As summer winds down and the back-to-school section pops back up in stores, its the perfect time to plan your last-minute family camping trip.
While you're going through your checklist of essentials to pack, you might wonder if you have enough batteries, clean water, fuel for your campfire, gas for your lantern... the list goes on. After all, you don't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere and find yourself without light, heat, or other basic needs. And if you're camping in a very remote area, it's important to come prepared for any emergency.
Solar camping gear offers renewable solutions to many camping challenges. And since these products are powered by the sun, you don't have to worry about things like dead batteries, or whether or not your boyscout Uncle Bob really can light that fire with just rocks and sticks.
Have a back up plan and get peace of mind on your trip with these top solar-powered camping products. Not a camper yourself? These items also make great high-tech gifts for any outdoorsy friend or relative.
1. Solar Tent
A tent is usually the first item to go in the trunk when planning a camping trip. But did you know you can use your tent to charge your electronics?
Solar tents allow you to harness the power of the sun so you can have more than just shelter on your camping trip. While you are out hiking, fishing, and having fun, this clever product collects energy from the sun, so that when you return, you can plug in your phone, tablet, laptop, and more.
Some hardcore camping enthusiasts would argue that bringing electronics on a trip is a big no-no. But many others will agree that it's nice to be able to make a call or watch a movie while you're snug in your sleeping bag. Even if you don't use it, it's nice to have an emergency power source, just in case.
2. Solar Lantern
Light is the next big important item to pack. After all, when you're out in the wild, you'll most likely have to trudge through the dark to find the bathroom (which may or may not be a bush) at some point. Maybe you're behind on building your campfire and the sun has already set. Or, maybe you simply want just a little bit more light so you can have a family game night. In any case, lanterns are the best bet for lighting your campsite (aside from fire).
Old-fashioned gas lanterns require you to buy and bring fuel. Rechargeable electric lanterns may not be a great option for remote places where an outlet isn't available. And battery-powered lanterns always come with the risk of running out of charge. Not to mention the need to buy expensive, often heavy batteries. Forget to bring spares, and you may find yourself alone in a tent in the pitch black, surrounded by creepy noises...
The better option is solar. Let your lantern capture the sun's rays during the day, and come nighttime, you'll have plenty of light for your campsite. Not to mention, most solar lanterns are light-weight for easy packing.
3. Solar Flashlight
When you're ready to take that midnight stroll through rugged terrain to your favorite port-a-potty or latrine, you'll want to make sure your flashlight is reliable. Imagine how horrible it would be to find yourself in the pitch black, away from your tent and any other source of light, with a rapidly fading battery powered flashlight?
Solar flashlights are yet another way to ensure you aren't left in the dark come nightfall. Forgot to bring extra batteries? No problem! Solar allows you to charge your flashlight during the day, so you have light when you need it most. Most solar flashlights also come with back up power, either by USB or hand crank, so you can make sure you have emergency light at all times.
4. Solar Water Purifier
Many campsites come with clean water equipped. But if you are camping in more remote locations, or going on a long hiking or canoeing excursion, you may need to bring your own water. This comes with the risk of running out of water. Or, you may not be able to carry enough water to get by.
Solar water purifiers can be a lifeline for campers. They filter out bacteria and contaminents that may make you sick and threaten your life. Plus, many solar water purifiers do so without the use of chemicals, as other water purifiers may require. which is great news for anyone trying to keep chemicals out of their system. Whether you plan on using it to get your water, or just want to have one along in case of emergency, clean water is always an excellent investment in the wild.
5. Solar Emergency Weather Radio
When going on a trip, it's important to stay on top of weather updates, especially if potentially life-threatening weather may be on the horizon. Having a solar-powered weather radio packed can help you stay abreast of important news in your area so you can make the best decisions for your safety, even if it means maybe packing your things up and heading out before the storm comes.
6. Solar Shower
For the more finicky campers, cleanliness is a big issue. I'm sure we've all had that one family member or friend that refuses to go anywhere that doesn't offer a hot shower. And I'm sure the prospect of taking a cold sponge bath doesn't appeal, either.
Now you can bring the hot shower with you. With solar-powered showers, you can heat several gallons of water using only the power of the sun. No more bathing in frozen streams filled with winter run-off, or icky muddy lakes. Or sleeping in tents with sweaty relatives who've been out hiking all day. Just fill, hang, charge, and wash.
7. Solar Cooker/Oven
Maybe you suck at lighting fires (looking at you, Uncle Bob). Maybe you just didn't feel like lighting one. Or, if you live in an area like California, where wildfire risk is high, you may want an alternative method to cook your outdoor meals.
Whatever the case may be, a solar-powered cooker or oven may offer the best alternative to preparing a hot, hearty repast outdoors. Solar cookers concentrate the sun's rays to heat food, much like the sun's rays through a magnifying glass might light a fire if you point it at one spot for too long. Without using fire, gas, or electricity, you can prepare delicious meals in the wild, or have an emergency back up method for cooking if things go wrong.
Not to mention, you'll feel like the ultimate cool survivalist while using one.
8. Solar Fire Starter
Maybe if good ol' Uncle Bob had packed a solar fire-starter (or remembered the matches), you would've been able to make those s'mores you had been craving!
For only a couple bucks, these nifty little gadgets can help you in a pinch. Just load it with some tinder and let the sun bounce off a reflective disc to light a fire.
Note: this gadget only works during daylight, so be sure to have your fire going before sunset.
9. Solar Generator/Power Banks
While the die-hard, anti-electronics campers do their thing, you can bring enough power to run all your family's gadgets and keep the kids busy while you get some much needed rest and relaxation by the campfire.
Bring a solar power bank to charge your devices on the go, or pack a solar generator to charge your whole campsite. Gone are the days of noisy, fuel-powered generators.
They even have models with solar panels that fold up into a suitcase, so you can get down to business while still enjoying nature.
10. Solar Cooler
Aside from eating cold food due to lack of fire, the next inconvenience of camping is luke-warm food and drinks. While you can bring a cooler, ice melts quickly, and you might find yourself either making frequent trips to the nearest liquor store for more, or stuck drinking warm beer. Or worse, having your food spoil in the heat.
With solar, you can keep your perishables safely stored and your beverages icy cool with a solar-powered cooler. No ice required. Just put your cooler in the sun (seems contradictory, doesn't it?) and enjoy an ice-cold beverage of choice.
11. Solar Car Battery Charger
When you're tired and packed and ready to go home, the last thing you want to discover is that your car battery is dead and you're stuck. You might be able to find a kind stranger to give you a jump in some of the more populous camping grounds, but if you're trekking in the wilderness, you may be out of luck.
With a solar car battery charger, you don't need to depend on who happens to come along, or whether or not your cell phone has power and reception enough to call AAA. You can simply charge up your car with the sun, wherever you are. Crisis averted!
Which solar product do you think is most useful in the great outdoors? Leave us a note in the comments!
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