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Thread: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

  1. #31

    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    StorminMatt nailed it, and the picture showing the complete system is good.
    Cords are often the weak link, the shorter the better so long as you can keep the battery being charged in shade.
    Two cables is one cable.
    - And with those high efficiency mono crystalline cells I'd want a backer to pack it against so I didn't crack a cell while packing.
    - that's probably the only significant advantage of the CIGS panels, being more durable. They are supposed to maintain efficiency in high temps better than mono, and more efficiently charge in low light conditions than mono, but the mono crystalline cells are so much more efficient to begin with that it seems doubtful that the CIGS would deliver more charge in many real world conditions.
    The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

  2. #32
    *Flashaholic* Offgridled's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    My set up and it works great!
    free uploadcertificity.com

  3. #33
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Quote Originally Posted by Offgridled View Post
    My set up and it works great!
    free uploadcertificity.com
    No doubt this panel probably charges quite a bit faster than the 5W Sunkingdom. It would probably be particularly advantageous on the East Coast vs the Western Mountains. But there IS the issue of weight and size. If you want to travel light, you just can't beat the fact that the Sunkingdom setup is small and only weighs six ounces with everything.

  4. #34
    *Flashaholic* Offgridled's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Quote Originally Posted by StorminMatt View Post
    No doubt this panel probably charges quite a bit faster than the 5W Sunkingdom. It would probably be particularly advantageous on the East Coast vs the Western Mountains. But there IS the issue of weight and size. If you want to travel light, you just can't beat the fact that the Sunkingdom setup is small and only weighs six ounces with everything.
    Yes I agree totally with you. I have two of these set ups for my off grid cabins in Yosemite. Backpacking would be more difficult for sure.. I've been looking at the Sunkingdom 5W after I saw your post and I'm ordering a couple for my son's. Great heads up!!

  5. #35

    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    I like the idea of a compromise between the two main perspectives represented.
    On the one hand there's the experience of backpackers who Don't Need a lot of light, they're moving during the day and resting at night, routinely. Many through hikers have confirmed that they only needed the most minimal illumination, with few or no battery changes over thousands of miles. Most would agree though that it would be foolish for even the most gram conscious backpacker to not at least carry some source of light, especially now that it's so light and easy to do so... There's a range from Photon Freedom to Paklite for instance.
    On the other hand, between "packing your fears" and preparing for realistic contingencies, there's a great value in having the ability to produce much, much more light than you might actually need, and then there's the question of whether you would ever need to recharge or replace at all.
    For me, if I have the option of a brighter light then I'll use it for extending my day in the morning and evening, and so I'll use up the battery sooner or later.

    These larger, heavier solar panels are undoubtedly better for charging, but keeping the weight down is really important.
    Everyone's cost/benefit "analysis" may be different, but for a certain pattern of usage, and how much adaptability is built in, there should be some optimal or very nearly optimal solution.
    To me, keeping the lights and batteries under 6 oz, and keeping the sustainable recharging capabilities under 6 oz. seems on the heavy side but still near optimal. That's with a pattern of usage where days can be lengthened by several hours through the use of the light, every day, while still having battery reserves for unforeseen developments, all night hiking, etc.
    - at 6 oz. A quality 5 watt solar panel should be able to fully charge a high capacity 18650 in 3-4 hours of sunlight, or in a week of hit and miss, opportunistic charging.
    -a Zebralight will run nearly 30 hours on M1 level, that could be a few hours of night hiking a night every week, or 2-4 winter or summer all nighters. Rechargeable with say 3 hours of solid sunlight.

