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Thread: Solar chargers

  1. #1

    Default Solar chargers

    What’s one of the best solar chargers that you have found for backpacking?

  2. #2
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    IMHO Anker Solar Lite 2 is the best value.

    The Solar Lite claims 15 Watts of power, only 12.5oz in weight, and currently cost $39.99.

    Similar panels from the likes of GoalZero are either much heavier and/or more expensive that the Anker.

    I've heard of some PCT hikers liking the Suntactics Solar Chargers. The smallest panel is only 7oz, but only 5 Watts of output and costs $109.95. {Edit: See update below, they have an even lighter one now}


    When I was researching solar panels for a 2016 JMT hike, reviews often suggested getting panels with a minimum of 10 Watts of power.
    When I looked at the cost/benefits, I could only conclude the Anker was the best.


    Something you will need to test and consider is the devices you plan to use with the solar panel.
    What I did for the JMT was the Anker Solar Lite paired with one of their 4oz "lipstick" batteries. I would hang the panel on the back of my pack and charge the battery because it would keep charging as the panel moved in and out of shadows. I would then charge my phone at night of the battery. But my camera would NOT charge of the battery. It HAD to charge directly off the solar panel. But every time the panel went into the shade of a tree or bush, or if I turned the panel away from the sun, my camera would quit charging and would not start recharging until you unplugged it and plugged it back in (I've heard of phones, particularity Apple phones often behaving this way).

    While I have no practical experience nor recall hearing any reports from others, the Suntactics claims to have "Auto-Retry" technology to prevent you from having to unplug and replug your device back in to get it charging again after going in the shade.

    I also see that Suntactics has a newer panel than from what I did my research. Supposedly the same 5W of output, but they have dropped the weight from 7oz to 5.6oz and the cost to $89.95. They seem to have dropped the weight by removing the hing, and I don't see where the website claims this ligher one has the auto retry technology.

  3. #3

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    If you plan to use a solar charger on the AT, forget it. The green tunnel is not condusive to solar charging. Out west where there is little or no shade it's a different story.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  4. #4

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    On the AT they are about worthless. Carry a large enough power bank to charge your electronics for 3-4 days. You will find a plug about that often. I would get one with QuickCharge input, which is separate from output. Without QuickCharge input, it can take 12 hours to fully recharge. With it, it can be as low as 4 hours for the big packs. Anker is about the best out there for power banks.

  5. #5
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    What's BEST is variable.

    Determine your energy expectations within the framework of how you backpack and the specific hike. Divide those expectations into needs and wants...defining them as well as you can. Too often there's a high expectation of unlimited always available energy supply for usages that are more creature comforts especially by those from the U.S. where unbridled energy consumption and comfort is the norm and energy conservation, staying within an "energy budget", or any budget, has grown out of favor. If you jump into backpacking solar charges unconscious of energy habits and energy needs and unwilling to change any energy habits adapting them to backpacking you're rolling the dice. If you're more aware, more knowledgeable, which is what you're seeking, a solar charger can be more effective at supplying all or supplementing energy needs and wants...on the AT. It helps organize a hike while supplying energy needs when we're aware of our usage needs and habits.

    There're surely backpacking solar chargers that have supplied the energy requirements for AT hikers/AT thru hikers...facilitated when backpackers haven't ignore these factors. I've hiked many miles with these people. The AT is not all a green tunnel! AT hikers can get sun burned on the AT too. That means sunlight does occur but not universally with constant intensity equally day after day. These factors heavily impact whether a solar charger will work FOR YOU on the AT or anywhere you choose to hike. I've hiked with another who charged their Smartphone on a drizzly Olympics NP hike. I thought they were nuts when I saw it. I was wrong! I've known hikers and climbers who use them in Alaska where the solar angle is low. I've heard about skiers and snowshoers using them in winter in Colorado on multiday advnentures .

    Where I have some personal experience is in supplying energy needs using solar for electronics, running a pump, and lighting off grid in a Tiny House when I'm there and constructing passive solar power systems in MN.AZ, CA, HI and MN(in a forest in northern MN near the Can border). FWIW, to be clear my on trail energy needs are largely so minimal and backpacking habits so amendable I currently can get away with just a Anker battery storage. But that's me. You are you.

