Portable Solar Chargers

3:15 a.m. on September 9, 2010 (EDT)
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It's recently dawned on me that I'm slowly becoming a mobile electrical advertisement. I travel mostly in winter so batteries wind down pretty quickly. Usually (not always) I take transceiver, phone, ipod, camera, helmet cam, GPS, headtorch, lantern and two ways and I'd like to be able to charge them when out on extended stays.

I don't know a lot about solar chargers but I'm very keen to learn more. What sort of unit would I be looking at to charge gear like this?

I read Bill S's review of the Energizer SP2000 and that kind of price and weight is in the ball park of what I'm looking at. As far as capacity, I'm not really sure of what I need.

10:29 a.m. on September 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Paully,
The Energizer is intended for recharging cells, MP3 players, and that sort of battery. Tom M looked at a number of other solar chargers at the OR and made some comments about them in his blog. You have to look at the voltage and wattage both. One of the units that Tom looked at was the Goal-0. They have a line of panels and storage units that appear to be able to handle a full range at a pretty high price. They were handing out samples of a 7-watt unit (to buyers for stores, not writers) that by the numbers would power my iPad, but wouldn't run the charger for my camera batteries.

Gary P and I both have a folding panel made by Brunton that puts out 26 watts that I have used in Antarctica. It folds to 8x10 and is fairly light. Whether that works for you you have to decide, but the current price is much higher than I paid 5 or 6 years ago - you can buy a lot of batteries for that much.

The other option is - lose the widgets!!! You don't need them in the woods, anyway ;)

11:23 a.m. on September 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Keep your batteries warm in winter, keep them in your pockets when not in use or the thing they go in close to your body. Or insulate them while in your pack with clothing or something wrapped around them and away from the outer edges of your pack. Warm batteries preform better and last longer.

As Bill said above, I too use the Brunton Solaris 26 folding panel. I only charge my DSLR batteries and my flashlight batteries with it. I have used mine for about 6 years now. While traveling across Alaska by bicycle I used it to charge and keep my laptop running when in camp. Took about 3 hours to charge it from a dead or low battery. Kept it running all the time when hooked up.

Below is what it looks like unfolded and folded. It weighs about 1.5 lbs and is waterproof. Go to this link to see the Solaris 26 and all the Brunton panels folding and nonfolding

http://www.brunton.com/product.php?id=420

12:45 p.m. on September 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Yeah, some gear's more necessary than others. We take the full list on 2-3 week trips above the tree line to film and photograph backcountry ski/board lines in small groups (thus the comms) and regroup at a base type set up nightly. Usually there's guys coming and going regularly so we have a bit of flexibility with restocking things but I'm now thinking of a more effective long term solution to the ongoing battery dilemma. That and I'd eventually like to have a decent solar shower out there coz things get a bit nasty with some of these boys. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.

I had a quick look at the 4.5w Brunton SolarRolls a little while ago but I just want to start out with a small set up to get comfortable with the whole idea before spending up and lugging something more pro.

Bill, you said above; "....that by the numbers would power my iPad, but wouldn't run the charger for my camera batteries." I thought a smaller unit would just take longer to charge, as in a trickle charge. Am I wrong in thinking this or have I just misunderstood things again?

Gary, how long does it take to charge your gear with that unit?Hypothetically, if I had the unit charging up all day, how many AA's could I charge with it before it drained.

Sorry to be asking such basic questions, as I said I really don't know much at all about this stuff. I am a knuckle dragging snowboarder after all. Thanks very much for your advice.

1:10 p.m. on September 9, 2010 (EDT)
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I can charge my batteries in the same amount of time on the solar panel as at home on the plug. I chage my batteries on a standard charger. I can charge 4 batteries at a time. I can charge both my camera batteries and my flashlight ones everyday. Doesnt have to be direct full sunshine either, cloudy overcast days work well too.

Ask question about the Brunton stuff with Brunton. You can also get back up battery packs like the Solo 15

http://www.brunton.com/product.php?id=604



You charge it up and then pwer everything fo many hours including light bulbs, flash units,laptops,electric soves, anything requiring ots of power.

2:34 p.m. on September 9, 2010 (EDT)
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...Bill, you said above; "....that by the numbers would power my iPad, but wouldn't run the charger for my camera batteries." I thought a smaller unit would just take longer to charge, as in a trickle charge. Am I wrong in thinking this or have I just misunderstood things again?
....

The problem is that the charger unit requires some power, plus it is less than 100% efficient. So you have to look at the power (wattage) requirement as well as the output voltage. My DC battery chargers are intended to run off a car plug, hence 12 Volts, where the iPad is intended to run off a USB port, hence 5 volts. Plus the iPad is happy at a 4 to 5 watt power source, where the DC battery chargers want more like 10 watts minimum. According to their literature, the Goal-0 7 watt panel provides a USB port at 5 volts and 7 watts, which is just fine for the iPad. My Belkin camera battery charger (with adapters to fit my various Nikon batteries) wants a full 12 volts (but has an over-voltage limiter in case you plug it into one of the 24Volt sources) and 10 watts. I have had the Brunton panel in really bright sunlight and found its open-circuit voltage to get up to 16 volts, which triggers the Belkin adapters to shut down (solution is to just cover a couple of the panels).

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