    Is effectively lengthening each day for a few hours or having light all night if necessary, or even the equivalent of car headlamp for a few hours or more worth carrying an extra 3/4 pound?
    Some would say absolutely not, others would be willing to carry more weight than that for those capabilities.
    Last edited by eh4; 04-15-2017 at 04:16 PM.
    The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

  6. #36
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    There's also the issue of what you need vs what you want. Backpacking is NOT a paid job - you don't NEED to do it. Sure, you could save weight by hiking all day and immediately turning in for the night. But what if you want to read a book a little while before going to bed? Or even play a couple of games of Sudoku on your smartphone? Some may say that you should get over this sort of thing and just go to bed because this is what they do. But remember that you are not at work here. Ultimately, if being able to do these sorts of little things on a backpacking trip is going to make it MUCH more enjoyable (vs just doing the bare necessities in the name of saving weight), then the decision to carry a solar charging kit is going to be a judgement call on your part.

  7. #37

    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Hmm, maybe some people do get paid to backpack... new goal. ;-)
    The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

  8. #38

    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Ok, 6.5oz including charge controller, 11 watts, good reviews, the best so far I believe:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B01DZ...rb_top?ie=UTF8
    I'd give it a rigid backer for protection when packing it.

    I'll probably still end up messing around with the 1 oz., 1 watt, 6v CIGS panel to see if it's viable for me,
    but I'm ordering one of these 6.5 oz, 10.5 watt folding Sunpower panels for sure.

    Nearly 2 watts per oz.; if you can trickle charge then that's gravy, but if an hour or two of direct sunlight will do the trick then you're unlikely to need that much trickle charging capability.
    Just unfold it and take a siesta around noon and let the average days average out.
    Last edited by eh4; 04-15-2017 at 10:06 PM.
    The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

  9. #39

    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    I recently bought this solar panel product right exactly to what you are looking for here's the link
    https://agreenorigin.com/camping-solar-panels/ it's the GGX ENERGY High-Quality 7.2W Portable Solar Charger for Mobile Phone iPhone Folding Mono Solar Panel+Foldable Solar USB Battery Charger that is now under $39.99
    PowerUP

  10. #40
    Flashaholic chaosdsm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    I realize OP has probably long ago made his/her purchase, but I did get my own 'trail charging system'. Solar panel was purchased from Amazon, it's an encapuslated 10 watt 5V panel from Lixada. Charger is an Xtar SC1 capable of 2A charging.

    I did a test yesterday on a drained (3.15V) 5200mAh 26650 cell from Orbtronic that I use in my Convoy L6. Started solar charging at 9AM, re-positioned the panel every 2 hours. Sky was clear till about 2:45PM when clouds started building, at that point, the charger only had one light still blinking (almost fully charged), it started to get noticeably darker outside around 4:30PM at which point I stopped the test. Cell voltage when I pulled it off charger is 4.17V as tested with a digital multi-meter.

    Combined weight of solar panel, charger, & USB cable is 5.25 ounces.


  11. #41

    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    certainly the OP is long gone, but it is interesting to see the options available. I like the post above, but I would not want to backpack with the battery being charged. On my 3 week backpacking trip last summer I carried a Thrunite Ti3 and a lithium primary battery. I mailed ahead a spare battery half way through my trip, but never needed it. Even though we hiked during September, a single AAA cell was more than sufficient for 3 weeks. We often pack our fears, they they can definitely weigh us down.

    We also carried a lot of weight in a Anker solar charger and power bank, which we used to charge our phones/camera. I wonder how the panel in the post above would have fared, definitely much lighter than my partner's solar panel.

  12. #42
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Do hikers really need portable charging? IOW, is the extra bulk of carrying a setup for solar charging worth it, over just carrying more batteries?

    5.25 ounces is remarkably light, but what is the bulk like to carry around? Are we reaching a point where portable solar charging really is better than carrying extra batteries? Of course, you'd need some spares anyway, because the sun isn't always shining, but assuming you're hiking in good weather, how many batteries is the solar charging worth?

    I suppose you might need a USB power bank for charging a cell phone anyway. So the solar panel isn't all that much more weight. What about reliability? Are these setups robust? If it breaks, then you're in trouble if you don't have spare batteries anyway.

