Has anybody tried those solar powered battery chargers?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jay H, May 14, 2003.

  1. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Such as these:

    http://www.brunton.com/catalog.php?i..._category_id=8

    http://www.brunton.com/catalog.php?i..._category_id=8

    http://www.brunton.com/catalog.php?i..._category_id=8

    Wonder how fragile they are and/or how good are they? Would be cool to strap that to the back of my bike rack and charge some NiMH AA batteries on the sunny days. But they would have to be fairly rugged to withstand road riding... I'd imagine you wouldn't want to drop them since I gather the solar cells are fragile, right?

    Jay
     
  2. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    I have a similar device for my car that plugs into the cigarette lighter and trickle-charges the car battery. It actually worked quite well. There was a time when my alternator behaved intermittently. Of course, it worked perfectly when I (and a mechanic-friend) tried to diagnose it, but some days, it wouldn't work at all. The solar battery charger kept me going. I'd use a battery charger overnight in the garage, and then use the solar battery charger during the day while my car was parked outside work. On the days the alternator decided not to work, the solar battery charger allowed me to get the car started for the trip home.

    It's not nearly as fragile as it looks in the pictures (mine looks similar to the one picture in your second link), though mine was certain geared for automotive use.
     
  3. Jay Heyl

    Jay Heyl Stunt Coordinator

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    Unless you absolutely need to detach from the power grid (or just have a bunch of money burning a hole in your pocket), it'll be cheaper in the long run to get a cheap plug-in charger and just buy extra batteries to last through whatever usage you need. The price of NiMH batteries, particularly AA's, has dropped considerably. They can now be had for not much more than what alkalines cost. Battery Space has great prices on AA's if you can buy in quantity. I've purchased from them several times and always been pleased with the product and the service.

    I have a solar charger just like the third link. I've had somewhat mixed results with it, though it got left out in the rain a couple times so that may have something to do with my results. It's a pretty sturdy unit, but it's also a bit large to be carrying around.
     
  4. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Hi Jay Heyl... (Cool, another Jay H! You can be "Jay H #2, since I beat you hear by about a month [​IMG] ), I have a plug in NiMH/Nicad charger, but the idea for the solar powered one is for long distance bike touring. almost everything I plan on bringing is run by AA or AAA, headlamp, GPS, bike light, LED flasher, Tent LED light, PDA, etc. and we are camping so no electric hookups at least until we get to some friends places. A solar charger would be able to be used on the sunny days as we ride to our next campsite. Supposedly, the $80 even has adaptors for cell phones which typically use a battery pack.

    BrianW, now you can tell everybody you have a solar powered car.!! [​IMG]

    Jay
     
  5. Jay Heyl

    Jay Heyl Stunt Coordinator

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    My advice would still be to use the money you would spend on the solar charger to buy more batteries and just take as many batteries as you think you'll need for the whole trip. (Assuming you aren't going for months on end) The solar charger I have is fairly large, at least in the context of what will fit in a bike bag. Volume-wise, you'd be able to put about 50 AA's in the same space. (The batteries would be a lot heavier though.) At Battery Space you can get 60 1800mAh AA's for $55. Depending on which of the solar chargers you were considering, that could be less money and probably last you through a month or more of use.

    The solar charger is also pretty slow. It takes a whole day of full sunshine to charge up four AA NiMH batteries. (It could probably do 8 AA's in the same time if you had the right holder, but that would be more stuff to carry.)
     
  6. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    It's not for me, its for my friend. He's welcome to carry anything he wants as long as he has the room! [​IMG] I plan on using just plain alkalines and perhaps just buy new ones along the way if needed. Alot of the stuff I have are LEDs which last very long, like my Petzl Tikka headlamp has a burn time of like 150+hours or so and since I'm would not use it for hiking, I don't even need it to be bright as fresh. But then again, my friend also wants to carry a PDA w/ GPS software.

    The one thing I'm wondering about is white gas for my stove. I need to check out which towns have a outdoor store so I can refuel once I get there. Especially in Millinocket which is the nearest town to Baxter. I will probably have to refuel either there or somewhere along the way from Orient, ME and get more gas. My MSR can burn other fuels but white gas is the best and the cleanest. I've had problems with gas before, not fun!

    Once, a good friend and I went and hiked the Chilkoot trail in Alaska and we got gas from some hardware store in Skagway and I have no idea what kind of gas it was but it would only simmer, if it would light and prime at all. At the campsites, we resorted to taking boiled water from others when we had the chance. The funny thing is that it worked fine when I was testing it and the first day we had to use it. When we left Skagway and flew to Anchorage, we bought some fuel there and it worked fine in Denali.

    Jay
     
  7. Jay Heyl

    Jay Heyl Stunt Coordinator

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    I hope your friend's GPS is kinder to batteries than mine is. Mine goes through a set of batteries in nothing flat.

    You do realize that Coleman Fuel is white gas, right? I wouldn't think you'd have too much trouble finding Coleman Fuel anywhere there is even a hint of civilization. Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target should all have a generous supply. I would think the bigger problem would be where to store a full gallon of the stuff.

    So where all are you going on this bike trip?
     
  8. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Yes, I've used Colemen fuel before. But it's not like every town has a Walmart or even a hardware store that would carry Coleman Fuel or other brands of White Gas... That's another problem!! You can't find white gas in small quantities.. When I first bought my MSR Whisperlite int. I got a quart sized White Gas container from MSR, but now even Campmor seems only to carry those gallon Coleman containers! Sheesh, which is why there are usually a ton of gas cartons in parks and stuff cause nobody can simply buy 8oz of fuel.

    My friend and I are biking from NJ to Orient, ME and then I'm taking a side trip to Baxter State Park to summit Katahdin, hopefully via the Knife Edge if the weather is good. No way I want to be carrying 9lbs of gas along with me. I'm hopeing to resupply along the way, but I think we're going to be doing a mixture of eating in and going out to restaurants..

    When fellow HTF'er Andrej Dolenc and I did Lake Champlain (around the lake in about 5 days 400 miles), I had my Etrex Vista on my bike. I would go about 10 hours on a pair of 1600mA NiMH batteries and then I would replace it with the spare and that night simply recharge the first pair. But we weren't camping then and stayed at B&Bs or motels so I did have a power supply. The GPS was pretty useful when bike touring, as you can get very approximate miles to the destination.



    Jay
     

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