- Mar 5, 2018 at 1:34 pm #3522453
It seems like the posts on this are all a bit old, so what does people use these days for charging iphones?
Anyone know of a good setup for a couple?
All the best NielsMar 5, 2018 at 3:52 pm #3522470
Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
How to charge it? Lots of people use solar chargers, and there are a lot of complaints about them. Instead, pack a portable charger with four or five charges (remember to get one that charges quickly in town—you don’t want to have to wait eight hours to charge up your device).
According to the PCT 2016 Survey Gear Guide, people wished they got rid of their solar charger much earlier on the trail (i.e., they wished they hadn’t brought it to begin with). Other luxury items they ditched? Extra clothing (base layers, shirts, town clothes, sleeping clothes, extra socks and underwear), camp shoes, umbrella, stove, Sawyer MINI, towel and books. Think twice before bringing the above.Mar 5, 2018 at 4:21 pm #3522474
Also interested in specific successes or fails. Maybe most thru-hikers will find an outlet often enough to just get a bigger battery. The limited demand seems to have slowed the progress of this technology overall – solar companies seem to be more focused on larger scale solutions.
I’m headed to Philmont in July and will be on trail for 11 days without the chance of an outlet to recharge. I may try a couple before finalizing. I’m convinced for multiple reasons that a separate solar panel and battery is better than an integrated version.
My goal is to get max power into the battery during the hours/daylight you have, then I can use the battery to charge my phone/etc. at leisure during the night or when I’m hiking. Many batteries focus on a quick charge to the phone, not to the battery itself.
I’m interested in Powerfilm, Suntactics and Renogy for panels. Goal Zero, Biolite and Anker are the better known options, but heavier overall. Despite wanting a separate solution, the Powerfilm Lightsaver is worth a look. Biolite has an integrated option as well.Mar 5, 2018 at 4:43 pm #3522481
john hansfordBPL Member
I have a suntactics 5. A wire broke across the hinge, making the whole thing useless. I am still waiting for a reply as to how best to fix this.Mar 8, 2018 at 11:28 am #3523088
I´ve been looking at the powerfilm lightsaver, and the powerfilm lightsaver max (with a 18000mah integrated battery) since we will going two persons (in europe) and will use our phones extensively, for route planning, gps, weather and so, since we don´t have a specific route planned. I just wish there was something in between, 24 oz just seems overkill, (but for two it could be ok) and the price tag is insane. But, supposably it charges in cloudy weather which is important since we will be starting in april, in mostly humid cloudy weather. Also the syntactics max charges full in just 3 hours from wall.
I´m torn between that and the suntactics s5 with a anker 20000.
Any other ideas?Mar 8, 2018 at 4:52 pm #3523125
I contacted one of the powerfilm distributors asking them about their rollable vs foldable panels, and they suggested the foldable 10W (P15-600) or the next size up if I didn’t mind the extra weigh – which of course I do. Here was their response: Sorry if you are reading on your phone…
<p style=”font-weight: 400; padding-left: 30px;”>Thank you for your email. I am going to recommend the PowerFilm F15-600 (10 watt) or F16-1200 (20 watt). The 20 watt will add a bit more weight, but give you more charging power.</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400; padding-left: 30px;”>PowerFilm F15-600 https://californiapc.com/Specials/PowerFilm-Solar-F15-600.html</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400; padding-left: 30px;”>or with small portable USB power pack https://californiapc.com/Portable-Solar-Chargers/PowerFilm-Solar-Bundles/PowerFilm-Solar-F15-600-XP2KB-Bundle.html</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400; padding-left: 30px;”>PowerFilm F16-1200 (if you get this one, we will give you an XP2000K power pack at no charge). We have Black, Woodland, and Digital Camo in stock. Woodland is a nice fabric for backpacking. https://californiapc.com/Portable-Solar-Chargers/PowerFilm-Solar-Foldable-Solar-Chargers/PowerFilm-Solar-F16-1200.html</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400; padding-left: 30px;”>I would recommend also getting the RA-14 USB port that PowerFilm says works well with solar charger. https://californiapc.com/Portable-Solar-Chargers/PowerFilm-Solar-Accessories/RA-14.html</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400; padding-left: 30px;”>All of the USB portable battery packs I have seen have built in charge regulators, so you don’t need a charge controller to charge the USB battery packs. To answer your question about the panels that convert to USB voltage, they seem to be limited in the power they put out, usually 4 to 8 watts. The bigger 10, 20, PowerFilm panels will give you more output and you will lose a little efficiency when converting the voltages down. The PowerFilm panels are more versatile with having a voltage capable of charging a car battery.