Why you should care

Because camping without a charged iPhone can be scarier than the possibility of running into bears.

The great outdoors is so great that most of us can’t help but drag along our smart devices so we can really get the most out of all that outdoorsy-ness. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. But here’s some truth: Those gadgets don’t last very long when the nearest power outlet is a two-day hike from your campsite. You could bring extra battery packs, but they’ll be depleted soon enough. You could buy a solar charging solution, but what about cloudy days? Or you could just use the nearest creek.

The Blue Freedom is a compact power generator that uses moving water, such as a river or stream, to recharge any device that can be connected to its two USB ports. It weighs less than a pound and fits in a backpack. Using it is simple. With the base on shore, just grab the blue rotor portion and toss it into the nearest brook. As the rotor spins in the flowing water, it turns a small 5-watt generator in the main unit via its 5.9-foot-long drive shaft.

A fully charged device can revive a completely dead iPhone 6 twice.

All you need is at least 6 inches of water. If you’re on a lake without a current, you can tow the rotor behind any watercraft — even a canoe. You can charge your devices directly from the generator or from its 5,000 mAh capacity integrated battery pack. A fully charged Blue Freedom can revive a completely dead iPhone 6 twice, with room to spare. Or you could run the built-in LED flashlight for 6 hours.

The Blue Freedom started out as a way for Benedict Padberg, a native of Fürth, Germany, to extend his love of nature photography past the limited life span of his camera’s batteries. It has since evolved into a Concord, Massachusetts-based business that has set its sights on making us all independent power producers. “I immediately recognized that Blue Freedom is the solution to one of the world’s biggest issues — 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity,” says Padberg.

Of course, the Blue Freedom is not an ideal solution for many of those people Padberg wants to help. “If you’re in a desert, you’re out of luck,” points out Elizabeth Doyle, a Toronto-based former Outward Bound instructor who has taught courses in Northern Ontario, the Florida Everglades and western North Carolina. Doyle does note, though, that it would come in handy for her dream adventure: an end-to-end hike of the Appalachian Trail, where there’s not a lot of direct sunlight for solar charging, “but flowing water is readily accessible.”

At $319, Blue Freedom is a lot more expensive than some of the existing alternatives such as the BioLite Stove ($129), a camp stove that recharges USB devices by converting heat into electricity, and the Goal Zero Switch 10 solar charger ($119), which does the same with the sun’s rays. The Blue Freedom, however, can produce more power than the BioLite (5 watts versus 4 watts), and unlike the Goal Zero, you don’t need to wait for the battery to recharge before charging your devices.

They say that spending time surrounded by nature is a great way to recharge your batteries. With a Blue Freedom tucked into your backpack, it literally is. Happy trails!

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