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GearTools & Tech

Which compact solar charger can juice up a wide range of batteries?

I'm looking for an affordable, very compact solar charger that will charge AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V batteries. I'm planning on mountain climbing with it, so size and weight are an issue. What suggestions do you have? Linda Bloomfield, Indiana


Good grief! How many electronic gadgets are you taking along? Half a Circuit City store, from the sounds of it.

Brunton Solaris 6 Charger

Solaris 6 Charger

In any event, what you want to do is a little tricky. Most portable solar chargers don’t have receptacles for plugging in batteries; the battery goes into a holder of some sort, then that is connected to the solar unit through an adapter. That’s the case with Brunton’s popular Solaris 6 ($129;, a compact, folding solar charger that would work great on a hiking/climbing trip. It plugs into electronic devices such as cell phones via a 12v vehicle power adapter, and does the same for AA or AAA chargers. But like many solar chargers, it’s not even billed as having the ability to charge C, D, or 9v batteries.

Still, for more money, there are options. At a site such as you can find several models of “universal" solar chargers. One such model, the logorrheic 10 Watt High Speed Rollable Universal Solar Battery Charger, sells for $316 and can handle all the batteries you cite. It’s a little bulky and weighs one pound, seven ounces, but that’s not too bad.

It might also be possible to adapt an inexpensive universal charger designed for home use–you can find them for about $20–and figure out a way to connect it to the Brunton Solaris. I’m sure your local Radio Shack people could help with this.

But first, I’d think hard about standardizing my battery needs. I’m not clear what you would take on a climbing trip that would need a C, D, or 9v. If it doesn’t take AA–the most commonly used battery in the world by a factor of five, I imagine–I wouldn’t bother with it.

The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.

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Filed To: Adventure Electronics
Lead Photo: courtesy, Brunton