solar charging devices

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Bob Lacourse
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solar charging devices

Post by Bob Lacourse » Jan 28 2015 10:17 am

I've been researching solar charges to charge my smart phone, Delorme Inreach Explorer, and my Garmin GPS watch while hiking the AZT in April and the PCT in 2016.
Have been looking at the Goal Zero 10 solar charger that I can attach to my backpack.
Is anyone familiar with this particular solar panel, or are their better options.
Will it charge the 3 devices I have with no issues.

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desertgirl
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by desertgirl » Jan 28 2015 11:15 am

Good to hear.
I have good luck with multiple models of Goal Zero charging devices... like them well! I have used them on rafting trips with great success as long as the sun pops out! ;)
The river guides also seem to favor goal zero panels for their personal device charging.

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te_wa
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by te_wa » Jan 28 2015 4:32 pm

i dont have experience w/ solar chargers. BUT, to save weight, i killed two apps with one stone.. heh.

on the android galaxy s5, i downloaded HAZ Tracks. this negates (somewhat) the need for GPS.
and i got an ANKER 7500 maH battery/case for it, that lasted 5 days on power save mode with normal operation time (surfing, some gaming, videos)

so, i cannot answer your original question, but if you needed a solar charger for phone AND gps you could combine the two, still bring a charger and only have to use it every 2-4 days.

in my case, i saved the weight of a GPS and charger for most 2-3 day trips, and gained 6oz, but probably shaved 16 to begin with. ain't ultralightin' fun? :D
:D

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cavaroc
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by cavaroc » Jan 29 2015 9:08 pm

Bob - My girlfriend found these last night that look good and lightweight: ( dead link removed )
Of course that particular model might be overkill for what you need (we're looking at that one for my DSLR), so a lighter model might work perfectly for you.

te-wa - Really interesting about the Anker. I already have the 10000mAh version and hadn't even thought to bring that along. That may prove to be quite helpful. Thanks for the info!
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blisterfree
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by blisterfree » Jan 29 2015 10:44 pm

The Suntactics USB sCharger 5 weighs about 8 oz and can fully charge a dead smartphone battery in less than 2 hours in full Arizona springtime sun. Plenty durable for thru-hiking. You'd need to charge each device separately, or get a USB splitter cable (1 male from charger / 2+ female to device cables) and divide the charge / multiply charge times. Primarily intended for direct-charging USB-ready devices with internal Li Ion batteries. For me that's a smartphone and a Petzl Tikka headlamp. I wouldn't carry a standalone GPS on the Arizona Trail unless I wanted to record tracks all day. Smartphone apps are fine for a quick location check. If I did carry a standalone GPS, I would just carry a supply of non-rechargeable Energizer Ultimate Lithiums, which should last a while. I'm not sure how power-hungry a pro DSLR might be if used regularly throughout the day, but with a smaller camera running some sort of exclusive Li Ion / charger combo, I would buy a supply of discount replacement batteries to swap out along with the OEM original, and send the charger ahead in a resupply box as convenient.

The Anker external chargers make sense on shorter hikes, or when resupplies are frequent and you're guaranteed 8 hours of wall charging time. Otherwise, risky. And multiple Ankers quickly adds up to more packweight than a solar charger.

Solar charging's main caveat is that you only have so much charging time during the day. Arizona is as luxurious as it gets in this regard, but the most bang for your buck is going to be the 10am to 3pm timeframe no matter where you are. Juggling two devices is all I'd wanna deal with. Additional devices, especially ones that need charging daily, are ones I'd look at somehow eliminating or else finding the lightest weight non-solar charging solution that doesn't negate the weight savings of carrying the solar charger for the other devices.

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Bob Lacourse
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by Bob Lacourse » Jan 30 2015 9:07 am

@Bob Lacourse
all good points guys. Thanks for the info.
I'll have my cell phone on air plane mode all the time to save battery life. Except when calling wife.
The De lorm I'll only use on the PCT next year.
Trying to stay away from battery devices to keep pack weight down from carrying extra replacement batteries.

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PLC92084
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by PLC92084 » Feb 03 2015 8:09 pm

I''ve got the goal 10 solar panel and this battery pack:

http://www.goalzero.com/shop

The company has a "kit" that includes a Li-NMC battery/charger, however, I prefer the battery pack because it's more versatile (same basic features as the Switch 8 but also has AA batteries for use in other devices if needed...).

Now if we could only get someone to incorporate flexible solar panels and wiring into the backpack; we'd only have to plug in a battery (and our devices)...

