Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Gear Talk => Topic started by: BikingBrian on June 21, 2013, 12:10:34 pm

 
Title: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: BikingBrian on June 21, 2013, 12:10:34 pm
I'll be riding the Oregon coast in a couple of weeks would like to keep my iPhone and Garmin Edge 500 charged up. I've been thinking about getting a solar panel, but I'm wondering if it's more trouble than it's worth, any thoughts? I have a USB charger that can use 4 AA batteries, and I have an external battery pack which can be charged by AC power. So that may be enough of a backup if I'm away from AC power.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: staehpj1 on June 21, 2013, 03:45:02 pm
I'd skip the solar panel.  You will find lots of places to plug in, especially if you plan to eat a diner meal here and there.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: John Nelson on June 21, 2013, 05:57:29 pm
There isn't anyplace in the U.S. where you will be away from AC power for very long. Of course, you may find yourself sitting around some power plug for longer than you want while waiting for stuff to charge.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: mdxix on June 21, 2013, 08:17:46 pm
I have tried the Solio (http://store.solio.com/Solio-Store/Solio-Bolt-Solar-Charger-S620-AH1RW) and did not have much luck with it. I would much rather carry extra USB batteries (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002FU6KF2) and USB charger. Each of these USB batteries bring the iPhone or the Garmin Edge 810 to about 50%.

The solar charger had to be in direct most optimal sunlight. Anything else would not charge the iPhone: change of angle, clouds, shade, and direction.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: BikingBrian on June 23, 2013, 12:01:35 am
I ended up getting this, because it was pretty cheap and had a built-in battery. I will probably have AC much of the time, but this is small enough to have "just in case". If it works out well, I'll post back here.

http://www.instapark.com/solar-power-panels/mercury-4s-ultra-slim-portable-solar-usb-cell-phone-charger.html
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: freightbike on June 29, 2013, 08:58:04 pm
The solar panel is a bit iffy. I recently attempted to start a tour on the west coast in WA and OR using a very large solar panel that was to charge up a battery pack to power a C-PAP device. The panel was flexible enough to drape over my BOB trailer but because of cloudy, rainy and heavy woods, I was not able to get more than two or three hours run time on my C-PAP. The panel measured 21"x 30". Maybe it would have worked better east of the coastal mountains.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: paddleboy17 on July 01, 2013, 12:32:59 pm
The solar panel is a bit iffy. I recently attempted to start a tour on the west coast in WA and OR using a very large solar panel that was to charge up a battery pack to power a C-PAP device. The panel was flexible enough to drape over my BOB trailer but because of cloudy, rainy and heavy woods, I was not able to get more than two or three hours run time on my C-PAP. The panel measured 21"x 30". Maybe it would have worked better east of the coastal mountains.

This is not a fair comparison from my point of view.  Your CPAP batteries are huge (3x+) in comparison to what the iPhone and GPS combined need.  CPAP batteries would be much more difficult to charge from solar, whereas one could charge some AAs and an iPhone.  With new iron phosphate batteries being so much cheaper than they used to be, I would just get a 10 or 15 AH battery and plan on AC charging for your CPAP.  I have 10AH x 12VDC NiMH batteries, but this is the last season that I am going to use them.  Recharging wastes half of the input power as heat.  Lithium ion batteries are so much more efficient at charging, and iron phosphate batteries ( 1 of 3 different lithium ion implementation) are a better approximation for the lead acid cells that a CPAP machine was designed to run on.

I do agree with your outcome though.  You have to bring AC chargers for cloudy days anyways, and AC charging should be available.  In a pinch, alkaline AAs can be bought for the GPS.  And rechargable NiMH AAs are going to waste half of the input power as heat.  I carry a POWERGEN external battery which should easily give you 3 full charges to your iPhone.  So as desirable as solar charging is, I just don't think it is quite ready for prime time yet when it comes to bike touring in the USA.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: conifir on July 01, 2013, 10:51:17 pm
I wanted to eliminate the daily search for batteries...  Or to be looking where I could plug in my chargers.... An after many many moons of :-) disappoint with what is out there....  Last year I bought a solar charger that does it all....   GOALZERO NOMAD    it is worth every penny.      Good luck
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: aggie on July 02, 2013, 05:38:02 pm
Like mdxix I tried a Solio.  It just never seemed to get a full charge while I was riding.  If I stopped for a day and left it out I got a full charge.  This particular one may not be the best for charging on the back of your back.  I use an AA battery charger when I can't find an outlet to recharge my stuff.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: rcrampton on July 06, 2013, 09:24:48 am
I'd skip the solar panel.  You will find lots of places to plug in, especially if you plan to eat a diner meal here and there.

I had no shortage of places to plug in along the OR coast. We stopped for snacks at a convenience store a couple of times per day and ate lunch on the road. If I were using a phone with GPS running all day and needed more juice then I'd personally go with a dynamo hub with a USB port. Expensive, but it would be worth the money over the solar solutions for me.
 
