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  1. #1
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    Bikepacking with Solar?

    Its Sunday, it is hot (heading to 40 C), so not much outside activity so here I am throwing some silly ideas around in my head re off the grid power sources. As my Salsa Mukluk 2 is coming and it has a 150mm OLD fork a dynamo off the shelf is not an option so I am just throwing options around in my head and one of those is solar power to recharge a Anker 15,000 Mah battery.

    With a more traditional touring option of racks and panniers I can see a solar panel mounted on the rack, draped over the panniers but with a bikepacking setup I will not have a panniers or a rack which leaves the question of how to mount a solar panel.

    As a guide I am looking at most of the time going five days to seven days between main power sources and I use a Garmin Edge 810 that will be the main item needing charging. I also carry an iPad but that gets limited use and can generally survive this time-frame.

    mmm maybe thinking about this more just sticking with the Anker or two might be a better option.

    Ideas? Anyone have other ideas of on off-grid bikepacking without a dynamo?

    Thanks
    Andrew

  2. #2
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    I've tried Solar Panels before with rack and pannier and I wasn't too impressed. I think the brand was power traveler, they were borrowed. They worked really well on off days when I could keep them directly in the sun but I couldn't get them to work reliably on the bike, 8 hrs into a 7,800Mah power bank (new) would only give about 20% charge onto a garmin or IPhone. I think it is really difficult to keep them orientated optimally on a mountain bike. It was a couple of years ago so they may have improved.
    For bike power generation at the moment I don't think anything beats a dyno hub - but 15,000mah is pushing it, I can charge an iPhone 5, a garmin edge810 and get some charge into a 7,800mah pack (probably 25 to 50%) with a 6W Son 28 and an Ewerks, on all but the steepest days.
    You could look at getting a custom axle built up to take a 15mm Son or SP hub, a local machine shop should be able to work something out. cut some notches into a couple of spacers and on the hub so it won't slip and rip the wires out.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aushiker View Post
    Its Sunday, it is hot (heading to 40 C), so not much outside activity so here I am throwing some silly ideas around in my head re off the grid power sources. As my Salsa Mukluk 2 is coming and it has a 150mm OLD fork a dynamo off the shelf is not an option so I am just throwing options around in my head and one of those is solar power to recharge a Anker 15,000 Mah battery.

    With a more traditional touring option of racks and panniers I can see a solar panel mounted on the rack, draped over the panniers but with a bikepacking setup I will not have a panniers or a rack which leaves the question of how to mount a solar panel.

    As a guide I am looking at most of the time going five days to seven days between main power sources and I use a Garmin Edge 810 that will be the main item needing charging. I also carry an iPad but that gets limited use and can generally survive this time-frame.

    mmm maybe thinking about this more just sticking with the Anker or two might be a better option.

    Ideas? Anyone have other ideas of on off-grid bikepacking without a dynamo?

    Thanks
    Andrew
    Hola Andrew,

    I think Salsa sells 135mm forks for Muklulks... but Id be using "small" foldable solar panels while bikepacking. Im attaching to my handlebar bag a Goal Zero Nomad 13 (to power a Goal Zero Sherpa 50 & Guide 10+) to power my Suunto Ambit2, smartphone, DSLR camera, Delorme InReach, tablet, & GPS... but I also have a dynamo just in case

    Saludos,
    Federico

    PS: Im located close to Patagonia where the sun is REALLY strong... something to do with screwing the Ozone layer
    Cycling in developing countries, making & printing portraits for those families who've NONE. www.theironlyportrait.com

  4. #4
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    Solar-only, I'd be real leery about. You would need a rather large bank of cells to get enough juice with the really suboptimal charging you'd get on a mtb. Ideally, the panels would work best if you could be stationary to charge them, so you get them out into the open with an optimal view of the sun. While riding...you can hang panels on a rear rack, on a backpack, that sort of thing...but you'll not be getting the best charge all the time that way.

    Power usage is going to be an important factor, too. How long will your device last on a charge before it needs charged up? A DSLR, I wouldn't be terribly concerned. My Canon battery lasts quite a long time. With a spare or two, you'll get quite a long time without needing to recharge. A fitness GPS that would need a charge every day or two? That's really pushing it. Add a smartphone and its battery needs. Ouch.

    I think solar is a good thing to have available, especially if you'll be spending time in one place, basecamping for awhile. But I think it's incomplete enough that having other options is important.