    What's best depends on how we work out our energy needs. That may mean altering off trail energy habits adapting them to hikes, relegating more high energy consumptive tasks when "plugged in" at in town resupply stops, perhaps resupplying more frequently(which also can lower consumable wt), stopping on a sunny bald to more efficiently charge while also enjoying the sights and warmth or cleaning up ourselves and gear like a sunny stream side area, adding a back up battery for storage perhaps, making sure all batteries are fully charged before leaving an in town Nero or Zero, etc. This gets us to realize there are no unlimited always available free energy rides. There are trade offs.

    https://www.theadventurejunkies.com/...olar-chargers/
    https://www.outsidepursuits.com/best...charger/#anker


    If a bit more wt conscious BPL has some solar charger threads be worthy looking at.

    The folks who say they are worthless for backpacking the AT are the ones who haven't been able to work it or are regurgitating what they heard from those who haven't made it work so apply those experiences to what everyone else will experience.

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    Learn to manage battery.
    Airplane mode
    Gps ...off ...unless want quick spot check.

    Even watching some video or kindle in night in tent, and taking 50 pic per day, few gps checks, etc, i can go 5 days without touching my 6.3 oz backup battery. And it will charge phone 2+ times.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    The folks who say they are worthless for backpacking the AT are the ones who haven't been able to work it or are regurgitating what they heard from those who haven't made it work so apply those experiences to what everyone else will experience.

    Can it be made to work? Probably, but is it worth the cost? Depends. On the AT, probably not.

    As an experiment, I carried a solar garden light on the back of my pack on a hike from Springer to Marion, VA, early April to mid May time frame.

    There were days where the light would stay on nearly all night. It made a great night light. There were many more days where it would only come on for an hour or two, or not on at all. I got to rating the quality of the day by how long my night light stayed on.

    By the time I got to Damascus, my night light was not coming on at all. The trees had leafed out and it wasn't getting enough sun to do much more then blink on for a second or two when it got dark. I left it at a sunny picnic table in Damascus, figured it would be more useful there. Wasn't worth carrying anymore.

    I think that's a pretty good indication of what one can expect from a solar charger on the AT. Works for a bit early on, then not so much once the tree leaf out.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    I apologize if I came down too hard.

    Exactly, is it worth the cost? Can it be made to work? Each person has to identify that for themselves. A user's energy habits, load needs, and backpacking style plays into if solar is worth it for them on the AT. It's no different than rain wear, footwear, etc. Backpacking is great. There's a great degree of flexibility in how we each make choices. Rules are few. Hard to foul out of the game.


    I suspect you're from a different probably older era when energy demands expecting constant usage on a hike and constant digital connectivity were less than younger folks or folks in specific trail situations(journaling, daily working etc from trail, daily checking in with wife and kids, navigation).

    You may have experienced lower quality cheaper solar garden lights or ones that simply weren't efficient enough. Cheaper solar garden lights may have regionally dominated the solar garden light market. There have been strides forward in solar energy supplied garden fixtures with greater efficiency and ranges of uses even charging under low light conditions.

    I'm waiting for more efficient thin film amorphous solar to possibly be used in solar spray on apps like on hats, backpacks, clothing, paddling shells, bikes, airplane fuselages, etc "Nikwax" Solar in a can.

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    While I would generally agree that a solar charger isn't ideal on the AT... for some it could be workable... especially if you are the type to stop from time to time that might give you a chance to set the solar panel out in the sun while you're stopped.

    Because you're going to encounter so much shade along the AT, if you want to try a solar panel, I would suggest that you use the panel to try to charge a battery up during the day with what power it can get during the day, then quick charge your device off the battery at night.

    And for only $40 for a 15 Watt Anker panel... it's not very expensive if you want buy it and give it a try for a while.

  10. #10

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    Okay, you got me curious as to what's out there. I haven't looked in a while.

