Working from your living room couch may be more enjoyable than working in a stuffy cubicle, but both Settings will leave you feeling tethered to an electrical outlet. Luckily, there's an easy way to cut the cord and move your workplace outdoors -- without having to worry about charging your battery pack ahead of time.
Portable folding solar panels are growing in popularity as people look for a simple, sustainable way to power their devices off-grid. Whether you're a hardcore backpacker deep into the wilderness, or a sunbather looking to get some work done in a local park, there's always a personal solar panel to meet your needs.
The size, weight, and design of your personal solar panel will all determine how portable it is. If you plan to drive out into a sunny field to get some work done, a heavier, larger panel might be fine, too: you can leave it in the car until you reach your destination, so its size and weight won't be an issue. Backpackers and hikers, on the other hand, should look for panels that are small and lightweight so they don't become a burden on long outdoor trips. Before you buy, be sure to check the weight and size of the panel, as well as the weight and size of all the accessories.
While most solar panels are at least somewhat weather-resistant, not all solar panels are truly waterproof. The last thing you want is to ruin your brand new gadget and fall into a blackout just because it wasn't designed to withstand the elements. Depending on the intensity of your outdoor trip and the weather in your area, be sure to determine the sturdiness of your panel before you make a purchase.
The final factor to consider is how much you are willing to spend on new portable solar panels. It's unlikely that such a small panel will make any money from the electricity it generates, but the freedom and access to the outdoors it can provide you is valuable in itself.
Prices will vary based on your panel's power output, energy storage components, and overall volume. It is possible to find small battery packs with solar modules that cost between $20 and $30, but larger (and more powerful) panels can cost hundreds of dollars. Whatever your need, there's always a group that can help you get off the beaten path.
Many portable panels come with the necessary cables and batteries to store power for later. Power banks are especially useful if you're hoping to use solar power when the sun isn't shining: lighting your campsite at night, charging your phone during a thunderstorm, or keeping your laptop running on a cloudy afternoon are good examples. If you want to stock up on solar energy, consider purchasing a kit that includes the necessary batteries, converters, and cables.