsight I should have investigated my options in more depth and looked at maybe a larger PowerMonkey solargorilla or PowerMonkey Extreme or other larger solar panels. Another option is to go just with an external battery pack that will provide sufficient charging to get to the new mains power point based on one’s touring plans. This is something that would work for me as my off-road touring is more limited and my road touring is on the Surly Long Haul Trucker which has dynamo power and a PedalPower+ Super-i-Cable to keep the electronics humming along.
Was it $67.00 well spent? No, but thankfully not a great amount to waste either.