Above: This picture was made possible only because the device that took it could be charged in the field from a solar charger 
When I was a student I loved the front page articles in industry mags like AV Specialist. Many where about seasoned adventure cameramen who chased after mountaineering expeditions or jungle explorers to some of the remotest parts of the world. They were all grimy, adventurous dudes and their battered camera gear was held together with duct tape and prayer. Being a self-confessed geardo I loved the equipment inventories that went with every story: usually a Betacam SP camera, a selection of waterproof cases and bags, enough batteries to power a small town and then the real James Bond item: a solar charger. Wow! In those days they were vulgarly expensive and custom made by some exotic German or Swiss company.  

Above: our A-Solar charger came with a variety of connections for all major cellphones types and miniUSB connections for devices such as GPS handsets. However it does not swim so we kept ours in a waterproof case.
Solar power is now almost commonplace and better yet, affordable. Having donated my waterproof Olympus camera to thieves last year I opted to use my Nokia N8 camera on an Easter weekend paddle trip down a section of the Orange river. But like any smartphone it is a power-hungry little monster and I would run out of juice by Day 2. The solution came in the form of a portable solar charger kit made by a company called A-Solar. It fits neatly into a Pelican 1030 micro case and has connections for a wide range of cellphone and USB devices.

Now if you're expecting a review I'm sorry to disappoint because it's not the point of this blog entry. There are many models and brands out there ranging in price and features. Was our little charger perfect? No. It requires a 14 hour charge on solar power only. But did it work when I needed it? Absolutely. I was able to put my Nokia's 12 megapixel camera to good use throughout the trip by charging it from the solar device. It supplimented a full USB charge from my notebook computer in the car by a solar charge in it's clear Pelican case on the back of my kayak as we paddled down the river for four days. 

I love solar power. If I could I'd have everything in my house powered from it. I've already switched over to rechargable batteries for all my audio gear and I'd love to charge them from anything else but the wall socket. Is solar power perfect? No. Am I willing to wait for it to mature? You bet! Will I buy more solar chargers? Absolutely.