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#151878 - 06/25/11 02:03 PM Backpacker Solar Panel
rodwha Offline
member

Registered: 06/25/11
Posts: 131
Loc: Texas...for now
I am curious about a compact, lightweight (1/2 lb max), durable solar charger for charging batteries, a GPS, cell phone, etc. at a reasonable price (<$300).
The only one I have found only charges via USB cord.
Can anyone point me in the right direction?
Has anyone built something like this? I've wondered about trying to build one with sidewalk solar light panels or such.

Thanks,
Bob

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#151884 - 06/25/11 03:26 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Hi Bob, and Welcome to the Forums!

Many of us here would love to have one that's light and efficient, but as far as I know, no one here has found one they'd carry. You can use the search feature here to read some past threads on this.

We have discussed a bit about using a battery pack you can hook to a Phone to recharge it, but even those aren't quite up to snuff for most backpackers.

Right now I use rechargeable NiMH (AA) batteries for my GPS and only turn on my phone when I am using it.

Basically, the issue with a solar panel is that they have to point at the sun to work well. For backpacking this means they'd work okay if you set up a base camp and left your device plugged into it, but they don't work very well while you're hiking.

I have one of these. I'd guess it weighs pretty close to 1/2 pound.

I suppose you could interface one of those with a car type (12v) charger for a cell phone and see what it'd get you. It cost under $40 so it wouldn't be to terribly hard to cut one up to see what's in it, integrate the components you'd need, and to modify it to shave off weight.

Shoot, I'll rig that up myself and see if it will work at all. It might take me a few days before I can do it, (the charger is on our boat and the weather forecast is pretty sucky) but I'll let you know.


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#151885 - 06/25/11 03:35 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
badsector Offline
newbie

Registered: 06/25/11
Posts: 1
Checkout Goal Zero Adventure Kit

I bought 2, one for my wife and I. It's definitely heavier than 8 ounces, but packs alot of versatility for me. It can charge by USB cable any device that has a car adapter, and can charge 4 AA or 4 AAA batteries. I currently use it to charge my smartphone and headlamp and gps. It has loops on the corners which allow us to mount them to the top of our packs, that way we can charge while hiking (depending on weather).

Can usually be found for $100-140 sometimes less on ebay.

Also,
Powerfilm makes several charging panels that are in the 4-6 ounce range. They are getting pretty good reviews, however I do not own one.
Powerfilm USB + AA charger
or
Powerfilm AA charger

Steve


Edited by badsector (06/25/11 03:41 PM)

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#151886 - 06/25/11 05:04 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: badsector]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
That's a nice looking unit. The reviews are mixed on how well it charges some phones, but it looks like it'd work well for removable battery powered devices.

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#151888 - 06/25/11 07:30 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: billstephenson]
rodwha Offline
member

Registered: 06/25/11
Posts: 131
Loc: Texas...for now
Thanks guys! They all look promising.
I tried the search function, but ran out of time to thouroughly look. The ones I did read had nothing to do with solar panels, and so I posed the question.
Thanks again,
Bob
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Bob


"Were I to leave where else would I go? Your words of life and of truth You hold." - Third Day

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#151903 - 06/26/11 01:11 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

For us (and remember this is a lightweight backpacking forum) the problem has always been the tradeoff of weight versus usability and what's equivalent.

I'm running around typically with a pretty lightweight base load of gear - say about 11 or 12 pounds without food and water and fuel. For a weekender that means my pack normally weighs around 15 pounds - for a week, maybe 25-27 or so.

My concern is simply the weight of these units and how well they work. For this, I always have found two basic problems:

1) They are heavy - I can carry a *lot* of spare batteries for the weight of one of these units.

2) They charge SLOOOOWLY and need full sun. (they do work pretty decent in full sun)

So here's my problem. I normally get up around sunrise, have a pleasant cup of coffee and breakfast, and start walking. I normally walk until late afternoon, early evening. I may have supper and keep walking till later, or I may camp in the late afternoon and eat.

Where's my time in the day to set this unit out and charge stuff with it? I would like it if I were camped in one place all day, but I'm not. I can in theory put it on top of my backpack, but I've definately seen mixed reviews for how well this works. (As you've often not got an optimal sun there)

combine that with 1) and I can go an awful long way on two or three extra camera/device batteries, fully charged before I leave the trailhead, and/or charged up when I briefly reach civilization.

