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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Spokane, WA
    Posts
    818

    Solar Charging Systems

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    Anybody use one on a tour? We have a two week, self supported, mostly camping adventure in the Canadian Rockies planned for this summer. I have been refining my touring gear and the last item I would like to have is some sort of solar charging system for my garmin and phone. I tried a Solio charger last year and it didn't work at all. I'm currently looking at this, www.voltaicsystems.com We would be buying the parts and making our own carrying system to cut down on the weight. Anyone have any experience with this system or any system? I still have some time, but want to decide on something by late spring. bikerHen
    Last edited by bikerHen; 01-14-2010 at 02:25 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    2,738
    This is so timely- I was just researching the same thing! I don't have any advice, but thanks for starting this thread- I'll be watching it

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    WA State
    Posts
    4,391
    REI's web store has some pretty good reviews from people who've actually used the solar chargers that they carry. I had a gift certificate from x-mas and was looking at them. The reviews were handy - though mostly in talking me out of getting one. I was looking specifically at the High Gear Solar Pod - because it claims to be able to charge under artificial light.
    "Sharing the road means getting along, not getting ahead" - 1994 Washington State Driver's Guide

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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    2,617
    I just saw this at CES: http://dvice.com/archives/2010/01/hymini-portable.php

    It seems pretty cool -- charge at night with a breeze, or day with the solar pad - there's a shot of the spokesman holding up the solar panel.
    For 3 days, I get to part of a thousand other journeys.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    105
    I recommend Power Monkey by Power Traveller (that's the company). I've found their solar chargers to be efficient & also robust. By the way - they even do power packs that will charge/power a laptop. Great company - have given Power Monkeys to most of my friends as presents now (just wish I had kept a record of who!)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Spokane, WA
    Posts
    818
    Alimey, thanks for mentioning the power monkey. It was one of the ones I was looking closely at last summer. I forgot about it. Sounds like you use one? You must like it if you have given it as a gift! Can you tell me more about what you charge with it and how it works? Thanks, bikerHen

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    905
    Try one of the Xantrex systems. I have never tried the small ones but used to have the huge home emergency one with the large solar panels, and it kept house appliances going during several tropical storms. Too bad that it did not survive hurricane Ike
    They are very reliable and the internal batteries last forever, so I would trust their small portable systems too. You can use the solar panels or charge from the grid if you are near a working power supply, they charge fast and are really powerful.
    E.'s website: www.earchphoto.com

    2005 Bianchi 928C L'Una RC
    2010 BMC SLX01 racemaster
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    Campy Record and SSM Aspide naked carbon on all bikes

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    646

    Solio

    We just received some solio chargers with our new cell phones last month. They charge the phone fine (when used from the outlet) but I haven't tried the solar charging component yet I will keep you posted. What sorts of problems did you have with yours?

    Good luck on your search.
    Ana
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    2009 Lynskey R230
    Trek Mountain Track 850

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    I'm the only one allowed to whine
    Posts
    10,576
    This looks pretty cool: https://powertraveller.com/iwantsome...nkey-explorer/

    I need a Stokemonkey, a PowerMonkey, and a Monkeylectric for my bike... What's with all the things using "monkey" in their name?
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Spokane, WA
    Posts
    818
    Quote Originally Posted by Ana View Post
    We just received some solio chargers with our new cell phones last month. They charge the phone fine (when used from the outlet) but I haven't tried the solar charging component yet I will keep you posted. What sorts of problems did you have with yours?

    Good luck on your search.
    I charged it with full sunlight. I tried charging my Garmin. After a very short time it showed my Garmin fully charged, but it wasn't charged at all. Tried it a couple of different time, charged it up in the sunlight some more, tried charging my phone but it just didn't seem to have enough power to charge anything. So took it back. I was really hoping it would work. How to keep my phone and garmin charged are my biggest question for touring. I'll have to check out the Xantrex systems. I did take a quick look at the Hymini. I like the idea of the wind generator on a bike. I'm not known for my lighting fast speeds but I guess even my 10-15 mph touring speed would create a little bit of a breeze. bikerHen

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    2,845
    If you need flashlights - they do have a fairly nice set of solar flashlights at costco. They are 2 for $20.

