If you wouldn't mind making a list of great power items for camping. Pocket sized to slightly larger for charging electronics quickly in the field.
Sorry for the delay. i needed to collect my thoughts for a bit.
I'm going to preface my recommendations with 3 disclaimers,
1.) I'm only going to talk about gear that either I use and carry on a daily basis OR that I've worked with or thoroughly researched
2.) I'm going to assume that when you ask for charging in the field (Camping) you're looking for gear that is readily available and has a "Civilian" price tag. If we want to talk LEO or Mil applications i'm happy to do that, but it's a different gear list
3.) I'm lastly going to assume that you're going to be using the gear in the field periodically like a normal human being trying to enjoy the great outdoors and you're not a typical 14 year old who will have their face glued to their smart phone for the whole weekend.
Now all that being said, i'm going to divide my recommendations into two "Power Classes". The first is to support smartphones and small tablets and the second will support multiple smartphones/tablets or larger equipment.
Power Class 1 - Smartphones and Tablets
The real trick with this type of equipment is "power density", or how much power can the charger supply to the phone to charge it. most solar panels are a low power density item, IE they don't produce a lot of power at one time, but they can produce power over a long period of time. You CAN charge a smart phone off of a solar panel, but unless it is a large panel it will take several hours. The way to get around this is to use the solar panel to charge a portable battery system. The battery will have a much faster charge rate than the solar panel and will charge the phone in a shorter period of time.
So the operational procedure here would be to leave the solar panel plugged into the battery during the day while you're out hiking to take advantage of all that free low density power, then use the battery's high charging output to charge your phone in a reasonable amount of time.
I personally carry a PowerFilm Solar AA + USB folding solar charger. it uses thin film solar panel technology, meaning that the panel is soft and can be folded. When packed it's not much bigger than a large wallet and can fit easily into a back pack, EDC Bag, or glove compartment. I've personally worked with the PowerFilm crew on some of my products and they make a good product. All of their solar panels are made in the USA. the panel has grommets in it so it can be lashed to a tree or clipped to your ruck sack. In addition to the USB output this unit can also charge two AA sized batteries, giving it a little more flexibility. The batteries are also used to store power to use with the USB, so this unit is solar and storage all in one.
Pros: small pack and weight, easy to set up
Cons: charging output can decease in high heat conditions
PowerFilm also makes higher output folding and rolling panels that can output to a CLA (CAR Lighter Addapter) socket and you can use any CLA cell phone charger with if you need more charging output. These larger panels are perfect to use with the larger capacity battery packs below.
portable battery packs can be a life saver. I carry one in almost every bag i have. They range from small ones that can get me an extra 30min of talk time in the case of an emergency (i have these stashed around various locations like my truck, car, and bug out bag) to one that can recharge my smartphone 3 times before it needs recharged. batteries are becoming more power dense by the day, so they can hold more charge in a smaller package.
The units i'm going to recommend here are some of the larger units that can charge a phone or full sized tablet multiple times.
Trident Electra 9000
This is my personal favorite portable battery. It has ~9000mah of battery capacity. The iphone 5 has a 1440mah battery for comparison. it has one 1.0AMP USB output for charging headsets and other accessories and one 2.1 amp high output USB for charging phones. It has a rubberized outer cover and weather plugs to help keep dirt and debris out of the charging ports. I carry one in my carry on when i travel and it has saved me more than once. When i get on the plane and turn my phone off I plug it into the Electra and by the time we land my phone is fully charged again. This is one of those pieces of gear that does what it says it does with a little extra style.
Pros: tough rubberized cover, high capacity, high charging rate
Cons: None, seriously. it's a great piece of gear
Mophie makes a number of PowerStation units in different sizes and capacities. For the power scale we're looking at here i like the PowerStation Duo. It has ~6000mah of capacity (1/3 less than the Trident Electra above) but it has two 2.1 amp high output USB connections. It is a very beautiful piece of gear, and iPhone addicts will like it because the design cues used on the PowerStation are similar to the iPhone. To me it seems that the PowerStation Duo is a little heavier than the Electra. I had one PowerStation Duo that wouldn't hold a charge. i contacted Mophie and they indicated it was an issue with the unit and sent me a new on.
Pros: beautiful design, dual high output charging ports
Cons: heavy for the capacity vs Trident Electra
LBX Solar Kit 1
The LBX Solar Kit 1 is a turn key kit that has the solar panel, battery, and a carry system all in one. London Bridge Trading does the fabric work and Maddox Defense did the solar and battery portion. We all know London Bridge makes good gear, and i've worked with Maddox in the past. I don't carry this unit, but i've worked with a demo set and was impressed with the unit. the only con i can see without putting more miles on a system is the price, but Crew Leaders could use their discount at Tactical Distributors.
Pros: turn key system, good packaging
My next post will have more on the larger power class.
Edited by redsol1, 25 April 2014 - 07:38 AM.