Nowadays it seems that when we venture into the great outdoors, we tend to take a host of electronic gadgets with us. Things like smartphones, tablets, cameras, GPS devices, headlamps, and more. Most of those devices are powered by rechargeable batteries, which of course need to be re-energized from time to time. But power outlets are few and far between in the backcountry, which is why many of us have turned to solar energy to help keep our devices functioning.
In recent years, breakthroughs in technology have allowed solar panels to get smaller, lighter, and more efficient than ever before. This has helped make the sun’s rays a viable source of power for use in remote places that are located way off the grid. In fact, portable solar panels are now used by everyone from hikers on the Appalachian Trail and climbers on Mt. Everest, to skiers heading to the South Pole, and sailors circumnavigating the globe.
Simple, lightweight solar panels with built-in USB ports are common these days, and they are generally adequate for keeping mobile gadgets charged. But those panels typically aren’t all that efficient, nor do they generate enough juice for more power intensive devices such as laptops or monitors. Larger solar panels can gather more energy however, and they can store that power in batteries for use at a later time. A key component of such a system is the charging controller, which regulates the flow of electricity from the solar panels to the battery, ensuring that power cells aren’t damaged from overcharging. One such controller is now promising to revolutionize that process, bringing more efficiency to our campsites as a result.
A company called Thornwave Labs is preparing to release the Inti C14 solar charger, which brings a number of intriguing features to this still-evolving market. For instance, the C14 is very small and compact, which makes it a good choice for a portable charging system that you may take with you into the backcountry. It is also incredibly powerful, reportedly putting out as much as 30 volts of power, which is enough to charge a 24V battery. And if you ever need to bypass the battery altogether, it can also charge your devices directly too. If that wasn’t enough, the device also has Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to monitor and control its performance via an app for Windows, Linux, iOS and Android devices.
Thornwave claims that the C14 can put out as much as 400 watts of power, which translate to some serious juice at your base camp. That’s enough energy to allow it to not only recharge laptops, walkie talkies, and other gadgets, but it could also power a portable refrigerator or an LCD television set as well. Basically, just about anything that could be plugged into the DC outlet of your car can be powered from this solar charger, opening up all kinds of possibilities for amenities at the campsite or for keeping important tech items charged while on extended expeditions.
The Inti C14 will be priced at $149 when it is released, and Thornwave says it will enable outdoor enthusiasts to build a complete portable solar charging system for under $500. We’ll have to take their word for it now, because the device hasn’t even gone into production yet. According to Thornwave’s Facebook page however, the company will be launching an Indiegogo campaign very soon to get the funding it needs to make this product a reality. If it truly does live up to the hype, it could make cheap, efficient, and environmentally-friendly portable power at the campsite a reality.
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