    They weigh 4 ounces and they're these ones:
    http://www.hybridlite.com/Default.asp?Redirected=Y


    I use 'em while touring in my kayak - leave them strapped to the front deck at night and have them while I'm camping at night.


    I've been avoiding solar chargers for now... I figure the longer I avoid buying them, the longer the technology will have to mature. There's a company that is working on making flexible paper thin solar cells, I can't remember the name.

    Obviously, while I'm kayaking, weight & space isn't as big a deal as it is while backpacking or touring on a bike... but I have 2 batteries for my cell phone, and I've got a little thingie that I can pop a couple AA batteries into and charge my phone from the AA. My GPS uses AA batteries. I buy several hong kong cheapies batteries from ebay for my digital cameras and charge all fo those and just take along spare charged batteries. The rest of my headlamps or anything like that take AA, but i use those solar flashlights as much as possible. So I just take spare AA batteries with me.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    HK
    Posts
    3
    Quote Originally Posted by bikerHen View Post
    Anybody use one on a tour? We have a two week, self supported, mostly camping adventure in the Canadian Rockies planned for this summer. I have been refining my touring gear and the last item I would like to have is some sort of solar charging system for my garmin and phone. I tried a Solio charger last year and it didn't work at all. I'm currently looking at this, www.voltaicsystems.com We would be buying the parts and making our own carrying system to cut down on the weight. Anyone have any experience with this system or any system? I still have some time, but want to decide on something by late spring. bikerHen
    Really a good bag! There are many this kind of products in the market. A common disadvantage is take long time to recharge it by sunlight, because solar panel is too small. But in some special situation, for example, no grid area, it's really a useful product. I had a solar charger for my cell phone. If put it under the sun light only takes about 4 hours to fully charge, I have used for several months, work well now.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Spokane, WA
    Posts
    818
    I asked my DH to look at some of the products I've found and ones mentioned here. He wasn't real impressed. Being a DIY'er he has decided to make me one. Says he can make it cheaper and work better. Hmmm . . . guess I'll have to wait and see what he comes up with. If it works, I'll be sure to share his design with everyone! bikerHen

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    105
    Hello BikerHen

    I have the expedition PowerMonkey (I think) which is nice & rubber covered & also has a little solar panel. I use it to charge my iphone, my husband's Samsung phone. In addition I can use it to power my camera (but not charge it as most cameras will only charge a battery once it is out of the camera), also mini speakers - oh yes, and of course my Garmin 705 (in fact, you could probably set it up so you could charge it on the bike!!). One of the best things about it is that it holds a charge for up to a year so you can keep it in your handbag as an emergency. Fully charged it will charge up most mobile phones about twice - and you can also make calls whilst it is charging. There is a little screen on the PM which shows you how much charge it has.

    It's extremely flexible - there are loads of tips (monkey nuts) available for all different kinds of devices. Mind you - it comes packaged with loads of tips too.

    So - I can charge the PowerMonkey via the mains (also comes w/ plugs that work all round the world - but are v compact), via the car (I bought a really cheap USB/cigarette lighter charger), and from my computer using the usb charger, oh yes - and using the solar panel (seems pretty efficient).

    If/when I buy an iSlate I might even look into the Gorillas - or maybe the PowerMonkey will be enough. I definitely recommend it - I like the company too - their website has a section entitled 'Coming Soon' - oh the price of being an early adopter . . .

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    105
    Just had another thought - I've just got a brilliant little Blackburn front light which charges using USB - I bet my little PowerMonkey would charge that too.

    By the way - I did have one of those Solio solar chargers & to be honest I didn't find it that great. One of the problems (aside from charging) was that it didn't come w/ many/any tips & they were really expensive. The PowerMonkey nuts are really cheap.

 

 

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