It turns out you can take it with you. Affordable and adaptable solar panels of all sizes make Southern California's outdoorsy lifestyle more convenient, comfortable and cost-efficient — all while minimizing our environmental footprint. From poolside to mountainside, solar is your sustainable friend.
Solar can help transform a humble camper van into a true off-grid adventure vehicle. While rooftop installation means set-and-forget convenience, most hardcore travelers need that space for storage. Lightweight and efficient semi-flexible solar panels can be mounted anywhere on a vehicle and, combined with appropriate batteries, can provide self-sufficiency and solitude miles from civilization.
On the trail
Purpose-built, lightweight reliable solar chargers are now available for hikers and backpackers to keep electronic devices, including that potentially vital smartphone, powered up. When shopping around, seek out weather-resistant panels with onboard batteries and more than one USB port to allow charging multiple devices simultaneously.
Low-tech rooftop solar collectors – not panels that convert solar energy into electricity, but rather panels comprising tiny "veins" through which pool water is circulated, to be directly heated by the sun – can entirely warm pools here in SoCal, meaning balmy water at zero cost. Solar-powered pool pumps are also useful in suitably sunny locations.
A sunny commute
There have long been ultra-lightweight experimental vehicles powered by the sun, but nothing resembling a practical daily driver. With advances in technology, automakers have begun augmenting some electric and plug-in hybrid models with rooftop solar panels, and Dutch startup Lightyear is promising a fully solar powered vehicle next year.