Take your tech outdoors and use the Summer sun to recharge your gadgets. Instead of lurking near a power outlet wherever you go, solar-paneled tools are the convenient way to make sure your gadgets never lose power. Here, we found five practical solar options that will keep your gear charged throughout the year, using both indoor and outdoor light.
Poor battery life is the downfall of many a useful gadget — after all, even if you've stocked up your iPhone with the best apps for camping, you'll be far from entertained without a fully charged gadget.
That problem has once again been remedied by the power of the sun with Joos Orange ($140), a portable charger for many devices including your phone, iPad, Kindle, camera, and more (adapters included). I checked it out at Macworld and loved the design; the portable, durable, and waterproof charger looks like a solar panel and comes with legs so you can angle it for optimal time in the sun. One hour of sunlight equals two hours of talk time on an iPhone in 3G mode, and you can store power for use later.
It's 60 degrees and sunny here in San Francisco, so I can already imagine carrying this device with me on my next nature outing, but if you're stuck in the East Coast snowstorms, no worries: the Joos Orange charges using any USB power source as well!
Even though the official date is a few days away, it's already Spring at Sugar HQ! I'm loving how sunny it is, especially since it means that all my solar-powered gadgets are gonna get their fill of all-natural juice.
Adding to the list of solar-powered gizmos is Muzatch's MZH-1200 iPhone Power Station ($50). At about half the size of an iPhone and weighing in at a mere 9.8 ounces, it's perfectly sized for travel. A drawback for some and a plus for others is that the MZH-1200 is powered entirely by solar energy. Not bad if you're trying to reduce your carbon footprint, but not good if you get stuck in the dark with it. Probably best to keep this baby in the sunlight whenever possible.
Find out how the MZH-1200 works when you read more
If you're still in search of the perfect gift for the person who has everything consider picking up a stylish gadget charger. Sure, it's not the sexiest gift out there, but virtually everyone with a cell phone, iPod, PDA or handheld gaming device could use a couple of extra chargers. Tack on some added style and eco goodness and you've found the kind of stocking stuffer that will keep the ohhhs and awwwss coming.
I'm in love with the Solio Solar Powered Battery Charger, $125. It's a bit pricier than other models, but the small universal "hybrid" charger can recharge virtually all your electronics. You can pre-charge the Solio in a wall outlet, and the power can be stored for up to a year. Who wouldn't want that?
While power from the sun is readily available, its usage and practicality are still a mystery to many. Solar chargers allow you the freedom to unplug from the wall and use natural light. Many battery chargers are continuously recharged via an array of photo-voltaic panels that convert light into free energy - meaning you can charge your devices whenever, wherever.
Of course, if there's no light available or you're in a terrible rush companies like Voltaic, which makes the battery packs for the backpack on the right, also include automobile and world voltage AC charging adapters. You will have to spend a bit more for solar powered bags, but the small single device chargers (say for your smartphone or iPod) cost about the same as regular travel chargers and will save energy, time and money in the long run.
Solar chargers used to be clunky devices that were best for home use, but now there are some great, moderately priced chargers that are small enough to fit in your suitcase and chic enough that airport security won't think it's a homemade bomb. If eco chic is your thing you can even charge your gadgets with a solar powered swim suit. Talk about hot.