Awesome Solar Gadgets
It used to be that spending time in the great outdoors meant disconnecting from the real world – truly spending some time alone with Mother Nature. That is no longer the case. Though there are still not outlets in the middle of the wilderness for you to plug in your cell phone, new technology is emerging that allows you to take your devices with you and charge them using the sun. Other devices are built to be charged by the sun. Read on to hear about some exciting new technology that you can use on your next camping trip.
Start with the Chargers
Of course, before you get to the new devices, we need to figure out how to charge the old ones. There are a variety of options to charge your iPods, iPhones, iPads, iWhatever else someone at apple dreamed up last nights, etc. One option is a solar charging tent manufactured by Eddie Bauer. The tent, recently featured in an article on Gizmodo, costs about $500, and includes a “Power Katabatic” which has a piece with a battery that, when charged by the sun, allows one to plug in USB devices and bring them back to life.
Conversely, there are options that are much smaller, like the PowerFilm USB and AA charger sold by Alternative Energy, Inc.. It is foldable and can bring your devices back to life in just four hours … you can even leave out batteries during the day and charge your devices overnight. It costs $80, a bargain compared to the tent.
Finally, from Eclipse Solar Gear, for around $120, is the Solar Bike Trunk, which straps on to the back of your bicycle and charges your devices while you are riding. The three pound backpack, which looks like an oversized lunchbox, can be left in the outdoors overnight safely (provided a hurricane doesn’t roll through), and takes approximately 4-6 hours to charge most devices, depending on sunlight.
On to the fun stuff
This gadget is what it sounds like – a bag of light. Useful in the outdoors, it can hold a charge on its high setting from anywhere from 8-10 hours, or can get 14 hours on its lower setting. LuminAID, renowned for its social responsibility as a corporation (they donate these things overseas), has had its products featured on morning news programs such as Today and CNN and in newspapers like Chicago Tribune. The waterproof bag (it also floats) costs about $20, but if you pay a few extra dollars, they also give one to someone in need, in places like India, where in some parts, less than 50% of households have electricity. Not only do you help yourself, you help others. A win-win.
Often times when you’re outdoors, you start humming or whistling, but that’s really the only music you experience. Not anymore. Manufactured by Hammacher Schlemmer, the Portable Solar-Powered Speaker solves that problem. The device plays up to eight hours of music on just a five-hour charge. Complete with a built-in solar panel, the device is compatible with Bluetooth enabled smartphones, tablets, etc. The speaker can also charge devices with their regular charging cable. The speaker runs $99.95, but with its multi-use capability and a lifetime warranty, would be a deal at twice the price.
This one is rather self-explanatory – an umbrella to go in the yard, on the deck, on the balcony, etc. that has solar lights on it. Available in several colors, the nine foot canopied umbrella regularly costs $150, but at times is available for $75 at Target. You can become the envy of your neighborhood, your apartment complex (though not sure how this would work inside), or your campground with the ensuing ambiance of this solar umbrella.
To conclude, we have a blast from the past. A solar cassette wallet calculator that is roughly the size of a credit card – you can slip it into your wallet. Perhaps you can use it to add up the total cost of all the items on this page. The calculator itself costs two bucks, and can be purchased from Perpetual Kid.
That should be enough slick solar stuff to get you started, but in case it is not, check out Alternative Energy, Inc.’s entire line of solar chargers, solar lights, and energy efficient appliances (they can run on solar generators). Remember, we have the sun for six billion (give or take a billion here or there) before it runs out of hydrogen. We might as well take advantage of it while we can.