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  1. #1
    Randonneur in Training B.Alive's Avatar
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    Charging batteries on a tour--camping?

    Yesterday my wife and I were at REI and came across a "SolarPod & Torch" charger and flashlight on clearance for $29.93. I bought it with the idea that the flashlight can stay at home and I could use the charger for my cell phone when I head out on my test tour in a few weeks and my first longer tour in October.

    I followed the directions to load the charger with my computer and plugged my cell phone in for a test charge. It seemed to charge in short spurts and within an hour my phone had less charge than it did when I plugged it in. (After reading the review, I now understand why it was on clearance!)

    I'll be taking it back for a refund.

    What do you folks use when out on a camping tour? I'm hoping to get something to charge my phone, iPod, and maybe my camera.
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    My first bike tour could be this fall! Pittsburgh to DC October 2011???

  2. #2
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    dynamo seems to be the favorite but can be expensive.
    what have you to charge , the only thing i have is my new dab radio which btw is only fantastic (Roberts logic 1 dab ) if your using campsites or hotels surly the owners would let you charge your mobile phone .

  3. #3
    Senior Member blaise_f's Avatar
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    The only type of solar charger that seems to work well on phones / electronics, are ones that have a built in battery, that can keep a constant stream to said electronic. The best advice one can give in terms of phones on tour: keep them off when you're not using them. Hopping towers, roaming and GPS kill off phones in hours, not days. If you keep it off, outside usage, you can generally charge it when you're resting; you get creative.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I just plug in to receptacles along the way. I usually take some kind of charger that takes a USB cable since all my stuff except my camera can be charged that way. In rural america small town parks usually have an outlet in the picnic pavilion. Other times I plug in in restaurants, libraries, or stores. To conserve the battery, I leave my electronics turned off when not in use, especially the phone (phones tend to kill batteries really fast when there is no signal).

    For the camera... I have found some aftermarket chargers that work well to charge the camera batteries. They are lighter that the standard charger and also will charge your phone or whatever at the same time via USB cable. At about 2 ounces I am pretty happy with the weight. They work with car lighter jacks or regular 115V outlets. I leave the car option home. They look something like this:


    Some work better than others so test them at home before the trip.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 08-13-11 at 12:35 PM.

  5. #5
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    I just picked this up from Walmart, yeah I know. I was short on time and needed something relatively cheap. I've been testing it out and so far I'm pretty happy with it. It takes 18hrs to fully charge via the sun and 2.5 hours via computer or wall outlet. It seems to have mixed reviews but so far I'm digging it.

    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Scosche-So...arger/14262100

    And here are some Amazon reviews,
    http://www.amazon.com/Scosche-Powere.../dp/B0036ORMS0
    Last edited by rdilla; 08-13-11 at 12:51 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    I just picked up a New Trent rechargeable Battery for this purpose. It holds what I expect will be a couple of days electricity. It should be able to charge my iPad, iPod, cell phone, and anything else that can be charged by plugging into a USB port. One thing I'm unclear of is how long the battery takes to recharge, but I figure if I plug it in at lunch stops, and maybe get an occasional overnight charge at a campground, it should be plenty.

  7. #7
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    We just got back from a camping trip and had same concerns. I have a solio solar charger, but it doesn't work with iphone, even though it should.
    I took three spare battery packs for my camera, that was more than enough for a week long trip, I only used one pack.
    Fully charged iphone lasted 4 days with minimal use. We just used GPS and looked up a few websites, no games, no music, no phone calls, no emails. Then we stayed at an inn and charged it. It was actually nice to unplug for a few days.
    Depending where you camp, there's usually an outlet in the bathroom, but it sucks to sit around waiting for the phone to charge.

  8. #8
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    I leave the phone off most of the time. I have a MP3 player powered by a single AAA battery, but seldom bring it on tour. For the camera, I bring an extra battery and recharge them whenever I find an outlet (campground restroom or laundry room, restaurant, etc). I might leave the camera charger unattended for a while but not the phone.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Aushiker's Avatar
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    Hi



    I played around with a Garmin External Battery Pack on my last aborted tour in July. It is winter here so not a lot of sunshine for charging but my early impressions are that it will work okay for me. A dyno charger would be the ideal IMO but for now I think the Garmin kit will work.

    The Garmin kit is a cut-down version of the Powermonkey-eXplorer by Powertraveller which has more connection options.

    Regards
    Andrew
    Last edited by Aushiker; 08-14-11 at 06:39 PM. Reason: typo

  10. #10
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erick L View Post
    I might leave the camera charger unattended for a while but not the phone.
    Yeah, I had a phone walk that way in "Oh Kentucky" Campground on the TA. I should have know better because some of the folks there including one of the employees (who I suspect is the one that took my phone) gave me a bad vibe. Kind of taught me to listen to those vibes...

