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#46476 - 05/29/16 03:59 PM Solar Chargers
63ChevyII.com Offline


Registered: 08/07/12
Posts: 670
Loc: Colton, California
For those that use them, what solar charger/powerbanks are you using? Any good or bad experiences with them?

I just received my first "nice" solar charger. Looking at the box, I was a little surprised to read this on the box:

"The less you use the solar panel to recharge the battery, the longer the battery will last"

Looking online I found:
"RoamProofs product's battery life will decrease when the solar panel is used to recharge the device's battery. Extend the life of any internal battery by charging through a wall adapter using provided charging cables."

Is this the norm?

If you're interested in seeing specs and my photos of the unit I'm talking about, you can see them here:

Unboxing Photos: RoamProof SOS20K Portable Solar Powerbank & Package
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#46488 - 05/30/16 08:15 AM Re: Solar Chargers [Re: 63ChevyII.com]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1025
Loc: Madison, WI
I have used a Brunton Solar Roll 14 one summer, and with absolutely terrible results. It was sold on ebay the following fall. I bought that panel for it's 12 volt capability to charge a few camera items that at the time could only be charged with this rather large panel (14 watts allegedly, $400 list price).

In testing and perfect conditions, it took 8 hours and perfect panel positioning to charge two AA batteries. It never charged anything while strapped to the backpack, and we could not just sit around for hours during the middle of the day to bump the batteries up a few amps.

following that rather disappointing first experience, I have not used any solar chargers. Instead I used AA Lithium batteries or simply additional camera batteries, which are cheap and more reliable than my then experience with solar charging.

Since then, companies like Goal Zero have appeared and the the efficiency of solar chargers has improved significantly. Lots of testimony has been shared of successful charging while on the trail. So now I am again considering to bring a panel to charge a Go Pro along the way this season, as well as to serve as a booster for my sat phone and DSLR batteries.

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus is probably one of the most efficient panels on the market right now that is aimed at the smaller devices most people bring along on the trail, and combined with a now available upconverter camera battery charger (turning USB to higher voltage), I can use the power bank to charge my 8.4 volt DSLR batteries. If the panel can really charge a 5000mAh bank in 1-2 days on the back of my pack, I am looking at quite some weight savings overall.

For now, I am still doing research on this, but theoretically I should be able to lose one sat phone battery and at least one DSL battery from my pack, which is more than half the weight of the panel itself. It is small enough to mount in top of my pack where sunlight will reach it even while southbound.

A small power bank stick (under 6000 mAh) to plug into the panel at all times while on top of my pack would complete the setup. Cost is also better than back in 2008 when I first tried this. I'll keep the GPS on Lithium AAs, as it just eats those batteries, plus those AAs are super light and also work in my camera's grip.

As for battery life and recharge cycles - that's totally normal or most rechargeable batteries except maybe lead acid batteries. Not something I'd care about, as all the batteries I am recharging are actually rather cheap to replace.

If I decide to buy the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus (Plus is important - it is far better and lighter than the older Nomad 7 that's just $20 cheaper), expect a report in late July and perhaps a prelim report in a few weeks, as I will obviously want to test it in simulated trail conditions before committing to it.

Actually, just did some more searching, and there is a quite affordable competitor to the Nomad 7 Pro from Anker. Gets top review at Outdoorgearlab.com, and costs less than half. I am a sucker for a good deal and I think I will grab that Anker charger for this trip.
http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Solar-Charger-Reviews



Edited by Fishmonger (05/30/16 02:30 PM)
Edit Reason: updated

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#46573 - 06/04/16 09:43 PM Re: Solar Chargers [Re: Fishmonger]
WanderingJim Online


Registered: 02/09/15
Posts: 179
Loc: California
Wish I'd read about the Anker before I got my Mercury 10. Just took it for my first test run of it in Yosemite over 6 days.

Like that review says, the included battery is pretty week and not worth carrying. I'm probably going to have to pickup a couple small batteries to charge instead on the trail. I have one small lipstick sized one that worked better than the one that came with the panel and was 1/3 the size.

I also had a couple of the loops fail, so I'll have to do some repairs to be able to hang it on my pack. Still checking with the company about a replacement.

The panel itself does charge things fairly well. Even in overcast skies, it got some juice going. I'll still need to carry at least one of my bigger batteries (18000kwh or 10000kwh) for my big trips and won't bother with the panel for shorter trips of 2-3 days (wasn't planning on that anyway).

So for longer trips a solar charger can be useful, IMHO. I'd just use a big battery for 2-3 day trips.

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