Recharging products for the woods?

12:13 a.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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I am researching products like external batteries,solar panels,wood burning stove's and similar products to recharge my laptop and camera batteries in the field when I go backpacking this winter.

Other than the BioLite stove does any one know a good product that works similar? Must be a company that makes a system that can work with a wood fire to make electric energy that is backpack-able.

The BioLite looks interesting but a friend says he had to burn wood for 6 hours to recharge his laptop in the woods. Thats a long time to keep a fire going in a small stove and would require lots of small pieces of wood.

I had a Brunton Solaris 26 once and it worked okay but not as well as I would hope. Took a while in direct sunlight to charge just my camera batteries.

I have found a few products like:

http://www.voltaicsystems.com/v60.shtml

http://www.brunton.com/collections/portable-power

Anyone else search for such things and find more? 

I plan to be outdoors for at least two weeks at a time and up to a month away from home and store my topo maps on my light Chrome Book to view as needed outdoors and save my pictures from my camera, also recharge my Canon camera batteries as needed.

Any helpful info gladly taken. :)

1:05 a.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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Take a look at this one :

http://www.thepowerpot.com/power-pot-faq

3:37 a.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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Gary...recharging in the woods is very difficult...particularly in the shorter winter days...though I do it regularly (see below). I only use my solar chargers when canoeing and kayaking (full exposure to sun on water)...and only when going with a group where I am likely to be using lanterns and other devices more. As far as the woods go...I have not been able to get a good charge through solar power...but I have hardly tried to be honest.

As far as the Bio-Lite and the Power-Pot go...they both suffer from the same problem...they require a lot of fuel to recharge a device. However...I would give the nod to the Bio-Lite over the Power-Pot if you're set on recharging (see below)...but both are not really set-up for recharging (more like short-term emergency power sources...in which case I give the nod to the Power-Pot).

Winter Recharging Stove (Bio-Lite)

It just so happens that a friend got me a Bio-Lite for my birthday last year...at first I didn't know what to do with it (which is why I suggest people not get me camping gear as gifts). To be honest the story might have ended there with the stove being more of an oddity to play with on canoeing trips...but I had a rare Eureka moment while hot-tenting last year.

So what is the big problem with the Bio-Lite (besides weighing a ton!)? It requires near constant feeding of small twigs for hours on end to recharge a single device (not happening). It just so happens that while hot-tenting last year with my Seek-Outside titanium wood-stove I came up with the idea to use the Seek-Outside stove with the thermo-electric generator from the Bio-Lite. Luckily the generator (also fan and battery) is a separate piece from the stove...so initially all that was required was to build a small heat reflector (a piece of sheet aluminum) and drill a small hole in the side of my Seek-Outside stove large enough (1/2" diameter) to place the business-end of the Bio-Lite in...and presto...I am recharging devices with the same labor I was already using. This actually turned out to be a great idea...and now my long winter nights are filled with light and entertainment (books and phone). The only thing I would add...is that I had to disconnect the fan because it made too much noise...this of course voided any warranty I might have had...so you should know that this idea comes with some risk.

Winter Recharging Stove (El Cheapo)

Though easy...the Bio-lite + Seek-Outside is a 300.00 recharging option...much too high for me to suggest to folks...so now I want to present you with a cheaper option....which will require more labor...and goes a lot smoother if you have some electronic and sheet-metal knowledge (or a buddy with some). First...don't buy a Seek-Outside stove...I only did because I fear killing myself with a DIY stove...however...there are countless Youtube videos with DIY tent wood-stoves that work just fine...like this one made from stove-pipe materials from a hardware store http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-dnrYWF-Gs For a little more money and some fabricating skills you can make a fairly lightweight stove that breaks-down like mine (a flat square stove makes cooking and heating water easier and more efficient...and the ability to break it down makes transporting it in a backpack possible). For the recharging component you can find thermoelectric generators online for less than 20.00 all day!...the difficult part is matching up the watts and amps with the device you plan to charge...but my electrical engineer friend assures me this is "Radio Shack" easy to do:-) In total...the sheet-metal version will probably set you back about 100.00 (less than the Bio-Lite alone)...but if you use it in a tent like I do...a stove-jack will set you back another 35.00.

As I said before...this system gives me more power than I can use...and when I go winter camping with others my stove usually charges their devices in addition to mine (I have successfully charged at least three phones and four AA batteries in a day...but the system would probably charge more). Hope this helps?

4:49 a.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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There is (or was..) another device called the Flame Stower,

Also based on a Peltier Thermoelectric Generator but a stand alone unit.

The Power Pot needs some liquid to give it a cool side, the BioLite has the fan , the Flame Stower has a small water container.

 

http://www.flamestower.com/

BTW, I have both the BioLite and the Power Pot.

7:20 a.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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I was hoping to find a product that would do the same method of generation of electricity that the BioLite would without the stove. I like using my Pocket Rocket and don't want to shell out more money for a new stove. Besides I have heard it takes a long time (6 hours) to charge a laptop? That's a lot of fuel/wood to burn for that long. I was in hope to find a generator that I could put into a campfire that would do the same method as the BioLite?

I may just have to go with an external battery. I have not been outdoors yet with my laptop, maybe 6 hours of its own battery life will be enough to turn it on, download pictures and look at saved topo maps while in the field? My laptop is extremely light and easy to carry/pack. I just want to be able to be able to view my maps and download images when away from home in the woods for long periods.

3:02 p.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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Gary...the Flamestower works with any heating source...but using an open fire would be tricky unless you made a good hearth (i.e. don't make a "ring" with stones)

5:35 p.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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I generally build fire pits and then save the dirt to bury the coals when I am breaking camp. I hate fire rings all over the back country.

