Thursday, 8 January 2015

Review: Brunton Hydrogen Reactor Portable Charger

- product provided for the purpose of review, thanks to -

Is this product the future of keeping charged while on the move? Is it ready for the wilderness or just a novelty? I couldn't wait to see what this little box could offer...

The reactor giving some much needed oomph to the GoPro.

I've got a few battery packs and solar boxes kicking around and I'm the first to admit that I'm a little bit obsessed with combining the great outdoors with technology. Unfortunately searching for wifi at any opportunity and getting pictures of beautiful landscapes tends to take the power out of any phone, tablet or camera pretty quickly. I was really keen to see if this was just "another" charger offering a drip feed of energy without much to show for it or whether it could actually transfer enough power to jumpstart a phone or camera. 

A quick rundown of what the Brunton Reactor does/offers... there's a small lightweight box (shown above) which you screw a hydrogen fuel cell into, then by the power of magic you can plug a usb cable into the box and it'll put out 5v 2amp! The joys of technology!

Straight out the box the Reactor is simple to use, I quickly hooked up my phone to see how quickly it would charge it compared to my solar battery pack which does about 1% every 20 minutes while the Reactor put 1% into my phone (in airplane mode) in 2 minutes. A few things to note when using the charger: it must be sat down on a flat surface for maximum efficiency, it needs to be in the open air as every now and then there's a burst of water vapour which makes a cute noise and it's probably best to keep it out of the sun as it warms up while charging and any extra heat could cause a malfunction.

One of the main benefits of the Reactor over other battery alternatives is the lack of lost charge, when using other sources of power they can deminish whereas the Reactor's full cells will maintain their power through all weather and conditions.

Unfortunately, while the Reactor does put out a decent charge and works brilliantly I'm still quite cyncical about this technology. £120 for the charger then £11.50 for 2 replacement cores thereafter seems extreme when battery packs and solar charges are coming down in price and going up in efficiency. Brunton are trying to push out and get charging stations into stores, unfortunately the uptake is slow so this isn't an option for the masses just yet.

The green side of the argument of course is that it's only producing water vapour, after you look into the production of hydrogen though you discover that it's not a particurly green thing to produce! I think this technology will be the future of charging whilst on the go. A small hydrogen reactor which can put out far greater energy at the same weight and cost will definitely have a market but with the current generation of Reactor I think it's more of a safety blanket than a must-have for every walker or hiker. 

Positive points:
  • A quick charger
  • Power doesn't deminish in the cold or hot
  • A conversation starter - if used among a group it could be a good starter for getting people to think about the environment and alternative sources of power.
  • A great emergency tool for group use
Not-so-positive points:
  • Expensive, not only for the charger itself but for the cells after.
  • Heavy fuel cells 
  • Not so green when you take the production of hydrogen into account
  • Quite bulky (total weight of 2 cells and charger is 365g)
  • No where to recharge fuel cells
  • Early stages of the technology for consumers
  • A lack of clear and readable information anywhere. The box, website and third party sites all display slightly different variations of output and total capacity.

In summary, it's a great idea - one that does work. Unfortunately there's a whole heap of drawbacks when it comes to using this product in the real world, for now, I'd stick with the battery pack for value and output if you can find one which matches 5v 2 amp. Remember, this is the early stages of this type of product for consumers - over the next few years I can see this style of charger growing and becoming more of the norm for backpackers and hikers.

Many thanks for reading my review, thanks to for the providing the Reactor. If you'd like to keep up to date with what they're up to then check their facebook and twitter.

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