There was a time when people didn’t carry electrical devices with them when they went travelling. But for the biggest part, these times are over. So, especially when you travel in a van or with a tent, the question where you can get mobile electricity when there’s no café around.
The answer to this question leads us to producing our own electricity. In this post I will try to list all the tips and tricks I know about producing mobile electricity. No matter if you travel with a van, boat, tent or just a rucksack.
If you know about more ways to do this, please let us know in the comments below and I will include them in a follow up post! Also, if you think this post is helpful, please share it with your friends and followers!
Probably the most obvious. Especially if you try to reduce your travels to sunny areas, this is one of the most logical energy sources to invest in.
At this moment in time I can only tell you which van solar panels I intend on getting one day, because so far I’ve only used a smaller version of them.
Only recently I found out that there are even more powerful solar chargers out there than the one I own. I have the Anker USB Solar Charger (Get it from Amazon US, Amazon UK & Amazon DE – aff), which doesn’t cease to amaze me. When it arrived, I picked it up from the nearby post office and tried it straight out of the box on my 20 minute walk to the van. There in the Viennese afternoon sun of a very lightly cloudy Autumn day, it managed to charge more than one percent of my phone’s battery per minute.
It’s the only mobile electricity producing device I have used over the last six months and in combination with the power plugs of cafés I never really needed more. It’s especially great for travellers who only have a small budget and who want to charge mainly their phones and USB powered Tablets.
By now, I even fix this mobile electricity charger to my rucksack when I walk around (I walk a lot). Especially in Sunny places like Valencia this is amazing.
As I mentioned above, there are more powerful foldable Solar Chargers out there. With those you can even charge Laptops (no Macbooks, I think. Their unique plug seems to be a disadvantage).
But as you might have guessed, they come at a higher price too. Also, they take up quite a bit of space when unfolded. But if you are in nature, you don’t really worry about that, I guess. Also, you can unfold it on your van’s roof or your sail boat’s deck. Most of them are waterprove. I wouldn’t fix it to the roof permanently, though. But maybe there’s somebody who think it’s worth a try? 😉
If you try one of these more efficient Solar Chargers, please let me know what you think about it! I’ve been eyeballing them for some time.
They come with higher expenses and you will need electricity converters and proper batteries as well. Since I don’t have any practical experience with the installation of solar panels, I forward you to Mike, one of my European colleagues over at VanDogTraveller. He has an intensive post about how he installed his system himself.
Here is a list of the basic appliances you will need to install them, though:
Seriously. To all the vandwellers out there, who have this luxury: I envy you.
The second most obvious to most people. Just recently I walked along the harbour of Porto Saplaya and was (probably a bit too) amazed by the logical thing of putting a wind generator onto a sail boat. Two ways to use wind power on one ‘vehicle’. Awesome!
I researched a little if there is something that vandwellers or backpackers could use as well, but only came across this little device (Here on Amazon US – aff) that doesn’t look too promising. But if you think about it. If you put two of them onto the sides of your van, the wind coming your way while driving would probably produce quite a bit of power, that would go to waste otherwise…
If you are on a boat or other ways to travel that can afford this quite clunky way of charging your batteries,
I do it all the time, when Hermes is in travel mode. Whether it’s a long distance ride or just to the other side of the city. Having a power adapter to charge directly with your car’s engine is one of the most logical things you can do to get mobile electricity.
I’m using an USB Adapter with two plugs (Find the one I use here on Amazon US, UK and DE – aff) but there are also converters that let you charge any other electrical device, like laptops (find one here on Amazon US, UK and DE – aff).
But as I said, this is only for the times when you drive. Do not charge your devices from the van if it is parked for a longer time or else, your car battery will die sooner or later. And you want to be able to start the engine again, right?
I surely do. Plenty of hours almost every day. Especially when I’m in small cities and don’t feel like paying for public transport. As I already said, I strap the Solar Charger onto my rucksack and charge while I am on these walks.
But in my opinion, we should use every source of energy, we could possibly access to get mobile electricity. And when walking, what’s even more reliable to provide energy than the sun? Even by night or clouds?
Your feet! Every time you make a step, it’s energy that’s only used to bring you from point A to point B. What if you could use this energy to charge your batteries at the same time? I know it would change a lot for me.
It’s packed into your rucksack and two strings get attached to your shoes. From that moment on, you become a human power generator. Plug your batteries into it and go hiking or simply for a long walk. Supposedly only five minutes of walking can charge a phone for 25 call minutes! I’m trying to imagine what my three hour walk last night could have done…
I almost always carry my rucksack with my devices with me, when I leave the van, so this would be a great solution for me. Sadly the company is still in start up mode, but you can already pre order your Go Kin Pack!
Also, there is this ingenious Philippino kid who has invented a power generator, that you put directly into your shoes that could potentially be one of the main mobile electricity sources of the future.
This is not yet in production either, but I have a feeling Google is right on it…
This is probably one of the things I will get myself, as soon as I have the money for it. I’m planning to stay more in nature in the future and not as often in cities. Therefore I will cook outside more often.
Doing so with butane gas gets a little expensive over time. And it also doesn’t make sense to use it, if there is wood all around me.
Making a fire a alone, wastes a lot of energy. You get even more aware of that, as soon as you see what this little thing is capable of.
The BioLite CampStove takes the most energy out of a couple of twigs, as you possibly can. And at the same time it filters the smoke so much, there’s hardly any pollution happening. One liter of water boils within about four minutes. And it get’s better: It charges your phone. Yes. This camping cooker takes all the energy that would otherwise be wasted and turns it into mobile electricity.
I’m curious if the company, producing this little miracle can even top the functionality of it.
Whether or not doesn’t won’t change my buying decision much, though. As soon as the money is on the table, I will get this power machine.
EDIT: I finally bought the BioLite Campstove and I love it!
By the way, it also seems great for backpackers, since it collapses into itself, becoming a really small and comparably light weight (especially comparing it to normal camping stoves where you need a gas bottle with you all the time) bundle that can easily be attached to your rucksack.
Yes, they exist already. Just like you can power a flashlight with your hand power, you can now charge your smartphone by cranking this little mobile electricity machine.
But to be honest, I don’t see myself cranking it up for more than five minutes a time. So I would suggest, if you intend to use this little device, you should use it with an old and not a smart phone and only in survival situations.
Just a suggestion 😉
But for now, I would also say, that we have come a long way and that we have a good equipment for starters. If you are prepared you never have to be without mobile electricity. That doesn’t mean, some people wouldn’t want that…
Can you think of more ways to charge your devices on the road? Please tell us down in the comments. I will write a follow up article, if we find enough.
Also, share this article with your friends and followers. It might be useful to them too.