    Some other options:
    The fuel cell charger that generates electricity on the go ? myFC PowerTrekk
    Kraftwerk Fuel Cell Lets You Charge Your Phone With Butane | Popular Science
    Depending on power needs and recharge opportunities:
    Amazon.com: Anker 2nd Gen Astro E5 16000mAh Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank with PowerIQ? Technology 2-Port 3A for mini, Galaxy S5 S4 S3, Note 4 3 2, Tab 4 3 2 Pro, Nexus 4 5 7 10, HTC One, One 2 (M8), LG G3, MOTO X G, most other Phones

    possibility:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...om-your-motion
    Kinetic Chargers | EarthTechling

    A lot of this stuff is in the conceptual stage, or prototype stage, but some of these are actually available to purchase and could provide viable options for bike(back)packers with power needs that are not satisfied with portable solar panels.

  5. #5
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    Thanks everyone. I am aware that Salsa sells a Bearpaw 135 fork but only in black and they are getting a little harder to get and are very expensive hence deciding to not go that path for now. Maybe 150mm dynamos will come on to the market

    Nate I am aslo very doubtful about solar but thougth it was worth throwing out there in case someone has come up with a solution. I spent a bit of time yesterday looking at power needs and what options I have. I think I may get away with switching my GPS to my Oregon 600 (AA batteries, better battery life) and using the Anker 15,000 mah to provide the rest of my power needs as long as I am careful with use.

    Camera will be a P&S or a small MU43 so can carry a couple of batteries if required.

    Andrew
    Last edited by Aushiker; 02-09-2015 at 03:58 PM.

  6. #6
    since 4/10/2009
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    Yeah, IMO, user replaceable batteries are pretty hard to beat for short and medium length trips. Just carrying spares can do the job perfectly well, and it takes quite a few spares before you match the extra weight of a solar charger.

    I think solar really starts to come into its own when you're off the grid for more than a month.

  7. #7
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    Though I'm sure that the OP was being poetic when they wrote about it being 40 degrees and a good day for solar, it is worth keeping in mind that the heat of the sun should not be the lone determinate as most quality solar chargers have heat limits and excess energy can actually hamper panel efficiency, which I know sounds highly counterintuitive. But green energy is like that.

    The short answer to your question can be had with some rudementary back-of-the-envelop calculations: The Garmin 810 uses a 1000 mAh battery at 3.5 volts, which Garmin says offers a run time of 17 hours. We all know that that time is bases on lab perfect conditions in Utopia, so lets cut that down to 12 hours to be conservative. We also use a conservative efficiency loss estimate of 30 percent when charging battery to battery (you'll feel this loss as heat at both batteries). Ignoring the voltage differentials for now, you need 1300 mAH give or take to charge the Garmin from near empty. Your 15,000 mAh battery can do that roughly 11 times (rounding down q
    15000/1300), keeping in mind that the voltage will drop off as the Arkel battery reaches 30 percent capacity or earlier, thus increasing charge times with greater efficiency losses. If you get 10 charges out of the Arkel battery, that would yield 120 hours of total GPS time (120x10). If you ran your guide group like a Roman general force marching a legion and did 12 hour days in the saddle, you can easily expect to have your Garmin ready to go for about 8 or 9 day, again being highly conservative and assuming you dont need to boostthe iPad. Bottom line: no solar-only-while-moving will be able to do this for you.

    Longer answer from my experience: On an S24O I took last year in March, I bought out my Goal Zero Nomad 7 gen 1 to try out. After using my cell phone-an LG G2-as a gps all day to camp, I awoke the next morning and hung my phone and panel from a tree to catch the morning sun as it rose andI built a fire to make heat and breakfast. Because of the Qualcomm rapid charger built into the G2, my phone went from 10 percent to full in about 100 minutes Using only the panel. It would have likely been a tad faster, but I had to keep rotating the panel to keep up with the sun as it rose.

    The problem with the strap it on approach to solar charging is that the angle tolerances for panels are very specific and the efficiency sweetspot is rather narrow. Because of how the current lead phones control current, you need a steady shot of sun to get it done, including the important taper off current that completes the charge. Otherwise, the phone dies faster than normal.

    Solar is great for long tours that have rest days built in because then you can spend the day moving the panel around and boosting up. For the short tour, the crop of portable batteries with solar panels built in get the job done better and cheaper for the time investment. I use a Poweradd 10,000 mA battery in my EDC and on the road. It will charge my phone or tablet (LG Gpad) three times before it needs to recharge. It comes with a biner and loop built in to the housing so the battery can hang around and trickle charge in the sun all day (It is not great or ideal, but some is better than none).

