I've mentioned in a previous post about the concerns I'd had around keeping myself occupied on my trip to Pakistan. Usually I take my iPod (no, I don't own an iPhone!) when I go travelling as it compact and contains music, games, videos and spoken books which can keep me occupied for hours. It seemed like the ideal thing to bring, but there was one teeny tiny little catch - we didn't have access to electricity for 17 days of the trek and once the battery went flat it would be dead weight. It seemed like the most logical and weight efficient option, but for that small catch of what to do once the battery had run out!
I'd seen solar powered chargers before, but apart from a really expensive iPhone only charger I wasn't able to find anything thing suitable in Singapore. Fortunately I found one on Amazon for US$30 and arranged to get it sent to me in Singapore. The reviews for the product on Amazon were not particularly complimentary, but for the price I reckoned that all it had to do was to work for the trek and I'd be happy. Well, the good news is that I'm happy. Actually, no, that's an understatement, I'm ecstatic about the charger as it completely exceeded my expectations. When it arrived I noted that it had a tiny LED attached (had I read the full product description I might actually have noticed this) and I found it really useful to use, rather than waste the batteries of my torch, when fussing around the tent at night. It is about the size of an iPhone and slightly larger than my iPod and doesn't weigh much at all. The unit can be charged either via a USB cable or the sun so it functions as a very useful "spare battery" and has a USB-out connection that allows any device to be charged this way, rather than just limited to an iPhone or iPod. The battery holds enough charge to charge 2 iPhones completely. It is possible to both use the charger and charge the battery at the same time. Towards the end of the trip I had a bit of a "melt down" and listened to music for the better part of 2 days to try and calm myself down (it worked). I would not have been able to do this without the charger which was attached to my backpack to absorb the sun whilst simultaneously charging up my iPod! The one thing I realised from this event is that I need some new music. The last time I put new music on my iPod was in 2008!
Me holding the charger in my handMy only suggestion for improvement is that the windscreen suction cups are great if you have a vehicle in which to mount it, but I had to fashion a way to attach it to my backpack or to hang it from the tent from cable ties.
As far as I am aware, it is not possible to charge cameras or larger sized batteries (can someone please design an electric toothbrush with a USB charger), but the photographer on our trip brought a solar panel capable of charging camera batteries. Doug's focus on getting every last drop of energy from the sun became a standing joke of the trip (especially as the 1st week was overcast and cloudy). It got so bad that at Broad Peak Base Camp a very ill Doug delayed his departure back to camp because the batteries were charging!