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#291949 - 03/14/19 06:54 PM New portable Solar charger
Russ Online   content
Geezer

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5118
Loc: SOCAL
I recently picked up a folding solar panel to charge my cell phone & GPS when out and about. It’s a RAVPower (no affiliation) 16W panel with two USB output ports which together top out at 3.2 Amps (full sun, optimum exposure). I really only need one port and 2 Amps max, but those tend to be smaller panels and this gives me a spare port and wiggle room for exposure.

Testing, testing — as I type the panel is laying across a bush in the back yard attached to my flip-phone. If the phone’s estimate is correct it should be fully charged in ~45 minutes or so. Then I do the same with my GPS.

Amazon shows a number of folding solar panels from different manufacturers and of different wattage output, some with two USB ports, others with three. The larger one from this manufacturer has three ports, but since I would need a max of two and normally only one, the smaller of their offerings seemed a better choice. In any case since available power is shared by the two or three ports, more ports is not always an advantage. This one looked to be well built and a good size for hiking.

OutdoorGearLab’s ”The Best Portable Solar Panels and Chargers of 2019” shows this one to be middle of the pack, however my test is running ahead of schedule (that’s a good thing I think), so while it may not be #1, it’s good enough. I initially rejected their Editor’s Choice (BigBlue 28W) primarily because of size, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get it too — objective opinions count and it looks like a great way to recharge a 20,000 mAh power bank.

Done, phone’s charged, test complete.

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#291954 - 03/15/19 08:00 AM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: Russ]
Tjin Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 04/08/02
Posts: 1756
I have a 20W unit, but noticed one issue in summer heat. The panel has a pocket for a powerbank, but in summer the panel can get hot enough that the powerbank will refuse to charge. So i need to extend the cable and put the powerbank somewhere in the shade.
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#291955 - 03/15/19 11:48 AM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: Tjin]
Russ Online   content
Geezer

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5118
Loc: SOCAL
The pocket on this 16W charger is good to keep the USB ports covered when not in use and you might be able to store an additional 3” USB cable, but it would be too tight to store a power bank. The BigBlue 28W has a zippered compartment and a strap for holding a cell phone. Like you indicate though, in direct sun (where the panel should be) it’s going to heat up so probably not as useful as it appears.

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#291956 - 03/15/19 01:37 PM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: Russ]
LesSnyder Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 1547
Loc: New Port Richey, Fla
Tjin... if you make a dedicated support for your panel, whose angle to the Sun can be adjusted to match that of your location in relation to the Equator( I use a 2x4 to slide under a piece of 1/4" plywood, to change angle), a nail driven vertically will cast a shadow on itself when the Sun is directly perpendicular to the orientation of the unit.... I then place my cells under the platform to keep them cool

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#291963 - 03/15/19 07:32 PM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: LesSnyder]
Russ Online   content
Geezer

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5118
Loc: SOCAL
Thanks Les, that’s a great idea for use during/after an event where you can have a dedicated set-up for a portable solar panel. Your nail technique would make it very easy to fine tune a panel’s orientation to the sun.

Fabricating a small shelf in the shadow to place your cellphone or a power bank would keep them cooler and less susceptible to being rained on (for those of you in locales where it rains in the summer).

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#291970 - 03/16/19 02:51 AM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: Russ]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6880
Loc: southern Cal
Russ, thanks for bringing Outdoor Gear Lab to my attention. I note that they did not rank the Goal Zero Nomad panels very high at all. Looking over some of their other ratings, I must say they seem to be a pretty decent outfit and probably a reliable resource.

Portable solar power is indeed a worthwhile technology, especially when the grid is down.


Edited by hikermor (03/16/19 01:04 PM)
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#291971 - 03/16/19 03:35 AM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: hikermor]
Russ Online   content
Geezer

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5118
Loc: SOCAL
The Goal Zero solar panel I have is a 7 watt unit that’s not much smaller folded up than the 16W unit, and the GZ was considerably more $$. 16W is great for the small electronic gear you’d take on short hikes.

For my GZ Yeti 400, I have a 100W Renogy panel, not exactly portable, but lots more output if I need to set up in the backyard.

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#291980 - 03/16/19 08:01 PM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: Russ]
haertig Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2077
Loc: Colorado
For on-the-go charging of a phone or other small device, wouldn't one of the power banks, pre-charged prior to your trip, be more practical? I can recharge my phone (admittedly, a small flip phone) a bazillion times off of one power bank charge.

I've recharged my fliphone several times, my Kindle Fire tablet a couple of times, and my MP3 player once over the last 6 months from a single power bank, and the power bank is still showing 3/4 full (of course that could actually mean 1 second over 1/2 full, since there are 4 LEDs to indicate charge status - 3 of those are currently lit on mine). My power bank is a smallish one, only 12000 mAh and 8.5 oz.

I can see how solar panels would be very handy for extended trips out in the middle of nowhere though. Or if you have a whole lot of power hungry devices that you use frequently (but then, you'd probably spend all your time futzing around with the solar panels and your electronics may become the focus of your trip). And panels are quite a bit more bulky and heavier than a power bank. I would guess they might be more fragile too, but I don't know.

I can see solar panels being a good fallback (backup) if you can handle their space requirements and weight. But unless I'm missing something here, I don't see them as being a very good choice for primary charging.

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#291981 - 03/16/19 08:32 PM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: haertig]
Russ Online   content
Geezer

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5118
Loc: SOCAL
I have both 10k & 20k mAh power banks with the same four lights as yours (Anker) so I totally get what you are saying, but as big as those numbers seem, a power bank’s energy is finite. While I tested it with my flip-phone,the solar panel’s primary job will be to keep the power banks charged.

Besides camping and hiking, one thing I am gearing for is a major EQ which disrupts the power grid and maybe disrupts our way of life. Hikermor has already been kicked out of his house by a mudslide — unexpected stuff happens. Portable solar is a good way to mitigate — at least with the smaller things. It won’t run a refrigerator, but it will keep cellphones, lights and a radio running.

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#291984 - 03/16/19 10:42 PM Re: New portable Solar charger [Re: Russ]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6880
Loc: southern Cal
I see the solar panels as the ultimate, last ditch way to keep small stuff, the phone, lights, GPS running, most likely in an EQ, given my location. Of course, like any good card carrying southern Californian, my wife drives a Prius (a bunch of 18650 batteries on wheels) and I ought to try and hook that up to our fridge. If the gasoline is exhausted, I wonder how long a solar panel would take to fully charge the Prius? Probably too long, but the sun is the ultimate source for juice to run the small stuff.
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