In this day and age, it is pretty normal to take some level of electronics into the backcountry with you. From cameras to gps units and mobile phones, there are a multitude of gadgets to help fill your pack. Said gadgets require batteries and or charging. On a multi-day trip keeping your gadgets charged can pose a problem.
A few years ago, while on an expedition in the remote reaches of central Asia, I needed a way to charge the battery on an ipod that I intended to use as a storage device for digital images. Short of carrying a load of double-A batteries and an external battery-pack for my ipod, there were few options available. I came across a portable solor charger at the annual Outdoor Retailer show that looked promising. A company called Solio and had a single product, a compact portable solor device that could charge a phone or ipod size unit. To make a long story short, I got one and it worked great.
The unit was not large enough to charge my camera batteries, so I had to use a portable, roll-up panel made by Brunton to do that, but the Solio charger unit was perfect for keeping my ipod powered up as a portable, digital storage unit.
Solio now has a couple of products in addition to the original Solio unit that I used on that trip. This season, I upgraded to one of their new units, the Hybrid 1000 . It still works on the same principal. Essentially, it is a solar chargable lithium-ion battery that can pass its charge to a seperate device or it can be plugged into a variety of devices and act as a power source. The new unit weighs in at five ounces, is about 3/8 of an inch thick, six inches long and about 2 inches wide.
The unit takes eight to ten hours to fully charge and then will charge a hadheld device in the normal charging time. Eight to ten hours sounds like a long time, but functionally it works great. I simply clip it to my pack while out skiing or climbing for the day and then can charge in the evening when I return. You can also run a device directly off of it. Specs show that it will run about ten hours of play time on an MP3 device of fully charge a phone. I found it charged my ipod just enough to allow me upload about a Gig of data before the ipod ran out of power – almost a full charge.
The new Hybrid 1000 comes with a variety of tips to allow the unit to interface with different devices.