As with any kind of hobby, camping has purists and non-purists. Purists say that if you’re going to go camping, everything should be as basic and natural as possible, meaning no electronics.
Car camping isn’t “real” camping. For everyone else, camping is just a momentary escape from the stresses of life. It’s all about the change of scenery, the enjoyment of nature, and new experiences. If you’re this kind of camper, solar gadgets can make your time in the woods more convenient and more satisfying. What benefits do they offer?
- Solar energy is free and abundant. You don’t have to pay for access to the sun, and as long as you aren’t thick in the bush and the weather is okay, you should have several hours of sunlight every day.
- Solar energy is clean and quiet. Coal, wood, and gas all produce waste that contribute to environmental harm. Perhaps the process of making solar cells isn’t completely green yet, but using a solar cell is certainly the greener option. Plus, they don’t make noise.
- Solar energy is reliable. It’s impossible to “run out of sun”, so solar gadgets will always work (as long as you don’t break them). Not only is this great for when you lack access to outlets, but they also double as useful investments for emergency situations.
And that’s just for the outdoors. Solar energy provides all kinds of other benefits when you install them for your home. That being said, let’s look at a few products that can really come in handy on your next camping trip.
The Goal Zero Yeti 150 is one of the best portable solar generators currently available. We’ve already outlined the benefits of a solar generator over a gas generator before, and for camping, the solar option definitely wins.
This thing is pretty expensive so it’s understandable if it’s outside of your budget, but it packs a punch with its 150 Wh, 14000 mAh capacity. It also comes with three port types: 12V, USB, and AC.
No matter what you have, this will charge it. You just plug the generator to a compatible solar panel and it works, but you can also plug it into a normal outlet which makes it even more versatile as an investment. The only downside is that it isn’t weatherproof.
If the above-mentioned Yeti 150 is beyond your price range, or simply way more power than you’d ever need, then the RAVPower Portable Charger may be the next best thing. What I love most about it is the foldable design.
This charger has four panels: three of them have solar cells and the fourth is where the energy is stored. Each panel is about 9.5×6.0 inches in size, and about an inch thick when fully folded. It’s also made with a nylon material that resists water and mold.
With two USB ports, you can charge two devices at once. Mostly useful for smaller devices, like phones and tablets, but very useful for that.
A third solar charger on this list? You bet. This one is so good that we couldn’t skip it but different enough from the above two that it still warranted inclusion. For maximum portability, go with the PowerTraveler Powermonkey Extreme.
It’s slim, it’s rugged, and it’s waterproof. The solar component has a clamshell design that you open up to start charging, and the charge is stored in a separate battery pack that you can carry around on its own — right in your pocket if you so choose.
The battery also has an LCD screen that shows the current charge level, which is really nice when you’re on a hike for example. It has a USB port and a 12V DC port, which covers a broad range of what you can charge.
If you want beauty and elegant, this may not be the right light source for you, but if you want maximum flexibility and portability, then the MPowerd Luci Inflatable Light will fit the bill.
It’s inflatable — you literally blow into it — which means it’s also collapsible. The light covers approximately 15 sq. ft. and can last between 6 to 12 hours on a single charge depending on which setting you use: bright, super bright, or 1-second flashes.
It’s waterproof, submersible, and also comes with a handy strap for carrying by hand or clipping to something else, like a backpack. Best of all? It’s dirt cheap.
The MPowerd Luci is understandably not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you want something a little more protected and pleasing to the eye, consider the ErgaLogik Compact Lantern.
It’s tiny (about the size of your palm) and made with a hard protective case. Open it like an accordion to provide light over a radius of several feet and use one of three modes: low, high, and flashing. For times when no sun is available, you can charge it by USB.
But the nifty part is that it also has a USB outlet, which means this compact lantern doubles as a solar battery pack. How cool is that?
Here’s one more light source that you might like. The Suaoki Clover-Style Flashlight is exactly what it sounds like: three panels that have LED lights on the inside and solar panels on the outside, shaped just like a clover.
With three modes — low, high, and flashing — it’s about as good as the others, but the clover design has wider light coverage and can be “closed” to act as a more focused light source, which can be nice when you need more of a flashlight than a lantern.
There’s nothing worse than going camping and being caught out in bad weather, which is why the Eton Scorpion II Digital Radio is something that everyone should consider bringing along.
It delivers NOAA Weather Alerts so you’ll always be prepared, but it also picks up on AM and FM just fine so you can listen to talk radio, music, or whatever else is around. But the best part? It’s a multi-functional powerhouse. Charge it in two ways: sunlight or hand crank.
On top of the radio features, the Scorpion II also has a built-in flashlight and can charge mobile devices with its USB port. It’s like a digital multi-tool, great for casual campers.
Here’s one solar product that may appeal more to purists than non-purists: a water bag that you can heat up by setting it out in the sun. The solar elements can heat it up to hotter than ambient temperature.
So the next time you’re on a multi-day camping trip in the true wilderness and you want to take a hot shower, take an Advanced Elements Solar Shower with you. It holds 5 gallons, but a smaller 3-gallon version exists (UK) too.
Why would anyone need a solar cooker while camping? That’s what the campfire is there for, isn’t it? Well, yes, but there are things you can do with a solar cooker that you can’t do so easily with a campfire.
For one, the cooking is more reliable and even. You also don’t get the taste of smoke from a campfire, which can even be dangerous if you’re burning treated wood. But most of all, you can set it and forget it, whereas a campfire requires at least some attention.
The All Season Solar Cooker uses the sun’s rays to cook your food, and the design makes it easy to capture sunlight even as the sun moves across the sky from dawn to dusk. If this one is too big, a smaller version is available.
The GoSun Sport Solar Oven began as a Kickstarter project and took off once people realized how useful it could be. It’s basically a vacuum tube that you put meats and vegetables inside, then cook using redirected sunlight.
It’s large enough to hold enough food for a two-person meal, it works even in the winter, and it’s quite versatile: bake, steam, boil, and even fry if you’re daring enough. You’ll love it once you start using it.
You might even consider starting with the GoSun Sport Pro Pack, which comes with an extra cooking tray and a durable carrying case for better portability.
Solar Gadgets Are Great for Camping
One reason to go camping is to get out in the sun, so why not make full use of what the sun can do? Harness its energy to charge up your devices, heat up your water, and cook your food — all without any waste or environmental impact.
If you want to get even more serious, you should check out these useful solar gadgets for your home, including indoor chargers, mounted lights, Bluetooth speakers, and more. And don’t forget about non-solar gear, too. Here are a few camping items that may make your next trip even better.
What do you think about bringing solar gadgets on a camping trip? Is the convenience worth it or does it defeat the whole purpose of going out? Let us know in the comments below!