Portable power is such a huge trend in outdoor tech these days. Whether you’re a Luddite or a gadget-freak, there’s no denying it: Electronics in the backcountry—smartphones, GPS, headlamps, tablets, and more—are here to stay. So let’s figure out the best way to keep them charged.
My crew and I have tested hand-crank generators, hydrogen reactors, just-add-water fuel cells, and yes, plenty of solar panels. In my mind, it’s the solar panels that are most attractive…at least in theory. In practice, though, they are almost universally disappointing. They sometimes take a whole day to get a few bars, they emit weak charges, and they are, of course, dependent on the sun’s cooperation.
Enter StrongVolt. This promising new solar panel, is pretty damn light (the 3-watt one weighs 7 ounces and packs to 7.2"x3.5"x0.6"), and solves a common problem: When a cloud passes over your panel, the item automatically disconnects. So say you set your charger up at camp and head out for a hike. If a cloud comes along (as clouds are known to do), it stops charging, and doesn’t restart until you manually disconnect and reconnect the device. StrongVolt, which is optimized for Apple devices, automatically starts charging again once the cloud moves along. So when you return from your hike, your device stands a much better chance of being juiced up.
The StrongVolt is poised to launch with 3-, 5-, 7-, 10-, 12-, and 18-watt panels (choose the amount of power you need) within about 60 days. I’m on the list to get a test sample as soon as it comes off the line. I’ll keep you posted on my findings, but in the meantime, you can get in on the action here: