When I first started my career as a photographer, many of my assignments required weeks in the field. And when I say "field," think remote tropical beaches or high Arctic wilderness in Alaska. Since I was using film cameras, all I needed was a big bag of AA batteries, and I was good for a month without power.
Now my long assignments are a little different. I may only be in the field for one week, but my camera gear requires volumes more power. I can’t remember the last time I needed AA batteries for a camera. Instead, I need to recharge my sat phone, laptop, camera batteries and maybe a few rechargeable AAs for my speedlight.
How can one power up all this gear when no AC power is available? Today, photographers can use the sun and solar power to recharge all their devices.
Solar power has been tapped for years to supply power for homes and big industry, but only recently have smaller, light-weight options become available. These new solar-charging units can easily be carried in your pack, and have enough power to recharge iPhones and laptops multiple times on one charge. The next time you’re camping or traveling in some remote place without reliable access to power, try one of these chargers to power up your devices.
The Powertraveller Powermonkey Extreme (www.powertraveller.com) is a great solar charger for your cell phone, GPS and iPad. This compact unit comes with a small solar panel, a battery and a variety of cords and adapters. The 9,000 mAh lithium polymer battery can be charged by solar, AC power or via a USB cable to another source. The battery has two output settings for powering different devices, with an LCD screen on the side letting you know how much power is left.
In sunny conditions, it takes about 15 hours to fully charge the battery, enough juice to charge your iPhone six times. One advantage of this unit is its durability and waterproof rating. The battery can withstand full emersion in shallow water for up to 30 seconds. If you’re floating down the Grand Canyon on a 12-day trip, just attach the solar panel to your boat and let it soak up the Arizona sunshine. Don’t worry about a little water splash when you run Lava Falls.
Brunton (www.brunton.com) has long been known for producing outdoor gear, and they have a nice lineup of solar panels and batteries to provide power in the field. Brunton offers an extensive line of solar panels, including foldable Solaris versions and their popular lightweight Solar Rolls. These panels are waterproof, and many can charge one of Brunton’s batteries such as the Impel or Sustain. Better yet, these solar panels can be daisy- chained together to speed up recharging times. The Solar Rolls also come with a car battery cable. Arrive back to your car after a weeklong camping trip and the battery is dead? Hook up a Solar Roll and start charging the battery.