Gear, Parts and Accessories

The Five Most Useful Solar-Powered Gizmos and Gadgets

Picture shows a compact silver flashlight with solar panels on one side.

Power outage, survival, camping, hiking, and natural disasters—there are plenty of situations when you may be without electricity. However, that does not mean you need to go without power.

There are roughly eight or so hours of natural power each day. On a clear day, why not turn to solar power? (Alaska, you get much more during the summer.) The sun transforms four million tons of hydrogen into energy every second. Just one hour of sun provides enough energy to meet the world’s needs for a year. That’s a lot of free, renewable energy, so why not harness it?

Using photovoltaic cells, commonly called solar panels, we can harvest that energy and turn it into power.

Solar-powered devices for survivalists, preppers and outdoor adventurers mean light, hot water and a fully charged lifeline. Here are some of the more useful solar-powered devices to help you when you have no means of electricity.

1. SLXtreme iPhone Case

For extreme sports, survival, hardcore hikers or camping or floating the river, the SnowLizard SLXtreme iPhone case is the ultimate in iPhone protection. The case for 4/4s has a built-in 2000mAh battery your phone plugs into once its snuggled inside the polycarbonate case, and the back is covered in solar panels, giving you at least an 18 percent battery boost. Each hour of solar charge gives you 10 minutes of phone usage to call for help or access your maps or GPS. Most phone functions are accessible while fully encased, including the speaker, touch screen and camera. Inside the case, your phone is submersible up to six feet for 30 minutes. To charge the SLXtreme’s internal battery, simply plug it into the USB on your computer or in the wall using the supplied cable.

Picture shows a rechargeable battery back in a silver package.
The Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus rechargeable battery pack uses a solar panel to recharge batteries.

2. Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Rechargeable Battery Pack

This portable rechargeable battery pack not only charges four included AA rechargeable batteries but also has a USB input jack that will charge cell phones and other devices, such as tablets and e-readers, and includes an adapter to charge AAA batteries. It weighs only 0.4 pounds. and its compact dimensions, 2.5 x 4 x .75 inches, mean it easily fits in a bug-out bag or backpack. The Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus rechargeable battery pack uses a solar panel to recharge the batteries and USB jack. Sold separately, Goal Zero’s Nomad 3.5, 7, 13 and 20 solar panels are compatible with the Guide 10 Plus. It takes about three hours of sun time to fully charge the batteries in the pack from the Nomad 3.5 panel and two hours from the 7. There is also a small built-in LED light with 20-plus hours of run time.

3. Goal Zero Solo Flashlight

Picture shows a compact silver flashlight with solar panels on one side.
At 5 inches long and weighing 3.2 ounces, the Goal Zero Solo flashlight provides enough light at 15 lumens to do common tasks.

At 5 inches long and weighing 3.2 ounces, the Goal Zero Solo flashlight provides enough light at 15 lumens to do common tasks, such as gather firewood, navigate a dark house, rummage through a pack or cooler or find a campsite’s latrine. On the side of the Solo is a group of solar panels that supply the light its power. Depending on cloud cover, it takes from 8 to 10 hours to fully charge. It has a good 6 feet of illumination range and runs for 2 hours constantly on, with a full charge. The Solo has a tough, machined-aluminum body and a wrist strap, allowing you to keep it hanging on the outside of a backpack. Not meant to be your primary source of light when things really go wrong, the Solo is great for back up during an emergency.

4. Chinook Solar Shower

For washing up or just needing a comforting warm shower, the Chinook solar shower is the best value for its capacity. Solar showers work simply. Fill the PVC bag with water, hang in a tree or set directly in the sun and let the sun do its job. The sun will heat the water inside the bag, giving you enough hot water for four quick showers. The Chinook solar shower holds five gallons of water and includes a water control on-and-off water hose.

5. Kaito Voyager Emergency Radio

The Kaito Voyager is the solar-powered gadget jack-of-all-trades. It not only has a tilting solar panel, but also crank power and built-in rechargeable batteries and AA battery backup and will charge through the USB port on your computer. The Kaito will charge your cell phone, MP3 player and other USB devices. Though the solar panels provide enough power for the Voyager’s internal battery to power the radio and lights, do not depend on them to charge your cell phone. Use the solar power as backup for the AM/FM radio and NOAA weather alert radio and the radio’s white LED reading lamp, red LED blinking emergency light and side-mounted white LED flashlight.

The downside to using solar energy to power and charge your devices is you need a bright, sunny day for the solar panels to work. Many times, you are without power because of bad weather. You do not want to depend solely on solar-powered gizmos and gadgets. However, they are great for backup or campers, hikers and backpackers who need affordable and compact gear.

Do you use solar power? Tell us how in the comments section.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. I have found the those cheap solar yard lights sold at Walmarts are great for general lighting at night. You recharge them during the day and place them out at night. They last between 6-8 hr

  2. We have installed a solar electric system in our barn. The system is inverted to 120 volts The cost of installation was about what it was going to cost to have electric run from the road to the barn. Plus, we don’t have in monthly power bills. Long periods of sunless days do have an effect on the system, but we have not suffered yet.

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