Power & Gadgets

An Absolute Guide to Portable Power & Solar Chargers

When its potential first emerges in the late 19th century, Solar Power is quickly constrained by available technology and competition from more readily accessible fossil fuels of the time.  Yet its potential endured; finding traction amid rising energy costs and the environmental consequences of more than a century of reliance on coal and oil.

As demand grows for cleaner energy sources, solar technology increasingly finds its way into our everyday lives.  Importantly, it has become a way of bringing low cost, sustainable energy to remote communities around the world.  In turn, this technology has generated a whole new wave of portable, solar-powered devices designed for use in the outdoors. From solar phone and GPS chargers to lighting and power banks. 

The Goal Zero Story:

The humanitarian aid and development sector, in particular, has been quick to recognise the versatility of solar technology.  Founded in 2009, Goal Zero was established on the principle of Zero Apathy, Zero Boundaries, and Zero Regrets.  During his time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, company founder, Robert Workman realised the need for reducing poverty lay partly in giving people the opportunity to empower themselves.  Robert gathered together a basic solar array with the goal of bringing a small, yet life-changing, sustainable energy source to a small rural community.  The project proved a success and with it grew the idea of creating a range of portable, solar energy systems to bring a means of affordable energy to millions.

In the years that followed, a number of companies emerged, bringing with them a wave of innovation in the form of personal solar chargers, lighting systems, and power storing devices.  Often aimed at supplanting a reliance on hazardous kerosene usage; and wasteful, and often costly single-use battery cells.

Why Portable Solar Power?

The heart and soul of such companies as Goal Zero, Biolite, Mpowerd and Waka Waka rest within the ethos of community empowerment and a sustainable future.  Their ability to fund such efforts has seen them introduce their long proven designs to the wider commercial market; balancing retail sales against development projects and disaster relief efforts - seen most recently in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

This ever-growing range finds itself at home in the outdoor industry, as the perfect tool for those venturing off-grid.  And while some may view the outdoors as a refuge from the excesses of the modern world; there are many for whom the advent of portable rechargeable power allows a new level of freedom.  From everyday phone boosts and device top-ups to emergency power-banks for recharging GPS, action cameras and tablets over multi-day backpacking trips and expeditions.  The technology is here, and it brings a whole new dimension to outdoor adventure.


What Type of Portable Solar Devices are Available?

Portable solar chargers come in a range of sizes.  From handheld single-purpose devices, such as torches and lanterns, to multi-purpose fold-out panels used to boost and charge a range of devices from smartphones and power-packs to tablets and laptops.

At the lower end of the spectrum, you'll find the Mpowerd Luci Lamp.  This inflatable solar-powered lantern is perfect for hiking or camping and great for lending ambience to an evening in the garden or even indoors.  The lightweight, compact design charges during the day and provides up to 24 hours of light.  What's more, Waka Waka's sustainable business model redirects profits from every product sold into getting more lights to those that need them most.      

Next up is the Waka Waka Light Classic Solar Powered Torch.  Left to charge in 5-10hrs of sunlight the Light Solar Torch gives you up to 34hrs of LED light - more than enough to see you through a weekend camping or hiking.  During the day the unit can be left to recharge at base-camp or attached to a pack for a recharge on the go.  A torch is an essential part of any outdoor trip and a solar powered light source gives you a great way to reduce pack weight and save money on single-use batteries.

Up from this, you’ll find the Power Plus Solar Charger & Torch from Waka Waka.  Alongside a powerful LED torch, this device delivers a device charger and power-bank that stores a back-up power boost for small devices.  In optimal conditions, a full charge can be achieved in 12-18hrs.  It holds enough power to recharge or boost smaller devices such as smartphones, GPS devices, and action cameras.  Devices such as this offer dual charging capabilities; with a standard AC for that pre-trip charge and an integrated solar cell when venturing off-grid.  The added light function offers 4 lighting modes with up to 200hrs of LED lighting.   

Towards the middle of the range you’ll find larger, pack sized devices such as the Goal Zero Nomad 7+.  This lightweight, fold-out solar panel uses a simple plug & play system that lets you charge phones, head-torches, GPS and action cameras directly from the sun.  An LED display relays solar conditions to help you find the best position to charge in.  The thin, book-sized design fits easily into a backpack and can be attached to the exterior to catch rays on the go.

Alongside this comes the Waka Waka Solar Panel & Link, offering a compact, 4-panel portable solar charger for fast moving off-grid adventures.  Thanks to the Solar Link you can charge up to 2 devices at one time.  Great for trekking and camping breaks. 

From here we reach the higher end of the spectrum with the Goal Zero Nomad 28+.  This sleek design gives you 4 fold-out solar panels offering a larger surface area for more solar capture and greater power.  These sizes are ideal for multi-day adventures and recharging portable power packs and tablets but also smartphones and action cameras.  Ideal for digital photographers and those who rely on their electronic devices while trekking or backpacking in remote locations.

The above offers a brief overview of the systems available.  Please follow the link to see our full range of Solar Panels & Charge Kits.


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