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CannondaleKid
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by CannondaleKid » Apr 01 2015 4:27 pm

I bought a Dragon-X solar charging panel a month or so ago and finally had a chance to give it a realistic test on our camping/hiking trip this last weekend. And I love it!

The charger features three high-efficiency solar panels and 2 USB charging ports, so it is possible to charge more than one device at a time. although I tested with one device at a time.

After our hike on Saturday our Samsung Galaxy S5's were at 60% charge and 40% charge. Around 4 pm I set up the charger so the panels would be in direct sunlight the started the test:
1. Tracey's Galaxy S5 began with 60% and reached 100% in just under 20 minutes.
2. My Galaxy S5 at 40% charge reached 100% in 40 minutes
3. Last I plugged in my Anker 2400 mAh USB charger with 2 of 4 LED's lit up (~50% charge) and it was charged in 10 minutes even though by then one of the panels was in the shade and the sun was getting lower.

Obviously, using it to charge a device while on the trail (loops and supplied carabiners allow hanging on a pack) won't be anywhere close to those results. But if you stop to set up camp with an hour or two of sunlight left, it should work good.

While the Dragon X solar charge has no internal battery storage capacity, it has a large zippered mesh pouch that can hold a device while charging, with room to spare to charge a USB charging pack.

Speaking of a USB charging pack that, I just ordered a Jackery Giant+ 12800 mAh charging pack, about the size of a deck of cards. I will use it along with the Dragon-X so for those times when the sun isn't cooperating I'll have a backup. (In addition to the 4 'lipstick-size 1400 to 2400 mAh packs we already have.)

Over the next few months we will be testing a variety of the devices to see how few we can get away with when we go to Tanzania where will be without electricity for 3 weeks.
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JasonCleghorn
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by JasonCleghorn » Apr 01 2015 4:34 pm

If you don't mind me asking, how much was the Dragon-X?
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chumley
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by chumley » Apr 01 2015 5:49 pm

How long does it normally take to charge a galaxy (using supplied wall charger)? Seems that the charge time is so fast with the solar that the connection may be a higher amp setting than recommended and you may ultimately be damaging your battery or future charging cycles?
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CannondaleKid
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by CannondaleKid » Apr 01 2015 6:57 pm

Jason Cleghorn wrote:If you don't mind me asking, how much was the Dragon-X?
Whoops, I meant X-DRAGON... High Efficiency 20W Solar Panel Charger from Amazon was $69.99
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CannondaleKid
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by CannondaleKid » Apr 01 2015 7:05 pm

chumley wrote:How long does it normally take to charge a galaxy (using supplied wall charger)?
I haven't used the wall charger, just USB connection from computer, and until using it on a longer hike it was never below 90% so I didn't pay attention to charge time.
chumley wrote:Seems that the charge time is so fast with the solar that the connection may be a higher amp setting than recommended and you may ultimately be damaging your battery or future charging cycles?
Max output is supposedly 2 amps so it should be ok. But I will keep an eye out for any potential issues.
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blisterfree
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by blisterfree » Apr 01 2015 8:58 pm

"X-DRAGON Solar charger, power your life"

Specification:
* Solar Power: 20W sunpower solar panel
* Transformation efficiency: 22%-25%
* Output 1: 5V2.4A(Max)
* Output: 2: 5V2.4A(Max)
* Compact Size: 306x 182 x 13mm/ 12.1 x 7.2 x 0.51inch
* Opened Size: 592 x 306 x 3mm/ 23.3 x 12.1 x 0.12inch
* Weight: 24.3 oz / 0.68kg (same as a power bank) :o

I like and use this one:

http://www.suntactics.com ( old dead product link removed )

Only 8.4 ounces. 5 watts. Plenty fast. Four times faster would be insane, especially in Arizona. The X-Dragon might make sense for me in shadier climes, however. Then again, 24 ounces. Probably not until armageddon arrives or backpacks learn to carry themselves.

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CannondaleKid
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by CannondaleKid » Apr 01 2015 9:12 pm

blisterfree wrote:Only 8.4 ounces. 5 watts. Plenty fast.
$129.95, 19% efficiency, 1 A, 8.4 oz
vs
$69.99, 22-25% efficiency, 2.4 A, 24.3 oz

For my use (I won't take it backpacking) the extra pound isn't an issue so X-Dragon made more sense.
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blisterfree
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by blisterfree » Apr 01 2015 9:38 pm

I'm brainwashed, it's true. I accept it. Packweight informs all of my choices in life.

