View Full Version : Portable solar Power - Take or don't take on a multi-week section hike?

Woof Shaven
10-12-2014, 09:06
Does anyone bring these along (pack) on multi-week section hikes?

I know i can turn my phone off to save energy but eventually I am going to run out of a charge. I have been looking into rechargeable headlamps and am considering bringing along a GPS too. The phone and headlamp i consider necessities. The GPS is probably a luxury item.

Can most people mange their power such that they can make it the next resupply point? Do you have to hotel or hostel to recharge?

Does anyone have a trail report in regards to solar chargers they could share?

Three Backpacker-friendly Solar Chargers

The Best Portable Solar Panel Reviewhttp://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Solar-Charger-Reviews

10-12-2014, 10:19
Unless you want to waste a lot of time sitting around on a nice sunny day waiting for the solar charger to put 2% charge back into your device, a solar charger is totally useless.

With good power management, you can keep a phone going for a week. Unless you decide to do a lot of night hiking, a headlamp gets very little use in the summer. If your really worried about keeping devices working, carry a high mAh recharging pack, of which there are now many to choose from for not a lot of money.

Most hikers recharge at hostels or motels, but anywhere you can find an outlet to use for a few hours will work. Of course, this means a trip to town at the very least.

10-12-2014, 11:41
If your really worried about keeping devices working, carry a high mAh recharging pack, of which there are now many to choose from for not a lot of money.

I just got back from an 8 day section and had great success with this. I use my phone for all photo/video taking which will suck the battery down after a while airplane mode or not. I carried an Anker Astro 6400 mAh battery pack, weighs around 8 ounces and it'll charge an iPhone 5 2.5 times. There are much larger versions out there but I couldn't justify more weight than that to keep my phone going. It was nice to have because I didn't want to spend more than a few hours in town or be tied to the same spot for a while, so didn't even bother looking for an outlet to charge anywhere.

Now it worked great for my phone, but I had a horrible time trying to recharge headlamp batteries with it (Black Diamond ReVolt). I'm not sure what end the problem was on but they just weren't playing nice together, every time I plugged the battery pack in I got a different result. One time it says there's an error, plug it in again and it charges for 5 seconds and says the battery is full, I try a third time and it charges for 3 hours, etc.. Just make sure it works ahead of time which I didn't do and found myself in a tough spot a couple nights.

The Cleaner
10-12-2014, 15:10
Just do like many hikers do on the southern section and hike hostel to hostel. Nice bed and shower every night and all the power you need to blog about it. :eek: I was out last week and met 2 hikers doing Max Patch to Erwin. They camped the 1st night then stayed in Hot Springs. Then they hiked to Hemlock Hollow hostel. 4th night they stayed at Jerry's Cabin shelter then planned to stay at a new hostel near Devil's Fork Gap. I don't know where they stayed after that but had reservations at Uncle Johnny's for later...

10-12-2014, 15:38
Solar doesn't work too well if the panel is shaded. Conservation of energy is a better idea. As for recharging the headlamp batteries, I sometimes have trouble with rechargeable batteries if they are a "high-capacity" battery - sometimes the chargers think that the battery is defective. (I have a lot of stuff at the cabin that runs on NiMH batteries, and the hi-cap ones have to be charged on a special charger instead of a 12-volt DC unit.)

Maui Rhino
10-12-2014, 22:55
On my 22 day JMT thru, I used a Goal Zero Nomad 7 w/ Guide 10 charger to power my camera, cell phone, headlamp, and Delorme inReach. It worked flawlessly whether above or below treeline. Obviously, it took longer (all day) to charge a set of batteries if I was below treeline. The JMT is much more remote than the AT, so I didn't have many opportunities to plug into an outlet. At Muir Trail Ranch, there was a power strip set up for hikers, but so many people were trying to recharge that there was a long wait to even plug in. I definitely appreciated not having to worry about powering my devices. On a trail like the AT, where you can hit a town every few days, a battery pack will be easier to charge, and save you a half pound or more over a solar charger.

10-13-2014, 12:25
I am very interested in this topic as well. Planning a GET thru next spring and am looking at solar to power Iphone for photos, etc. This high mAh recharging pack Slo go em speaks of sounds interesting. Basically an external battery? Can you recharge it when in town? Thanks

10-15-2014, 10:58

If you want a good external battery pack, this is a good place to look.

They have larger heavier units that hold lots of charge or smaller light weight units that can be used in case of an emergency. If you do get one of those solar panels to strap to your pack while hiking, you could have ti charge one of these packs and have the pack do all the heavy work.