  13. #43

    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    We hiked for 20 days. My cell phone was used for some nightly reading and taking pictures, not very heavy use. My partner's phone was used for LOTS more pictures, and various other things. We both topped off our phones daily, typically via the power bank. When weather was less than optimum, the power bank got drawn down farther. We were never without power.

    As far as the 5.25oz setup goes, the bulk is no big deal if you know how to pack. I imagine that panel was outside in a big pocket, readily accessible. Break time, suns's out, you're charging also. Even 10 -15 minute chunks are worth it. It's easy in the Sierras, I suspect much harder on the AT.

    Yep, if a cable or the panel breaks, you are SOL. But we not talking life or death here, just convenience. Back to a more traditional setup, the one we used last year. We were charging 2 phones for 20 days. Quick calculation, guessing my phone would go empty in 3 days, my partner's 1.5 days. My phone was likely 7 1.5Ah charges, or 10.5 Ahr. My partner was more like 10 2Ahr charges or 20 Ahr. so about 30 Ahr worth of power, or maybe 10 3Ahr cells. That does not take into account any inefficiency for charging a battery with a battery. So 10-15 cells, so around a pound to a pound and a half of batteries. I think my partner's solar panel weighed about a pound, then another 6-8 oz for the power bank. There is something to be said for not having to deal with the solar panel, so just bringing cells may actually be a win for shorter trips. But for someone hiking for a couple months, like the PCT, AT, etc. the solar panel definitely wins. Just take care of your gear.

  14. #44

    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    I think that the strategy of getting up before dawn, hiking all day, and setting up camp before dark and sleeping is both contrary to solar charging, and contrary to needing artificial light... if the hiker is fully solar powered then they probably only need a AA lithium battery and a super compact light for a week, or a month, or more.

    Another strategy is to take a siesta in the middle of the day, in which case the odds of direct sunlight are highest, while napping away the hottest hour or two of the day.
    With a 5 watt, 4oz+/- kit of a stripped down plastic, silicone, Sunpower cells solar panel, plus charger; a siesta hiker could likely hit a good shady spot with nearby sunlight 2/3 of the time, grabbing nearly 5-10 watt hours a day (3-8) while snoozing.
    Last edited by eh4; 08-01-2018 at 07:41 PM.
    The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

  15. #45
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Quote Originally Posted by eh4 View Post
    Another strategy is to take a siesta in the middle of the day, in which case the odds of direct sunlight are highest, while napping away the hottest hour or two of the day.
    +1

    I'm doing most of my cycling or hiking at night, this summer. I just can't stand the heat of the day and the intense sunlight. Dark and cool at night makes for a much more enjoyable outing. And for cycling on roads, the lack of traffic is a huge bonus too.

    Hiking at night on paths is nice too. Not sure I'd want to go off-path at night, though. Or follow dangerous terrain.

  16. #46
    Flashaholic chaosdsm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    I'm not sure of the actual output of the panel I posted above, I cannot get an amp reading off of my DMM, but it's hitting 4.32V in full shade (roof overhang), 4.60 - 4.85V in partial sunlight (est 30 -70% shade coverage) & 5.37V in full sunlight.

    I also charged a second 5200mAh 26650 by USB to computer 1 day after my last post, it started a 3.28V & took from 9:30AM to about 7:45PM for the last blue LED to go solid.

    I let them both sit until today, when I put them through a discharge cycle with my Opus BT-C3100. Both batteries had settled down to 4.17V. The one charged by sunlight finished at 3.1V, 5074mAh, @1000mA discharge, while the one charged by computer finished at 3.1V, 5148mAh, @ 1000mA discharge. Not sure why the one charged on the computer would take so much longer, I used the same USB cable for both charge cycles???



    For me, it's more about being able to keep things charged during lengthy power outages: cell phone, Nitecore TiNi, 18650's for my Dobermann Pro, & 26650's for the Convoy L6 which can be used for S&R if someone gets lost, or to light up most of the house at night, even on medium setting.

