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Bikepacking The Bikebacking forum is for discussion that relates directly to bikepacking (also known as bicycle camping). Subject matter should involve the backpacking/camping/bike gear and trip planning as it relates to mountain biking and bicycle touring.


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  #1  
Old 01-14-2010, 01:04 AM
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Debkirk Debkirk is offline
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Looking for the best solar panel

Bikepackers with laptops. Yes, really. We are looking for a solar array that will charge a small laptop while we are biking through the boonies. Failing that, we'd sure like advice on a solar array to power a cell phone, radio, batteries, etc.
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  #2  
Old 01-14-2010, 09:06 AM
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dsuursoo dsuursoo is offline
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you'll need a charger that gets above the DC voltage the laptop runs on. the laptop will pull it down to the right voltage, no worries there.

now as to charge rates and times.. that really depends on the array. my toshiba's charger runs at 3.4 amps. you'd be hard pressed to find too many compact solar units that output. odds are you'd have to get it custom built, as most solar units are designed to run at 3-7 volts, 1-2000 mA, compared to the 12-20 volts your laptop probably takes(at 2-5 amps).

a custom built unit... that'll run you some money. especially with your requirements.

it also won't be small. to get that sort of amperage the array will probably measure 8x12 or bigger. you'll need a battery pack to go with it to condition the power and to provide for a reserve once your electronics are done charging.

it can be done. not cheaply, but it can be done. investing in a spare battery or two, and charging them when you reach civilization would be easier, and might be cheaper.

now, to the other half: there are indeed a variety of chargers out there for radios/cellphones/PDAs/ipods. REI carries a few, i've heard lots of good things about the solio line of chargers. for charging while you ride, you could get away with strapping the unit on the top of your pannier.

picking up a separate battery pack can also allow you to charge multiple items, though every couple of days you'll need to not charge anything and let the panel charge the separate pack(the panels have internal batteries as well).
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  #3  
Old 01-14-2010, 12:27 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Have a look at some of the Brunton Solar options. You'll find 12v output among them (e.g. Brunton Solaris 62).

I'm not sure of your weight parameters or how/when you plan to use it.

Reality
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  #4  
Old 01-14-2010, 01:51 PM
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dsuursoo dsuursoo is offline
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those might do the job depending on your laptop's power demands. i didn't know brunton made those.

they ARE big. heavy too. but weight doesn't matter much for bikepacking.

bit large to strap to the outside of the panniers.
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  #5  
Old 01-14-2010, 02:03 PM
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richwads richwads is offline
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I have a small solar panel system (200 watts) with charge controller, deep cycle batteries, etc. on my home for backup power for 12V lights, amateur radio operation, etc.

Most solar panels are wired for 12 or 24 volt nominal output with no controller, because they are intended for charging 12 or 24 v. battery systems. The actual output voltage is usually 15-17 volt, as a 12 volt battery typically rests at 12.6 volts fully charged.

OK, then, the small systems intended for charging cell phones etc. have controllers built in to keep from overcharging those devices. So, one needs to be careful about all these voltage numbers being thrown around. If the laptop charger is rated at 12 volts nominal, you can use any conventional solar array rated for 12 volts nominal, with no charge controller as long as the ampere-hour rating of the battery is at least 10 times as great as the array's ampere output. This means it will take at least 10 hours to fully charge a competely discharged battery with this array. Charging at a faster rate requires a "smart" charger to keep from overcharging and damaging the battery.

Otherwise, a solar charging system specifically designed for charging the battery in question may be required.

Hope this helps .
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  #6  
Old 01-15-2010, 06:48 PM
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niallgar niallgar is offline
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The Solar Uno Slim weighs 3.3oz or 95grams and sells for about $29.
It could be used for small devices. I believe it is made in South Africa.
It charges devices that connect to a USB port.

Specifications...

Solar Power:
Amorphous
0.5 Watts

USB Output:
Max: 5W (USB v2)
(1,000mA @ 5V)

Two AAA : 700mAHr NiMh batteries included
Full Sun:
mp3 in 2.5 hours
1 x AAA in 2 hours
2 x AAA in 4 hours

60% Sun:
mp3 in 4 hours
1 x AAA in 4 hours
2 x AAA in 8 hours

Dimensions:
8 x 3.5 x 1.75"
20.4 x 9 x 4.5cm
3.3oz / 95g

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  #7  
Old 01-17-2010, 07:37 PM
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WildlifeNate WildlifeNate is offline
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Ouch. You might be better off with an iPod Touch/iPhone or other smartphone (or maybe an Archos 5 if you're willing to tolerate crappy customer service) capable of full web browsing and a Solio or some other lightweight charger.

I'm looking at just a basic vacation this summer and leaving the laptop at home in favor of my iPod Touch. It can use the web just fine, which is all I'd bring the laptop for anyway.
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  #8  
Old 01-17-2010, 09:18 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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I know what WildlifeNate means with regard to using a smart phone. These days they can provide email and relatively useful web access. But this assumes that Internet connectivity is the goal.

I also understand the need of those who use a laptop for video and still photography handling/management capabilities. Others travel in areas in which having their own computer along is the only way to access one.

The point remains, if you can manage with something smaller - with less power demands, you may wish to consider it. Depending upon where you're going, its become much easier to gain access to computers to do electronic chores.

Reality
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  #9  
Old 01-18-2010, 06:38 PM
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richwads richwads is offline
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Just for fun, I checked the battery and AC adaptor specs for my notebook computer.

The AC adaptor is a 65 watt output, with 19.5 volts and 3.34 amps continuous.

The batteries available vary from 11.1 volt to 14.8 volt depending on type. I'm not sure which one I have, but it doesn't matter, as the "smart charger" seems to be built into the battery case.

A 50 watt solar panel puts out about 17 volts (depending on the maker) at 3 to 3.5 amps. This would effectively replace the AC adaptor. I would need a connector to match my laptop to wire onto the panel, and need to get the polarity right (positive and negative terminals) and be set. A 50 watt panel isn't very portable or cheap, however.

This is hypothetical, using my computer as an example. YMMV.
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  #10  
Old 01-18-2010, 09:40 PM
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big_load big_load is offline
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You don't need to replace the full capability of your AC adapter unless you plan to operate continuously. Figure out how many Ampere-hours of use you need per day and how much charging time you need to replace it. That should set the required panel size.
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