May 31, 2011 at 3:40 pm #1274706
Ken CharpieBPL Member
@kencharpieLocale: Western Oregon
I'm going to be carrying this for a week-long trip to provide power for the use of gps on my android smartphone. The solar panel will be mounted to the outside of my pack (pics to come) and connected to my phone constantly for trickle charging. Preliminary (backyard!) testing seems promising.
My multimeter appears to be broken :(
But I'm going to try to get better output specs in different lighting conditions. I would like to compare these numbers to my phone's power usage with gps running and a few choice apps being used minimally.
I'm excited to try this out, as it would be lighter than carrying a battery per day (my best guess based on my phone use pattern) on long trips.
The wiring between the panel and my phone will be minimal and I'll provide pics as soon as I finish splicing wires.
I would love to hear about others' experiences with similar projects. I'm pretty excited about this one!
And that's my 17 month old son helping me with the weighing process :) (11.35 ounces)May 31, 2011 at 8:58 pm #1743440
@sparkyLocale: Southern California
To each his own heh hope it works out for ya. Pretty trick. I think it might end up being a hassle, but maybe not.
My blackberry lasted 5 full days on a single charge. Strictly as a camera and clock though as I don't use a gps.
My Droid evo lasts 3, and has a huge screen. Same, camera, video, and clock only.May 31, 2011 at 9:56 pm #1743459
@cyanideLocale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
I have used solarmio and a goalzero solar panels in the past on backpacking trips. I have been able to coordinate keeping an iphone, flash light (AA battery), headlamp (AA battery), PalmPilot (my lightweight), video camera and digital photo camera all fully charged for weeks on end with this set up.
Like I said. Works a charm. But that was back in my 50-80lb pack days. Now that I am aiming for below 16-12 lbs for a base pack, these solar panels may find themselves stuck at home.May 31, 2011 at 10:50 pm #1743474
Devil's advocate question…
Say you are hiking south most of the day, with a wide brim hat, like I did all day Saturday. How are you going to keep the panel oriented to the sun. Also, the way panels are constructed, shade on 10% of the panel can reduce output by 50% or more.
I am a solar fan, but have not seen a suitable panel for use while walking.
Have you calculated how much power you will consume in one day, and the amount you need to put back? Most of these panels I have seen are rated at 5 watts or less at 12 – 16 volts depending on manufacturer. It will probably take at least 5 hours of direct sunlight to charge the typical cell phone with a dead battery. This assumes full sun at optimal conditions. Of course it is not sunny every day, we often hike in shade (or try to), and our backs are not always facing the sun.
But let us know how it works. Either way it will be a fun experiment!May 31, 2011 at 11:01 pm #1743476
Nick, those solar panels are not intended for southbound backpackers.
They work fine if you can carry them to one spot, then lay them out facing the direct sun for hours at a time. This is like a basecamp.
Yes, most of those flexible jobs are 5 to 7 watts, maximum. Anything higher in power, and they are way too heavy to carry around. Anything much lower in power, and they don't really do enough good to make it worthwhile.
There are some tiny solar panels that can be mounted on a wide brim of a sun hat. Then you can spin the hat around so that the solar panels are facing the sun.
If you need that much electrical power when you are backpacking, you are going at this all wrong.
–B.G.–Jun 1, 2011 at 2:06 am #1743497
I have looked at quite a few solar pannels to power my GPS PDA. This is the best one I could find.
Although I would not normally take my PDA I really need one for Para Trekking (tracklog and weather reports are pretty much essential). Including all this electronic gear, and my flying gear, my pack weight is still under 11 KG. By the way there is a 12 watt version available.
MattJun 1, 2011 at 5:16 am #1743510
Jeremy PlattBPL Member
Just on another note, what does paratrekking involve? Literally trekking on a trail and jumping off a high point with your paraglider? Sounds sweet!Jun 1, 2011 at 7:03 am #1743528
paratrekking is often called by its French name 'Vol Bivouac'. The idea is to fly further than you walk. The open distance record for the Alps is over 300km, if you get good xc weather for say, 4 days in a row, then you can see the potential. Several years alpine flying is a good idea before you start, but the sport is really in its infancy still. The lightest glider weighs about 3 kilos and the lightest harness, about 1.6 Kg. Please pm me if you want more info, I don't want to flood this important thread, cheers.
