If you’re taking electronic gizmos into the backcountry with you, taking extra batteries is a must. But if you’re going on a long-distance trek and just can’t bear to be without something with a power switch, you’re out of luck unless you want to start measuring the weight of your power supplies in pounds.

Enter: the portable solar charger.

The Power Monkey,  great product.

A technology that’s been quickly improving over the years, several companies now offer affordable consumer grade solar panels to backpackers. They basically work like this – you sling one on top of your pack while you’re hiking to soak up juice, then use an adapter to feed your hungry gadgets or store the energy in an included battery pack to feed the gadgets later.

While the device won’t recharge your AA batteries or anything with a proprietary battery (like my Canon Digital Rebel), it is able to connect to a wide variety of devices – including GPS receivers, many cameras, cell phones, laptops, etc.

The Hiking Lady took her new Powermonkey eXplorer on the trail with her and gave it a full hands-on test. She seemed to think the peace of mind was worth the $105 bucks on Amazon.

As for me, I love the concept but I don’t know how useful it would be. I tend to use rechargeable batteries in most of my devices and rarely run out of juice on the trail. For longer trips, I spring for lithium batteries for longer life … but having one of these things on your pack would definitely allow you to track long trails on your smart phone’s GPS with an app like EveryTrail or AccuTerra, and would probably come in handy if you’re doing any international travel in the future, too.

Does anyone use a solar charger? Like or dislike?

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