With better weather on the way, many of you may be planning some extensive hikes and camping trips. While there are several solar power kits you can bring with you, the truth is that they can often take a long time to produce enough electricity to charge up your smartphone, GPS or LED lamps.
A new portable option is the Blue Freedom, a tiny 7.9 x 2.2-in hydropower kit that is lightweight and can fit in a small backpack. The kit contains a 4.7 inch diameter micro turbine, a 5W generator and 5,000 mAh lithium-polymer internal battery.
The turbine is dipped into a running water source while the base unit stays on the shore. You can charge devices directly from the base unit via USB ports or let the internal battery store the energy for later use. The company estimates that an iPhone would get 10 hours worth of charge with the turbine spending just one hour in the water. A smartphone would fully charge in 2 to 3 hours while the internal battery can fully charge in just 3 to 4 hours at a water flow rate of 1.2 m/sec (2.7 mph).
Comparatively, solar power packs take somewhere around 8 to 12 hours to charge batteries of similar size. If you usually find yourself hiking near flowing water, this kit would be worth considering. Of course, if you're more of a desert trekker, you're better off sticking with solar power.
The kit could be a nice addition to a solar backpack if you're worried about overcast weather or know you'll have access to a water source at some point during your trip. It would be reassuring to have more than one option if you're taking a long off-grid trip.
The Blue Freedom is designed to work in temperatures between 41 and 104 ºF and in altitudes up to 16,400 feet. It's similar to the HydroBee hydropower gadget, but even smaller.
The gadget is currently on Kickstarter, trying to raise enough funds to go into a full production. If you pledge $179 or above, you can get the Blue Freedom kit when it ships in October.
If you'd rather wait, it will be up for pre-order on the Blue Freedom website after the Kickstarter campaign ends.