    Wow, there are a zillion USB battery packs with a small solar panel attached. For not much money either, often less then $20. Sadly these are definitely useless. They are typically attached to the pack with a carabiner and allowed to just bounce around. The people I've seen with these just use it as a USB power pack, charged in town. The solar cells are just decoration. They contribute little or nothing to charging the battery.

    To have any chance of being useful, you need a big panel. These start to get expensive and become increasingly difficult to attach to a pack and not get in the way.

    In the end a 10K power pack is more then sufficient for most peoples needs between towns. It's smaller, lighter and a lot less hassle then a solar charger.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Learn to manage battery.
    Airplane mode
    Gps ...off ...unless want quick spot check.

    Even watching some video or kindle in night in tent, and taking 50 pic per day, few gps checks, etc, i can go 5 days without touching my 6.3 oz backup battery. And it will charge phone 2+ times.
    Can't agree more. Before starting a trip or after updating social media, checking emails, etc, do some device maintenance to reserve power. Force stop battery draining apps like FB, clean system memory, set on ultra power save mode if that still allows you all the apps you need/want while hiking. Shut phone down as early as possible once at camp.
    You can walk in another person's shoes, but only with your feet

  12. #12

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    Time and time again, people have run the numbers with solar, and it doesn't work. Unless you're on extended 10+ day stretches with no charging opportunities, save the money and weight and just buy a power brick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AllDownhillFromHere View Post
    Time and time again, people have run the numbers with solar, and it doesn't work. Unless you're on extended 10+ day stretches with no charging opportunities, save the money and weight and just buy a power brick.
    Umm? Those on shorter hikes even with possible off trail charging opps can have heavy energy demands in excess of availability or reasonable battery wt and cost trade offs. And, even if off trail charging opps might be available getting to them can be highly inconvenient or otherwise unacceptable. It happens with food resupply even on the AT. Some backpackers mainly camp possibly having greater availability to solar charging while stationary. Some may be fisherman/backpackers having high energy demands. Some are extensive photographers or videographers and/or on their Smartphones or tablets alot needing it for all manner of apps like constant navigation, map reading, writing professionally with daily or every other day required uploads, day traders, etc Solar chargers are increasing lighter wt, more efficient, having wider applicability, and lower priced. More people are bringing their off trail work responsibilities to the trail. This can require high energy usage on short duration remote hikes. There's a matter of comfort and convenience as well. The solar charger offers options and can be under a lb with a battery.


    The thread was posted in the Electronics Forum not in an AT specific forum as well so generalized opinions should be with held and considered before being offered.

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    "The Long Green Tunnel" is bull crap. Theres plenty of sun on the AT. Plenty.

    I wouldnt consider a solar charger on the AT for the sole fact theres an outlet every few days.

    My buddy had a battery bank WITH a built in solar panel. It worked quite well actually...

    But when you start comparing weights and such then power banks are typically the clear choice.

    Hiked the whole AT with a cell phone, usb headlamp, and 5,000 mah battery bank.

    Rarely touched the battery bank. My next hike im thinking about going to an AAA flashlight and a seperate camera.

    Electornics are heavy

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  15. #15

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    I was just looking over the selection of battery packs with a built in solar panel. Lots of people selling the same half dozen models. $15 and free shipping. At the bottom they all say "manufacture claims 500,000 mah. Our test show 18,000 to 20,000. Solar charging is for emergencies only. Use AC charger. Do not leave in sun for long periods (!?)." Doesn't sound too reliable to me. These all have 1 or 1.5 W panels, under ideal conditions. Conditions are never ideal, so mostly you get a trickel out of the panel. As a bonus, most have a built in flashlight and come with a little compass.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I was just looking over the selection of battery packs with a built in solar panel. Lots of people selling the same half dozen models. $15 and free shipping. At the bottom they all say "manufacture claims 500,000 mah. Our test show 18,000 to 20,000. Solar charging is for emergencies only. Use AC charger. Do not leave in sun for long periods (!?)." Doesn't sound too reliable to me. These all have 1 or 1.5 W panels, under ideal conditions. Conditions are never ideal, so mostly you get a trickel out of the panel. As a bonus, most have a built in flashlight and come with a little compass.
    I believe his was goal zero



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