Harnessing the Sun – American Survival Guide

Solar-powered Gear That Improves Your Situation

A sunny day could mean much more to you than you might realize. Yes, the sun provides you with warmth, light and, in most situations, a rain-free experience while outside. But, when worst-case scenarios come knocking on your door, the sun can also aid in your survival.

Although this might sound over-dramatic, utilizing the sun’s energy to help you through a crisis is a facet of your overall emergency plan that shouldn’t be ignored. By harnessing the power of the sun, you can heat pre-packaged food that requires boiling water or cook raw meat on a solar stove.

In addition, solar-powered lights can help when you’re traveling or signaling for help. The sun can keep a radio with an integrated solar cell functioning, enabling you to stay tuned for weather and emergency broadcasts.

But, most importantly, a solar cell or larger solar panel can keep small electronic devices operating when the electrical grid is down. Naturally, cell phones would be the most-needed tool for a plethora of purposes, but laptop computers, tablets and GPS devices all play important parts prior to, during and after a catastrophe hits home.

So, the next time you’re adding to your emergency supply cache or packing your bug-out bag, don’t forget to add items that make use of the limitless—and free—power source shining above.

Voltaic Generator Solar Laptop Charger

This laptop bag not only carries your precious electronic device safely, it also charges it while you’re on the move! An oversized solar panel brings life back to “dead’ electronics, including your cell phone, GPS and tablet. You do nothing more than stay within the sun’s range. The case, itself, is built tough, yet it’s soft enough inside to keep valuable tech items damage free.


  • Solar panel: 17.6 watts; 18.9 volts; .093 amp
  • Padded interior holds up to a 17-inch laptop
  • Front mesh pockets hold charging accessories and small items
  • Recycled PET outer fabric is waterproof and UV resistant
  • Available in silver or black

MSRP: $299


BioLite SolarPanel 10+

With BioLite’s optimal sun system, your cell phone can easily be charged from the sun. This unit features an integrated sundial that aligns the device perfectly to optimize charging, while the versatile kickstand offers stability, even on most uneven surfaces. Best of all, its integrated, onboard 3000mAh battery stores power for a “rainy” day if the need arises. Don’t get caught with a dead phone again!


  • 10 watts of usable power via USB output port
  • Optimal sun system utilizes a 360-degree stand
  • Battery and charge strength indicator assist to measure panel capacity
  • Easy alignment to capture direct rays for maximum charging
  • Corner latches attach to backpacks for on-the-go charging

MSRP: $139.95

Luci EMRG Inflatable Solar Light

Pocket-sized, lightweight, durable and needing only sunlight to power its LED lights—that’s the type of lantern everyone needs! Whether you use it during emergencies or on a weekend campout, this amazing solar lantern will illuminate your tasks at hand or the path ahead. It’s waterproof and collapses down for easy storage and carrying when not in use.


  • Provides light for up to 7 hours
  • Charges in 8 hours
  • Durable design withstands up to 150 pounds of pressure
  • Two-second, quick shutoff
  • Operating temperature: 32–113 degrees (F)

MSRP: $17.95

Sun SolarPanel 30+

Laptops and cell phones can lose their “juice” at the worst times. Prevent your work from being interrupted as you type away outside with the SolarFlex 30. This foldable, ultra-thin solar panel plugs directly into your electronics using a USB cord. Within a short time, your battery bar will be full, and you’ll be good to go for hours. Let the sun work for you and your valuable electronic gear.


  • Power output: 30 watts
  • Unfolded dimensions: 29 x 14 x 0.02 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Charges devices as fast as standard wall chargers
  • Includes storage pouch for carrying the cable

MSRP: $199 


GoSun Chill Cooler with SolarPanel 30+ 

Imagine a cooler that doesn’t need ice to keep food and drinks cold. This cooler and its 30-watt solar panel work together to keep your food or medication chilled using only the sun as its free and replenishable power source. It’s ideal for off-grid use, emergency backup or when you’re enjoying the outdoors in warm environments. As an added bonus, the included solar panel will also keep your phones, laptops and GPS devices charged.


