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Old 09-12-06, 01:43 PM   #1
maximusvt
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Solar charger for touring gadgets

I was wondering if anybody uses one of these while touring with an ipod or a cell phone or anything? http://store.sundancesolar.com/soposochfori.html
Or do you just tour around with the big wall wart adaptors and camp at places with an electrical outlet?
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Old 09-14-06, 12:41 AM   #2
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I was carrying a 5W 12V flexible rollup solar panel (google: Brunton) along with 3 sets of NIMH batteries and the respective charger. Since I hadn't needed to use it once in 4 months I ended up giving that whole kit away to a helpfull cycle shop in Almaty.

I only have a camera, and a Palm handheld computer as far as electronics go. The camera uses 4AA's(Canon S2IS), and I'm only on my second set of Lithium's so far this trip (5 months). My Palm computer can recharge off of 4AA's as well-with about 1.5-2 charges off of a set of alkilines. Supposedly the palm can recharge off of USB ports as well, but I haven't needed to try.

I didn't/don't carry wall chargers/converters. I submit that doing so is the the most cost effective & convenient option (in most parts of the world).
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Old 09-14-06, 01:33 AM   #3
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Pretty much all my bike touring is done in areas where electricity is available, at least occasionally. My charger is not the fastest around, but I can easily charge a set of 4 AAs during my lunch break, for example. So that's what I usually do - I take a couple of spare AAs, mains charger and charge as needed. Also, I'll survive just fine for a while without any of the gadgets (cell phone, radio, camera, GPS), if need be.

I like to tour by kayak too, and that's somewhat different. Cell phone and GPS (to some degree) are safety equipment there, so I've been considering getting a panel. However, for shortish trips in the wild several sets of spare batteries take up less space than a panel/charger combination. There's not much weight difference either. For me a week or so seems to be a cut off point. If I would frequently camp wild for more than that, a panel would be a good choice.

It helps to have gadgets that use similar batteries, giving me some room to prioritise if I seem to be running out of juice. In practice this has meant that I keep feeding all other gadgets' batteries to GPS (the biggest battery hog of 'em all).

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Old 09-14-06, 10:24 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Camel
I didn't/don't carry wall chargers/converters. I submit that doing so is the the most cost effective & convenient option (in most parts of the world).
Except maybe where the wall plug configuration is different in other countries (eg, Australia has three flat-pronged sockets at an angle compared to the North American set-up). Even so, the cost these days for a package of a charger and a set of, say, four AA 2500mA batteries is pretty darned good.

I tour and ride randonnees with equipment (rear blinkie lights, mini-radio, MP3 player, head-torch) that require AAA batteries. The AAs are reserved for my camera (2), PocketMail (2) and back-up LED front light (2). So there is some interchangeability there, and the Energiser charger I have acquired while in North America can recharge both sizes (a pair of each size at once). The recharger, when folded down is no bigger than an ordinary wallet (albeit fat with cash!).

I am somewhat dumbfounded that people persist in buying alkaline or even lithium one-use batteries for their energy uses on bicycles. They might be OK in emergencies, but the initial cost of nickel metahydride batteries (and for that matter Ni-Cads) is far outweighed by the number of recharges, let alone the fact reduced amounts of toxic metals are going to landfill. Perhaps it's the idea that rechargeables are rated at 0.25V less than disposables and people fear their equipment won't operate at full strength <shrugs shoulders>. I've not had any problems in that regard.

A recent high-profile long-distance randonnee event very strongly suggested using disposable batteries instead of rechargeables for lighting. I found that very odd -- theoretically, with around 140 riders using, say, 8 batteries each on the ride, that's over 1,000 batteries going into the garbage... I didn't dispose of any thanks to the SON dynohub up front, and the rechargeables out back on the blinkies.
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Old 09-15-06, 03:13 PM   #5
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I've been pondering this too- first I was looking for a way to run my laptop from a 20W solar panel and getting bogged down in the details (like how it was going to be pulling a lot of power just to charge its battery). Now I have a Sidekick, and I imagine that it will totally suffice most of the time. It is a little power-hungry, though, and I'm trying to engineer myself a solar rig for charging it and bike light batteries. I love my Powerfilm 20W rollable solar panel and will probably get a similar 5W that can tie over my rear rack. The bike light batteries don't require much work on my end to charge, but I'm going to have to build a little switching power supply for the sidekick. If anybody else is interested in the details I'll post an instructables article on how to do it once I'm done with mine.

I've heard a lot of good things about the Soldius for charging ipods. It's a nice self-contained little system. It doesn't fit my needs, though, because I'm looking for a little more flexibility in what you can charge and also a system that I can mount on my bike.
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