Power in the wilderness – What works, What doesn’t.
As much as we like to talk about leaving all the glamping gear behind and just bringing the essentials out with us on our adventures, we can’t help but love our electronics and gadgets. Who doesn’t stop to see a new gizmo, gadget, or ultimate wilderness warrior contraption. Admit it, you have looked up some new tech for the up coming year, read about it, thought about buying it, maybe even lied about it and bought behind the back of your loving and understanding wife. (FYI – They know you bought it, but they love us enough to let it go.)
Now that you have these new electronics, how do you charge them? You are miles away from the nearest electrical outlet and we haven’t found a booze powered generator (yet). There are many different products that will solve the issue, but which one works? Which one do I get? There is really only one way to find out.. We tested three ways; Muscles, Fire Power, and that big pissed-off flaming orb in the sky…
Eton Scorpion Windup/Solar Radio – $51.00 @ MEC
Nice to have the weather forecast and it’s a great little radio when the sun is out. The device claimed it is able to recharge cell phones via USB, which is technically true. We attempted to charge our Nokia Lumia 1020, which admittedly does have a high-capacity battery (2000mAh) to test the claim. In order to achieve the smallest amount of charge for the phone to register an incoming power source, we nearly had a stroke turning the hand crank at a very high rate in order to produce the smallest charge. Note: Even though the device has a solar panel it would not charge anything using that alone. Crank for two minutes straight and you will get enough juice to run the radio for 15-20 minutes, it would take approx. 2.5 of a marathon paced cranking motion to charge a phone or camera. Maybe this should be advertised as the new ShakeWeight. The Scorpion also sports a low powered flashlight that does well for running around camp. The Eaton Scorpion is the equivalent of the fire bow for starting fires, we commend you for the effort but there are easier ways of doing things. We could see this being very useful in-car camping scenarios or for RVs, but were not recommending it for the backwoods.
Biolite CampStove – $135.00 @ MEC
This is cool, really cool. The stove takes the heat from the fire you start inside it with twigs and small
pieces of wood, and turns it into electricity through a Thermocouple, not only to charge your gear, but it also takes that electricity, pours it into the built-in fan, and supercharges your fire creating more heat and more power. It’s light enough to haul around with you almost anywhere (935g). The yellow pack on the side fits nicely inside the main unit and the legs fold up for easy storage. As far as the charging goes, it came out as pretty strong. It charges well but will require a good few hours to charge up a smartphone, which is great if your cooking dinner for a few guys and have the time to let it run. (Specs – 20 minutes of charge will produce 60 mins of talk on an iPhone 4s, which we found to be fairly accurate) Since the CampStove super charges the fire with a fan, it will run through burnable material faster than you think, so make sure to keep feeding the beast. On the flip side, it cooks fast, boiling water in under 4 minutes for us, almost rivaling our MSR Whisperlite. Burning hot and fast creates a very small amount of ash. To top it all off, Biolite also makes a grill and a kettle for use with your CampStove, The Biolite is a little pricey but well worth the money. We’ll be taking this baby with us on more trips.
Goal Zero Guide 10 + Solar Recharging Kit – $136.00 @ MEC
What can we say, it’s a solar panel. Strap it to the outside of your pack while paddling or lay it out on the rocks at camp, this portable powerhouse will charge anything! We don’t mind that it takes a good 2-3 hours to full charge our phone, (or the Guide 10 battery pack and that can charge just about anything) because it’s self-sufficient. You don’t have to do anything except make sure it is facing the sun. Leaving you to sip whiskey, fish, or keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing out there. Charging up the Guide 10 battery pack for 3 hours in direct sunlight allowed us to charge two smartphones (The same Nokia Lumia 1020) as well as our Olympus Tough camera. Imagine what 8 hours of glorious sun could do.
We’ll raise our beer for both the Goal Zero and the Biolite.
We highly recommend the Goal Zero product (We’re going to buy more) for your wilderness trips. If you’re looking for a dual purpose device to cut down on pack space and weight then the Biolite CampStove is a great option, and well the Eton Scorpion, sorry Eton, we would rather go without our electronic toys.