  • Stays cool for up to 14 hours in 80 degree (F) temps
  • Insulated, durable outer cooler shell
  • Use throughout the day and overnight
  • PowerBank+ has 3 USB ports and a 200-lumen light
  • Total weight: 33 pounds

MSRP: $949


Biolite SolarHome 620 

Any small structure can enjoy some electric conveniences with the SolarHome 620. This complete set of solar-powered gear includes overhead lighting, a radio, MP3 player and a control box with charging ports for small electronic devices. The included solar panel mounts easily on the roof and draws the powerful rays of the sun to bring everything to “life.” All the items are easy to install, and the set comes complete with cables and hardware.


  • 6-watt panel connects to 20 Wh control box
  • Control box with integrated radio and USB charging ports
  • Includes 3 overhead lights, 1 with motion sensor
  • 18-foot, daisy-chainable cables for multi-room lighting
  • Ideal for sheds, vans, tents, etc.

MSRP: $149.95 


Crane Observer Radio 

Even in today’s digital age, a reliable radio is a must when disaster strikes. This AM/FM radio offers many useful features, including solar-powered charging, an integrated flashlight, headphone jack and seven weather bands to stay abreast of ever-changing conditions. A large front speaker offers clear sound, while the adjustable antenna optimizes reception. Every emergency kit needs a radio, so choose this one for reliable, multi-function use.


  • AM/FM and Weather Band reception
  • Solar panel: 20–40mA DC (depending on sunlight intensity)
  • Fully charged under direct sunlight in 20 hours
  • 15–20 hours of continuous use on full charge
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds

MSRP: $59.99

Voltaic Fuse Solar Laptop Charger

Need your camera, laptop, tablet and other USB devices juiced up and ready during your next adventure? Then, this solar charger will work for you. Easily attachable to backpacks via its Fuse attachment system, it lets the sun do the work as you traverse sunny trails. It works with nearly all laptops (MacBooks require an optional adapter). Charging times for the solar panel range from 2 to 14 hours, depending upon the device, as well as the intensity of the sun.


  • Holds up to a 13-inch laptop in padded sleeve
  • 24,000mAh USB-PD laptop battery
  • Recycled PET fabric
  • Easily attaches to backpacks and panniers
  • Adjustable straps with integrated MOLLE attachment system

MSRP: $229

Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack

Stylish and ultra-modern, this solar backpack keeps your phone and laptop charged while you travel about. Its streamlined design features a prominent solar cell on the outside and plenty of room and pockets for storage on the inside. A breathable mesh shoulder harness and high-density, molded back section provide comfort for all-day, fatigue-free use.


  • Capacity: 4,000mAh; 15 watt hours
  • 20L main compartment with easy-access interior mesh pockets
  • Includes USB battery pack and micro USB charging cable
  • Padded, 15-inch laptop/tablet sleeve
  • Waterproof, UV-resistant ETFE coating

MSRP: $129

Kaito Multi-Functional Solar Lantern 

Don’t overlook this important piece of emergency gear! When a crisis hits, stay up to date with news, weather reports and a bright light that illuminates even the darkest nights. No power? No problem. The sun will charge your multi-functional lantern. Included as well are a hand crank, USB power input and external battery options. Because of its durable plastic shell and easy-carry handle, it’s built to last. Pack this must-have survival item in your gear bag or emergency preparation kit. The unit features a micro USB, standard USB and rechargeable batteries.


  • 8 LEDs offer 2 levels of illumination
  • USB port charges cell phone or other USB devices
  • Integrated internal speaker
  • 7 NOAA weather channels
  • Dimensions: 8.25 x 4.25 x 4.25 inches

MSRP: $29.95

Voltaic Arc 10W Solar Charger

What’s the “trifecta” of portable solar power? Well, the device should be affordable, easy to operate and offer high durability while out in the field. Voltaic Arc’s dual Solar Charger quickly brings all your USB devices up to full power under the sunshine. Whether you prefer Apple- or Android-based electronics, this unit charges them all. The 10-watt charger is ideal for day hikes, picnicking or emergency backup.


