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-   -   Battery Packs vs. Solar Panel; Semi-Urban Road Touring (https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/1148155-battery-packs-vs-solar-panel-semi-urban-road-touring.html)

thebellmont 06-28-18 03:10 PM

Battery Packs vs. Solar Panel; Semi-Urban Road Touring
 
Hey all,

I am thinking about running a solar panel during my summer tour down the Pacific coast from Oregon to Northern California. I am concerned about being tied to a campground bathroom or public power outlet to keep my power hungry smart phone, 4 usb lights and 2 battery packs charged.

Outside of dynamo hubs, how have you kept your electronics charged while on a road tour? Have you found yourself taking extra time at camp or in town just to get your batteries or phone charged?

Anyone who has used a solar panel, do you regret your investment i.e. found it not to hold a charge and/or not worth the weight penalty?

I understand solar panels can be great for desert touring but I am planning most of my future touring to be in the Pacific Northwest or New England area (or in similar climates abroad).

Thanks,

bellmont

Happy Feet 06-28-18 03:52 PM

I have a folding solar panel and do not regret it... with some caveats:

i charge an extetnal battery and then my devices off that. This eliminates the problem of devices stopping charging when a cloud or shadow blocks the panel.

The weather is sunny enough and the power needs are within reason. I charge a phone, ipod and front light all of which see moderate uae.
.

mrveloman 06-28-18 04:51 PM

I too use a solar panel (21w Anker) with to charge a battery. Works well for me. However if you are going to have frequent access to 110v power then you might be better off with two batteries depending on your power needs. I have a 26,000 mah battery and my panel will fully charge it in one day with good sun while on the back of my bike. The battery will then charge my phone about 5 times. On the other hand the battery weighs in at 1 pound.

Tourist in MSN 06-28-18 05:18 PM

The last tour I did without a dynohub was the Pacific Coast in 2014. On the rare occasions when I was in a restaurant (when I walked in, tried to find a place to sit near an outlet to charge things) I charged up my tablet. I did e-mail and checked weather forecast on my tablet where I had wifi, but I had no data plan. My phone (vintage flip phone) stayed off unless I wanted to call someone. I used a GPS when rolling and used AAA battery powered taillights (two, but usually only had one on).

But, for charging, I was always hunting for a place to charge. In this photo, I was using a 3 into 1 adapter so that I could charge a Li Ion battery for my camera, a USB charger for my tablet (tablet not in photo), and was charging four AA batteries for my GPS. The outlet in this photo was an unoccupied campsite that was within maybe 150 feet of the hiker biker site where I was camped. This was not very convenient. But it was a lot more convenient than plugging in at a bathroom.

https://cimg3.ibsrv.net/gimg/bikefor...240ca4bd92.jpg

Since the above photo was taken, I now have AA/AAA chargers and Li Ion camera battery chargers that are powered by USB. Thus, I can recharge everything I want to with USB power supples. That is definitely preferable to what I did on that tour.

***

I have not used a solar charger on a bike tour, I probably never will now that I have dynohubs on my touring bikes. I have used a solar charger to charge AA batteries for my GPS on a kayak trip, I had no cell coverage for the entire two weeks of that kayak trip so that meant that my phone battery stayed pretty well charged the whole time. When charging with the panel, I was always checking to make sure that the solar panel was still in the sun and not in the shade, etc. If I was taking a day off and not traveling, thus hanging around in the campsite, it was convenient. But otherwise I would hate to be tied too closely to it.

The panel in this photo from my kayak trip was not very big, it put out maybe 300 milliamps in bright sun. That is not a lot of power, probably half the power that my phone will burn through when the screen is on. That is an important point, with an hour of sunlight, I would probably get 30 minutes of screen time on my phone, which is not a lot.

In the photo I was charging two AA batteries.

https://cimg0.ibsrv.net/gimg/bikefor...16e9068773.jpg

This is a link to an old (several years old) article on bike touring while charging stuff from solar. It has a lot of good information, but the article is old enough that much of the hardware discussed is no longer for sale and has been replaced by other products.
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?doc_id=9258

I know that your goal is to charge by solar, but I suggest you carry the hardware to plug everything in at any time you see an unused outlet that is at a reasonable distance from your tent. And if you have a couple USB chargers, that is better than one. And if you bring a 3 into 1 outlet adapter, other people can plug into the same outlet you want to be plugged into too. I know one guy that carries a power strip on bike tours so he can plug in lots of things all at once.

MarcusT 06-28-18 10:20 PM


Originally Posted by mrveloman (Post 20418128)
I too use a solar panel (21w Anker) with to charge a battery. Works well for me. However if you are going to have frequent access to 110v power then you might be better off with two batteries depending on your power needs. I have a 26,000 mah battery and my panel will fully charge it in one day with good sun while on the back of my bike. The battery will then charge my phone about 5 times. On the other hand the battery weighs in at 1 pound.

