The deep integration of mobile devices into field work is aided by how easy they are to maintain in the field. Professionals who are in the wild for weeks at a time have the burden of keeping cameras, tablets, laptops, and phones running for days at a stretch.
How do they do it? I recently met a wildlife photographer working in the bush for extended periods. I asked him how he keeps his MacBook Air, cameras, phone, and iPad running without power outlets.
He heartily recommended the Sherpa 100 Solar Kit from Goal Zero. The kit consists of three parts: a solar panel, a charging module, and a 12v adapter unit. The latter attaches to the small charging module, forming one small unit to pack and carry. The whole kit weighs just under 5 pounds, which matters to those trekking in the outback.
At the heart of the Sherpa is a 26,400 mAh battery in the charging module. It can charge small devices multiple times and a laptop twice. The battery in the Sherpa is charged either via the sun with the included solar panel, by a wall outlet before heading out, or by car with the 12v adapter attached.
Charging the Sherpa 100 using the solar panel can take up to 22 hours of direct sunlight. According to the photographer, the lengthy process is aided by attaching it to someone's backpack during the day (see image upper right). For extended periods in the wild, the crew allots a full day to working in the camp while deploying the solar panel the entire day.
In addition to charging devices, the included AC inverter unit can be used to plug any small appliance into the Sherpa 100. The charging module has a bright LED flashlight integrated for emergency lighting.
The Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Solar Kit is definitely for the professional field worker, given the rugged construction, high capacity, and the price of $600. But that's not really a high price to pay for keeping a lot of gear running virtually anywhere for weeks at a time.