The world we live in today is very dependent upon wireless devices. Even if you yourself are hesitant to rely on such things, their prevalence in society cannot be disputed. Nearly everyone you see on the street will have a cell phone and many of the vehicles on the road today have some sort of GPS device. These are just a couple of the tools upon which we have to come to depend, but something we need even more than the devices themselves is the power to, well, power them.
It is convenient to plug your vehicle GPS into the cigarette lighter of your car to keep it charged while in use. The same goes for your cell phone which can be charged through the same means or via USB port in modern cars. The problem is that once you step out of the vehicle, utilizing these power options is no longer possible. If you are trekking through the woods and need to be able to have a power source at the ready, you cannot simply plug in whatever device is running low on battery juice. Instead, you are going to have to make do without or find an alternate source of acquiring the power that you need.
Although in some cases you can simply toss extra batteries in your pack, that is not always going to be enough to get you through, especially when you consider the many types of batteries that power today's technology. Extra cell phone or laptop batteries may be expensive to purchase, making carrying spares an impractical choice. A device such as the Anker External Battery are a great option, but so is taking charge of your charging needs by harnessing your own solar power as you're out and about on the go.
Chances are that you've seen solar panels at some point in your life and automatically determined that they are unfit for carry, but the Australian Defence Force may beg to differ. For some time now, these soldiers have been carrying personal solar power packs that provide the opportunity to charge batteries, radios, night vision binoculars, laptops, and more. This is accomplished through the wearing of backpacks equipped with solar panels that are light, flexible, and able to retain and even store power for future use. If this technology is good enough for soldiers in the field, then surely it is also something from which we can use in our survival arsenal.
Photo: Voltaic Systems
The good thing about the devices currently on the market is that you can pick your level of commitment. For example, if you want to simply harness enough energy to power a cell phone for emergencies or keep your MP3 player live with tunes while you hike, then you can select a smaller, more inexpensive device. This one can be snapped on just about anywhere as long as it is kept in direct sunlight. It has a 5000mAh capacity and is waterproof as well. If you have needs on a larger scale, actually buying a backpack already outfitted with solar panels is an option. This one, for example, takes 11 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge, holding a total of 15 Watt hours.
If you still have your doubts about harnessing solar power on the go in order to power devices, check out the video below. There you will see solar panels being carried by donkeys and the power being used to charge cell phones and operate lights. If this can be done on such a primitive level as this, surely it can be adapted for use on your BOB to keep you going when you might otherwise find yourself lost with a dead GPS or unable to call for help when you're stranded with a phone you forgot to charge.
Is portable solar power a part of your survival plan? Do you have solar panels on your BOB or would you ever consider adding them? Tell us how solar power works for you in the comments.