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How to build an igloo, after a 1949 Canadian film

Portable Power Banks are great for charging your phone when you're out and about all day. However, they also need to be charged via a power outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do if you hike the Appalachian Trail or scrub in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru – a lightweight foldable solar panel now available from Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices by simply absorbing the sun. Attach it to your backpack or place it over the tent to charge the solar module's external battery during the day. Just before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to charge it overnight.

It is able to charge a tablet, a GPS, a speaker, headphones, a camera or other small wattage device. "A built-in smart chip identifies each attached device and automatically adjusts the power output to provide the right amount of power," says the SolarCru Kickstarter site.

A single panel is "good for small charging tasks" on the product side, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical power. It takes about three hours and 45 minutes, for example, to charge a phone from a single panel, or about an hour if you use three panels at the same time. The amount of daylight needed to get enough energy to load depends on weather conditions, but it also works on cloudy days, albeit at a slower rate.

The foldable plate weighs less than a pound and rolls into a compact body that can easily be stowed in your backpack or jacket pocket. It is also made of a scratch and water resistant material. If you rain outside while camping, it will not destroy your power source.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $ 34 (less than a few power banks) or a pack of five for $ 145. Orders are expected to be delivered in March.

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