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How can a tent use solar power?


Solar-powered Tent Lighting
These tents lined up by the road could be generating a load of power.
These tents lined up by the road could be generating a load of power.
Image courtesy of USBR

­It may seem counterintuitive, walking into a tent and turning on the lights. For hard-core backpackers, it may be a bit much. But for campground campers, especially those with families, easy tent lighting can be useful.

On the surface, the tent is standard camping fare: a four-person or six-person tent ($200-$250) with all the usual features, like mesh windows and rain fly (a rain fly is a separate sheet that covers the tent). But on the very top of the tent, just underneath the fly, it has something unique: a 7-inch (17-centimeter) solar panel yo­u click into place when you assemble the tent. The sun reaches the panel through the fly, which has a clear plastic window to let UV light shine through.

The solar panel charges two things inside the tent: a string of LED lights on the ceiling that acts as built-in lighting, and a detachable flashlight that hangs from the center, kind of like a rustic chandelier.

A full charge of the solar panel provides two to four hours of indoor lighting. For a full charge, the solar panel needs four to six hours of direct sunlight or eight to 10 hours of indirect sunlight.

You can actually set the lights to turn on automatically when the sun goes down. The solar power stored on top of the tent isn't only for the LEDs, though. You can also plug a battery charger into the power source to charge a portable device. You'll be draining your lighting energy, of course. But if you're camping in a super sunny spot, you can probably accumulate some power to spare.

With the surge in "green" camping, though, you don't need a solar-powered tent to run your devices on solar energy. There are lots of solar-powered battery chargers on the market, along with camping-specific solar-powered gadgets like AM/FM radios, fans and flashlights. But a tent that lets you turn on the lights when you walk inside is still a pretty cool solar innovation. It may not necessarily be all that green, though: The tent is made of petroleum-based PVC (like most tents), and some say the extra manufacturing work that goes into building those LED lights into the tent probably cancels out any eco-gain from eliminating battery hours.

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