I used to think portable solar power as a novelty, a useless gift gadget, not a necessity. That all changed on a trip to the beach. I left the 4G data connection on my phone, and within a few hours the battery was drained. Like many people today, I suffer from digital anxiety. I must check my various email and social network accounts on a more-than-I-should basis. At that point, I realized, I need a solar charger.
Goal Zero offers a 7-watt portable solar panel, dubbed "the Guide 10 Adventure Kit," that sports a 12V direct charge adapter, USB port, and a 6.5V direct charging cable. It is also compatible with standard AA and AAA rechargeable batteries. It is small enough to fit in a, large, pocket. When folded it is 6x9x1 inches in volume. At $140 USD, it is a must for all who worry about their devices power, on the go, in the remote.
For the vain, a Ralph Lauren solar backpack, in the RXL sports line, is yours for $800 USD. For what you gain in style you lose in power output. The backpack outputs a lack-luster 3.45-watts.
There are many options for portable solar power. What makes these two stand out is the built in support for today's devices. For example, for $800 I could get a Global Solar 62-watt 12V foldable solar panel. However, many additional adapters/regulators would be needed to get a simple USB port for power. Not something I want to lug around. Small and compact is the goal for all technology.
Although I like the backpack, the Adventure Kit is my solar pack of choice. Plus, $140 in nothing for peace of mind, and checking my email at the beach.