For everyone interested in my electronics:
I have the Brunton 26 watt charger (http://www.brunton.com/product.php?id=420
). My netbook uses a maximum power of around 36, so while the panel may not be able to handle a start-up power surge of the laptop, I think that under full sun conditions this panel could actually RUN the computer in a low (or no) battery situation. I bought the panels used off ebay (they go for around 250) on average. You can buy them new off of Amazon for around 280. After looking at a number of different systems, these seem to be the most rugged, the most reliable, and the most packable (the 26s fold into the size of an 8x11) sheet of paper.
For those of you who have a regular sized notebook, you'll either need a larger solar panel (like the solaris 52) or you can charge your computer from the car battery as well..
If you're thinking of charging a car battery with a solar panel, you have to be careful not to overcharge it, so a charge controller is necessary. The controller monitors the charge of the battery and shuts off the charge (or tapers it down to a very slow trickle) when the battery is nearly full. For this, I am using Brunton's controller (http://www.amazon.com/Brunton-Controller-Battery-Charge-Monitor/dp/B002LBPEX4
Finally, to keep from having to buy a car charger cable for every device I want to charge, I'm buying a 400 or 700 watt inverter (converts 12V DC to a 115V AC). For this, I haven't decided yet what to get, but the Cobra inverters, specifically this one: http://www.amazon.com/Cobra-Watt-Power-Inverter-output/dp/B001RNOHBC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1263346046&sr=1-2
. As my computer doesn't take much power and the only other devices I'll be charging are my iPod and rechargeable batteries, I don't think any higher power for the inverter is necessary. The cobra unit is especially nice because it comes with a 5V usb port to charge up your smaller devices without wasting one of the 3-prong AC plugs.
I sound like a salesman! Yikes.
Natalie, I totally relate to the rural vs. modern dilemma. I've come to the conclusion that certain things are simply a must for me so I can document everything accurately (camera and computer). I also hope to work on lesson plans on the computer, stay organized with student tracking, etc... I have a number of dictionary's, books, reference material that I wouldn't otherwise not be able to bring.
I still haven't decided on the sleeping bag. I'm still trying to stir some interest in the Hennessy Hammocks, so if anyone is interested, please let me know. We only need 10 people to get in on it, and the discount is awesome.