Appeared in DIVER November 2007

John John Bantin has been a full-time professional diving writer and underwater photographer since 1990. He makes around 300 dives each year testing diving equipment.


I WAS PASSING THROUGH FAKARAVA ATOLL on the Tahiti Aggressor liveaboard when we passed a local man fishing from his out-rigger canoe and wearing little more than a thong. It could have been a really timeless scene. What was remarkable was that he was on the phone!
Cell-phone networks have changed the world. Instead of paddling over to another island to see a friend only to find that he was out at sea, then waiting a day or so for his return, this Tua Moto fisherman could call him up.
There are few places where there is land that cannot offer a signal these days. I communicate by text daily with my wife from almost wherever I am on the planet, as long as Im not too far out at sea.
There is coverage down the whole coast of Egypt now, almost to the border with the Sudan. And the volcanoes of North Sulawesi, in Indonesia, are dotted with transmitter towers.
Of course, if you leave the phone switched on, you do risk the mis-dialled calls of the odd Brit. They tend to be unimpressed when you not only tell them that you are not the person they are calling but that you are in Papua New Guinea and the call is costing you a fortune.
It has happened to me. The mistake was compounded when the idiot rang back to apologise, doubling that particular bill!
All that said, its frustrating when your battery goes flat and you have no way of recharging it. I often find myself on boats or at remote resorts where the electricity supply is available only for limited periods of the day.
And guess what - the phone battery always goes flat when the power is off!
The Power Monkey acts as a reservoir of electricity that you can use to recharge your mobile phone, iPod, MP3 player or compact digital-camera battery when youre far from a conventional power source. You have to charge it up first, and you can do that from a mains supply, or even steal some charge from your computers battery via a USB connection.
A little LCD indicator tells you how much of the Power Monkeys potential maximum charge is available. It comes with a huge set of connection adaptors, so there is bound to be one to fit your needs.
The Solar Slave is a very useful device. You can connect it to the Power Monkey and use it to charge its reservoir by simply leaving it in the sunshine. It unfolds to sit with its cells getting optimum exposure. You can even hook it onto a backpack, and it will do the job discreetly while youre hiking. A green LED reveals whether it is delivering a solar charge or not.

No big deal. If you remember to charge it one way or another, it recharges your appliance.
On the other hand, though an appealing toy, its another item to carry, albeit small. Do you really need it You must decide.

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