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  1. #1
    eternalvoyage
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    Light Weight Solar Chargers for Touring?

    Can anyone recommend certain models?

    [Main use, charging camera batteries and lighting batteries. Camera can be charged directly from USB. Batteries are 3.7 volt lithium (size, 18650). May be able to find a USB charger for these. Any tips would be appreciated.]

  2. #2
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    If you go on Amazon and type in "solar chargers," you'll get an amazing choice. I bought a Kiwi charger (looks like a flower) and am just amazed w/it. I haven't tried it for my laptop yet, but it worked like a dream for my Walkman. It's supposed to be able to charge the Kindle, my camera and the laptop, too. Since music/comedy is really important to me, I like knowing that I can charge my Walkman without having to drag my computer along on short trips. The charger will come w/every sort of connector needed, so you'll be able to charge whatever you want. I know this doesn't answer you question about which model, but if you look online, you'll find pretty much anything. It just depends on what you need it to do and how heavy you're willing to go.

    We also just had solar panels put in for our house (last Fri) and I'm like a little kid watching the meter run backwards!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Aushiker's Avatar
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    Hi

    There is a really good discussion on a solar charging set-up at CGOAB. Might be worth a read.

    Andrew

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    NB, you need a really large surface area to not take for ever to charge stuff.

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    And/Or, consider a hub dynamo and the USB power converters on the market, perhaps?

  6. #6
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    I've been researching this, too. My idea is to buy a solar panel, storage battery, and a universal charger. This way I can store up juice while riding and recharge my batteries at night. It also gives me more freedom from depending on finding outlets and having to sit there (during daylight) waiting for batteries to charge. This is important if you plan on doing any stealth camping. It allows you to ride until you are ready to stop instead of having to possibly sacrifice a few hours because you needed to stop where there's an outlet. I'm looking at Brunton solar panels and storage batteries. I realize this is all dependent on how much sunshine I have each day.

    I will be towing a Quik-Pak trailer which is ideal for having the solar panel laid out on top and collecting sunlight while riding. I don't think this would necessarily work any other way.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member kc0yef's Avatar
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    My LBS just got one in and the solar panel was about twice the size as a bicycle computer I haven't looked at it yet in depth but I am also considering the solar vs generator hub,
    I would want a usb rechargeable feature so I could top it off at home...
    Last edited by kc0yef; 12-20-11 at 11:38 AM. Reason: solar panel

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Seems to me
    solar panel about the size of a newspaper page will still take all day
    for a couple AA 0.8amp/hour batteries . staying in one place
    The panel trying to follow the sun to be perpendicular to it.

    I have a Kyocera made compact battery charging panel , I got thru MontBel,

    I'd sell .. if they are interested in trying it.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-20-11 at 12:41 PM.

  9. #9
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    I'm looking at the Brunton Solaris 12 watt. It is roughly 29 x 18 when unfolded. This is just a bit shy of the size of the top of my trailer and it has gaps to allow for straps or a bungee cords to hold it in place. It does not need to be pointed directly at the sun but obviously would perform better if it was. Unfortunately there are no reviews of it on Amazon but there are 29 reviews (overall 4 stars) of the larger 26 watt Brunton model. I figure if I can have the thing collecting electricity for the bulk of the day, I should be able to keep a good supply available.

    I'm still researching this idea but it seems viable so far.
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  10. #10
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    I'm no technogeek, so maybe I'm missing something (probably!) in some of the answers, but my charger is very small, lightweight (around 5oz) and takes about 4-5 hours to fully charge. There are some more expensive brands that will even charge as you use them, but even those aren't heavy or large. My Kiwi will also charge via USB or an outlet, so you're not limited to the sun.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I'm no technogeek either, but have tested a Brunton, review here.

    Size does matter. A lot where solar panels are concerned. The bigger, the better.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  12. #12
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    We used a small goal zero model on tour last summer. It kept our phones fully charged, the unit has a USB port. We had hoped this would have worked with an iPod - apple products seem picky about their power sources. We could get some charge by utilizing a 12 volt to ubs- the solar charger has a 12 volt cigar lighter type of outlet. Need strong and direct sun for best results.
    ride long & prosper

  13. #13
    Senior Member Aushiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    And/Or, consider a hub dynamo and the USB power converters on the market, perhaps?
    I have a PedalPower Super-i-Cable which I used over four days last week on a short ride in the hills and it worked a treat charging my Garmin Edge 800 as I rode along. I didn't need to bother with the phone etc but.

    Andrew

  14. #14
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    I tried a Brunton Explorer last summer (5v 5w USB) and it was a miserable failure at charging my phone or GPS. It worked fine on my mp3 player. Strictly for charging a small battery pack it might work fine, not sure. I switched to a rechargable battery pack for my charging needs on tour and haven't looked back.

  15. #15
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    My first choice is the USB and dyno hub setup (probably B&M Ewerks), they work rain or shine as long as you are moving. As a very close second would be the rechargeable battery packs, third plug in at lunch time or during a break, solar would be my last choice. I have used a variety of solar powered devices over the years, it works great for water heating and static locations for power generation, not so good if you are on the move.

    Aaron
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  16. #16
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    I found that solar panels are virtually useless while riding because they need full sun at the correct angle to achieve anywhere near the stated output. I prefer riding in daylight and taking rainy days off so that limits the time for full sun static charging. Do note that my experience is from 2008.

