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Thread: solar panels

  1. #1
    Registered User bluffhead's Avatar
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    Default solar panels

    has anyone used any of the small solar panels for charging misc items like dig cam or cell phone?

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    Many have tried on the AT, and many have failed. It's waaaay to shady on the AT most of the time, and by the time you add the weight for a decent sized panel, you'd be better off just carrying another battery and charging it in town.

    You can get AA battery packs that'll plug into most phones these days too. They run about $20 or so.

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    I started this same thread about 5 or 6 months ago and JS is right. I got more frustrated with the dang thing and ended up just leaving it a home. I also thought it would be a good idea but maybe the tecnology hasnt caught up with the hiking world yet. But hey try it out maybe you can make it work some how.

  4. #4
    I plan, therefore I am Strategic's Avatar
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    Default There is a solution

    The thing is, most of the commercially available solar chargers are a bit behind in technology (though they're catching up in the last few months) and depend on old-fashioned hard silicon solar cells that are fragile and need hard cases to protect them. I have a very different type that's been out for a couple of years that I use when I'm out for more than a few days (I don't bother for less than that because I don't generally need to recharge at all on a short hike) and it works great.

    It's based on thin-film flexible solar cells and produces a fairly good charge even in typical AT light conditions, but only if you use it correctly. It's the SolLight-4AAe from SiliconSolar, which charges 4 AA Ni-MH batteries at a time (though it can also charge AAA batteries of the same type, with a little modification.) The trick is to not just set it out when you stop, but to rig the panel with a ripstop backing and velcro to attach to the top/back of your pack (you stick the battery box in a pack pocket.) That way, it stays in the light all day as you hike and gets the full 8-10 hours of sun that ensures a full charge. You can then use one of the little AA cell phone charger pods to transfer the power to phones, PDAs, Blackberries, etc. with no problem and have the AAs to directly power other gear like cameras, radios and mp3 players.

    The velcro-to-the-pack trick is not something most commercial chargers, with their hard shells and relatively heavy weight, can be used for, but the SolLight weighs only 1oz total (mine's actually 1.2oz after I added the fabric and velcro) so it will stay in place and then roll up small when you need to stow it. Best of all, they only cost about $40 and are largely weatherproof. I love these things. I think the reason you don't see more of them is that the thin-film technology they're based on is patented and so is restricted in it's manufacture (i.e., you can only get them from SiliconSolar.)

    Hope this helps to answer your question and give you some ideas on how to cut yourself free from the plug while on the trail.
    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
    Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strategic View Post
    The thing is, most of the commercially available solar chargers are a bit behind in technology (though they're catching up in the last few months) and depend on old-fashioned hard silicon solar cells that are fragile and need hard cases to protect them. I have a very different type that's been out for a couple of years that I use when I'm out for more than a few days (I don't bother for less than that because I don't generally need to recharge at all on a short hike) and it works great.

    It's based on thin-film flexible solar cells and produces a fairly good charge even in typical AT light conditions, but only if you use it correctly. It's the SolLight-4AAe from SiliconSolar, which charges 4 AA Ni-MH batteries at a time (though it can also charge AAA batteries of the same type, with a little modification.) The trick is to not just set it out when you stop, but to rig the panel with a ripstop backing and velcro to attach to the top/back of your pack (you stick the battery box in a pack pocket.) That way, it stays in the light all day as you hike and gets the full 8-10 hours of sun that ensures a full charge. You can then use one of the little AA cell phone charger pods to transfer the power to phones, PDAs, Blackberries, etc. with no problem and have the AAs to directly power other gear like cameras, radios and mp3 players.

    The velcro-to-the-pack trick is not something most commercial chargers, with their hard shells and relatively heavy weight, can be used for, but the SolLight weighs only 1oz total (mine's actually 1.2oz after I added the fabric and velcro) so it will stay in place and then roll up small when you need to stow it. Best of all, they only cost about $40 and are largely weatherproof. I love these things. I think the reason you don't see more of them is that the thin-film technology they're based on is patented and so is restricted in it's manufacture (i.e., you can only get them from SiliconSolar.)

    Hope this helps to answer your question and give you some ideas on how to cut yourself free from the plug while on the trail.
    I rigged mine with velcro and tape and safty pen. Pretty high class set up! Yous does sound better then the one I had.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowhoe View Post
    I rigged mine with velcro and tape and safty pen. Pretty high class set up! Yous does sound better then the one I had.
    The setup is pretty simple, but it's the panel that makes all the difference. Those thin-film cells produce pretty well (the output on mine is 6v, 150mA) because they have a large surface area compared to other chargers. That's the benefit of their light weight and durable nature. The panel itself is about 6"x5", a way bigger surface area than most solar chargers. I'd tried others too, and mostly hated them as they never seemed to produce much. These guys sold me at first just because the thing was so light and inexpensive, I figured even if it didn't work I wasn't out much.
    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
    Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

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    Wandering Vagabond
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    150mA is very respectable amount for something that size. My only concern is that there is no regulator on the output. I would recommend building a small voltage regulator circuit on the output to protect the batteries from being over charged.

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    I plan, therefore I am Strategic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MintakaCat View Post
    150mA is very respectable amount for something that size. My only concern is that there is no regulator on the output. I would recommend building a small voltage regulator circuit on the output to protect the batteries from being over charged.
    Actually, there is. It has built-in diode protection, which seems to do the trick just fine. I've never had it damage a battery from overcharging.
    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
    Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

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    Wandering Vagabond
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strategic View Post
    Actually, there is. It has built-in diode protection, which seems to do the trick just fine. I've never had it damage a battery from overcharging.
    Nope, the diode is designed to keep the batteries from being drained by the solar panel when there is no light. The diode is not a regulator.

    But still, I like the panel.

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    i have a small and large forl up weather proof solar panel, got it from a warehouse we were cleaning out and they (marine corp) was throwing all of them out. the large one is way to heavy , its about 4'x4' but the smaller one i rigged to keep my car battery charged. i was thinking of splicing a phone charger into it.

  11. #11
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    n power peg. Not yet available on the market. It weighs 9oz and produces energy to charge small electronics (cameras, mp3, phones). Works like one of the wind-up/shake up flash lights. I reallly think this product has potential. The company is actually working on putting wave generators in lake erie for the general power grid.

    You really should read the FAQ's about the product before trashing it. It costs half the amount of the small brunton solar panel and produces almosts the same amount of energy. The owner of the company wanted to produce this product after hiking the AT.

    http://www.greennpower.com/personalenergy/compat
    Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.-John Muir

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