Solar Power

2:45 p.m. on February 4, 2010 (EST)
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Any of you use solar powered charging gear? I'm debating about using one for a digital camera (all I have). Or maybe I'm just better off buying a different camera that uses standard batteries?

2:55 p.m. on February 4, 2010 (EST)
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I prefer the rechargeable AA NIMH batteries. I have 16 of them and charge them before each trip. The beauty of this system is that every battery powered item in my pack runs off AA batteries so I only carry one battery type. Not only does it simplify packing, it also means that you can interchange batteries between devices. I've had many times where I was out on a day hike without spare batteries and I was able to take the batteries from my camera and put them in the flashlight or GPS. If most of you’re other gear runs off of AA’s I might consider looking for a camera that does as well.

5:02 p.m. on February 4, 2010 (EST)
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that is the problem, my current camera usesone of those special brand and product specific batteries. I'm tryingto find out if would be cheaper to buy a different camera or to go with something like a solio to charge it.

I do love your idea of everything running off the same battery though.

8:09 p.m. on February 4, 2010 (EST)
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The beauty of this system is that every battery powered item in my pack runs off AA batteries so I only carry one battery type.

I think that is excellent advice. Solar power is a great choice for us who like to go on extended trips in the backcountry or want to be better stewards of the environment. I have two solar panels I attach to the top of my pack with velcro. One panel is for my Everlite rechargeable headlight that I have been using now for about a year and a half. It has worked flawless since the day I bought it and I have also sealed the panel with silicone to make it waterproof. The other panel charges AA batteries for camera, Spot, water purifier, and spare headlight. It is new and replacing an older panel so I am still in the testing stage with it. One thing I have noticed is that the Energizer nickle-metal hydroxide rechargeable seems to work best for me.

I am curious how well the solar system works in really cold temps. The lowest I have used mine is around 30 degrees.

Anyone use them in cold temps?

2:21 p.m. on February 14, 2010 (EST)
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I know that Canon and Nikon both make some small compact cameras that run on AAs. I think the Canon (Powershot A480) is a bit more compact than the Nikon(Coolpix L20). So if you are looking for a new camera......hope this helps a bit.

D

3:01 p.m. on February 14, 2010 (EST)
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I have used my Brunton Solaris 26 at about 20 degree's, but the sun was shining quite bright and it did'nt seem to matter what the air temp was. I have a adaptor for mine to plug my Canon XTi's battery charger into and it works as fast as if I were at home. My laptop also stays charged as quickly as at home.

3:20 p.m. on February 14, 2010 (EST)
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I used the same model Brunton as Gary has in Antarctica. Worked just fine at the low temps we had there - that was Dec, southern hemisphere summer, of course, with 24 hours of sunlight - wouldn't work as well in June with 24 hours of dark. Charged my Nikon batteries in the same 2 hours as the wall plugin does at home - actually, the same charger, just adapters for the wall and for the Brunton.

5:31 a.m. on February 18, 2010 (EST)
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I have used my Brunton Solaris 26 at about 20 degree's, but the sun was shining quite bright and it did'nt seem to matter what the air temp was. I have a adaptor for mine to plug my Canon XTi's battery charger into and it works as fast as if I were at home. My laptop also stays charged as quickly as at home.

 

exactly, you need something this size or bigger. the solio sized chargers are useless as not only is the power so low but often your device wont sense its being charged by a panel of that low output and will just turn itself off or not charge. i believe its irresponsible for companies sell these useless low powered panels that will end up in landfill which is exactly the opposite of being green which is how they are masquerading.

ive had the powermonkey solar charger which was about the size of the solio and it was absolutely useless, couldnt even charge anything after all day in spring sunshine. so i got the sunlinQ panel 15watt (800ma max output, the same as is shown in pic) and its works effectively, outputting 200ma under semi-cloudy conditions (which is the same as the stated max output from the powermonkey in full sun), and close to mains charging time in full sun.

my sunlinQ panel has a car cigarette lighter socket and i use a usb adaptor in that which limits it to 6volts output, which is ok as thats the max most mobile devices can take anyway. im not sure how many milliamps it outputs from the usb adaptor, ifs its like a computer its got to be 500ma max.

10:43 a.m. on February 18, 2010 (EST)
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The Brunton Solaris 26 is about $620 now. I bought mine for $375 a few years ago. I charge my laptop and camera batteries with a extra powerplug I bought. I use my Canon rechargeable batteries. I can also recharge my cell phone.

The panel weighs about 28 oz and folds up into a small 8x11 inch bag, unfolded its 21.5 x 37.5 inches.

11:34 a.m. on February 18, 2010 (EST)
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Gary,

A question about charging your laptop - the background is that yesterday a plane (Cessna 310) took off from the Palo Alto Airport in fog, clipped a main power transmission line and crashed (all 3 on board died, no one on the ground injured). The power was knocked out in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto and parts of Menlo Park, Redwood City, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills for 10 hours. This knocked out my internet access, though I could get some access through my Blackberry and by going a mile to Mountain View to tap into the MV wifi network (free, run by Google). It is surprising how dependent on electric power we are, even with all the "green" in our newly built house. The hydronic heating system depends on electric circulation pumps, for example, though the domestic hotwater can pull completely from the passive solar panel. But the City water supply is dependent on electricity to purify and distribute the water.

I did some experimenting with my netbook. I do not have a dedicated DC power cord for the netbook, but I do have an old inverter. With the bright sun yesterday, the Brunton showed 22 volts unloaded, but the inverter only showed 34 volts AC 60 Hz (actually something more like a square wave). This would not run the netbook as outside power, nor charge it. Going directly to the Brunton with my ham radio handheld (Yaesu VX7) and the camera battery chargers worked just fine. If I connect the inverter to the car cigar lighter, I get 97 volts AC 60 Hz.

So, are you using a dedicated DC adapter from your Brunton to your laptop (what make/model laptop), or are you using an inverter? If you are using an inverter, what make/model?

I went to my neighborhood Best Buy, but the Geek Squad people are basically software, not hardware. They did show me some more modern inverters that are supposed to be tailored to netbooks and laptops, but I am hesitant to spring $50-60 for something that might be no better than my old inverter. I also called my netbook manufacturer, who has something they call a "travel kit" (not clear whether this is the right thing - can't really tell when talking to Bengladesh).

7:57 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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I've had this one for more than a year now and it's one of the best purchases I've ever made in regards to camping extras.

It charges "AA" only, but it's newest version charges "AA" and USB devices.

I really wish I had waited a couple months before buying mine, dangit! "AA" and USB charging ability is too cool! Oh well, I had no idea that they were bringing out an "AA" and USB charging version so I don't feel too bad.

http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/foldable-solar-chargers/usb-aa.php

They also have a huge selection of vastly more powerful foldable and rollable solar charging units.

http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/foldable-solar-chargers/foldable-products.php

http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/rollable-solar-chargers.php You have got to check out their demonstration video on the rollable products page. You'll be awestruck. I know I was.

They aslo have an equally huge assortment of charging accesories to allow you to charge almost anything off of the larger rollable or foldable charges.

http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/rollable-solar-chargers/authorized-accessories.php

Sweet stuff!

Later!

July 30, 2014
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