Beyond that I like the company. Dean Salas at Suntactics is very approachable (email and phone) and open to feedback. One idea I proposed is to offer the sCharger 5 as a loose film rather than the robust plastic laminate "book" format. Include grommets around the edges for lashing to a pack or "staking" out at rest breaks or in camp. Bring the weight down to sub-4 ounces, keep the same charging performance, and find a ready market in us UL hiking geeks, albeit a small one relative to their sales curve, probably.

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chumley
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by chumley » Apr 13 2015 2:46 pm

So I've been looking into supplementing my power needs.

This is the best thread on HAZ so far and I've read things on other sites as well.

Seems like Te-wa is firmly for an Anker portable. Cannondalekid seems to know a lot about this stuff, but his needs are more for power at the cost of weight than my backpacking preferences.

For me, I would like to have a simple backup for short trips. I like the idea of the Anker Mini 3200 mAh, which at ~$20 and 3oz. serves most of my current needs. (Thank you! I'll be here all week! :roll: )

Even carrying 5 of them weighs less than one battery pack plus a decent solar charger -- which I rarely need.

BUT ... in the event I want to expand, I can always get a solar charger later to charge the Anker Mini.

I am also considering GoalZero Flip 10 (2600mAh) or Switch 8 (2200mAh), but I think the Anker looks like a better buy.

Somewhere on HAZ I read somebody who likes the Goal Zero Guide 10 because it uses AA and/or AAA batteries as it's storage option -- allowing you to recharge a USB device like the other packs, but also providing the option to use the batteries themselves in other devices that might need them (headlamp, gps?) But at about 2.5x the size and weight of the others, I don't think that versatility is worth it to me.

Questions I have are related to experiences others may have had with the Mini, Flip, Switch, or similar options. Anker vs. Goal Zero on price vs quality? Real life experiences?

While these battery packs are also sold in kits along with solar chargers, I've read reviews that might suggest the best battery pack maker may not be the best solar charger maker. It looks like you can use a Goal Zero solar charger with an Anker battery pack (and visa versa), but I'm not sure if it works properly, or as efficiently as "staying in the family".

Any thoughts or experiences that could add to my ramblings would be appreciated.
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blisterfree
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by blisterfree » Apr 13 2015 4:39 pm

Best thread so far? Well it had to end some time.

For me the weight and complexity of using a solar panel to charge anything other than the internal Li Ion battery of the end device itself is all too much. Which is a major reason why I've limited my power-hog backcountry devices in recent years to just two (iPod Touch and a Petzl Tikka USB rechargeable headlamp, in addition to a dumb phone and compact standalone camera both of which will hold a charge for the duration of my likely time away from an outlet). If the trip is just a few days then the Anker-type chargers are typically lighter and more convenient than a solar charger, so I'll just carry one of those. More than a few days and - after checking the weather forecast - it's hopefully solar charging all the way and the Anker stays home.

Wait a second. Why am I paraphrasing myself? On the plus side, I'm getting more concise with each new post.

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nonot
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by nonot » Apr 13 2015 7:30 pm

@chumley

After looking at similar problems myself, my solution was to buy an extra battery (or as many as needed) and charge em ahead of time. The weight of a few extra batteries is usually less than that of a solar panel/charger. Plus the problem when backpacking is when to leave it in the sun. When I'm stopped it's usually dawn or evening. When I'm moving it's sunny but I am not necessarily in full sun nor would the solar panel for the kits I looked at a few years back be easy to "rig" to my pack in such a way as it won't get ripped off. Probably not the input you are looking for though... For a through hike or 10+ day trip there are definitely weight advantages in having a charger, but I have yet to do a trip of that length of time. Of course if you carry a more wide array of gadgets and batteries this might not be as effective - I've standardized all my backpacking gear to AAs, except for cameras and phones (if I ever get one).
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by tibber » Apr 13 2015 9:09 pm

nonot wrote: phones (if I ever get one).
:o
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chumley
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Re: solar charging devices

Post by chumley » Apr 13 2015 11:00 pm

@nonot
Thanks nonot. I agree and that's sort of where I'm leaning. As I mentioned above, I can carry 4 or 5 Anker Minis for less weight than 1 mini and a solar charger. I can't think of any time yet where I would have needed more than 2 or 3 on a trip.

@tibber He's über-hipster and still has a rotary phone. Last time we hiked he was considering adding call-waiting to his landline. ;)
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