With the arrival of summer, many are planning extended camping or hiking trips to take advantage of the warmer weather. With some trips taking explorers hours away from the power grid, more and more outdoorsmen and hikers are taking advantage of the flexibility and portability of solar power to charge their phones, drones, and other small electrical devices.
Reasons To Incorporate Solar Power Into Your Equipment
If you’re looking to recharge your electrical devices while away from the power grid, you don’t have many options. You can buy a hand crank, you can bring multiple external batteries, or you can invest in portable solar power. Most hand cranks only produce 5-15 Watts. That means that after an hour of hard work, a hand cranked generator will have produced about as much energy as a portable one-pound solar panel.
For those on longer trips, it’s a fairly obvious solution. If you’re driving to the great outdoors for a few days, a single large panel will provide plenty of power for your needs.
Varying Your Equipment Based on Needs
For some hikers, a simple portable solar setup will be enough to power your electrical devices. For an example of this, see Youtuber Kraig Adam’s video from when he spent four days hiking alone in Iceland. He charged his drone, camera equipment, and phone with a small portable solar setup.
For those who have the advantage of adventuring with a vehicle, it might make sense to invest into a more-involved off-grid setup. With a setup consisting of nothing more than a solar panel leaned against your car, a solar charge controller, and a small inverter, you’ll be able to charge your portable electronic devices and much more while the sun is shining. With the purchase of a larger battery, you’ll find that a relatively cheap solar setup will be able to power your devices for as long as you’re in the great outdoors.
Tips For Increasing Your Solar Intake
If you’ve decided to power your devices with solar, it’s important to know a few tips for increasing your power intake.
The first is to be on the lookout for overly-cheap, low quality, portable solar panels, particularly those available for purchase on Amazon. A quick foray into the reviews of some of these panels will show that you truly get what you pay for. When you’re a day’s hike away from civilization, you’ll likely wish you’d paid the extra $30 for a higher-quality product.
Another tip for solar panels is angle. Solar panels will gather the most energy when they’re pointed directly at the sun, so try to angle your panels when you set them out. Remember that the sun goes higher in the sky in summer than winter, so it’s important to factor elevation angle as well as direction.
The third tip is to ensure your panels are clean. Being outdoors means dirt, so be sure to check for accumulated grime every once in a while.
Finally, if you’ve invested in a beefier setup, be sure to look at MPPT charge controllers. These convert excess voltage into current, which can massively speed recharging times.
How many panels should I buy?
It depends entirely on your needs. If you’re just looking to charge your phone, a single portable panel will probably do the trick. If you’re looking to power a portable TV alongside LED lights, you might consider investing in a larger panel and an off-grid setup.
How hard is the installation process?
Most modern solar panels use MCT connectors, which means that they’re remarkably plug-and-play. Typically you’ll only need to strip wires to connect to your solar charge controller. You can find our guide on that and other awesome guides on our YouTube channel. Check it out.
Portable solar panels are even easier. Most commercial portable panels will come packaged with USB ports for easy charging. As mentioned above, portable panels can have widely varying power generation capacities. We recommend buying testing kits to see whether your panel will be able to keep up with your needs.
Solar power is a reliable and easy technology for keeping powered up, even on longer trips away from the grid. For hikers looking to go on backpacking trips, a small portable solar kit might make sense. For day-campers, you can find cheap solar panels, charge controllers, and inverters at SanTan Solar.