Free Electricity?

Sunshine Power

My life seems to be ruled by rechargeable batteries of one sort or another. For a start there’s the iPhone, the MacBook Pro; iPad at least 3 cameras, a GPS unit, or two if you count the Garmin Forerunner Wristwatch GPS thing, a travel razor and there’s probably one or two other things I’ve forgotten about.

Now this normally presents only moderately difficulties while travelling, OK phones run down now and again but I’m heading to somewhere with power or sometimes I’m travelling by car and can charge stuff as I’m travelling. True it is a pain having to cary around several chargers and associated cables but as I said manageable, by and large anyway.

This year I plan to go to Corsica to do the GR20 and this trip presents a whole new set of difficulties. Clearly the main difficulty will be the walking, the GR20 is regarded as one of the most challenging long distance footpaths, but it also entails being away from civilisation (and hence power) for days at a time. I’m planning to take at least one camera and keeping these powered up for five or more days will need something more than a long extension lead from Calvi.

Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus

Goal Zero Guide 10

The answer is possibly to take a solar panel / charger with me to re-charge the iPhone and camera batteries while I camp/walk along the route. The research I have done so far has been a little lacking in detail. The products on offer have been limited and the technical information sparse to say the least. That was until I was watching a climbing film at the recent Banff Film Festival event the other week at the Whitley Bay Playhouse. The film about the “Project Dawn Wall” route on El Cap showed the climbers living on the wall for days at a time slung on a porta-ledge and using a solar panel to charge radios and their ubiquitous iPhones. The panel in question was branded “Goal Zero”.

A bit of web research and I’d found the manufacturer and a supplier. The Goal Zero web site is great, there’s loads of technical information and a range of systems of various sizes and power outputs to satisfy my own small needs all the way through to the huge. The latter large enough to provide power for even the biggest of Everest siege attempts.

The Killer USP for me of the system compared to the more established alternatives such as Powermonkey’s Gorilla or the Freeloader; was the power rating and the 12V output. The 12V output means that it can be used with the standard digital camera battery chargers I use which have not just a mains adaptor (in various country styles) but a 12V car adaptor as well. So no mods, no flaky soldering or hacks to any part of the system, no worrying about “have I got the right polarity on the battery connector?”, pretty much plug and go.

I’ve not used in anger yet but when I do I’ll report back on just how efficient it is.

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