My laptop uses a standard plug not a USB cord to charge from.

I may just stick to getting a external battery and doing only 5 day/6 nights hike/camping this winter and work 1-2 days a week to make enough to keep my rent paid.

5:46 p.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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I say---take a really long extension cord...

Really, really long....

6:08 p.m. on October 28, 2013 (EDT)
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I would use the power pot, just set it on the edge of a fire and your all set. works GREAT and no hassle or finicky nature like the biolite. I have done reviews on both for the review corps . on my phone so can't post links, but they are easy enough to find

4:38 p.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Oh!...Gary...I didn't pay enough attention to what you had written...honestly I never contemplated bringing a laptop into the backcountry. To be honest...I really do not know of a lot of backcountry charging devices that produce AC...but my guess is that they would be really heavy for backpacking...but then again...I complain about a pack weighing more than 20lbs on my back:-)

5:49 p.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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My total backpacking gear weighs about 9 lbs. My small Google chrome Book weighs about 1.5 lbs about as much as a quart of water. Its thin at 1/2 inch and I want to use it to download images from my camera and view saved topo maps of the area's I plan to hike.

I plan to be out around 5 days at a time this winter away from home. More depending on how much or little I work, plan to average 2 days a week working to have enough hours to pay my rent and buy food.

The Power Pot looks better to me than the BiolIte as I have a stove already and being a cook pot I can use it to heat food and make power for my laptop and battery charger.

Next question, can I buy a special USB cord to power my laptop instead of the normal 3 prong plug that came with it? I have not researched this yet.

5:55 p.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Goal Zero has some pretty innovative products you may be interested in Gary.  

I do not believe you can power your laptop through a USB cord.  

7:54 p.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks Jason I knew by asking I would get some answers. I may go with something smaller as well instead of my laptop and go with a Apple Mini iPad. More longer battery power and smaller/lighter size. I just as I said before want to be able to download and view my images from my camera and topo maps stored in the device (iPad) the cost is high for either the power pack that Goal Zero, Brunton, etc make or the Mini iPad so maybe the iPad is the way to go?

Does anyone use a iPad? Like it,drawbacks,pro/cons?

8:05 p.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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To charge a laptop, as in a true laptop from any portable charging device is a tall task. The batteries of these types of devices are just too large and need a higher voltage than what these charging devices are capable of putting out. With some electrical knowledge and skills it is possible to step up their voltage, but this would be a mediocre result at best as the current would still be quite low.

However, these devices CAN charge tablets. Tablets are a different animal. If your talking about a tablet style laptop then you would be all set. I can easily although a tad slowly charge my ipad on my powerpot.

Bottom line is that USB connections are not designed to charge "high" current devices such as a laptop. It is possible if you know what your doing and can make cables, voltage regulators etc as needed to fit your application.

Gary, if you can tell me exactly what laptop, or other devices you want to charge I can let you know if its possible, feasible, or down right a silly idea. I do mean exactly, so that i can look up the electrical specs. Brand, model #, etc.

9:00 p.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Samsung Google Chrome Book/Notebook Model XE303C12 12 Volt 3.33A (40W)

7:00 a.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Gary, remember those old light generators, the ones that clipped to the rear tire? One would think someone would make something like that for recharging electronics.

7:09 a.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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12:08 p.m. on November 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Gary you will not be able to charge your laptop. that battery is 3.7 volts per cell/7.4 total so would need to charge at around 8.5-9 volts which would also require a 4 amp current draw if it was completely dead. That would probably melt the rigged up charging cable as they can really only pass about 2A effectively. You would probably damage a power pot etc if you tried to use it for this.

1:01 p.m. on November 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Rambler,

Thanks for the update/info on this. I guess I will wait till later when I can afford a tablet like the Apple iPad Mini. I mainly want to be able to have downloaded topo maps on a large enough screen to see areas I am hiking. I also want to be able to load my camera's pictures to it and start working on editing them in the field at night and during times when I am in my tent or camp for long periods.

9:04 p.m. on November 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Gary,

I have had my Brunton foldable solar panel for about 10 years now, and have found it to be as dependable as sunlight (keep in mind, there are such things as clouds, trees, and mountains that cast shadows). Contrary to some statements above, you can recharge a laptop, and during the brighter periods of the day, run the laptop. I have done this with my Dell (and with my small Netbook). Charge time for the batteries for my Nikon D800 is the same as plugging the charger into a wall socket. I have used the Brunton on Denali, Antarctica, Africa, and in the Cordillera Blanca (Peru).

During the 2011 and 2013 Climber Science Program expeditions to the Andes, we used my Brunton and a similarly-sized Voltaic panel. We had several laptops along for our field work (warning - do not use a computer with a hard drive or an external hard drive over about 10,000 ft altitude - the reading head requires a certain minimum air density to float above the disc. We had a couple crashes. Use a solid state drive instead). The Voltaic also worked very well. It does have one advantage over my old Brunton - it comes standard with a voltage regulator. In really bright sunlight, I have to fold one panel segment over or otherwise shade a segment. Otherwise, the bright sunlight will have the Brunton above the max voltage for my laptop. No harm done, though, because my Dell has an overvoltage protection limiter - just the inconvenience.

9:48 p.m. on November 1, 2013 (EDT)
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I used to have the Brunton Solaris 26 and usd it when I cycled across Alaska in summer. It worked fairly well for the month of August I did the trip during when the sun was out 24/7.

July 26, 2014
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