    The caveat with these types of batteries besides the weight is the fact that they take forever to charge on the outlet/mains (my poweradd needs 14 hours from empty to full at 5V 1.8A). On the best day of sun with a 7 watt solar that offers an immediate 5A usb conversion, you would need about two days or more to charge your 15000 mA battery from empty, patiently moving the panel each hour to track the sun. If you charge the edge 810 from empty to full on your computer USB, time it and add 90 minutes, you can estimate how long a panel in perfect conditions will take to charge the GPS. Again, solar battery wins for the short term.

    All this said, I'll never part with my panel for long trips or lazy slow paced weekenders. But for a week or less, durable 10000-20000 mAH battery with a trickle solar charger is the best bet for most tech needs. If using Spot and GPS units simultaneously on a 7 to 10 day trip, carry two batteries instead of one huge one because of efficiency losses. For a three to four day brevet, one big durable battery is all you need though AA spare weigh less and can be had if racing in civilitation.
    "Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick Two." - Bontrager

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    Pedaling the Midwest on a recycled bike

  8. #8
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    Bikepacking with Solar?

    Probably not an option for most, but something worth checking out is a BioLite stove.

    Burn small bits of wood, charge your devices. I've used it backpacking at 9,000-12,000ft in CO, in the snow. Any kind of dry fuel will work, and it doesn't care about the weather.

    It will boil 1L of water in well under 10min, while charging a device. And, as long as the initial fuel is dry, can use damp wood, due to the way it works.


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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Probably not an option for most, but something worth checking out is a BioLite stove.

    Burn small bits of wood, charge your devices. I've used it backpacking at 9,000-12,000ft in CO, in the snow. Any kind of dry fuel will work, and it doesn't care about the weather.

    It will boil 1L of water in well under 10min, while charging a device. And, as long as the initial fuel is dry, can use damp wood, due to the way it works.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    i saw one of these at the shops it was huge compared to other stoves plus then you have to have wood or something to keep it going

  10. #10
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    Bikepacking with Solar?

    In every place I've ever been, wood is easier to find than any petroleum product. Not too many trees growing cans of white gas or diesel...

    The stove packs inside the 1.5L pot, BTW.

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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    In every place I've ever been, wood is easier to find than any petroleum product. Not too many trees growing cans of white gas or diesel...

    The stove packs inside the 1.5L pot, BTW.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    I know what youre saying but i found compared to any other stove its big

    plus having to lift the pan or pot to add more wood to cook isnt ideal

    if im going to have a wood fire i will dig a little hole then cook on a fire rather than carry that

    i suppose really personal with what you will carry

  12. #12
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    Bikepacking with Solar?

    You don't lift anything to add wood. You put it in through the exhaust ports.


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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bardynt View Post
    I know what youre saying but i found compared to any other stove its big
    + 1 ... My preferred choice of pot is under 700 ml and my stove kit is about it all packing up in a small kit.

    Each to their own but.

    Andrew

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aushiker View Post
    + 1 ... My preferred choice of pot is under 700 ml and my stove kit is about it all packing up in a small kit.

    Each to their own but.

    Andrew
    The only thing was looking at was solar panel setup

    i looked at jaycar for solar panels

    you can get ligthweight 120watt panel for about $300

    i think with battery and other gear needed cost about $500

    The heaviest thing would be the battery but considering that some of the other lightweight solar panels with tiny batteries costing alot more and are only 20 watts or 40 watts.

    Im not sure how well it would fit on trailer for touring and if the extra weight could be jusitfied

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aushiker View Post
    As a guide I am looking at most of the time going five days to seven days between main power sources and I use a Garmin Edge 810 that will be the main item needing charging. I also carry an iPad but that gets limited use and can generally survive this time-frame.

    Ideas? Anyone have other ideas of on off-grid bikepacking without a dynamo?

    Thanks
    Andrew
    The powered items I usually BPack with:

    - GPS [2 x AA]
    - Digi Cam [ 1 x proprietary LIon]
    - headlamp [3 x AAA]
    - InReach [internal battery lasts months if just used for emergencies]

    Going 7 days without needing to charge isn't too hard. Personally I wouldn't bother with solar, dyno hubs or anything other than carrying a spare set of batteries for the GPS & camera plus their chargers if it's a multi-week trip.

    The headlamp gets used sparingly as I see well enough at night in camp not to need it so I put lithium batteries in it and it's good for a month +.

    The InReach lasts more than a month used for emergencies and the odd message home.

    I find that with judicious power conservation techniques batteries go a lot farther than without. [ie. shutting off GPS at stops, not looking at photos on the camera's LCD at night in camp, etc..]

