Huge this year at the Outdoor Retail Summer Market convention in Salt Lake City were devices that provide portable power. Through a combination of lightweight batteries and solar panels, you’ll never be without communication in the outdoors.
While many people head into the wild to escape their electronic devices, it never hurts to having a working radio in case of emergency and of course some tunes for beside the fire at night. Several companies offer comparable devices. Here is a look at some of the most interesting.
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Kit
Goal Zero is best known for its Yeti portable line of battery packs, but to go along with those packs, the company offers a variety of lightweight solar panels that can be strung from a backpack or a tailgate. Their smallest, most compact design for backpackers is the Goal Zero Switch 8 and Nomad 7 Kit. Providing 8 watts through the panel flexible solar panel, the Nomad 7 battery dispenses 8 Wh. MSRP $90
Brunton Hydrogen Reactor
Along with a range of highly efficient solar panels and portable battery packs, the most compelling offering from Brunton remains its portable Hydrogen Reactor. That’s right, a portable hydrogen reactor. But don’t worry about it blowing up like the Hindenberg. The compact Hydrogen Reactor is coupled with two Hydrogen Core cells. These cores, similar to batteries, can be filled with distilled water and charged with a little electricity before leaving the house. The inserted core then creates a platinum catalyst that separates the hydrogen ions from negative electrons which generates electricity far greater than a normal battery of that size. MSRP $150
Goal Zero Sherpa 50
Goal Zero has been a leader in portable power since 2006. Offering a full range of portable solar panels and battery packs, we found the Sherpa 50 to be the lightest and most practical for an actual backpacking trip. If you need a device to recharge video cameras and laptops this device is lightweight and efficient. Partner it with the Nomad 13 and you’re in business. MSRP $429 including panels
Brunton Ember 2800
There were lots of portable power devices. Everything from the size of a lipstick container to a cigarette pack to a full-size car battery can be used to store power on-the-go. One of the most interesting solutions is the compact Ember 2800, which not only holds enough juice to r-power your cellphone or camera, but it contains a built-in solar panel. MSRP $50
Yet another company offering portable power, EnerPlex provides a range of solar panels and battery packs. One that caught our eye is a backpack with integrated solar panels called the Packr. While most providers suggest simply hanging the panels over a pack, EnerPlex has device a back with built-in panels Packr. At just 3 watts, these panels won’t power a microwave but they can certainly keep your GPS and radio in operation while you trudge along the trail.
Another company making a move in the portable power business is PowerFilm Solar, which has traditionally supplied the US military with tiny solar panels. Their commercial lines include compact panels that roll up into a tube for easy storage. New this year is its HelioVault, a high capacity portable power bank designed for maximum efficiency. The fellas at PowerFilm say the HelioVault is more efficient than any other battery pack out there. They’ve recently launched a kickstarter to gauge interest.