10-15-2014, 11:20
I just wonder what hikers 40 yrs ago would think of this thread?

10-15-2014, 12:58
I dont hike to use technology.... In my opinions phones either belong at home, or turned off at the bottom of your bag for emergencies if you think its necessary

10-15-2014, 13:27
Heck, hikers 20 years ago. There was no internet on your phone, no GPS in case you were lost, or even a Compass built into your phone. Phones were just meant to make phone calls. And Pay phones were still out there.

10-19-2014, 11:25
I am very interested in this topic as well. Planning a GET thru next spring and am looking at solar to power Iphone for photos, etc. This high mAh recharging pack Slo go em speaks of sounds interesting. Basically an external battery? Can you recharge it when in town? Thanks

They can be recharged in town however they do take quite a while so in most cases recharging the pack fully needs to be coordinated with an overnight stay or full day in town. my 6400 mAh pack is rated for around a 10 hour charge time using a 1 Amp (standard iPhone brick) charger and that will increase the bigger you go with capacity. It will go faster with a 2 amp charger sold separately which I don't personally bother with, rather just take the one which works for both things.

Woof Shaven
10-19-2014, 16:55
I have a couple of electronic E-cigarette batteries referred to as "mods". Most of these mods are tubular in shape, but there is a rectangular one called the "iTaste MVP" that can easily charge my iPhone twice. It sells for around $38 on the Internet.

I still may experiment with the Solar Monkey (pre hike) if I decide to hike with a GPS, camera, or rechargeable headlamp.

Solar Monkey Review

Cheers :)

10-19-2014, 19:54
I just wonder what hikers 40 yrs ago would think of this thread?Other than that you guys today are all sissies because we hiked 20-30 miles to school in the snow?

Ahh, the good old days. Hobnail boots, canvas tents, canned goods, army field packs, and only the nerds used technical devices like the compass. With the womenfolk waiting patiently, keeping the homecoming warm.

Since the solar chargers were even less efficient than now, we rarely used them, though I did use a 1970s vintage charger in the Grand Canyon until finally replacing it with a better one around 2000 or so.

kayak karl
10-19-2014, 20:39
I just wonder what hikers 40 yrs ago would think of this thread? what would they be charging ??

Woof Shaven
10-19-2014, 20:47
My dad use to walk at least four miles to the bus stop when the buggy or sleigh was not available in Bradford County Pennsylvania.

He never learned how to use computers, but he was really good at making maple syrup. Other than that he was a first class traveling sales man from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, he was in just about every frequent flyers type "Ambassadors" club (those exclusive posh places) that most airlines offers to their most well traveled of customers.

Anyways I am all about tech in the field for communications, navigation, lighting, and perhaps emergency location; if I can find reliable power that is. Otherwise I'll just trim it down to just communications.

If all goes well I may pick up a camera. I snuck into one of Rake's posts and found a really good reference link for photography gadgets. I'm not sure my money well go far enough for that luxury item but if it does I will use that thread as a spring board for my research.

I'm still sourcing my gear. I will scrub it for weight and I'm sure things I thought I would be bringing won't make the final cut.

My objective is Springer Mountain to Hot Springs. So I am gearing up as if I am going THRU instead of just a THRU-TO.

10-20-2014, 01:03
what would they be charging ??AA NiCad batteries. Yeah, we had batteries, invented just a few years earlier, about the same time as the wheel.

10-20-2014, 10:30
I want to emphasize that solar chargers are really NOT a good idea for the AT. There just isn't enough sun!

The solar panels are a much better choice out West where you can hike in the open all day. But you will never get a charge in the "long green tunnel!!" Your charger will just be an expensive decorative ornament for your pack ;)

Another option is to just bring an extra battery for your phone and camera. Those little square Li-ion batteries are much lighter than a charging pack, although it does take more effort in town to make sure you switch and charge both batteries. As others have pointed out, I wouldn't worry about the head lamp. Just use a normal LED lamp that runs on AAAs. You will probably only use it a few minutes every day, and your batteries will last a long time. Plus a head lamp is not a total necessity so you will live if you have to wait a day or two to buy new batteries in town. Some lamps will start going dim for a while to warn that the batteries are dying. Others have a green-yellow-red indicator of battery life.

10-26-2014, 18:29

10-26-2014, 19:13
funny, that looks like somebody's I know.

10-29-2014, 09:24
So, I am wanting to hike out to Burning Man one year, so a Solar panel charger would be a good ides for me since I will be out in the desert. Of course like I said in an earlier post, I'd use a solar panel to trickle charge a heavy duty battery pack which will do all the heavy lifting of charging my phone and GoPro.