Solar Power for Hikers & Trekkers

When you are going to be off the grid and need to charge you’re iPod, cell phone or other small electronic device here are a few tips. The first step is to estimate your total power needs, and choose a solar panelrigid flexible solar chargers to match. Some common power Watt-Hours needed to fully charge various common electronic devices are iPods – 6 whrs, Camera – 6 whrs, Cell phone – 4, 2x AA Batteries- 8 whrs. Watt-Hours is a measure of a battery’s capacity. Laptops run between 65 & 120 whrs and it is unlikely someone would take one for a overnight hike so I will not include them in this discussion.

You will then need to come to an average expected usage for the device. As an example, say you need to charge two AA batteries each day for a GPS unit, and an iPod every other day. Total daily power needs: 12 WHrs. Select a solar device that will supply enough power for your specific needs. For more demanding portable applications like research expeditions, we suggest you be conservative when estimating the power production from solar panels. It is nearly impossible to get ideal exposure for a solar panel when it is simply strapped to your backpack, draped over your tent, or spread out on the ground. In other words, the available sunlight can be varied.

Once you settle in on your energy needs and select a portable solar charger to fit them, you are going to need to choose a battery pack to store your solar power. It should be small & light because you do not want to add any more weight to your pack than necessary. It needs to provide the connectors you need to charge all your devices. It should also store enough solar power to get you through times when the sun isn’t as bright as we hope. We like to estimate at least equal to your daily needs. In our example, this would mean a storage capacity of at least 12 Watt-Hours. Brunton has a wide selection of battery chargers to store the portable solar power you produce but we will save that for another post.