Scoring a Solar Backpack
I thought “Bingo”! I could combine my need for a new day pack, be environmentally friendly, and save money in the long run. But hold on there, cowgirl.
Being the simple sort, I needed some basic info about how my solar backpack actually works. Here it is:
The solar panel supplies electricity from the sun to the battery that already exists in your device. For most devices, you use a standard cigarette lighter adapter that connects the solar panel to your device. You can also charge AAA and AA batteries with a separate battery charger.
Charging time? Depends on the amount of sun and the type of battery being charged. In general:
• Cell Phone (4-6 hours)
• Digital Camera (4-6 hours)
• GPS Unit (4-6 hours)
• iPod/MP3 Player (7-9 hours)
• PDA (7-9 hours)
Multi-Device Use? Some models provide multiple 12V sockets for charging multiple electronic devices at the same time. Although, the more devices that are plugged in, the longer the charging time.
I then starting thinking about the advantage of using solar power, like:
• You never need an outlet. Although if there are no electrical outlets around, what are the chances that I’ll have a signal for either my phone or WiFi for my computer. Nil.
• You don’t need to buy batteries. I don’t really buy batteries anyway, but instead charge all my gear each night.
• Decreased gear. Nope. Actually, having a solar alternative will multiply my gear load since I’ll need to have a cigarette lighter adapter for each device. And since the solar panels don’t work inside, I’ll need to bring all my regular electrical chargers too.( Ugh. That’s a lot of wires and such.)
• Environmentally friendly. Ok, this is good. But good enough?
By trying to combine all my needs in one, I was nearing the danger zone of not meeting any of my needs. On the backpack front, for instance, I have A LOT of requirements. This one piece of baggage needs to:
1) Hold / protect my computer.
2) Hold / protect that big-ass camera I just bought. I decided to go for the Nikon D90, but I’m too intimidated to take it out of the box yet.
3) Be comfortable enough to wear around all day.
4) Hold a water bottle (with zero chance of leaking onto the electronics).
5) Not be conspicuous.
My product demands were starting to seem like a tall order until I came across the Voltaic System line of solar- backpacks (pictured at the top). At $250 a pop, they’re not cheap, but the cool factor is high. And they seem to meet my top 3 requirements.
Not having a slot for a water bottle though is a bummer. And *radness* is cool in the U.S., but not so cool in developing countries where the detachable solar panels might draw just a little too much attention. I’m thinking this bag screams: “Mug Me”!
I got the Message!
Weighting the pros and cons, I opt not to buy the solar backpack. In fact, I decided not to get a backpack at all, but a messenger bag.
My main reason is safety. When traveling in most countries, you wear your backpack in front of you where you can keep an eye on it. You wear a messenger bag that way anyway. At least I do.
Besides, this bag has an internal computer sleeve, room for my honking camera, and a water bottle slot on the side. Sold!
This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 and is filed under What to Pack.