Photo: Aiming for a higher level in Lamphun.

Travel technology forum

Solar power chargers

Posted by SBE on 9/7/2009 at 19:38

I think I've decided where I'm going snorkelling next trip but there's no electricity on the island and the place I want to stay doesn't have a generator...oil lamps in the huts and solar power lights for the restaurant.

Charging camera/torch batteries is going to be a wee bit of a problem after a few days and I'd quite like to spend a few weeks there.

As paradise islands of the beaten trail can be a wee bit dull in the evenings, I was thinking of investing in a netbook+DVD or a small laptop too. It would be useful for storing pics and I could watch the odd film or maybe download some books. I MIGHT even write a travel journal, but don't hold your breath Somtam! ;-)

Have anyone tried a portable solar power charger thingy? How bulky are they and how much do they weigh? I want to try and keep my backpack as light as possible.

#1 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,002
 Where has SBE been? 

Posted by angfonz on 4/8/2009 at 10:32

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but the solar charger than you are looking for isn't cheap.

There are a few things you need to consider. Do you want something to recharge batteries, or actually power electronics? The latter, called a trickle charge, is more expensive.

In order to charge a laptop you will need a power source with at least 14w (for a standard netbook), and needs to be capable of a trickle charge. Something else you need to consider is that if you want to STORE power, you need another item also - a battery pack. These are readily available from many providers, but make sure its compatible with your panel.

This is the product I would recommend: http://www.brunton.com/product.php?id=420 -- It folds up, uses a new and more efficient technology, is water resistant, has a 22w output in direct sunlight, and is capable of the trickle charge you need.

I would recommend using the same company for your battery pack. They really are producing the best product on the market right now, but realize you need a pretty large size for a laptop for a couple hours or a dvd player.

Neither of these products are cheap, and at their 600+ dollar price range I would not buy it from them. I found it at Sierra Solar for half that price when I got mine, and I'm sure they are available on Amazon for about half their list price.

#2 angfonz has been a member since 7/7/2009. Posts: 36


Posted by BruceMoon on 4/8/2009 at 13:10

SBE

'Charging camera/torch batteries is going to be a wee bit of a problem " - that's another reason I use a Canon: it has AA batteries, and the Lithium ones last for ages...

If you've got a proprietary brand battery setup, go look at USB/SD plug charger/exchangers to a netbook/laptop. Also, I note in SE Asia, there are run-of-the-mill battery chargers for mobile phones, they may have same for your camera.

'I was thinking of investing in a netbook+DVD or a small laptop too- most new batteries have a reasonable capacity. And, you can also buy 'heavy duty' batteries with a heap of read time.

My hunch is that it may be more convenient to buy plenty of battery back-up and use this wisely than try and carry a surfboard sized solar panel able to meet your possible needs.

Cheers

#3 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by BruceMoon on 4/8/2009 at 13:11

Oh, SBE, if the accommodation has solar powered lights, would they allow you to trickle feed your batteries during the day? Just a thought.

Cheers

#4 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by angfonz on 4/8/2009 at 13:45

I assumed that the solar lights were the sort of closed circuit things you get at the hardware store - and I dont think they would let you splice into that.

SBE - You can get a much more reasonably priced solar charger if you dont bring a netbook or dvd player. If you just want it to recharge batteries there are many products under 100 dollars that will fill a built in batter pack that you can plug a phone / mp3 player / camera battery charger into when you get back in the evening.

Hopefully you can find a place that you can put the panel without it getting stolen, because with cheaper units comes less efficiency energy transfer / storage and that equals longer charge times. You would want to be leaving it out on the roof or something while you were out diving.

Here is a good option: https://powertraveller.com/iwantsome/primatepower/solargorilla/ (this will work for laptops)

with its little(cheaper) brother here: https://powertraveller.com/iwantsome/primatepower/powermonkey-explorer/ (this will work for smaller devices)

#5 angfonz has been a member since 7/7/2009. Posts: 36

Posted by SBE on 4/8/2009 at 15:41

Thanks for your help Angfonz. Seems like the netbook isn't going to be an option then!

If I were an inventor I'd patent a netbook with a solar power panel on the lid! ;-)

#6 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,002
 Where has SBE been? 

Posted by angfonz on 4/8/2009 at 16:43

Its still a relatively cheap and good idea to purchase one of the smaller units. They take a long time for a full charge, but its better than not having any photos.

The smaller one, linked above, takes a full 18 hours in the sun to complete a charge, though. You'll definitely need to be leaving it out while you're out doing stuff.

Brunton make a lot of good options - browse their website and find what suits your needs - and then order from Amazon or Sierra Solar for better prices. I hear that their rolling solar panels are particularly good.

#7 angfonz has been a member since 7/7/2009. Posts: 36


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