I do the same, and it works out well. Except, I am able to get about 8 charges for my phone or 4 for phone and 1 for tablet. I find the charger pack more useful than the solar panel, because if you can get a chance to plug charge every 3-4 days, it never runs out

staehpj1 06-29-18 05:47 AM

I elected to go a different route. My route may be a little extreme, but I think most could apply some of the principles of it to their advantage. I prefer to minimize power consumption and charge at various stops.

I use my phone for communication, research, and photography, but I turn it off or at least put it in airplane mode when not in use. I keep calls infrequent and short and use email or text message more. I chose a phone that has a removable battery and carry a spare (it weighs about an ounce. I can go days on the first battery and close to a week on the pair. My only on bike light is a small blinkie and it easily lasts for a multi-month tour with just the pair of AA batteries, but they could be replaced anywhere. For personal lighting I used to carry a headlamp, but used it sparingly enough that I switched to a little .25 oz keychain light that I wear on a cord around my neck. Since I use it a few seconds at a time and a few times per day it too lasts me for a multi-month tour (actually multiple tours), but spare batteries would be easy to carry and weigh very little. I don't find that to be a hardship since by default I tend to use my light very little even when I carry a bigger brighter light.

It is easy enough to charge my phone at most stops whether shopping, eating, camping, or whatever. Even in little town parks there is often an outlet at the picnic pavilion. In stores, diners, or fast food restaurants I have never been denied the use of an outlet.

3speed 06-29-18 05:57 AM

Iím just curious as to why you exclude dynamo power. Iím not going to debate you on it. Just curious. Theyíre pretty freakin great and Iíve literally never met someone in person whoís used a dynamo(and Iíve met and talked about it with many) that didnít think it was basically the best thing theyíve ever bought for their bike. Iíve heard of a couple online, but thatís out of god knows how many online who love them.

In any case, my vote between solar and battery pack is a large battery pack. Solar is Fantastic in applications where it works well. Personally, I donít think a tiny panel on the rack of a bike where a couple cloudy days might leave you powerless is an application where it works well. If you plan to do any extended stays in camp grounds, I think they work pretty well in that application. Then you can leave them out on the picnic table and adjust them to the optimal angle every couple hours. I havenít used a panel that wasnít a few years old now, so maybe the tech has gotten a lot better in the past few years.

Tourist in MSN 06-29-18 08:09 AM


Originally Posted by staehpj1 (Post 20418877)
... I chose a phone that has a removable battery and carry a spare (it weighs about an ounce. I can go days on the first battery and close to a week on the pair. ....

I have always wondered why more people do not do this. I think you are the first person I saw that mentioned spare phone batteries.

I switched from vintage flip phone to smart phone a year ago, I bought a couple spare batteries for it at that time planning to do what you do. But with a dynohub and with the limited cell coverage where I go, I have not needed to use one of the spare batteries yet. I also leave it in airplane mode most of the time. And I only use the data plan for weather forecasts, thus very little screen time.

I probably would have been using the spare phone batteries if I did not have a dynohub.

Rob_E 06-29-18 11:59 AM

I have used a solar panel and a dynamo hub, both with an external battery pack. I have found the dynamo to be less effective, but then my charging solution, a Luxus U, has not been reliable. There may be better systems that will be more reliable. I certainly didn't expect the solar panel to be the more useful of the two, given that in only works on sunny days, but it has been the better of the two for me.
I also always have a plug for when an opportunity arises. But I much prefer just having that battery always charging via solar. I never spend time hanging out near a socket just to get charged up. Having to plug in is not a huge hassle, but not needing to is another level of freedom. Instead of looking for the seat in the restaurant near an outlet, I just look for a parking spot in the sun and know that I'm getting charged up while I eat even if I don't find a socket.

Happy Feet 06-29-18 12:20 PM

I also find using a plug in not always that convenient.

Using a cafe or laundry mat plugin sounds good but every other person with a cell or laptop has the same idea and many times in a campsite the plug in is in the communal bathroom so you have to plan to sit for a long time near the toilets or risk having some expensive electronics stolen. Just happened to a couple from Holland I met on my last tour. They seemed shocked (pun intended) but the temptation to pocket an unattended battery or cell phone is there for some I guess. Especially if the user just leaves it for hours.

I could see using a dynamo as well (will probably buy one at some point) but they are a single sport application and I also kayak, hike and camp, so a solar panel currently (pun intended) works to serve all those activities.

Rob_E 06-29-18 01:59 PM


Originally Posted by Happy Feet (Post 20419612)
I could see using a dynamo as well (will probably buy one at some point) but they are a single sport application and I also kayak, hike and camp, so a solar panel currently (pun intended) works to serve all those activities.

Yes. Some of the most use I've gotten from my solar panel is on camping trips where, even though I biked there, I am staying put for days at a time. Unless I'm going to bike in circles, a dynamo doesn't cut it, but a solar panel still does the trick.

thebellmont 06-29-18 09:58 PM

Thanks for the replies. I wrote a reply earlier, but it seems to be lost to the ether and/or awaiting moderator approval(?).

