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Summer Outdoor Retailers 2009

July 24, 2009

Twice a year the Outdoor Retailers event comes to Salt Lake City and we get a sneak preview of all the coolest gear coming down the pipeline. Since we are focused on remote recording, we have been enjoying the recent increase in the number of companies offering innovative solar power systems.

Trail Power 25 watt panel

Trail Power 25 watt panel

This year everyone seems to have a lightweight roll-up or foldable panel. And almost everyone is offering a AA or iPod-style charger. The 5-10 watt systems for charging small electronics are very light and most are under $100. For higher power systems, they are still a bit pricey, but the costs are coming down and every year they get a little slicker. You can see where this is going and the future looks bright… Super-efficient rollup panels that work with high-capacity lightweight LiPO batteries.Our favorite portable panel system this year was Trail POWER, Inc. They make a very sweat, lightweight (3 lb) portable 25-watt solar panel. According to their rep these things are basically indestructible, like even if you pound them with rocks (which they tried) they keep on working. There will also soon be selling a 10 amp-hr rechargeable battery that goes with their system and weighs less than a pound. This means that for only about 4 lbs and probably less than $500 you can power pretty much any camera, laptop, etc that you might want to bring into the field.

Energizer AP1000 iPhone Case/Charger

Energizer AP1000 iPhone Case/Charger

Another contender was PowerFilm Solar. They make very slick roll-up and foldable panels. Their 60-watt fold-up panel, although huge (59×43″) is only 3lbs. They also sell a whole range of very nice, rugged roll-up panels in smaller wattages from 7 – 28 watts.

This year Energizer has partnered with XPal Power to create a line of very nice looking mini solar panels and small LiPo batteries for the consumer market. By far the coolest thing they had was the AP1000, a lightweight (3oz) iPhone cover with an integrated battery. The engineering on this thing is beautiful –  it doesn’t look like anything more than a slightly thick protective case yet it more than triples your phone power.

SeaLife DC1000

SeaLife DC1000

It is rare that we find anything directly related to timelapse at the show, but this year SeaLife was showing off their DC1000 10 megapixel waterproof dive-camera. As it turns out they built it with a timelapse mode. Since it is a dive camera, you could stick it pretty much anywhere without worrying about it getting wet or broken.  At $500 for a full featured digital camera, it doesn’t cost that much more than your standard point and shoot. The rep told me that you can easily modify it to run off 12v batteries which makes it seem like a strong contender for a pretty awesome timelapse camera.

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UPDATE March, 2010

On second thought maybe the Energizer system isn’t so great given that some components have just been found to install a Trojan virus on your computer via usb…

http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/03/energizer_battery_charger_contains.html

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