I think my critera will probably be if I can find something that weighs no more than a pair of AA batteries, and will recharge something like that or a camera battery when riding on the top of my pack during an "average" reasonably sunny day.. I've as of yet not found anything that comes close.
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#151931 - 06/27/11 12:38 AM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: phat]
rodwha Offline
member

Registered: 06/25/11
Posts: 131
Loc: Texas...for now
phat: My gf has been teaching me on the concept of ultralight. For me ventures weren't more than a few miles, and camping stuff was just camping stuff, so I just packed and dealt with it. Not always fun, but it didn't matter. I'm trusting in her experience that a pound will make all the difference on a real hike.
I believe her. Especially since I'm now coming very close to the top of that hill.
This is more a want than a need as we wouldn't need it much at all. We are talking about making a month long trip or such. And our camera eats the heck out of the rechargeables! The camera really isn't a necessity, but it would be nice.
The plan, as of now, is to hike for the day, camp, explore and enjoy the day (rest), sleep, and move on.
It's quite likely it could end up in the car camping box after a month of hiking. But I like the idea of solar charging anyway. smile
_________________________
Bob


"Were I to leave where else would I go? Your words of life and of truth You hold." - Third Day

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#152005 - 06/28/11 06:34 AM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
shotokun16 Offline
member

Registered: 06/20/11
Posts: 26
Loc: California
Originally Posted By rodwha
I am curious about a compact, lightweight (1/2 lb max), durable solar charger for charging batteries, a GPS, cell phone, etc. at a reasonable price (<$300).
The only one I have found only charges via USB cord.
Can anyone point me in the right direction?
Has anyone built something like this? I've wondered about trying to build one with sidewalk solar light panels or such.

Thanks,
Bob


Thank me later...

If you're the type of guy who likes building things from scratch go here.
How to make solar ipod/iphone charger devices

If you're too lazy go on ebay like what i did. I have a Samsung Vibrant Android and this thing works great!
Solar power 1200mAH wallet design

Remember you can easily build solar panel charging devices in the 25-30 dollar range. Forget those $100-$300 ones that has corporate and marketing hype. Read Read read and utilize the internet!

I'm thinking to build one in that pelican case. Ill see how this 1200mAH does for the next 3-4months.

This is worth looking:
http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2010/07/09/...r-your-gadgets/ http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2010/07/09/...r-your-gadgets/


Edited by shotokun16 (06/28/11 04:47 PM)

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#152006 - 06/28/11 06:55 AM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: phat]
shotokun16 Offline
member

Registered: 06/20/11
Posts: 26
Loc: California
Quote:
Where's my time in the day to set this unit out and charge stuff with it? I would like it if I were camped in one place all day, but I'm not. I can in theory put it on top of my backpack, but I've definately seen mixed reviews for how well this works. (As you've often not got an optimal sun there)


Attach the solar panel (the wallet size one that i mentioned)and connect your device on the outside of your backpack while hiking. I'm thinking to improvise sewing a hole so a can fit a carabiner. Ill do a field test and test this Chinese made solar device nextweek.

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#152008 - 06/28/11 07:09 AM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: shotokun16]
DTape Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 656
Loc: Upstate NY
I am interested in hearing your results.
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#152012 - 06/28/11 09:05 AM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3571
Loc: Texas
Bob, do a search on "rollup" and "flexible" solar panels. We use these bad boys in ham radio circles. They will seem expensive until you understand that surface area is the name of the game and these things are big.
Regardless, the problem will always be weight and available sunlight. Unless you are hiking desert floor in stark sunlight, you won't likely get a good charge. You'll have to park yourself for a day, with good southern exposure to get a good charge.
You can build a voltage regulated lithium ion battery bank that is lighter and will charge your appliances several times during a week long outing.
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#152167 - 07/01/11 01:46 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Here's something new and interesting:

Motion Powered Charger
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"You want to go where?"



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#152183 - 07/01/11 04:12 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: billstephenson]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 847
Loc: Torrance, CA
Originally Posted By billstephenson
Here's something new and interesting:

Motion Powered Charger


That's a pretty good idea. I wonder if you can "lock it" for when you aren't charging something. As long as the weight is allowed to move back and forth, it is sucking energy out of every step.

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#152202 - 07/01/11 11:59 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: BZH]
rodwha Offline
member

Registered: 06/25/11
Posts: 131
Loc: Texas...for now
That, Bill, is awesome! Thanks! Very interesting.
I had done a quick search before posting this question but didn't find anything fairly light. Now I'm finding options everywhere.
_________________________
Bob


"Were I to leave where else would I go? Your words of life and of truth You hold." - Third Day

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#152349 - 07/06/11 01:52 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
Tracy from CA Offline
newbie

Registered: 07/05/11
Posts: 10
I also love the idea of that step by step charger, will have to look into that.

Otherwise I read reviews on this solar charger and was thinking for only $30 bucks it would be cool to try it out. People say that the sun can only recharge the battery pack up to 50%, but it can keep your phone going in a pinch.

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#152776 - 07/18/11 06:01 AM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
shotokun16 Offline
member

Registered: 06/20/11
Posts: 26
Loc: California
Nvm save your money on that solar charger that i mentioned. kinda __________.