    Ultimately I get far less enjoyment from having gadgets with me on a trip than I do from the simplicity of not having them.
    Safe riding,

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  16. #16
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    I carry an 8 inch tablet which is an absolute necessity for my trips. I have tried the separated panel and battery approach for recharging and that didn't work so well. The best setup has been the brunton freedom all in one panel and battery. You can recharge with the sun or outlet. The older my tablet gets the more power it consumes. I am always shopping for a rugged, waterproof, 4G tablet with easy read screen, that gets decent battery life. The new fast charging phones look promising and I might break down and get one with an extra large screen.

  17. #17
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    Might also consider something like the PowerPot, works like the biolite stove, but built into the cookware

  18. #18
    Lord Thunderbottom
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    I haven't done a ton of multi day trips but I carry an external battery pack

    Anker 2nd Gen Astro E3 10000mAh External Battery

    I've run my go-pro with this on time lapse mode for 10 hours on one trip

    It ran my phone and an external speaker for 8 hours at a cross race this year too

    it should charge the garmin 810 to full about 9 times, or my tablet twice

    I guess it depends on your garmin settings and how long it's going to run every day

    Anker now makes a 25,000mah version, weighs just under 1#, I imagine solar is about the same but more bulky and more likely to get damaged
    Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can do what others can't

  19. #19
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    To get back to the original post...check into SP dynamo hubs, they have a 15mm through-axle hub and there are rumors galore about a 150 O.L.D. conversion for them. Even if not available yet, it would be a very simple matter for a machine shop to fab up a set of spacers to fit this hub to 150. I am using a 9mm QR, SP hub now and loving it.

  20. #20
    ballbuster
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    Quote Originally Posted by bardynt View Post
    i saw one of these at the shops it was huge compared to other stoves plus then you have to have wood or something to keep it going
    I got one of those BioLite stoves at an REi gear sale for mega cheap. I messed with it to see if it would work for me. I ended up flipping it on craigslist for a tidy profit.

    The main issue with that thing (besides weight) is that you have to empty out the ashes every half hour or so. In that half hour, you're lucky to get 5%-10% gain on the charge of an iPhone. Also, it doesn't kick out enough current to charge an iPad.

    BTW, I messed with a couple different brands of these sort of things....

    Name:  desc_342539711_00.jpg
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    ... and they are useless. Like, you leave them in the sun for a FRICKIN' WEEK, and they charge up. Then, you use them to charge your phone... once.... and then wait another FRICKIN' WEEK. They work okay as a battery pack when plugged into a USB port to charge, but don't count on that solar panel actually adding anything useful.

    I mean, you really need a solid square foot of solar panel going all day long in direct sunlight to generate enough power to be useful.

    Second that, about choosing your gear well. I have a Canon Elph 1300 camera that runs for a good solid month on a charge (like 250+ pics), but my Pentax rugged outdoorsy camera is half dead after a day of shooting... like 30-40 pics. I thought something was wrong with the battery, so I got a brand new extended run battery, and it was no improvement. But hey, two batteries run twice as long, right?

    iPhones can run (sleep) a long time if you put them in airplane mode.

  21. #21
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    Bikepacking with Solar?

    I used to turn my phone off to conserve the battery figuring I could turn it on when needed. Found that I was not taking as many pics b/c it was a pita to turn it on and wait the few moments for it to power up, etc. I find airplane mode is almost as good and much easier and quicker to use.


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  22. #22
    Stephen
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    Interesting stuff. I'm doing a 30 day 3,000 k Brevet next year and in leading up,a 400 k randoneur ride in (hopefully)!under 27'hours in a month. My issue is similar, as I run an Edge 1000 plus lights and haven't been able to find a dyno hub yet in New Zealand to have a wheel built up with. Any ideas? Especially for the 400 as it will be my longest continuous ride and I'd love to Strava it for posterity!!

  23. #23
    Its only 1" on the map!
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    I'm just getting into bikepacking. I'm looking to use my Goal Zero Nomad 7 panel along with a Guide 10 battery pack and maybe a 4,500mah battery pack as well.

    Guide 10 Plus Solar Kit | Complete Solar Kits | Goal Zero

    The panel straps nicely to the nice of my backpack vertically and straps to the front of my handlebar bag horizontally easily. I'm planning on putting on either spot depending on my predominate direction of travel will be for the day.

  24. #24
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    Hola!

    Goal Zero's new toy:
    Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit - REI.com

    Saludos,
    Federico
    Cycling in developing countries, making & printing portraits for those families who've NONE. www.theironlyportrait.com

  25. #25
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    Looking on Google I found this
    PowerPot Thermoelectric Generator | ThinkGeek

    I'm guessing it work on the Seebeck principle.

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