  11. #11
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I've toyed with the idea of a solar charger but it just doesn't seem worth it for the weight. It's just so easy to plug in my chargers when I get the chance. At restaurants I look for a table close to a plug. At campgrounds with full-service sites I find a vacant one and plug into the power on the post. Some picnic areas have power. Private campgrounds usually have power all over the place - posts, laundry rooms, bathrooms, etc.

    Incidentally, on my recent tour on the Great Divide we were away from power for several days at a time. My buddy, who had a lot of devices, and used them A LOT, had an all-purpose battery pack. When we were where there was power, not only would he charge his devices, he would also charge the battery pack. Then, when we were out in the wild, he could plug his phone, etc. into the battery pack and it would recharge the battery in the device. He said it would fully charge his Iphone twice.

    It seemed like a good way to stretch your power if you were a big user. For my part, I never came close to fully discharging anything before the next charging opportunity. My gps uses AA batteries, and I did go through a few of them. However, if I had a spare set I never had a problem making the batteries last until the next store. My camera also takes AA's, and they last a long time. Again, no problem.

  12. #12
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    I just picked up a New Trent rechargeable Battery for this purpose. It holds what I expect will be a couple of days electricity. It should be able to charge my iPad, iPod, cell phone, and anything else that can be charged by plugging into a USB port. One thing I'm unclear of is how long the battery takes to recharge, but I figure if I plug it in at lunch stops, and maybe get an occasional overnight charge at a campground, it should be plenty.
    I also have a New Trent battery pack. It's the perfect solution for my needs. I can keep my phone, GPS and mp3 player fully charged for about a week with this thing. By then the New Trent needs a charge itself, but on tour I will stay in a motel once a week or more anyway, so can recharge it there. Fits nicely in my handlebar bag, weighs about 12 ounces, and can charge my devices anytime, anywhere, whether there's sun or not, whether I'm riding or not.

  13. #13
    HomeBrew Master! Gus Riley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Yeah, I had a phone walk that way in "Oh Kentucky" Campground on the TA. I should have know better because some of the folks there including one of the employees (who I suspect is the one that took my phone) gave me a bad vibe. Kind of taught me to listen to those vibes...
    "Oh Kentucky" was on my itinerary last year, but I ended up staying two nights in the Super Eight up by the Walmart. Next Year it is again on the itinerary for at least one night. We tend to leave and see the sights on rest days. I'll take your experience there to heart and watch/secure my stuff with extra care while there.

    Most of the electronics I bring along (Ipod, XM) charge from my mini laptop, including my phone. My cell phone is the most important electronic item I bring, a charge lasts a few days if like others have mentioned, I only turn it on when I need it. In addition to the USB connection, I also pack away the 110 connection in case something goes awry with my mini laptop. My digital camera uses AA bateries.

    I prefer the AAs over recharging because I want my camera at the ready all the time.
    Last edited by Gus Riley; 08-14-11 at 12:11 PM.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member
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    We used a Goal0 solar charger on our trip in july.
    Kept three cell phones going and an Ipod. The apple product was fussy, needed strong sun and a 12 v to usb plug in adapter [the goal0 usb port didn't work for ipod]
    ride long & prosper

  15. #15
    Senior Member Soma Roark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B.Alive View Post
    What do you folks use when out on a camping tour? I'm hoping to get something to charge my phone, iPod, and maybe my camera.
    Sounds like you need an iPhone, then you only have to charge one thing for all those 3 things (new iphone coming out 9/7)! For long touring you might think about dynamo, medium solar chargers, and short battery chargers!

  16. #16
    "LOGIC!" lopek77's Avatar
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    I'm using this excellent product to charge my Garmin Gps, MyTouch phone and Philips Mp3 player. Few to choose with different cables. The one I bought, came with 2 power cables, perfect for my needs. Runs from 2 AA batteries. I think there is a newer version which uses usb port. All u need is to use your standard cables to recharge your equipment ...


    http://www.duracellpower.com/images/...0139_prv_2.jpg
    Last edited by lopek77; 08-15-11 at 11:12 PM. Reason: usb
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  17. #17
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    might have to choose :
    stay in one place and adjust the solar panel for best sun exposure
    to make the charging go well,

    or ride, and have the panel in shade and at angles
    far from adequate to optimal charging.

    Size matters.. big panel gathers in more sun.