MattJun 1, 2011 at 8:38 am #1743560
Daryl and DarylBPL Member
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Thanks for the info.
Friend of mine has sleep apnea. He hopes to come up with a charger that will allow him to run his anti apnea machine while backpacking. I forwarded this post to him.Jun 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm #1743628
Years ago I found this how-to blog post on making your own flexible solar charger that would work for a variety of devices, but it appears as though the website has been taken down.
The link is a little down the page, which tries to take you here: http://www.yosemiteoutside.com/m/Blogs/02EA4A6B-8893-4F3E-87A8-C1E4B24C3AAB.html
It's sad, because the instructions were simple and the author posted links for where to source the components (the hardest part of the project if you ask me). I never got around to doing it, and I don't have the page saved anywhere. I may have printed it out, but God only knows where I put it.
Anyone have any google cache voodoo magic that can pull it up some how?
BMJun 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm #1743646
John NausiedaBPL Member
The site shows 3 crawls . Pick the oldest and select it and the page appears. You may want to convert it into a Word document to save it.8) After the construction is complete, I lightly sand the back of the panel and attach Velcro in order to secure it to my backpack. Thats it. Then I went backpacking. shapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_3shapeimage_1_link_4Jun 1, 2011 at 1:32 pm #1743654
thanks! Apparently I'm incompetent using the web archive site, because I tried it and didn't get anywhere.
It's saved now…
BMJun 1, 2011 at 4:50 pm #1743717
@cyanideLocale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
I found that, in the Grand Canyon beginning of May, I was able to keep all items fully charged and was able to glutton on them at night. I only need about 4-5 hrs sleep a night, and I also can't sleep much past that. So, I find I am up well past the sun going down. So, out comes the ipod, listening to TED talks, referencing medical journals on iphone, writing memos on important topics on palm pilot, reading further source material with headlamp….further, I like to take lots of pictures, and record my thoughts on video.
So, I draw alot of power at times. The panel I had kept pace with it all. Didn't seem to matter which way I was walking. That said though, it was the Grand Canyon in May, so I think you would get enough light for any solar panelJun 1, 2011 at 9:51 pm #1743837
Looks good, although still a little heavy to be carrying around all the time. Could you get one a little smaller, and still do the job you need, to create good solar power systems for trekking around? Hopefully they get more efficient and lighter, as the BIPV technology because even better.Jun 1, 2011 at 11:25 pm #1743855
Peter, those are 30 to 200 watt solar panels, and totally irrelevant to the discussion here. Backpackers who convince themselves that they need solar recharging are probably looking for about 5 watts.
–B.G.–Jun 2, 2011 at 2:23 am #1743884
Jesse H.BPL Member
@tacedeousLocale: East Bay, CA
I picked up a goal0 guide 10 kit from rei, and have done a bit of testing with it, and have been quite impressed, It lives up to it's advertised claims.I really love the design, you can charge 4 AAA (what all my trail electronics can run on) then plug your phone in and be charging your whole kit. pretty slick IMHO I'll be doing some field testing this week, and post my results. Just need to figure out how to charge my d40 with it…Jun 2, 2011 at 2:39 am #1743887
Paul MountfordBPL Member
@sparticusLocale: Atlantic Canada
Don't bother with the panel you were looking at above. I have it and it only puts out .38 amps and is really insufficient for most applications. I have two of them and when you connect together they will charge an iphone but will do so only slowly. The larger model you mentioned will work but it a little bulky.
There is another thread talking about a 5 watt panel that puts out 1 amp. I will be curious to hear any field reviews on that version.Jun 2, 2011 at 9:30 am #1743986
Ken CharpieBPL Member
@kencharpieLocale: Western Oregon
Paratrekking! Wow, this thread is way cooler than I had hoped.