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: kmwoley on August 10, 2013, 04:37:52 am
I took a solar panel on my last tour and found it moderately useful - mostly for the days camping where I had it stationary in the sunlight in the morning/afternoon before leaving camp. It did alright on the back rack of the bike, but I generally was near a plug every other day so I could recharge everything so it wasn't truly needed,

(this was the solar panel: sCharger-5, http://www.amazon.com/sCharger-5-Performance-Sunlight-Extremely-Reliable/dp/B003ZFQUWO (http://www.amazon.com/sCharger-5-Performance-Sunlight-Extremely-Reliable/dp/B003ZFQUWO))

The most useful thing was this: Tekkeon MP1580
MPhttp://www.amazon.com/Tekkeon-MP1580-TEKCHARGE-Battery-Charger/dp/B006FXUS1C/ (http://MPhttp://www.amazon.com/Tekkeon-MP1580-TEKCHARGE-Battery-Charger/dp/B006FXUS1C/)

It's a AA battery charger. But it also and lets you recharge other devices off of rechargeable or normal AA batteries. Worked great to charge the cell phone, bike light, or charge the AA batteries for my Garmin Oregon 450.

On my next tour, I'll likely leave the solar panel behind and just take the MP1580 and 6 Eneloop AAs.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: bogiesan on August 13, 2013, 01:25:53 pm
Just returned from Ride Idaho 2013, 400+ miles, six days, northern Idaho panhandle, 370 or so riders. Lots of solar panels this year. By far, the most popular device was the Goal Zero 7. I counted 12 of them in camp. The ham radio operators had 5 more at their fee-based charging station (along with a Honda generator and one of Goal Zero's huge survival-grade solar collectors). This model 7 produces enough power to directly push an iPhone but still requires a bulk storage system to push a tablet.
Why was this the most popular model? The answer I got from several folks: it's available at Costco in a package that is aggressively priced to move.

I took along my little GZ 3.5 and the 4-AA batt pack. The pack only moves the iphone battery charge indicator about 25% even when the pack is completely topped off. So if the phone drops below 70% or so, it will never come all the way back to 100%. Running without the GPS apps and powering down preserved the iPhone but it usually got below 50% by night time. The battery pack only pushed it back to 60-70% so I poached AC mains power couple of times.

I rode with the phone off most of the time but the ipHone was also my camera so that complicated things. Next time I'll take a separate camera, probably equipped with an Eye-fi card to upload directly to the iPhone via wifi.

Sheesh. I just reread that last statement. I just committed to a stupidly complex system.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: SlowAndSlower on August 13, 2013, 11:48:25 pm
Just returned from Ride Idaho 2013, 400+ miles, six days, northern Idaho panhandle, 370 or so riders. Lots of solar panels this year.

Just out of curiosity did you note anyone using hub dynamos and usb charging ports on them?
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: bogiesan on August 14, 2013, 09:26:00 am
Just returned from Ride Idaho 2013, 400+ miles, six days, northern Idaho panhandle, 370 or so riders. Lots of solar panels this year.

Just out of curiosity did you note anyone using hub dynamos and usb charging ports on them?

Negative.
Ride Idaho is a fully supported tour event and 99.9% of the riders are running high zoot racing bikes. The rest of us are on Bike Fridays, recumbents, mountain bikes, fabulously tricked out touring steeds or freak bikes. There were a few touring bikes with dynamo hubs but they were older systems used only for headlights. I saw none of the newer, USB-style hub dynamos.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: Steve All on September 10, 2013, 02:57:23 pm
I was asked to share my experiences with solar (AA/AAA) battery charging in another post, so here's the link:

http://forums.adventurecycling.org/index.php?topic=11969.msg61110#msg61110
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: tonythomson on November 04, 2013, 11:37:42 am
Used a Solar Monkey across Australia, loads of sun, solar panel was loads of rubbish.  Not worth carrying let alone buying unless you want to buy mine.  I guess not uh?

Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: BikingBrian on December 07, 2013, 03:04:09 pm
I ended up getting this, because it was pretty cheap and had a built-in battery. I will probably have AC much of the time, but this is small enough to have "just in case". If it works out well, I'll post back here.

http://www.instapark.com/solar-power-panels/mercury-4s-ultra-slim-portable-solar-usb-cell-phone-charger.html

I forgot to give an update after my tour! I found that I had enough access to AC power to charge a small battery pack, so that was sufficient as a backup to keep the phone/Garmin charged. So the solar panel ended up being excess weight.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: officerdare on January 17, 2014, 10:04:46 am
The solar panel is a bit iffy. I recently attempted to start a tour on the west coast in WA and OR using a very large solar panel that was to charge up a battery pack to power a C-PAP device. The panel was flexible enough to drape over my BOB trailer but because of cloudy, rainy and heavy woods, I was not able to get more than two or three hours run time on my C-PAP. The panel measured 21"x 30". Maybe it would have worked better east of the coastal mountains.
Definitely, not a fair comparison for a solar panel to charge that type of battery.  That being said, I quit using the C-Pap and went with a TAP3 mouth piece and have not looked back since.  Works great (ask my wife) and since it is similar to a mouth guard, no need to worry about batteries, hoses, noise, etc from a CPAP machine.  Also, the Goal Zero products worked great for me in keeping the battery packs charged, which in turn then charged the iPhone, Garmin at night while sleeping.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: SamSpokes on April 25, 2014, 11:54:54 am
Nae nae and thrice nae. They are huge and can barely charge a phone. Presumably if you need one you will be on a distance tour so weight and space is at a premium.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: officerdare on April 25, 2014, 06:06:52 pm
So SamSpokes, what solar panel have you used? 
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: BikePacker on May 08, 2014, 05:48:06 pm
Nay.
Title: Re: Solar Panel - Yea or Nay?
Post by: officerdare on May 10, 2014, 01:47:25 pm
Folks are asking legitimate questions.  Why bother to respond, if you do not have a solar system.