Staying Connected in the Great Outdoors - Portable Solar Power Camping
Whether you’re an avid camper that spends their weekends around a campfire or if you enjoy nothing more than traversing the steep hills surrounded by pine trees, there’s no denying that being outdoors can be a fantastic experience. From the highest mountains to the lowest valleys, the world is a stunning place. It can also be a dangerous one; more so if you are ill-prepared.
We’ve all heard horror stories of people being lost and struggling to get home, or needing help and finding themselves powerless to request it. As rare as these situations might be, could you imagine anything worse than finding yourself the victim of an event that could become a life or death situation?
Sure, most outdoors enthusiasts will take the basic equipment with them (such as water filtration tablets, a map of the surrounding area and a pocket knife for good measure), but a lot has changed over the past few years. That’s why so many experts recommend going a little further nowadays, especially when it comes to your technology.
Have a Mobile? Keep it Solar Powered
Smartphones can be some of the most powerful assets at our disposal; from GPS maps, right through to electronic compasses and much more in between.
But they need energy to function and if your mobile dies half way through your trip, you might end up struggling to say the least. Fortunately, there are options that could help you to stay connected at all times – and one of these just so happens to be solar power banks.
What is a Portable Solar Power Bank or Charger?
In the simplest terms, they are an incredibly diverse device that can be used to absorb power from UV rays – converting it into electronic energy before feeding it into your device. As long as there’s access to sunlight, you can charge your mobile; whether you’re setting up camp in the evening, or hiking across a mountain. The portable chargers are often foldable and very lightweight for easy packing.
Unlike other battery-powered banks that will need to be charged via electricity, these useful alternatives can charge during the day and then be used time and time again without a power outlet being needed. They are quickly becoming the number one choice for smartphone and tablet users – and as they are diverse enough to cater to mini-USB and regular USB cables, yours will undoubtedly keep your phone powered up regardless of the brand and manufacturer.
What About Devices Larger Than Phones and Tablets?
Solar power isn't new; in fact, it's been used for decades to provide energy in a number of ways. And when power banks might not be quite powerful enough to recharge a laptop or similar device, portable solar panels might be better suited. Generally speaking, the fact that they are portable means that they are lightweight and easily stored. While mobile solar banks are typically small, you could go for one of the larger ones that output a higher level of energy.
What happens is that when exposed to sunlight, the panels will absorb the energy and produce the equivalent of DC power. Inside each panel is an inverter, which then converts it into AC power – and this is what our devices use to remain active and functional.
Although all camping solar panels will operate in much the same way, when buying one it's important to pay attention to the Power (Watt) that the device puts out. For instance, a mobile phone bank will usually provide 1 to 10W of power at the most. If you plug that same bank into a laptop or a tablet, you could find that it can't provide enough – and may consume the power from the larger device instead.
This is why many outdoors enthusiasts prefer to invest in a more potent portable solar panel charger, or buy dedicated ones according to their devices.
Which Portable Solar Units Should You Buy?
This will depend on your preferences, but generally speaking it’s always a good idea to have the right tool for the job. For smaller excursions whereby you might spend a night or two in the great outdoors with just your smartphone; a small solar charging bank should be sufficient. These are very fairly priced and as mentioned above – they rely on the rays from the sun, allowing you to use them and re-use them without issue.
With just a quick wipe of the solar surface, you can ensure that the optimum levels of sunlight are able to penetrate the panel, making them easy to maintain as well.
If you are planning a longer trip, or one that involves the use of a laptop or even an electric grill – power is key. Ideally, you’ll want to look for a solar charger that emits over 100W of energy, but certain brands offer technologies that amplify the output of the current to suit a variety of appliances.
How Long Do Solar Banks Take to Charge?
This is a two-fold question in the sense that they’ll first need time to charge and then can be used to charge up another device. Generally speaking the larger the panel, the more sunlight can be absorbed. Many power banks feature digital displays that provide information on how much energy they have stored (between 0 and 100%). Some take 4 hours to charge fully, while others may be more rapid or have a prolonged charging period instead.
Once they are charged however, they will emit a predefined volume of AC energy to your device and you’ll find information relating to that on the back of the packaging in most cases. It’s safe to assume that most models will charge a device as quickly as a regular USB cable would when plugged into a power outlet. And once the bank’s energy depletes, you could simply stick it back in the sun to catch a few more rays ready for its next use.
What Else Can They Be Used For?
One of the most appealing things about portable solar panels is that they can be carried around and put to good use with minimal fuss. If you’re in a log cabin without power, on a hike without access to electricity, or spending a night in a tent under a tree – you can simply plug in and relax as your device is powered up. And certain models even feature multiple USB ports, allowing you to recharge multiple gadgets simultaneously.
But a little known secret about these types of products is that they can also be used to provide consistent energy to other appliances. For example; USB fans that don’t need to be charged can be plugged in and operate as they would if they were connected to a computer or power outlet. Small electric hobs and grills can even be powered up (as long as the bank can emit enough energy).
The options really are almost endless and this is why so many outdoor enthusiasts use and recommend solar charging stations in equal measure. Considering their incredibly affordable prices, the wide range of features that they bring to the table and the fact that they run on a renewable resource; is it any wonder why they’re quickly becoming the number one accessory for hikers and campers?
It’s never worth the risk of being stuck in the great outdoors without access to your phone, or facing an emergency without being able to call for help. With a portable solar charger, you could enjoy connectivity whilst staying on the move – and without delay.