  • Durable and UV-resistant ETFE-coated solar panel
  • Panels fold for easy storage
  • Regulated USB port allows charging of devices directly from solar panel
  • It charges, even on low-sunlight days
  • Can charge smartphones, tablets, cameras and other USB devices

MSRP: $39

Solo Scientific Tinder Hot Box Solar Fire Starter

This pocket-sized parabolic reflector ignites tinder fast and easily by redirecting the sun’s rays onto the elevated piece of dry tinder. This innovative design employs no moving parts, no flint, no gases, no batteries—nothing else besides the sun’s power. Tinder can be stored in the watertight portion of the container, and the lid can be used as a signal mirror. No gear bag should be without this useful survival tool.


  • Internal storage compartment keeps tinder dry
  • Overall dimensions: 2.65 x 0.725 inches
  • Machined from aircraft aluminum
  • Fits easily in pocket, pack or glove box
  • Quick fire-starting under direct sunlight

MSRP: $39.95

Wazoo Burnable Business Card with Fresnel Lens

This credit card-sized combo includes thin sheets of birch wood and a Fresnel lens to help create fire on the spot. Just focus the sun’s rays through the lens and ignite any dry tinder under the assembly. You’ll soon have a small blaze that’s ready for additional kindling and larger logs. The Fresnel lens can be carried in your wallet or pocket and can be used without the need of anything other than some tinder and sunshine.


  • Perforated wood card breaks into seven pieces
  • Pieces interlock to create kindling fire lay
  • Reusable Fresnel lens also usable as 3X magnifier
  • Vinyl carrying case fits easily inside most wallets

MSRP: $5

Suaoki 60W Foldable Dual Port Solar Charger 

This foldout solar panel provides enough power for charging two devices: one for USB charging and one for DC output. It offers fast charging, smart charging and speed-up charging. Use it for your car, cell phone, GPS, laptop or tablet. Whether you’re sunning by the pool, laying on the beach or camped out during a blackout, this unit will help charge all your small electronic gear for dependable use.


  • Max charging port output: 18V/3.4A (DC); 5V/2.1A (USB)
  • Deployed size: 64.57 x 11.42 x 0.08 inches
  • Stowed size: 11.42 x 6.30 x 6 inches
  • Monocrystalline solar panels increase conversion efficiency
  • Weight: 3.1 pounds

MSRP: $140.18


GoSun Ultimate Fusion Bundle 

When the grid is down or you’re far from modern utilities, this cooker/charging combo will be an absolute lifesaver. The solar oven heats to an amazing 550 degrees (F)—more than enough heat to cook just about anything you have, find or catch. The included solar panel keeps cellphones and other USB devices topped off with needed power. Cook while listening to music or watching a video—and never be out of power.


  • Complete cooking and charging system
  • Powerbank offers 3 USB ports
  • Oven cooks enough food per meal for up to six people
  • Includes carrying bag for convenient transport

MSRP: $949


SunFlair Deluxe Solar Oven Kit

This kit offers solar-powered cooking for the entire family. Utilizing only the intense rays of the sun for power, a meal will be on the table in no time flat. It features an innovative, soft and flexible design. The included cooking accessories—pots, a roaster pan, baking trays and dehydrating racks—only add to this unit’s user-friendly style. The oven’s solar thermometer helps anyone become the perfect off-grid chef!


  • State-of-the-art, closed-cell insulation
  • Oven reaches temperatures of 285 degrees (F)
  • Includes roaster, pots, trays, racks and carry bag
  • Folds down flat to 2 x 15.5 x 19 inches
  • Weight is just 18 ounces

MSRP: $164.99


Suaoki Solar Panel Camping LED Lantern

This uniquely designed solar lantern offers bright illumination at home, at your campsite or anywhere you need instant light. The “accordion” design allows this compactable unit to fit nearly anywhere. Once charged, this device can charge your phone when the grid falls and you’re left with no power. This is a must-have item to include in every family member’s gear or emergency bag.


  • Lightweight, durable and easy to carry
  • Portable, compact, collapsible design
  • Provides three lighting modes: low, high and SOS
  • Use as a flashlight, lantern or power bank
  • Charges via built-in solar panel or USB input

MSRP: $16.99



Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2020 print issue of American Survival Guide.

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Tactical Pete
Author: Tactical Pete

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