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Tim Leffel

Professional Travel Expert

Best Eco-Friendly Travel Gadgets & Best Eco Friendly Products

A few short decades ago, travelers hit the road with very few electronics. A flashlight, maybe a short-wave radio, and later a cassette Walkman. The number of electronics going into the average carry-on bag has increased dramatically in the past ten years, with many people carrying five or six different electricity-powered gadgets with them in their travels.

All those gadgets increase our impact on the environment, from the materials used to the power sources required. The following travel gadgets can lessen some of that impact by using natural power sources to power up your devices and eliminate waste. By harnessing the sun, the wind, or the power of your muscles, these items can keep you away from disposable batteries, fossil fuels, and power outlets.

Choose the best eco friendly gadgets, from flashlights to solar chargers. These best eco friendly products are designed for day trips camping or long trips across the world.

Best Eco-Friendly Travel Gadgets by Tim Leffel

The Best You Can Get

  • Gaiam Shake Flashlight

    Tim says: Get some exercise and save the planet with this shake flashlight from Gaiam. You never need to throw away batteries or need a power source for recharging. Simply shake it back and forth and let the magnet and coils do their magic. Every ten seconds of shaking delivers about two minutes of light. Shake it for two minutes and you’re set for almost a half hour.

    This model has a longer coil than most and a switch that adds a pulse signal to the on-off options for emergencies. At nine inches long, two inches around, and weighing less than a pound, this is an easy flashlight to pack for a hike or long-term travels.

    • No need to buy or dispose of batteries
    • Muscle power creates energy with no power source
    • Light and easy to pack
  • Voltaic Generator Laptop Bag

    Tim says: There are plenty of backpacks and messenger bags out there that use solar energy to charge your phone or iPod, but The Voltaic Generator is the first solar bag powerful enough to charge a laptop, though naturally it will power up hand-held electronics as well, and faster. It uses high-efficiency solar cells to generate maximum power in the space of one side of a bag and a day of sun will usually fully charge any laptop battery.

    Furthering the ecological credibility, the fabrics used in the bag are made from recycled soda bottles, so it’s environmentally friendly and water-resistant as well. It only weighs 4.5 pounds but has 12 liters of storage space and plenty of pockets for all the necessary cords and gadgets. So the initial price may sting, but after you have this bag it really is easy to be green.

    • 17 watts of solar power to fully charge a laptop
    • Made from recycled materials
    • Lightweight, but roomy and ready for the rigors of the road
  • HyMini Charger and Accessories

    Tim says: All these solar charges for your electronics are great, but what if you live in Seattle, or an artic area where the sun disappears part of the year? This HyMini charger is a breakthrough because it harnesses wind power to charge up your iPod or your cell phone. It only takes a breeze of nine miles per hour to keep the propeller humming and the battery charging.

    After 20 to 40 minutes, you've got enough juice to partially charge up your any gadget with a USB or USB mini input. Connectors for five kinds of devices are supplied, but you're on your own if you don't have one of the major brands. (Until the gadget manufacturers get their environmental act together and start standardizing, that is.)

    There’s a solar power option you can purchase for the times when the sun is blazing down and no breeze is stirring. Or buy the bicycle clip and create your own wind while you are riding, or the armband to generate wind while you are jogging!

    • Uses wind power to charge up your devices
    • Optional solar panel provides a back-up
    • Bike and jogging attachments let you create your own power
  • SteriPEN Traveler with Solar Charger Case

    Tim says: One of the most harmful habits most travelers develop is buying bottled water on a daily basis. Compounded over a week or two, one person can use a hundred bottles made from fossil fuels and most of them don’t get recycled.

    The SteriPEN Traveler offers a painless way to purify any tap water so that it’s safe to drink. You simply turn it on, insert the pen into the water, and strong ultraviolet light kills any nasties that are lurking around. Buy the solar charging case version and you can use rechargeable batteries as well, powered back up by the sun.

    • Purify instead of buying bottled water
    • Works in less than a minute
    • Small, lightweight, and no pumping
  • Freeplay Indigo Self-Sufficient LED Lantern

    Tim says: If you like to camp or use an RV, at night you need some kind of light source for the outdoors. This lightweight lantern is easy to pack and it doesn’t require any extra batteries. Simply crank the handle for two minutes to generate power that is stored in the internal battery. After that the lantern can run non-stop at its highest setting for 2-1/2 hours.

