Our life is powered by sunlight. The idea is to combine modern technologies and classic solutions to simplify our lives. One foot in the future, one in the past.
All of this technology may seem contradictory to my nature oriented ethos. I have deep respect for nature, life, personal relationships, plant medicines, mindfulness and our species. I also realize the utility of the unbelievably advanced technological tools available today.
Neglecting these tools is a waste of potential. We have our species entire catalogue of information in our pockets, let’s put this superpower to use and push humanity toward a healthy future.
I only partially understand the ecological tole of building these tools. My hope is to offset this with the positive ripple of my influence.
Some of the things I do to offset the impact of acquiring technology are, buy quality, get used when sensical, optimize for longevity, repair, don’t get sucked in by shiny new things.
Amps x Volts = Watts
If you multiply amp hours by the voltage of the system you can calculate the watt hours of your system. I prefer to think and speak in watts and watt hours because there is less ambiguity.
For example, if I tell you my lightbulb pulls 2 amps, that could mean 24 watts on a 12v system or 220 watts on a 110v system. That’s a huge difference. If we go ahead and convert everything into watts, the volts and amps will be accounted for.
Watts are a measure of energy consumption or generation. A small LED light pulls about one watt, our laser pulls 20 watts.
Watt hours are a measure of energy storage. Lighting the 1W LED bulb for one hour would consume one watt hour of power, while the laser would consume 20 watt hours.
This also makes it easier to understand how much power a panel is generating. If your panel is rated in watts and you think of your battery storage in amp hours, it’s hard to quickly understand how much energy the panels are storing.
If we think in watts and watt hours though, all of our power inputs, outputs and storage translate.
If all of this seems confusing as shit, don’t worry. I was confused too before we began, this stuff is easiest learned hands on. If you’d like me to clarify any of the information here, please say something in the comments.
Goal Zero Yeti 1000 Lithium
Goal Zero Yeti 400 AGM
The number in the name corresponds to the watt hour capacity of the battery. The Yeti 1000 stores 1000 watt hours of power. To put this into perspective, an iPhone battery is about 7 watt hours, my MacBook Air’s battery is 50 watt hours.
The Yetis aren’t just batteries, they’re a complete solar system and battery in a box. Charge controller, inverter, IO ports, and LCD readout included. Just connect some panels and you’re good to go.
The LCD screen is super helpful when positioning panels. The screen shows how many watts the panel is generating, so I can tilt the panel to maximize solar input. The screen also shows power output, nice for keeping tabs on our consumption when multiple things are plugged in. We keep the screen in watts, but it can show amps and volts as well.
The front panel has a series of output ports, 4 usb, 2 AC, and 12v (car). They accept charge from solar panels, standard electric outlets, and 12v vehicle ports. If we have a stretch of cloudy days we can charge a Yeti in the car as we drive, or plug it in at a friends house for a bit.
We use three panels to power our setup. The Boulder 100 watt panel is generally plugged into the Yeti 1000, and the two 30 watt panels charge the Yeti 400.
We can wire the Boulder 30 and Escape 30 together, for a combined potential 60 watts.
In full sunlight, we can generally expect the panels to generate about 70% of their max output, meaning we get ~70 watts out of the 100 and ~40 watts from the two 30s combined.
In 5 hours full sun, we can store about 350 (70 watts x 5 hours) watt hours in the Yeti 1000, and about 200 (40*5) watt hours in the Yeti 400. On days that we make more power than the batteries can store, we charge our laptops and other gear to make use of the energy surplus.
This setup makes and stores plenty of power for our needs. It’s far less wattage than most people have, but the portability of the systems allows us the flexibility to position the panels wherever makes most sense, maximizing effeciency. If we’re parked in the shade, we can even place the batteries and panels out in the sun together.
I’m a huge fan of Goal Zero. Their design and build quality is unmatched, and the price reflects that. We haven’t paid full price for any of our GZ gear. We picked it all up via pro deal, a free pile at RTR, Craigslist and the open box section of their site.
I financed this computer through Apple when I first decided to get into web development. My old netbook was fading and I was confident in my ability to make money on the web, so I bought my Mac. This is the highest ROI item I’ve ever purchased.
I specced it out to the max, I think it ended up costing me $1800 total. This seems like a lot of money, but I’ve had it for 6+ years and have made 90% of my income with this tool.
The only repair I’ve made is a fresh battery after four years of daily use. Apple has high prices, but if taken care of, their products last.
2012 Macbook Air
Tablets are versatile, portable, and efficient. We use our iPads to listen to music & podcasts, watch movies, draw, film livestreams, fly the drone, look at maps & field guides, record voiceovers, and play games. We can even use our iPads as second monitors with Duet.
Tablets generally cost far less than laptops and can do all the things most people need. If I weren’t a web developer / gamer, I would likely use a tablet as my main computer.
Elsa’s iPad Pro is her primary design tool. The Apple Pencil is a perfect tool for creatives.
I know iPads can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. Look for older generation, refurbished, or used models. Apple even has a certified refurbished program where the factory warranty still applies.
2013 iPad mini
I’m including the drone in this list because it’s the most incredible piece of technology I’ve ever owned. The fact that you can buy a Spark for $300 proves that we live in the future.
Ten years ago, technology like this was only available to major film studios. Before drones, people had to rent helicopters to get shots like the ones in our videos.
We named our drone Scout, because its a badass little recon tool. I feel like a video game character when I launch the drone from the car to scout camping spots before heading in with the Scamp.
2017 DJI Spark
Elsa and I both have iPhone SEs. I just got mine, in late 2018 because the phone has everything I need. My favorite form factor with single hand operation, 4k camera, 1080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps, 32gb storage, touch ID, headphone jack, awesome battery life, retina screen. All for $200 shipped. Here’s a video on the SE’s ability in 2018.
If you look around you may be able to find it as low as $130, but make sure you get the correct carrier. If buying used, the battery may not be in the best shape. I decided to pay a bit more for a new one because battery life is more consequential to me than extra storage.
This is a lot of technology for the price, and the hardware is solid.
We now have unlimited internet in the Scamp. That may not sound like a big deal, but this unlocks endless possibilities for us.
The fact that we can stream from the forest is mind boggling. We live-streamed from the Scamp for the first time the other day. We had a blast and will likely make streaming a significant portion of the content we produce.
Before the hotspot, we needed wifi to work on our laptops. This forced us to go work at coffee shops most days. The gas, coffee, breakfast burritos and day olds really add up over time.
We held off on getting a hotspot for a number of reasons, price, bandwidth caps, and our potentially gluttonous media consumption included. With the momentum of Youtube, our sites, and other projects, a hotspot finally makes sense.
We decided on Unlimitedville . This is one of the only truly unlimited hotspots available, no data caps, no throttling, and 15 simultaneous devices connected. We’re averaging around 30mbps down and 10mbps up. These speeds are solid and they’ll continue to climb as cellular technology develops.
I have another post on how we chose this plan and what else is available here.
The weboost allows us to maintain connection deeper into the mountains. Paired with our new hotspot, we have unlimited, wireless internet nearly everywhere.
Ours is the RV-65 model, the highest power portable booster available. The directional antenna attaches to a 25ft telescoping pole to optimize connection with a chosen cell tower.
We have a video on it if you’d like more information.
I’m a nature nerd, techno monk, digital nomad, tree hugger, and gladiator hunter among other things, and I’m cool with that. Diverse interests develop a unique perspective.
The idea is to find synergetic balance between ecology and human development. I’m confident there’s a middle path to all this, and I’m doing my best to find it.