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Thread: solar charger?

  1. #1
    Registered User jdc5294's Avatar
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    Default solar charger?

    I've hiked on many trails, however never on the AT. I'm planning on a thru-hike starting in mid-March of 2012, and one thing I'd like to have with me is a cell phone. However, calling back to base on a semi-regular basis will run the battery down well before I finish.

    I was wondering if anyone has any positive experiences with solar-powered USB chargers while hiking? Strapping one to the outside of my backpack seems (to me) like the easiest way of keeping my phone charged while on the trail.

    I'm not very electronics-savvy, but also if it's realistic to expect one that puts out enough power to run an iPod (i.e., with a surplus of power so that when plugged in it doesn't die).

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Registered User ChinMusic's Avatar
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    Before the leaves come out you might get some charge. After the leaves are out you barely have a chance at a sunburn.
    Fear ridges that are depicted as flat lines on a profile map.

  3. #3

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    Even before the leaves come out, its hard to keep a solar charger in the sun enough to get much of a charge. Hanging it off the back of the pack doesn't cut it, as it rarely gets enough direct sun. If you read the fine print, these solar chargers need 8 to 10 hour of direct noon time sun to go from minimual to full charge. So, if you do run its battery down low, you have to remember to stop and put it in the direct sun for an hour at noon every day for over a week to get it charged up again. Not worth the weight or the expense of buying one.

    So, what can you do instead?
    For a phone, get a cheap, simple, basic phone which has good battery life. Keep it turned off or take the battery out most of the time. A basic Trac phone is a good choice and doesn't cost you a ton of money to keep it on the air.

    For a MP3 player, get one that runs on a single AAA battery. RCA makes one which runs 30 hours on a single AAA, even longer with a lithium.

    If you insist on using a smart phone or an Apple product which runs the battery down quickly, you can get spare external battery packs (sort of like the solar charger, but with out the solar panel) or an emergency charger which runs on two AA batteries.
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  4. #4
    Registered User BigRing's Avatar
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    I just returned from a 9 day backpacking - flyfishing trip and used a Wagan charger and it worked great on keeping my cell and Ipod charged. Although I was stationary, there was little direct sunlight streamside. I tried keeping it in the sunlight, but ended up leaving it out on rock for about 45 minutes while eating lunch and ziptied it to the top of my pack while moving to another campsite. There are lighter units out there...not sure how well they work.

    ....just my .02.

  5. #5

    Default Wouldn't use a solar charger on the A.T.

    I have used a solar charger with good results in other places, but I wouldn't on the A.T. Too much "green tunnel."

    I would address the issue with spare batteries and/or charging in town. Turning off your phone most of the time and reducing usage will help. Most people who hike the AT with a cell phone don't have a solar charger and get by fine.

  6. #6

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    surely buy a cheap nokia (or whichever phone is most common in the US??) and then borrow chargers from people when you get the chance. I think every single person I know owns a nokia charger

  7. #7
    Flip flop, flip flopping' LASHin' 2000 miler
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    After looking at solar and other options, at 5.5 ozs, this is the one that I'm focused on now:

    http://www.rei.com/product/800240/br...e-power-device
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  8. #8
    Northwoods Wanderer TheRaven's Avatar
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    Get one of these and you will not need a charger. Simple, bulletproof, and light. I've had one and it's brilliant in it's simplicity

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_FONE_F3
    School makes you sound wise, while the world actually makes you wise.

  9. #9
    Hash House Harrier
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    As everyone else has said, foliage cover makes solar chargers an uncertain prospect on the AT. The most attractive option I've seen is a battery-powered charging pod, an example of which I'll link below. They're light when empty -- lighter than your phone's wall charger, and lighter than a solar panel -- and don't depend on sunshine or an available wall outlet. You can pick up AA batteries anywhere you'd ordinarily resupply, pop them in, and go about your shopping, then toss them on your way out of town.

    http://www.amazon.com/Energizer-CEL2...9131781&sr=8-2
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  10. #10
    Registered User kayak karl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRaven View Post
    Get one of these and you will not need a charger. Simple, bulletproof, and light. I've had one and it's brilliant in it's simplicity

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_FONE_F3
    you never have to charge it??
    I'm so confused, I'm not sure if I lost my horse or found a rope.

  11. #11
    Northwoods Wanderer TheRaven's Avatar
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    well, you do, but not as much as any other phone currently available. If you don't use it, the battery will last a couple months.
    School makes you sound wise, while the world actually makes you wise.