    After Hurricane Charlie went through in 2004, there were areas within a 15 minute drive that were still without power 2 weeks later. Although I do have a gas powered 5500 running watt generator, if it goes down for whatever reason, it's nice to know I will still be able to have light at night & communication if we see something like that again. Having a light weight solution for multi-day hikes as well is just a plus!!! Many decent power banks with enough capacity to charge one or two cell phones fully, weight more than this solar charging setup. I also don't have any lights that rely on AAA or AA cells, all run on 18650's, 26650's, or D cell batteries.

  17. #47
    Flashaholic* Timothybil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Don't let raw numbers fool you. The difference in capacity between those two dells is on the order of 2% or so, which is really insignificant. To me a more meaningful number would to compare the capacity of the same cell charged via both solar and USB. That way you remove any innate variability due to differences between cells.
    Remember, Two is One, and One is None!.

  18. #48
    *Flashaholic* ChrisGarrett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Quote Originally Posted by Timothybil View Post
    Don't let raw numbers fool you. The difference in capacity between those two dells is on the order of 2% or so, which is really insignificant. To me a more meaningful number would to compare the capacity of the same cell charged via both solar and USB. That way you remove any innate variability due to differences between cells.
    Agree, but this is a solar charging thread and the real issue should be differences in current delivered between solar panels, to chargers and then charging inefficiencies between chargers.

    Let's face it, if you're like me, who lost power for 84 hours during IRMA, last September, all of this theoretical mumbo jumbo doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot.

    Unless you have a good power bank that can deliver constant current/voltage at >5.00v, you're stuck with what you can get.

    Chris
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  19. #49
    Flashaholic* Timothybil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Quote Originally Posted by Timothybil View Post
    Don't let raw numbers fool you. The difference in capacity between those two dells is on the order of 2% or so, which is really insignificant. To me a more meaningful number would to compare the capacity of the same cell charged via both solar and USB. That way you remove any innate variability due to differences between cells.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGarrett View Post
    Agree, but this is a solar charging thread and the real issue should be differences in current delivered between solar panels, to chargers and then charging inefficiencies between chargers.

    Let's face it, if you're like me, who lost power for 84 hours during IRMA, last September, all of this theoretical mumbo jumbo doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot.

    Unless you have a good power bank that can deliver constant current/voltage at >5.00v, you're stuck with what you can get.
    Chris
    I agree. Outside of the task of determining true solar panel output as opposed to advertised, probably the biggest issue is recovery from interruptions, ie will the charger continue charging if the output of the solar panel is interrupted for any reason.
    Remember, Two is One, and One is None!.

  20. #50
    *Flashaholic* ChrisGarrett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Quote Originally Posted by Timothybil View Post
    I agree. Outside of the task of determining true solar panel output as opposed to advertised, probably the biggest issue is recovery from interruptions, ie will the charger continue charging if the output of the solar panel is interrupted for any reason.
    That's not even a big concern to me, since I'm not leaving my stuff on the condo grounds. If a cloud passes by, I'm there to look at the USB meter and see what's up. If I need to reset something, I'm not out much time.

    Now, if you have a backyard where your stuff is charging up and you're in watching Rosanne reruns, then yeah, you might be delaying things if charging stops, or just slows down.

    Chris
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  21. #51
    Flashaholic* Timothybil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar charging 18650 on the AT light weight hiking

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGarrett View Post
    That's not even a big concern to me, since I'm not leaving my stuff on the condo grounds. If a cloud passes by, I'm there to look at the USB meter and see what's up. If I need to reset something, I'm not out much time.

    Now, if you have a backyard where your stuff is charging up and you're in watching Rosanne reruns, then yeah, you might be delaying things if charging stops, or just slows down.

    Chris
    While not watching Rosanne reruns (gag!), my usual modus operandus is to set up the panel in a window and let it charge up one of my powerbanks while I do other things. Luckily, my powerbanks don't have any problems with resuming after interruptions, so it's a non-issue with me. But I remember seeing a lot of posts about how picky iphones are, among others.
    Remember, Two is One, and One is None!.

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