  18. #18
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I didn't really make this clear when I posted, so I'll add...
    I think that the best solution is minimal use of electronic devices. Cell phone and camera are my two main electronic devices. I could also take either a kindle or an iPod, but the cell phone can fill both of those needs. The iPod would be for audio books rather than for music. As I said the phone (Blackberry) fills that need nicely.

    The cell phone typically gets used to place one short call home per day or less and is turned off when not in use. If I read audiobooks, I turn the connections off and battery use is minimal. That means it goes at least a week without the need to recharge. I usually use the internet mostly only when there is wifi and then there is usually a place to plug in.

    If I were to take it along, my kindle, it goes even longer on a charge. If I use my iPod shuffle to read books it goes pretty far on a charge too. As I said though, I leave these home if I have my Blackberry along.

    My camera is fine for quite a while on one battery, but batteries are something like .25-.5 ounces and if bought from an after market source rather than the camera manufacturer are pretty cheap, so if I take a few batteries I can go at least a month. I can also just take one (or two) and take a 2 ounce after market charger. Since it goes for one or more weeks per battery, plugging in once in a while is no big deal.

    My Petzl Tikka headlamp takes 3 AAA batteries and I can go for several months on one set. My tail light takes 2 AAA batteries and goes for a few weeks to a couple months depending on the tour.

    Laptops, GPS's and other devices I can easily do without.

  19. #19
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    I buy my cell phones for there battery life. I never turn it on unless I have to. I've gone 6 weeks and still had a charge. Though I have fun with a GPS on day rides, I don't really need any other electronics on the road.
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  20. #20
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    + 1 for the Tent

    Quote Originally Posted by simplygib View Post
    I also have a New Trent battery pack. It's the perfect solution for my needs. I can keep my phone, GPS and mp3 player fully charged for about a week with this thing. By then the New Trent needs a charge itself, but on tour I will stay in a motel once a week or more anyway, so can recharge it there. Fits nicely in my handlebar bag, weighs about 12 ounces, and can charge my devices anytime, anywhere, whether there's sun or not, whether I'm riding or not.

    Another one here for the Trent battery pack (on a side note the battery or my cell phone kept in the bar bag interferes with my Cateye cycle putter)

  21. #21
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    I think it's a combination of factors. For myself I don't want to be dependent on outlets because I want the flexibility of stealth camping. This means either carrying a supply of batteries or using a solar charger. I haven't done it yet but my plan is to use a Bunton solar panel connected to one of their battery packs. The solar panel will be deployed on top of my Quik-Pak bike trailer to charge the battery pack during the day while riding. At night I can then plug my electronics into the battery pack to recharge using a universal battery charger. Keeping electronics to a minimum is also prudent unless you have specific equipment that you want on the trip regardless.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member reducedfatoreo's Avatar
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  23. #23
    Randonneur in Training B.Alive's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lopek77 View Post
    I'm using this excellent product to charge my Garmin Gps, MyTouch phone and Philips Mp3 player. Few to choose with different cables. The one I bought, came with 2 power cables, perfect for my needs. Runs from 2 AA batteries. I think there is a newer version which uses usb port. All u need is to use your standard cables to recharge your equipment ...


    http://www.duracellpower.com/images/...0139_prv_2.jpg
    I've been looking at those.

    So it works well? I don't mind carrying a few extra AA batteries.
    ---
    Ride on,
    Brad

    2010 Jamis Coda Sport

    My first bike tour could be this fall! Pittsburgh to DC October 2011???

  24. #24
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scrapser View Post
    I haven't done it yet but my plan is to use a Bunton solar panel connected to one of their battery packs. The solar panel will be deployed on top of my Quik-Pak bike trailer to charge the battery pack during the day while riding. At night I can then plug my electronics into the battery pack to recharge using a universal battery charger. Keeping electronics to a minimum is also prudent unless you have specific equipment that you want on the trip regardless.
    I tried the Brunton Explorer connected directly to my phone, GPS and mp3 player (separately), and the only thing it would charge successfully was the mp3 player. Having it connected to a battery pack may solve that problem though. Good luck, and please post your findings.

  25. #25
    eternalvoyage
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    Enercell makes a "universal charger" for iPhones and other devices. I have an LG cell phone, and this device was useless with it. The voltage is probably too low. The phone seems to need about five volts. With two alkaline AAs, this Enercell charger puts out about three volts. The salespeople also tried to sell me on some rechargeable AAs to use with it, which would have given me about 2.4 volts.

    Two sales guys both swore it would work with my phone -- with alkalines and with NiMH AAs. They were sure of it. They either didn't know what they were talking about, or were dissembling.

    Abysmal.

    Returning it shortly for a refund.

    Any other experiences with the Trent, which appears to be a better option, would be interesting to hear.

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