</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400; padding-left: 30px;”>For a backpacking trip, I would get the following: 1 x F16-1200 (or F15-600 if the extra weight is an issue), 1 x RA-14 USB port, and the XP2000K. This comes free with our bundle or we will give you one with an F16-1200 purchase. You can also use other USB battery packs if you like another one better. https://californiapc.com/Specials/XP2000K.html</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400;”>I’m still interested in the rollable 7W. We all have our limit of what we are willing to pay for a lighter pack, but when the technology is there it should be considered. I read a well thought out post by a ham radio operator and backpacker that was using rollable panels with DIY charge cabling and battery packs. This was at least two years ago, and for the life of me I can’t locate it today. What his solution was doing, that is hard to replicate with a USB pack is that he was charging using the ~15V from the solar panel, and had less loss by not down-converting the voltages into the battery. Not sure if the integrated systems do this. Efficiency = better charge when you only have limited daylight with the optimal angle in place.</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400;”>I think the Powerfilm Lightsaver sounds good for solo if you are expecting lots of time to recharge, but I think recharging while hiking will be of questionable use, especially with a smaller panel. I agree I wish there was something between that and the LightSaver Max – sounds more like bushcrafter than thru-hiker weights.</p>
<p style=”font-weight: 400;”>I am leaning towards the separate battery solution for two reasons. The battery or phone you are charging should be in the shade if possible. Also battery technology is advancing rapidly so you may want to replace the battery long before the panel. I may still try the Suntactics 5 or 8, or the Powerfilm 7 or 10W panels before my trip this summer. Will post results, but I don’t know when.</p>Mar 8, 2018 at 8:35 pm #3523223
Very informative Bob, thx! How would you use the 7w powerfilm?
-I´m leaning towards the suntactics for the ability to charge a larger battery without the weight penalty.
The 10 powerfilm setup is 15 oz, with a succesfull charge the battery (2000mAh) will charge a smartphone once.
For the same weight i can have the suntactics s5 (7oz) and anker battery 10000mAh (9oz).
The primary reason to go for the powerfilm as i see it is its ability to charge in clouded weather, but i can’t find anything on it´s real world performance. If it is able to charge a smartphone once pr day by strapping it to the pack, even in clouded weather, i would go for it, since it would heavily reduce the time needed in town, in case of no sunshine for extended periods (which is very common in scandinavia..).
I really wish they would make a powerfilm with a 10000mAh battery at around 15oz:)
BestMar 8, 2018 at 8:46 pm #3523230
One thing i do like about the lightsaver max is that they say ou can fully charge the 18000mAh battery in 3 hours. A 20000 anker battery takes 12 hours to charge, or am i missing something?
BestMar 8, 2018 at 8:57 pm #3523234
You may have read PowerFilm’s technology page on this here: http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/about/technology/. It should work better than a monocrystaline in low light, but if it’s only a trickle of charge it won’t really matter.
Will it charge while riding on a backpack? I doubt it will be significant. I know Stick (according to his blog) said he is planning to take a Suntactics 5W on his JMT NoBo hike, and mentioned that his back will be to the sun more than SoBo hikers. That’s true, and I think he’s right on that the JMT probably lends it self to this with bright sun (especially morning) and minimal shade. You may get more during a break with a stable aimed solar panel than all the time riding on your backback between them.
AT – probably a different story. I’m not a thru hiker, just and EE that likes gear and loves to hike, currently with my son’s scout troop.
My take is to get the biggest solar panel you are willing to carry, and enough battery capacity for 2-3 days at 80% efficiency. I agree if Powerfilm put those together into an in-between LightSaver, say 7 W rollable panel and 10 Ah battery it would be a winner.Mar 8, 2018 at 9:22 pm #3523240
Re: LightSaver Max charging. They say they can pull a charge in at 12V so it’s probably a custom charger – not a USB power brick. The batteries may be configured to accept the charge at that voltage so that it’s also more efficient and therefore faster. The panel can output 15.4V (open circuit), but probably drops to around 12V with the battery load.
Some USB power bricks and battery packs can now charge up to 3A (or 15W), so you can get a better charge rate if you get the latest. I think Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 is pretty new. I’m not up to speed on USB-C rates or battery packs that support them, but that’s my point about waiting as long as possible to get your next battery pack. There will be something better available 2 months from now.
Whether you are charging from the sun or from the wall plug the faster you charge the battery pack the better. You can charge your phone from that battery pack at night or as you hike down the trail.Mar 18, 2018 at 5:45 pm #3525335
Valerie EBPL Member
@wildtownerLocale: Grand Canyon State
I did a PCT section in 2016, during which we had a 10-day period with no town visits (one on-trail resupply). I brought a Suntactics 5 plus a small “lipstick”-style battery for use with my finicky iPhone.
We had lots of sun, and the set-up worked beautifully…but I’m not sure it’s necessary for those who will have access to electricity more regularly. For more “normal” 3-6 day periods between resupply, I usually take an Anker 10k or 13k, which keeps everything humming (InReach, iPhone, Steripen, iPod, headlamp).
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