    The ultra-bright LEDs are surprisingly powerful and there’s a dimmer switch to tone it down. An additional single light setting can be used for reading or finding your way to the bathroom. This Freeplay lantern is built to last too, with a battery life expectancy of 100,000 hours—more than almost anyone will end up using it in a lifetime.

    • No batteries or recharging
    • Crank handle generates stored power
    • Dimmer switch and directional flashlight/reading light

You will be happy with any of these

  • Solio Solar Charger

    Tim says: This item from Solio was one of the first to really address the solar charging possibilities in a fresh way and it’s still one of the best options out there for recharging your electronic gadgets. It fans out into three panels and it has a hole in the back for inserting a pen or pencil to create an impromptu stand. This way it can be angled toward the sun.

    The Solio charger, with the right adapter tip, will power up any of your handheld devices, from mobile phones to music players to digital cameras. For the standard version, one hour of sun equals 15 minutes of cell phone talk time or 40 minutes of MP3 music. The more expensive Magnesium edition gets 25% more output out of an hour of sun and comes with more connection options via the Universal iGo tips system.

    The Solio solar charger comes with a universal wall adapter plus an offer to send a free connector tip if the included USB and mini USB ones don’t cover your device.

    • Three-panel solar charger for faster charging
    • Folds up to a compact size
    • Full day of sun can fully power your device
  • Sidewinder Portable Cell Phone Charger

    Tim says: The Sidewinder personal cell phone charger does not generate enough juice to keep your device fully powered, but it is an eco-friendly way to get a boost when you need it, anywhere, in any weather. A few minutes of cranking will deliver a few minutes of talk time or an hour or more of standby time. You can even crank it while you’re talking and the crank will go in either direction for lefties or righties.

    Your purchase includes the charging unit, a connector cable, and connections to five types of phones. (You can buy adapters for the others.) There is a zippered carrying pouch with a loop to keep it all together. The charger itself is tiny—less than 2-1/2 inches at its widest point—and weighs less than 5 ounces with the pouch and cord. The generating handle folds against the side of the unit when you’re not cranking it. A small keychain-type LED light also helps you find your phone or keys in the dark.

    • Cranking power source works anywhere, any weather
    • Small and lightweight
    • Additional LED light
  • Eclipse Nova Solar Camera Bag

    Tim says: Being a photographer in the digital age involves a lot of battery recharging. In addition to using up a lot of juice, the constant concern about power sources can be troublesome if in the mountains or the desert shooting away from civilization. This denier nylon solar camera bag from Eclipse solves the energy source problem in an eco-friendly way, with the solar panels on top powering up your camera (or other items) through a standard car charger outlet.

    The interior of the bag has all the usual features, with padded lens sections and pockets for cords and memory cards. At 15” x 9” x 10” it holds most of the basic gear. While you are carrying things around or eating lunch, however, the bag is at work keeping your battery from running out. Panels this small only deliver a 1.5-watt “trickle charge” however, so expect a full charge to take five to seven hours.

    • Holds a digital SLR and three lenses
    • Solar panel charges up cameras or other devices
    • Uses a standard car charger outlet
  • BoGo Solar LED Flashlight

    Tim says: This rugged solar flashlight uses the sun to power up the rechargeable AA batteries inside, plus it has a hook allowing it to double as a light source at night. There’s a “pay it forward” bonus too: when you buy one of these, the company sends a second one to a school in Nigeria for free.

    This is a hefty flashlight with ample panels to catch the sun, so it is a lot brighter than most solar ones and it has a larger charging area. A full day of charging will routinely take you through the night, for six or eight hours of light. For normal intermittent use, you could probably go weeks between charges.

    When the rechargeable AA batteries eventually die (after 750 to 1,000 hours), you can switch them out with a new set of standard rechargeable batteries that are widely available. The BoGo comes in bright pink or bright orange, so you probably won’t lose it.

    • Wide charging panel supports a very bright light and long life
    • Hook on the end to use it as a hanging light source
    • Each purchase triggers a donation to families in Nigeria
  • Gaiam Solar Radio

    Tim says: This is another great earth-friendly item for camping or RV travel — or for carrying in your car for emergencies. It has a radio and flashlight powered by either a solar panel section on the top or a hand crank. Once fully charged by either method, it will run for 12 hours before needing another crank or blast of sunlight.

    The AM/FM radio has an analog dial tuner and telescoping antennae, while the flashlight has a single bulb that is moderately bright. A siren mode is a great back up for emergencies: it activates a flashing red light and a surprisingly loud siren noise.

    • Runs on solar power or a crank
    • Operates for 12 hours on a full charge
    • Built-in flashlight as well

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