A get home bag (GHB) should be reliable, useful and comfortable. You should be able to carry enough critical items to enable you to make it back home, where you can get to your longer term survival cache. If it blends into the environment you operate in, even better.
By Jim S, a reader of SurvivalCache.com
Specs (from manufacturer):
BirkSun Levels Solar Backpack
Material: HP Cotton Blend
Size: 19″H x 13″W x 6″D
Weight: 2 lb 1 oz
Solar Panel: 4.5 W
Battery: Capacity – 2,400mAh Input – 5V/700mA Output – 5V/800mA
DC Adapters: 8pin, 30pin, Micro-USB, Mini-USB
Solar Panel Specs:
The made in USA solar panel is 4.5 Watts, enabling a claimed grid charge time of 4 hours and a claimed solar charge time of 6 hours. The solar panel is small for a 4.5 Watt unit, just 6.5” x 5.25” measured. I compare this to my 5 Watt panel I have permanently attached to my house to trickle charge my portable emergency battery pack. The 5 Watt panel I have is a much larger 14” x 14” (approximately).
Before even trying on the pack or inspecting it, I first tested out the solar/battery system. If the solar/battery system didn’t work as claimed, I was going to end the test and put the backpack in the free bin at a charity center.
The solar panel seemed of high quality, the battery pack looked well made and the electrical cables felt like OEM phone charger quality (good). The battery had a diode level indicator with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% charge levels. There is also a power button you can push to get a reading of what battery life the unit is at when no light is present. All of this is viewable by a small clear window on the side of the backpack. The battery can also be charged with a USB wall charger (not included) with the use of a USB cord (included).
The battery came with a charge, so I immediately hooked up my iPad to it to drain the battery to 0%. When the battery is completely drained, the power level button can be pushed, but no diode lights will power up so you know the battery has absolutely 0% power.
My initial charge was from a wall outlet and it had a full charge (all diodes stay lit up and don’t blink when full). It took about 4 hours and 9 minutes to get a full charge. I then put it to the test and hooked up my iPhone 4 that had 37% battery life left. The BirkSun charged my iPhone 4 to 100% in no time. Still having more battery life left on the BirkSun, I hooked up my iPad with 56% battery life left. It charged it to 67% and the BirkSun finally used all of its charge. We all know iPads have very high capacity batteries, too. I verified again with my iPhone 4 at 7% battery life and the BirkSun charged it to 100% without issue.
My next test was solar charging with 100% clear and direct sunlight in early September at latitude of 37 degrees north. The sun charged the completely drained battery in an impressive 4 hours and 2 minutes. Success. OK, now I can move on.
Inspection and Impression:
The main material used in the BirkSun Levels backpack felt like a windbreaker type material, with a light BDU rip-stop type look and feel to it. The bottom portion of the pack was of a more traditional type nylon that is fitting for placing it on the dirt, concrete or rocks. The zippers were also of quality. There is a water bottle sleeve on the side as well as a bungee cord section to place wet or light items on the outside of the pack.
The entire inner compartment of the backpack was lined with a soft material that would be great for laptops or other scrape-prone gear. Inside the main compartment is another smaller zippered compartment that houses all the electronic connections and bits. Also in the main compartment is a laptop type sleeve to divide a laptop or tablet from the rest of your gear. The main compartment was about equal in size to a standard school type backpack, so there is plenty of room for everyday items.
The straps and back are padded with a semi-thin but firm padding and covered with a very comfortable mesh type material. It helps wick away sweat, keeping your back and shoulders cool. There is also a chest strap with an inhale/exhale stretch portion to help secure the pack if you are hiking or riding a bicycle. The strap was adjustable for height, via piping in the bead of the shoulder straps. The BirkSun Levels backpack was very comfortable.
There are a couple uses for the backpack that I think would be fitting. Would this be a great commuter backpack or student backpack? Yes, of course. Is that its main target group? Absolutely. This site is not geared towards that type of use, so here is where I think it shines. In my opinion, it would be a good covert Get Home Bag. Let’s say some sort of disaster has occurred and you have to walk home because the roads are jammed or out of commission. Now you have a viable backpack that can charge your phone because Murphy says your phone will be at 5% battery life when you really need it to arrange a way home. The best part is that it’s solar, so it will charge as you walk home.
I am a big fan of using the sun’s free energy to charge something I use everyday.
Small but powerful solar panel and battery
An option for 1000 Denier Nylon would be a nice and more rugged material for days you are heading to the desert or mountains (I am told this is in the works).
A headphone hole in the pack would be nice so while the phone is charging, you can still wear it and listen to music without running the cord through the zipper.
I like this bag. It’s a well made backpack with a top quality, self sustainable, solar system built into the design. The BirkSun ‘Levels’ solar back pack fits in well in most any urban situation and is probably an ideal daily mass commuter backpack to the city, among other uses.
About the author: Jim S is a 10 year police veteran with an urban police agency. Currently Jim is a SWAT operator, armorer and range master. Jim S is a consultant for a firearms safety manufacturing company and he also makes specific devices used by major SWAT teams on the west coast.
All Photos By: Jim S
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