It’s fair to say that solar is pretty topical at the moment. Climate change, skyrocketing electricity prices, the rise of rooftop domestic solar panels, rebates, tariffs, Elon Musk…and the list goes on.
Headlining the current solar festival is the Aussie government and their renewable power exploits. It’s a politics and policy hot potato, jam-packed with opinion, fiery debate, red faces, angry exchanges, political opportunism, promises and vast swathes confusion.
You’re forgiven for feeling a little over it.
But right about now is a good time to remember that underpinning the excitement in this photovoltaic hullabaloo is technology. It’s solar and it’s a brilliant technology.
If you’ve not been shopping for a camping kit recently, you might not be aware that solar is well into camping. And there are a heap of cool solar camping thingies you’re going to want to add to your camping kit. How about we forget the solar hype for just a moment and let’s go camping!
Yes, We Love Camping
If Australia actually had a bill of rights, you could rest assured our right to camp whenever wherever and however would be represented in the early chapters.
Granted, there are a number of Aussies who would prefer to drink a warm fish milkshake with hair topping than sleep outside in a tent. For the rest of us, however, camping is in our blood.
For many, just half a day off work will spark the urge. For many more, something like the Easter weekend will see us brave an apocalyptic city-wide traffic exodus, with millions bent on scoring the same favourite campsite, if only for a day or two.
We’ll bring with us just about anything from a pair of thongs, and just thongs, to the kitchen sink, literally. For some, the latest tent packed inside the latest 4WD is essential.
For others, the wilderness will never be complete without the biggest flat screen TV that will fit in the car without having to leave the kids behind. (Leaving the kids behind is frequently discussed).
There is one thing most of us modern era campers have in common. Even if we travel with only a backpack, there are a range of electronic devices that come with us. Always. And the more space we have, the more electronic convenience we’ll take with us.
Solar technology in camping is changing the way we do things in the great outdoors. Solar gadgets designed for camping are allowing us to do more, go further and go for longer. We’re also going safer, with more of the convenience of home, without having to restrict ourselves to a powered caravan site.
Extended camping adventures in genuine wilderness no longer exclude the continual use of a laptop, iPad or smartphone - or a fridge for that matter. Forget the geni, they’re noisy, heavy and take heaps of space. Go solar.
This article will look at a bunch of solar gadgets that provide sun-born electric power while you’re exploring the Aussie wilderness. We’ll look at 5 lightweight solar gadgets and five heavier items for serious, equipment-heavy camping adventures.
5 Solar Gadgets for Trekking and Minimalist Camping
The list below covers 5 awesome solar gadgets ideal for day trips and long, extended treks into the deepest wilderness where everything you carry needs to fit on your back.
1. The BirkSun Boost 2 Backpack
The BirkSun Boost 2 hails from America and is the perfect solar backpack for all types of travel. The solar panel is constructed from fabric and designed to last 20 years. The panel is waterproof and incredibly hard wearing, so is able to handle the inevitable knocks and bumps of hiking.
The Boost 2 has enough capacity to take daily essentials but weighs in at around 1 kg. It’s ideal for a day trek, a day at the beach, a bush walk or a flight. You will also enjoy the confidence of storing your GoPro, smartphone and tablet knowing that your backpack is waterproof.
The solar panel supplies an in-built 3000mAH battery that will provide up to two full phone charges. It will also charge your GoPro, camera or tablet. It’s smart enough to know what you have plugged in and will optimise charging based on the device connected.
2. Inflatable Solar Light MPOWERD Luci Outdoor
7 hours of sun exposure ensures you will have up to 12 hours of brilliant LED illumination for the darkest of nights. The MPOWERD Luci Inflatable Solar Light deflates for easy backpack storage then inflates for a diffused ambient light that is ideal for camping. For the safety conscious, it also has an emergency flash setting.
Hanging straps allow you to use the light hands-free and it is totally waterproof so rain won’t spoil the light show. It’s incredibly lightweight; you won’t even know you’re carrying it, unlike a heavy battery-laden torch.
Your Luci is completely sun-powered. Charge it while you’re trekking or resting in the sun and it’s ready for a night of easy campsite reading as the fire embers slowly diminish.
3. Puralytics Solar Water Purifier
These solar activated water purifying bags are so brilliant they should be considered compulsory for every trekker and camper. Hydration planning is probably the most important consideration for any trek, along with safety and emergency provisions.
The Puralytics Solar Water Purifier uses the sun to completely remove toxins from the most rancid water supplies. Even clean water flowing in a stream can be loaded with contaminants that can make you very ill or worse, should you drink it. With the Puralytics Solar Water Purifier, you can drink easy.
A must-have for emergency water supply, the Puralytics Solar Water Purifier cleans water of 99.999% of all chemicals, viruses, bacteria, and protozoa in just two hours. The bag is reusable, extremely lightweight and easy to store in any backpack. Truly a solar must for any trekker, adventurer or camper.
4. Soladey Solar-Powered Toothbrush
When trekking and limited to a backpack only, space is at a premium and weight must be minimised. In terms of hygiene, you will probably dispense with the mouthwash, but can you do without toothpaste?
With the Sloadey Solar-Powered Toothbrush, yes you can. The solar-powered toothbrush works by using the sun's rays to create negatively charged ions inside the brush. When released into the mouth when brushing, the ions kill plaque and bacteria even more efficiently than standard brushing.
Not only do you save space and weight, you also save on the water you would otherwise use when cleaning your teeth.
5. Kogan Solar Phone Charger
At only 300 grams the Kogan Solar Phone Charger is the ideal solar panel kit for the trekker or backpacker. The 4 panels fold neatly away and are perfect for those with very limited space in their packs.