I’ll give it another go:

Tourist in MSN, staehpj1: My phone is my camera, gps and tablet; the tradeoff (like most smart phones these days) is that it does not have a removable battery.

Tourist in MSN, good point on the power strip, thanks. A headlamp is only thing I am taking which uses AA batteries and since this coast trip is only a couple weeks long I will not need rechargeables.

3speed, I agree dynamo's are great! A dynamo and an usb waterproof headset was gonna put me over budget. Before I built my touring rig I spent a lot of time and money on an Orfos Flare Pro front and rear light set up. The Flare Pro doesn’t work with a dynamo hub and needs an external battery to run, this also motivated me against a dynamo. I am not a huge fan of the Flare Pro but it’s what I have.

Trevtassie 06-30-18 03:21 AM

Don't leave your panel lying around unattended anywhere near any of the towns on the pacific coast. I was at the hiker biker at Harris Beach when some homeless dude took off with a solar set up. The dudes had set it up in the only patch of sun nearby and were sitting at a picnic table nearby, by the time they got up the guy had bolted with their panel. Oersonally I wouldn't use solar on the Pacific Coast in the summer, too damn foggy a lot of the time....
If you are going to get a battery, get one with a USB-C high capacity input and get a USB C charger, it'll charge up quicker than a normal USB. Failing that, get a high output USB charger and 2.4A USB leads. You can get cheap 6A chargers off Amazon. That way you spend less time charging.
I use a dynamo hub and a forumslader, good gear, but the Forumslader isn't cheap.

Tourist in MSN 06-30-18 05:47 AM


Originally Posted by Trevtassie (Post 20420650)
Don't leave your panel lying around unattended anywhere near any of the towns on the pacific coast. I was at the hiker biker at Harris Beach when some homeless dude took off with a solar set up. ....

Twice on my Pacific Coast trip in 2014 I reported some homeless people to the park rangers, that is a problem at some of the campgrounds there.

thebellmont 06-30-18 06:29 PM

Trevtassie, I have a battery pack that is Qualcomm quick charge 3.0 to charge devices as well as itself, it's great, it charges my phone in less than 2 hours from dead. If I don't get a solar panel I will just get another one of these so I can have two packs to run my lights and a backup for what comes down the pipe. Or might just get another one and panel. Not sure yet.


Happy Feet, Rob E Do you guys use your panels to charge while biking like on the rear rack, or I am hearing you mostly use them stationary in sunny spot at camp?

Tourist in MSN 06-30-18 06:53 PM


Originally Posted by thebellmont (Post 20420496)
...
My phone is my camera, gps and tablet; the tradeoff (like most smart phones these days) is that it does not have a removable battery.
....

There are ways to minimize power drain, airplane mode, shutting off all apps not in use, shut off wifi, if you are tracking your route as you roll make sure that your screen can stay off while you are doing so. Etc.

Happy Feet 06-30-18 09:42 PM


Originally Posted by thebellmont (Post 20421729)
Trevtassie, I have a battery pack that is Qualcomm quick charge 3.0 to charge devices as well as itself, it's great, it charges my phone in less than 2 hours from dead. If I don't get a solar panel I will just get another one of these so I can have two packs to run my lights and a backup for what comes down the pipe. Or might just get another one and panel. Not sure yet.


Happy Feet, Rob E Do you guys use your panels to charge while biking like on the rear rack, or I am hearing you mostly use them stationary in sunny spot at camp?

Both. Here is the panel as I use it on the back of my bike. It has loops so I can clip the four corners to my gear and a pouch to put the external battery while charging. You can see how, with rear panniers,it would go across the back sideways.

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4253/...31abfe7e_z.jpg


And while in camp. But I would not leave it that way if I were not around as it is too tempting for someone to just lift off.

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4761/...489f3276_z.jpg

cloakssaves 07-07-18 01:35 AM

nice

ricrunner 07-08-18 12:51 AM

The solar panels I have are, as well as a 50000mah Lithium po battery is put out by Mobile Power Australia. Cost $90 au.. Charges my phone ( Telstra Brand) 8 times or 7 times with radio (radio uses a phone battery as well). the solar charger, is only 5 watts, but charges 18000 milli amps, in an 7 hour summers day. I have not used the setup for biking yet only for general camping. The panels are monocrystaline, with 22.5% efficiency. All waterproof Battery included. So I think if I have the battery charged I would get quite a long time out of it and can charge it quite well with the panels. I have never used a dynamo, only bottle ones back in the 60's. I am not a fast rider, like travelling no more then 10miles an hour, so would not get the real benefit from it.

Olden Crow 07-08-18 01:39 AM

probably only one of many threads online here...

https://www.backpacking.net/forum/ub...924#Post200924


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