  12. #12
    Start date: March 13, 2012 Stats 2012's Avatar
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    Hey Willy,

    I agree this looks promising. Let us know if you buy one. I don't suppose there's any difference between the Inspire (Blue) and Inspire (Orange) besides the color, huh?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChillyWilly View Post
    After looking at solar and other options, at 5.5 ozs, this is the one that I'm focused on now:

    http://www.rei.com/product/800240/br...e-power-device
    http://atstats.blogspot.com

    "There are many ways to hike the Trail. Your way will be best. -- Carolyn Cunningham

  13. #13

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    Chilly Willy.. I have what you are looking for. I spend weeks at a time in the Alaskan back country schlepping gear around and photographing. Weight is the biggest issue for me as I have to drag all my gear on my back whilst tracking wildlife and relocating camp. I have tried everything under the sun for charger solutions until I came across this; http://www.newtrent.com/IMP880P-IPho...y-p/imp880.htm, and I now use this charger exclusively. It will charge my nearly dead Iphone twice and still have charge left (I've adapted it to charge other gear too)! I do not have any ties with this company nor do I usually promote other peoples products but, every once in a while I find a gem like this. I have been using this a lot for the last year or so and it still works as good as the day I bought it.

    btw - starting my bid for a through-hike on the AT next March also. Hope to see ya there.

    AKBob - www.wrangellphoto.com (Alaska Nature and Wildlife Photography)

  14. #14
    Flip flop, flip flopping' LASHin' 2000 miler
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    AKBob, Thanks, I'll take a hard look at it. A few ounces heavier than the Brunton, but gotta love an endorsement like that. I've emailed New Trent asking about whether device weights include charger weights, and if not, how much they weigh. I also see they offer devices with the option of charging via USB, and I've asked about whether the Apple USB charger would suffice .... We'll see

    Thanks again, and hope to meet you out there.
    Last edited by LDog; 06-27-2011 at 20:03.
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    Registered User Kalell's Avatar
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    Looking at many solar chargers last year. I got an extra battery for the phone, and contemplating the energi to go instant charger. Cell Phone is critical due to family and sons wanting updates.
    It is not the destination but the journey.

  16. #16
    Registered User Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    jdc5294


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    Over the years there has been a lot of miss-information here on WB almost frustrating... first let me encourage you, I am glad you posted. there are two thoughts of phones.... Smart Phones and Dumb Phones with a second battery... The new phone batteries will hold a charge for a month and weigh about two ounces. The offered panels on the market appear to be first generation... "low watts" except the pricy Bruton.

    Secret to identify good panels... the micro wires that are printed on the best panels in plain view are closer together... a kyocera japan patent to making more electricity in ambient light. So on a foggy day or a sunset you CAN CHARGE!
    \\

    http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?60271-Solar-Goose-(New-Cottage-manufacture)&highlight=

    Don't forget there is freq, no signal in areas, this is one solution
    Last edited by Wise Old Owl; 08-09-2011 at 23:59.
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  17. #17
    Flip flop, flip flopping' LASHin' 2000 miler
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKBOb View Post
    Chilly Willy... I have tried everything under the sun for charger solutions until I came across this; http://www.newtrent.com/IMP880P-IPho...y-p/imp880.htm, and I now use this charger exclusively. It will charge my nearly dead Iphone twice and still have charge left
    After emailing with their very knowledgeable and responsive customer service, I pushed the button on their IMP1000. At
    11000 m/Ah, it should recharge my droid 5-6 times. Might be overkill, and it ain't light, but better than carrying a comparable number of batteries-which would all have to be charged ...

    --
    Chilly

    May just grab my pack and head for the mountains ...

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  18. #18
    Flip flop, flip flopping' LASHin' 2000 miler
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChillyWilly View Post
    I pushed the button on their IMP1000. At 11000 m/Ah, it should recharge my droid 5-6 times. Might be overkill, and it ain't light, but better than carrying a comparable number of batteries-which would all have to be charged
    Got it today, put it on my scale, and found it to be 10.25 ozs vice 8. I was already taking on a lot of excess weight for what was arguably excessive capacity, but this was too much. I wrote them and asked for a return authorization to exchange for an IMP-500.

    I'd only expect 3 recharges out of that, but I'm getting two solid days of use out of this phone between charges, so it ought to be sufficient.

    --
    Chilly
    laughingdawg.blogspot.com
    Last edited by LDog; 08-11-2011 at 20:29.
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  19. #19
    Registered User Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    I would not be so quick to send it back... might be just what the doc ordered.
    Dogs are excellent judges of character, this fact goes a long way toward explaining why some people don't like being around them.

    Woo

  20. #20
    Flip flop, flip flopping' LASHin' 2000 miler
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    That big un would allow me to do whatever the hell I wanted with that smartphone. Use the GPS as much as I wanted, write long journal entries, upload pics, read my comics in the morning ... Being able to recharge the IMP-500 three times between town visits ought to be sufficient. By leaving the phone turned off when I don't need it, and managing power consumption when I do, I should be able to go as many as six or seven days. Be interesting to see if the IMP500 weighs what they claim ... Theoretically, it's a 2 oz difference.
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