The panels feature highly efficient monocrystalline cells generating 1270 mA output current. USB connectivity allows you to charge phones, power banks, PDA, and Video Cameras. There is built-in voltage control to ensure your sensitive equipment is protected.
Supplied in a weather resistant, durable case, these panels are ideal. They are also very affordable.
5 Solar Gadgets for BIG Camping Adventures
There are a great many of us that take just about everything with us when we head to the wilderness. From fridges to televisions, to power tools and broadcast quality production equipment. Yes, we take it camping.
This stuff needs power and the power needs to be continually replenished. Cue the sun and its infinite supply.
1. Earl the Backcountry Solar Survival Tablet
At the size of a small tablet, Earl fits into any category of camping, be it lightweight trekking, extended mega treks or family adventures with the whole family. Earl is designed for when there is no connectivity at all, that is, a true wilderness.
Earl is all about safety. Featuring GPS and a built-in AM/FM, shortwave and Longwave radio tuner, it also operates as a UHF radio comms device. The transceiver allows you to connect to analog and digital radio frequencies.
The touchscreen, usable while wearing gloves, presents all critical information including your location, destination, base camp, topography and weather conditions. What’s more, it’s everything proof.
Just 5 hours of full sun exposure provides up to 20 hours of use. The solar is in-built. No external panels required.
2. The Yeti 400 Lithium by Goal Zero
Yes. It’s a battery. But when coupled with the Boulder 100 Briefcase Solar panel, it’s a serious sun-driven power source with amazing capacities wherever you might be in the great outdoors.
These are not items you carry in your backpack. While they are portable, easily handled and stored, they are for a larger camping set up.
When fully charged, which takes about 5 hours using the panels linked above, you can run and charge quite a number of devices at once.
There are several USB outlets, an AC outlet and DC outlet. The convenient LCD monitor provides all the information you need to keep abreast of charges.
A fully charged Yeti 400 can charge a smartphone 30 times or your tablet 10 times. You can watch TV for up to 3 hours or run a 12 volt LED light for 120 hours. Check them out here. Check out the full range. This is amazing solar camping gear.
3. Solar Panels for Camping
There is a huge range of solar panels designed specifically for camping. Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, flexible, rigid, large and small.
Many offer specific features such as long leads, internal batteries, blanket style, multi-fold or bi-fold. There are connectables for making a solar string or larger array. Many camping solar panels highlight durability to handle the rigours of camping life.
Prices also differ significantly. There are plenty of cheap options that should be avoided but there are also brand names attracting a higher price that don’t necessarily work any better than panels from a more moderate price point.
One thing is sure; you can configure a panel and battery set up to cover just about any camping power demand. Get it right and you can stay out in the wilderness, fully powered, for a very long time.
One of the great benefits of solar panel camping is that through experimentation you can learn a heck of a lot about solar and power storage.
Going through even the best camping solar panels would take pages. So, we’ve found a great comparison test of several brands to give you an insight into what is happening with panels on the local camping scene.
There is also a great Aussie buying guide here specifically dedicated to camping solar panels.
If you find the language a challenge, follow this link for a run down and definitions.
4. Coleman Solar Shower
This is by no means new technology, but it’s all about the sun. Not in a photovoltaic sense, but in a thermal sense.
The Coleman Solar Shower is little more than a black plastic bag you can fill with water and hang from a tree. A simple hot shower. There’s nothing fancy about this, but for many campers, enjoying/enduring the wilderness this simple technology is essential.
The principal is incredibly simple. The black plastic attracts the sun's heat, warming the water inside throughout the day. After a day of trekking, surfing, fishing or whatever, there is nothing like a warm shower before retiring to the campfire. It’s refreshing and restorative.
The solar shower takes only a few hours to reach optimal temperature, which can be as high as 49 degrees. Solar is not always about electricity.
5. Solar Camping Refrigeration
Camping fridges are by no means new. However, they have taken off over the last decade as solar panels and battery storage have become more affordable.
If you have never used one, take the tip, camping fridges are brilliant. You can head out to the back of nowhere without the need for ice while keeping your drinks cold, your veggies fresh and your meat frozen.
The great bulk of camping/portable, fridge/freezers are solar compatible. With the sun charging your fridge batteries, you never need be out of refrigeration power.
Large camping fridges don’t come with their own battery. Power storage and solar panels need to be purchased separately.
The thing we would like to highlight here is that there are retailers that will package the lot for you. There are significant benefits in cost savings firstly, but the important thing is, this is a great introduction to solar camping for the novice.
The experts compile a package of a fridge, solar panels and batteries for you, of a size that meets your needs, so you don’t have to learn solar before you purchase your portable fridge. No need to search for each component, the experts have done all the work.
It’s easy. Using the sun to keep your food cold. Solar brilliance.
Solar is not all about rooftops and powering your house. There is a fun component to solar and a host of wonderful products that can enhance our experience of the great outdoors.
There is a huge range of products, manufacturers and distributors, all sporting the latest solar camping tech. We have barely scratched the surface here.
Integrating solar into your camping and trekking only makes sense in our digital world. Whether you trek the wilderness with the smallest of backpacks or cart the kitchen sink deep into the woods in the tray of your 4WD, there is a solar camping product for you.
Camping solar is all about fun, convenience, options and safety.
Of course, the romance of the swagman, his horse and saddlebags colour our imagination of the Aussie outback.
Don’t let these notions of a bygone era preclude you from enjoying the best that our solar tech has to offer. Remember, it’s solar, it’s noiseless and emits nothing that smells or pollutes. It's simply power from the sun.
If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!
Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.
Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.
Photo credit: Depositphotos, BirkSun, WildEarth, Puralytics, Pure Energy Solutions, Kogan, Uncrate, Goal Zero, Coleman