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#152883 - 07/19/11 10:17 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: shotokun16]
vocation Offline
newbie

Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 6
agree

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#153140 - 07/27/11 01:08 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: vocation]
Vincent Mattiola Offline
newbie

Registered: 07/06/11
Posts: 9
I've got a Solio classic which is awesome. It comes with a ton of adapters and you can get more from the company. I got mine for $50 on craigslist and it came with like 10 different device adapters although I only use the USB

http://www.solio.com/chargers/our-products/


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#154214 - 08/31/11 08:58 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
Warren_G Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/29/11
Posts: 12
Loc: Saskatoon, Canada
I am using a 2 piece setup, a very light solar panel coupled with a L-Ion rechargable battery pack. The ones I am using will only charge usb devices, but you can get panels that include AA battery charging as well. The 2 together are less than half a pound, and works great for charging the ipod, cell phone or other usb devices. The solar panel has holes to hang it up, and I punch a couple more in the other end to make it easy to strap to the outside of the pack.
Links to the ones I use:
http://www.amazon.com/SUNLINQ-400mA-Portable-Solar-Panel/dp/B003M6W7XW
http://www.amazon.com/Xantrex-Technologi...8593&sr=1-1

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#154232 - 09/01/11 02:35 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: rodwha]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri

This is certainly interesting...

"InStep NanoPower has developed a revolutionary human gait energy scavenger an inexhaustible high-power energy source for mobile electronics."

I wonder if they'll make some that will fit a burro? laugh
_________________________
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"You want to go where?"



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#154298 - 09/04/11 10:37 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: billstephenson]
intrek38 Offline
member

Registered: 11/29/03
Posts: 430
Loc: Hesperia, Calif
It seems to me that our dependance on power and more of it will be one of our ultimate failures, cause once we loose power were lost.
Doesn't less power equal more?? Why do we all feel we need any power at all?? Isn't a small flashlight enough???
Sorry, just my 10 volts worth..

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#154312 - 09/05/11 04:05 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: intrek38]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I see your point, but powering things is just way to much fun to stop pursuing better ways of doing it.

I love my GPS and cell phone and flashlights. But out of those three gadgets I take, only the flashlights are efficient enough to last a multi-day trip, so finding a good way to re-power them is always something I'll be looking into.

Right now, with my just my smart phone, I can get weather reports and radar images, it has a GPS with topo maps and satellite photos, it has a compass, a star map, and a flashlight, plus I can send a text message or an email, and a photo with the built-in camera, and even get info on how to treat medical emergencies, not to mention make a phone call. That device, that does all that and a lot more, is pretty lightweight. The weakest links are hooking up to the network and loss of power.

I love having all that with me, but I would not be "Lost" without it. In fact, I seldom have any of them powered up, but if they'd last the entire trip, I'd have them powered up a lot more, no doubt about it. Those gizmos can save your butt.

Honestly, I can't count the number of times I've used the NOAA radar on my cell phone to detect a coming storm and take shelter before it reached me. Most of the time I use it when I'm on our boat, but I've also used it when backpacking. This year I cut a trip a day early and beat a vicious ice/snow storm back home with time to batten down the hatches when I got there. Had I not done that, I could have been stuck for days in the freezing cold forest. I used it again the night the tornado tore through Joplin, MO and tracked that same twister as it made its way to within 10 miles of my house.

Years ago, I helped modify and build prototypes of electric wheelchairs. One of them was among first wheelchairs to use "proportional control drive" to make it steer smoother and "pulse modulation" to extend the battery life, and thus how far a wheelchair could go on one charge. The difference was huge, like from 5-7 miles per charge, to over 25 miles. From just the late 1960's to the late 1970's people in wheelchairs went from getting as far as they could push themselves, to sitting in a wheelchair while driving a modified van across the country and then using a power lift to get out and cruise around town in their power wheelchair, and even quadriplegics could drive them both. After those applications of technology things changed immensely for those folks, and for many, the lack of curb ramps was their biggest obstacle to going wherever they wanted.

I hope it keeps getting better, and after reading up on the hiking shoe generator, I think that's a pretty cool application of technology, and it makes me wonder how it might be applied to other things, like wheelchairs and windmills wink

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"You want to go where?"



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#154367 - 09/06/11 04:57 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: intrek38]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By intrek38
It seems to me that our dependance on power and more of it will be one of our ultimate failures, cause once we loose power were lost.
Doesn't less power equal more?? Why do we all feel we need any power at all?? Isn't a small flashlight enough???
Sorry, just my 10 volts worth..


HYOH.

Look at it this way: Any backpacker loaded with gadgets is using far less power than someone at home running the AC and the telly.
_________________________
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#154369 - 09/06/11 05:26 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: intrek38]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
You have a point, and I tend to agree with you. Get into the woods to avoid the electronic blizzard that envelops us these days.

However there is another dimension to this. If I had a small solar panel that could generate enough power to keep a phone, flashlight, and perhaps a few other items operating,
I would also have a very useful emergency item - very handy when the next Big One reduces the old homestead to a pile of kindling - or the next power outage, or whatever.

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#154429 - 09/07/11 05:14 PM Re: Backpacker Solar Panel [Re: Warren_G]
james__12345 Offline
member

Registered: 10/06/10
Posts: 189
Loc: Tennessee
What have you been charging? How much light does it take to get a good charge on something like an ipod?

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