As to those who think that those wanting a lightweight, renewable energy source to help power their hike are "…going at this all wrong," I say:
Hike your own hike. I like my hike topped with geotagged photos and videos, medical references, and digital copies of my trail guides that weigh less than paper. If you don't think technology belongs in the backcountry, don't bother commenting on a post dedicated to just that. I mean that in the politest way, fellow wilderness wanderers :)
I plan to have some more information on output in different lighting conditions (I need a new multimeter!) in order to have a better idea of what performance to expect. There are so many variables involved (direction, foliage, weather, schedule, etc) that I'm just going to go with my best guess at power usage (1 1200mah battery per day) to compare power output to. I hope to have an all day backyard field test in bright, indirect light; the kind I hope to receive during a normal day of hiking based on my experience. Any efforts at quantifying other variables (exact lumens and positioning variables in relation to direction hiked, etc) seems to be excessive for this project.
I'm pretty excited about the performance I've observed so far and am hoping this will prove to be an efficient charging means for thru hiking and trips lasting longer than one week. If power production by the panel while backpacking proves more than sufficient for my gps needs, I would like to be able to charge my Panasonic GF1's Lithium battery as well.
We'll see how it goes! I have an incredibly simple solution to hanging the panel on my Osprey Exos 46 and the system is feeling rather "zen" if I do say so myself…Jun 3, 2011 at 7:44 am #1744403
@rgmccollLocale: East Tennessee
here are some alternatives:
I understand this gizmo is on backorder for a parts issue but it looks promising for backpackers
prototype but could be interesting as well.
RickJun 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm #1744544
There is another thread talking about a 5 watt panel that puts out 1 amp. I will be curious to hear any field reviews on that version.
It is pretty simple. Amps is watts divided by volts. The trick is an efficient charge controller. Panels do not have charge controllers. They are add-ons.
So a 5 watt panel that is regulated to 5 volts will put out twice as many amps as a 5 watt panel that is regulated to 10 volts… assuming no inefficiencies in the voltage controller.
Most cells in a panel put out .5 volts. Typically most panels are designed for 12 – 18 volts output. So you can adjust the volt output in the design. For portable electronics (especially with USB charging) there are few panels designed to put out 5 volts… thus the need for a charge controller.
For example, the 250 watts on my tent trailer put out 17.7 volts. But since I am re-charging 12 volt wet cell batteries, I need 13.8 -14.2 volts most of the time charging voltage. Also wet cells need an occasional equalizing charge, and need to be temperature compensated for extremes in weather, so I have a sophisticated charge controller that does all of this.
What I liked about that 1 amp 5 watt charger is that it is set up for 5 volts, and it is mono-crystalline construction. The USB is great. the construction is not easily handled like the roll-up panels, which are inferior amorphous panels.Jun 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm #1744548
"For example, the 250 watts on my tent trailer put out 17.7 volts. But since I am re-charging 12 volt wet cell batteries, I need 13.8 -14.2 volts most of the time charging voltage."
A good 250-watt panel may output 17.7 volts, but that is the open circuit voltage, and it doesn't mean too much other than it sounds like a good mono-cystalline panel. If you can get 14-16 volts at full rated current, then that is good. The charge controller then regulates that down to the 13.8 or whatever that the wet cell battery needs for good charging. It is also helpful to reduce your copper losses between the panel and the charge controller and the battery. I always jump to one size larger wire for this purpose, and it shouldn't add too much weight.
–B.G.–Jun 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm #1744575
Excellent point and easy to apply to BPing configurations. You want the shortest and thickest run of charging cable to your portable device. Most people would probably stick the device in the pack or somewhere else quite a distance from the panel. It would be best to stick it in a top lid flap close to the panel. Long thin wires = resistance = lower output. That means if you are using a USB cable, it would be best to get a heavy cable specically designed to charge a device, not a run-of-the-mill USB cable.
I have two commercial panels on my trailer, extremely short runs, quality UV resistant cables that are 3 gauges higher than needed for the run length. I have a 750W inverter with a short run to the battery bank and used 4 gauge bulk cable. That was a chore to install!! I always go overkill on good quality cooper cable.Jun 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm #1744589
Yes, long thin copper wires will knock out some efficiency, and this is especially true for low voltage (e.g. 5) and higher amperage.
That is why some new solar projects on houses have suddenly shifted around, and they are designed for high voltage (e.g. 240) and lower amperage. That allows thinner copper and some other efficiency factors.
I would like to see somebody hang a 750 watt inverter on a backpack.
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