    I use the HyperJuice Mini and charge it every 10 days or so. It's 9 ounces including charging cable to charge from a standard outlet.


  17. #17
    Senior Member MNBikeguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by martianone View Post
    We used a small goal zero model on tour last summer. It kept our phones fully charged, the unit has a USB port. We had hoped this would have worked with an iPod - apple products seem picky about their power sources. We could get some charge by utilizing a 12 volt to ubs- the solar charger has a 12 volt cigar lighter type of outlet. Need strong and direct sun for best results.
    Been wondering about goal zero. Box claims they're now Apple compatible. REI has them on sale. I can't tell how heavy they are due to REI's annoying anti-theft gadget they attach to the box. Good reviews from other sources.
    "I thought of that while riding my bike."
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  18. #18
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    I sent Brunton a query regarding the Solaris 12 and will post their reply. I asked what output (ball-park) I could anticipate on an average day with the panel lying flat. Their website says 12 volt/800 mAh.

    There are also a couple Youtube videos of the Solaris but not very informative. I also found a Youtube video of the Goal Zero charging an iPod via an adapter.

    There are reviews for the Solaris 26 on Amazon...seems it's very popular in Iraq with the military guys...of course Iraq doesn't have a shortage of sunshine and it's a bit further south so the sun is hitting the earth's atmosphere with less of an angle.
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  19. #19
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    I also think me put a dynamo, but I think it is very expensive cable PedalPower Super-i-Cable. Maybe you know the same cables for cheaper?

  20. #20
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    Please mention what kind of phone you are charging. I recently got my first Android phone (Motorola Electrify) and it barely turns after charging it for 8+ hours on a computer USB port after it was completely drained. I doubt a solar panel or hub dynamo could keep that phone charged. My old dumb phone charged really quickly on an computer USB port. The smart phone is probably one of the first things on my cut list for multiple day rides or hikes. Especially since the battery life is only one day vs. a week.
    One man's adventure is somebody else's boring life. These are my adventures: http://adventurelaus.blogspot.com/

  21. #21
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Cheaper is leave the E gadgets at home and enjoy the natural world.

  22. #22
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    I think either solar or dynamo can work, but I would suggest using some intermediate battery as a reservoir to be kept topped up, and that can then be used to charge when you are stopped/under clouds/in a tent.

    Last October I bought a Goal Zero Nomad 7 to play with, with the idea/hope of using it for an extended ultralight backpacking trip next year. I have a dynamo hub on my bike and figured what I worked out with the solar panel could probably be applied to the dynamo later (and potentially use the solar at camp when the bike isn't moving).

    On the backpacking trip I plan to take a small digital camera (Canon S95, 3.7V Li-ion battery), SteriPen (UV water purifer, using rechargeable CR123s), a small headlight (either with rechargeable AA or CR123), and a Garmin 405 watch (will go ~14 days w/o a charge, much less if the GPS is turned on).

    The Goal Zero strapped to the top/back of my pack wasn't getting consistent enough light to reliably charge individual devices connected directly to the output (a USB port). It worked great if stationary (fully charging my iPhone 4 at the typical USB-port speeds [500ma?]). I then tried using a spare camera battery (3.7V, 1000mAh) as a reservoir and it worked great. During the day the battery will charge as it can (using a Lenmar PPUCLIP, a small USB-Li-Ion charger that is adjustable and clips to practically any 3.7V'ish battery) and I can then move that battery to a Mintyboost (battery powered USB charger circuit) to charge the other devices/batteries.

    The 1000mAh camera battery capacity is lacking though, and my plan will be to use a 18650 cell instead, or buy a commercial ~3000mAh USB-battery pack that is itself rechargeable over USB.

    Since moving to a dynamo hub on the bike, I have a bunch of rarely used 2- and 4-cell Dinotte battery packs. Since those are weather resistant with a beefy cable, I figured I'd use one for the on-bike energy storage, though (assuming their 7.4V'ish) will need different circuits for the charge/discharge.
    Last edited by anotherbrian; 12-21-11 at 10:53 AM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member MNBikeguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anotherbrian View Post
    ....The Goal Zero strapped to the top/back of my pack wasn't getting consistent enough light to reliably charge individual devices connected directly to the output (a USB port). It worked great if stationary (fully charging my iPhone 4 at the typical USB-port speeds [500ma?]).... .
    Good information. I assume most of us are rarely stationary for any length of time when sunlight is full.
    That's the catch I'm still looking for. (if in fact, available).
    "I thought of that while riding my bike."
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  24. #24
    Senior Member MNBikeguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Cheaper is leave the E gadgets at home and enjoy the natural world.
    Believe me, I would if I could. The means of tapping into work is the difference between a 2 week or an extended tour.
    "I thought of that while riding my bike."
    - Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity

  25. #25
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by anotherbrian View Post
    I think either solar or dynamo can work, but I would suggest using some intermediate battery as a reservoir to be kept topped up, and that can then be used to charge when you are stopped/under clouds/in a tent.
    That's exactly my plan. Have the solar panel laid out on top of my trailer all day while riding...connected to a storage battery in the trailer...at night I can then use the storage battery (6000 mAh) and a universal charger to recharge the batteries that were drained that day.
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