One recurring theme at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market was solar/USB power. Turns out that “Getting away from it all” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. And that’s ok, as long as people are making time to play outdoors. It’s certainly nice to be able to recharge lights or GPS units, and there are plenty of chargers capable of topping up an iPad, but the standard seems to be how many times you can recharge a smart phone. With that in mind, here’s some innovative products from Bushnell Outdoors.
At the top of the Powersync line is the SolarBook. Looking like a small laptop or netbook, the SolarBook is actually a durable case that houses a fold-out flexible solar panel with a pair of lithium ion battery packs. Dual USB ports allows you to charge two devices at a time. Before heading out, charge it from your wall outlet via the UBS micro input for six hours. Once depleted, it can be back up to capacity after only 3.5 hours of sunshine. A handy gauge built into the end of the battery indicates charge status. Bushnell chose not to get too technical with battery ratings in mAh, the usual measurement, and instead simply indicates what the device can charge. For the Solarbook, that’s two smart phones, three MP3 players, or five camera/GPS charges. So the power storage is not huge, but the fast recharge time makes up for that.
Next is the SolarWrap. This tube contains a solar panel that unrolls like an old-school window shade or projector screen. It’s got a single lithium ion battery, one USB out, and one micro USB in. AC/USB charging time is only four hours, and 3.5 for charging from the sun, and it includes the battery gauge as well. Rated at one smart phone or two MP3 players, this seems best for the single camper, or a couple traveling light. The compact size is a plus either way.
For going truly compact, the SolarWrap Mini offers the same storage as the SolarWrap, but in an even smaller package. Charging is not nearly as fast (it requires ten hours), but the Mini makes up for that with its ability to be clipped to your backpack, so you can charge as you hike.
Want to take the power with you, but don’t need the solar charging? Choose from two BatteryBars – either a single or dual USB model, about the size and shape of a larger AA cell flashlight. The dual USB requires six hours to charge, and will recharge two smart phone or three MP3 players, while the single model charges in four hours, and has enough power for one smart phone or two MP3 players. Check the status via the battery gauge on the end.
The Power Charger is a similar dual USB storage unit, but in a different shape, and with a field light for using at night. There’s also an AA Battery Recharger available, for your electronics that use that size battery but don’t recharge via USB.
Overall, the Powersync line has enough options to cover the basic needs of the casual camper, or even someone that just wants to have reserve power for their essential electronics. Their versatility makes them useful in a variety of situations. I’ve relied on similar products to get me through the long days at trade shows, and also pack one in our emergency kit.
More info at bushnell.com
* Note that solar charging times can vary, and device recharges will also vary according to their built-in battery capacity.