If there’s a more annoying aspect to going mobile than keeping all your gadgets charged, I’d love to know what it is. Sliding your notebook in a slim, fashionable carrying case is great. But where do you put the beastly transformer, bulkier still from being wrapped in its cables? Not to mention your cell phone charger, MP3-player charger, digital camera charger, rechargeable battery charger… Not to mention adapters for international travel. And all of the above is predicated on finding an outlet.
While up in the mountains, I read a great essay by Douglas “Hitchhiker’s Guide” Adams about the need for a universal DC adapter. Why not simply standardize all these power supplies on, say, the 12 volt DC found in cars? To quote Adams, “There’s one possible theory, which is that, just as Xerox is really in the business of selling toner cartridges, Sony is really in the little dongly power supply business.” To some degree, five volt USB power addresses this (you can even roll your own). But your choices are either running your laptop battery down, buying store batteries or finding an outlet once again.
My personal favorite solution is solar. And in the last few years, a bevy of products from the practical to the fashionable are beginning to offer a cheap and easy, if slow, way to keep your devices fresh and perky. Treehugger recently did a roundup of five solar charging devices, including solar bags, folding solar panels that can charge a laptop to the uber slick Solio. And while the price is rather steep at $695, the Tumi solar-powered backpack gets you double the good karma, charging your gadgets with renewable energy and donating the proceeds of your purchase to Doctors Without Borders.