Solar Christmas shopper—Day 3

Imagine this: Your favorite hiker is out on a four-day camping trip in the wilderness.

She’s taken more than 1,000 pictures, and the batteries in her camera just failed. She can’t replace them with the batteries from her GPS unit because they’re almost out of juice, too, and knowing where you’re going is kinda important.

Luckily the intrepid camper can pull out that nice new solar charger you got her for Christmas, attach it to her backpack to charge extra batteries or even run a device—while she keeps on hiking. Keeping a PV panel with her could actually help reduce the weight of her pack when compared to carrying extra batteries to make sure all her electronic devices work throughout the duration of the trek.

Solar chargers range from roughly $50 to more than $600, depending on the type of PV panel and the amount of electricity it can generate. You can purchase either crystalline-silicon panels, which are not flexible, usually encased in plastic and glass and heavier than the other option, thin-film PV. On the other hand, they’re likely cheaper and are more efficient than thin-film PV.

Companies like PowerFilm, Brunton and Solio make these solar chargers, which can be found at outdoors stores like REI or EMS and also online. When considering these as a gift, think about how much power your favorite hiker could need and buy a panel that fits his or her needs.