The gear • April 2017
To mark Earth Day (22 April), The Club’s ‘techspert’ Derek Adams picks the clever green gadgets that can top up their batteries while you top up your tan
If outdoor pursuits take you off grid for long periods, the RokPak (£196.95) is a lifesaver. The robust waterproof box has a powerful battery and an integrated solar panel that keeps it topped up. It’s fairly weighty, but offers enough storage space for an iPhone (or satellite phone), keys, a passport, travel documents, credit cards and cash. There are also two USB ports for charging phones or tablets and a multi-mode LED lamp with a water-activated SOS sequence – just in case.
Voltaic leads the way in portable solar panel technology and the OffGrid Solar Backpack ($199) is a case in point. The 25-litre rucksack is made from recycled plastic bottles, and comes with a solar panel on the rear and a battery, with a single USB output for charging anything from a tablet to cameras. As with most solar-charging products, Voltaic’s panel keeps the backpack’s internal battery topped up. And even when the battery runs out of juice, it takes just three hours of sunshine to get your smartphone up and running again.
Portable solar panels are great for topping up devices, but they’re not as effective on cloudy days or when darkness falls. That’s where the updated BioLite CampStove 2 (£124.95) comes in. This small and portable wood-burning stove turns heat into electricity. Simply load it with twigs, light up and hit the fan button. Before long it’s a smokeless blaze, hot enough to boil a few of cups of water. But that’s not all. Plug your phone into the USB port and it’ll charge at the same time
You’ll never run out of tunes with the Roberts SolarDAB 2 (£99.99). This small DAB+/FM radio’s solar panel soaks up the rays to keep your favourite station on air. It comes with an AC power lead, and three AA-sized rechargeable batteries that kick in when the sun’s gone down. It’s not the most powerful solar panel on this page, so be sure to position it in direct sunlight.
The Estream personal water-powered generator ($220) is due to launch in June, and promises to charge USB devices using the power of running water – ideal for fast-running streams or towing behind a kayak. Inside its lantern-shaped dome are three foldout turbine blades that spin around in the water to charge a removable battery. When topped up, the battery’s USB port can charge a smartphone, tablet or USB camera twice as fast as a regular AC outlet.