You’ve been working hard and acing life all year (extra credit if you have or are planning to install solar panels). As the holidays approach, you are well deserving of the greatest gift of all. A road trip! Cruising across America with your family or your best buds is an excellent way to escape the grind of everyday life, recharge your soul, and see some of the country’s best-hidden gems. Of course, leaving the rat race behind doesn’t mean you want to give up all of life’s modern conveniences. Besides recharging your soul, you also need to recharge your phone.
Thanks to modern technology, you don’t have to lug a huge, expensive, and polluting gas generator with you to your pristine campground. Today’s solar technology is showing up in all sorts of amazing and useful camping and road tripping gear. As you begin to plan for your next epic road trip, let’s look at ten useful, solar-powered gadget that can work anywhere that the sun shines.
1. Solar-Powered Charger
Getting away from it all is overrated. Instead, get away from most of life’s troubles and frustrations and keep the good stuff, like listening to your favorite podcasts on your phone, reading great books on your Kindle, or actually calling your mom. (You know it’s been too long!) To do this, you’re going to need a fully charged phone, and while you’re at it, let’s keep your Fitbit alive too, so it can congratulate you on the super long hike you’re planning during your trip.
To keep your favorite and necessary gadgets going, pick up a handy solar-powered charger. There are plenty available on Amazon for under $50, including this one, this one, and this one. Stick it in the sun for a few hours, and then plug in your USB cord and start charging your smaller devices. Your mom can’t wait to hear from you!
2. Solar-Powered Lanterns
You aren’t about to go to bed just because the sun is setting. Bonfires are great, but they aren’t allowed everywhere, (especially in wildfire-prone California). Plus, you need focused light for reading or playing fun board games with your friends or family under the stars.
For these instances, use a solar-powered lantern. You might be surprised at how bright the most current solar-powered lanterns can be and how long they can last. For example, the MPOWEERD Luci inflatable lantern can last up to 24 hours on its lowest setting. This particular model offers four different light settings, including a flashing mode that can be used in an emergency to request help. Best of all, this model is currently less than $20 at REI. Take a look at REI’s entire stock of solar-powered lanterns.
3. Solar Backpacks
Are you planning to push yourself to the limits with some gnarly hikes during your road trip? Or maybe you prefer to spend all day getting lost in a new city. Either way, you can’t afford to have your phone (and especially your GPS or map app) conk out in unfamiliar territory. A solar backpack is the perfect solution. It charges while you walk around in the sun, and when it’s time for a snack break, plug in your phone or other devices to grab some extra juice.
This Lifepack solar-powered backpack currently selling for $159 on Amazon includes six smartphone chargers that can provide a full phone charge every four hours. It also comes with Bluetooth speakers that can play for a whopping 96 hours on a full charge. For the hiker on a budget, Amazon also offers this solar-powered backpack for less than $60, and this one for only $20.99.
4. Solar-Powered Emergency Radio
It’s always a good idea to plan for an emergency, especially if your road trip takes you to sparsely populated regions or places where cell phone coverage is spotty. If any major disaster strikes and you don’t have a phone signal, you’ll be glad to have a solar-powered emergency radio handy. This device can let you contact help, so you and your travel buddies can stay safe.
The C Crane CC Solar Observer emergency radio provides between four and six hours of radio play after eight hours of charging. If you need to use it in a hurry and don’t have enough of a charge, the included hand crank will let you charge it much more quickly to immediately request help. As a bonus, the included USB adapter lets you charge your smartphone. Not a bad buy for under $50.
5. Solar-Powered Speakers
You know what every great road trip needs? Music. Your car stereo will do the job while you’re on the road, but you don’t want to drain your battery during your stops, at night, or while camping. To keep the tunes coming, pick up solar-powered speakers. Today’s latest models are cost-effective and powerful. Most can keep the music playing all night long, or at least until campground quiet hours.
The Sol Jam stereo speaker by ECOXGEAR charges in just three hours of full sunlight and offers Bluetooth connectivity, so you can jam to all your favorite playlists. The speaker is also waterproof, so clip it to your kayak or sing in the rain. No one will stop the beat on your road trip.
6. Solar-Capable Fridge
One of the best parts of any road trip is the snacks, but if you want to bring any perishable foods or cook some tasty meals on the road, you’ll need a way to keep them cool so they don’t spoil. Unless you happen to be driving a camper with a convenient fridge installed, a cooler is probably your best option, but a standard cooler can only last so long without continual ice infusions.
Stepping up to fill this need is the ACOPOWER solar-compatible solar fridge. This baby includes a lithium battery that can be charged with a solar panel (or a generator), allowing it to keep food cold. It can even act as a freezer if you want to bring some tasty meats along on your trip. The two big downsides of this model are the cost, $599 on Amazon, and the fact that you have to buy the solar panel separately.
7. Solar-Powered Car Battery Charger
You do not want to find out the hard way that AAA doesn’t cover certain extremely out-of-the-way places in the country. If your battery ever dies, especially in the wilderness or on a lonely strip of highway in the middle of nowhere, you could be out of luck. (Which is another reason to have your solar-powered emergency radio handy).
To keep that from happening, consider bringing along a solar-powered car battery with you. This useful device can top off your battery to keep it strong during your whole trip. This can be useful if you need to keep your headlights on to light your campground, or if your battery is getting on in the years. The Sunway Solar Car Battery Charger is designed to keep your car battery topped off no matter where you go (as long as there’s sunshine). It can also power any 12V battery, including trucks, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles and more. Best of all, it’s not very expensive, retailing for just $36.99 on Amazon. That’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
8. Solar-Powered Water Purifier
If your road trip includes some major hiking, backpacking, or mountain biking deep into the wilderness, you’ll need to stay hydrated. That stream may look fresh and clear, but you can’t know if there’s some harmful bacteria waiting to ruin your trip!
The Puralytics SolarBag uses sunlight to decontaminate water without chemicals, pumping, or electricity. Best of all, it doesn’t require equipment replacements every few trips. Just fill up the bag, and then let the sun do the rest of the work. In a few hours, you’ll have three fresh and healthy liters of water to drink.
9. Solar-Powered Generator
If you need power on your road trip but would rather not have to deal with individual devices, consider investing in the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Generator. This guy can power small devices, like your phone and e-reader, and also larger devices like your laptop if you need to handle a work emergency on the road.
The beauty of the Goal Zero is that it can charge using a solar panel (not included), or from a wall outlet or even your car battery in an emergency. A single charge of the generator can provide two laptop recharges, six tablet recharges, and 15 cell phone recharges. This really is a convenient gadget to take on any long haul, especially at the reasonable price of just $199.95.
10. Solar Panels
Rather than purchase devices that include solar technology, you can cut out the middle step and purchase solar panels. These panels can charge your fridge or your generator or even the battery of your car. Many RV aficionados are installing solar panels on their vehicles so that they can dry dock or boondock wherever the spirit takes them.
Who says your road trip even requires a road? Boaters are also learning to love solar panels, which can allow them to charge their devices, keep the lights on, and keep the fridge humming without having to turn on their engine every hour or so.
If you want to have it all on your road trip, or if this “trip” could turn into a wanderlust lifestyle, consider installing a solar panel array on your vehicle of choice.
At Semper Solaris, we don’t sell solar backpacks or cell phone chargers, but we can help you install high powered solar panels onto your RV or boat so that you can stay charged throughout your trip. If you live in California, or if your journey will take you to the Golden State, give us a call to schedule a solar consultation. We are your California solar energy solution.
Here’s wishing you plenty of happiness, adventures, and sunshine on the road!