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Re: Charging in the wilderness

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Charging in the wilderness
November 13, 2011 07:18AM
I don't often spend multiple-day trips away from electrical outlets so keeping the assortment of electronics I carry going in the wilderness is not normally an issue. For times when I am likely to be away from A/C sources for more than a day, however, I do have a solar charging panel. This will directly charge my cell phone and walkie talkies via a USB connection and my GPS and Steripen run on easily rechargeable (or replaceable) AA batteries that can be popped in to the solar charger as well (or, as a backup, it's easy to carry some extra (non-rechargeable) AA's).

My problems come with my still camera (Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7) and my video camera (Canon FS300)). While both have pretty long-life batteries, they will need recharging and, although both have USB ports, these are for data transfer only. For recharging, you have to use a wall-outlet charging device. Since the solar panel won't output a high enough voltage for these devices, I can't recharge them that way. However, the Lumix only needs a 4.1V supply to recharge the battery and the Canon needs 8.4V so a 110V wall source isn't really necessary (the wall-outlet chargers simply step the voltage way down for the cameras). While 8.4v is more than I can get out of a USB device, 4.1 is doable so it certainly seems like a USB-based charger should be viable for that. However, I've not found any on line.

One option, of course, is to get backup batteries for the cameras but, as custom items, these are pretty over-priced (about $50 for the Lumix and about $90 for the Canon and it's the Canon that's more likely to need it). Anybody here run in to these issues and have a workaround? I know there are at least a few folks on here that have the DMC-ZS7 so I'm hoping you may have suggestions for that.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
November 13, 2011 09:10AM
I bought the generic battery equivalent for my Panasonic camera a t Frys for $20. Actually I bought a couple. Three batteries have gotten me through some pretty long trips without needing charging and I've not noticed a difference between the OEM and the generic batteries.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
November 13, 2011 01:12PM
I recently purchased the same camera (love it) and picked up a few of these batteries here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003EENZVK

I chose ATC LLC as the vendor, $7.54 each, free shipping. They are working great for me.

While shooting about 200 shots per day, even burning a little extra juice with the GPS on in airplane mode, each battery lasts at least 3 days.

Edit: cleaned up the URL



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/13/2011 02:39PM by eeek.
Re: Charging in the wilderness
November 13, 2011 09:17PM
This probably isn't directly addressing your question but there is one idea if you have access to a light bulb and not a wall outlet such as in the Curry Village tents. In that case you can get one of those light socket outlets that allow you to screw in a plug outlet and then screw in the lightbulb to that.
Re: Charging in the wilderness
November 14, 2011 08:30AM
My husband has the ZS3...we just bought the extra Panasonic brand battery. There were too many bad reviews using the knock-off batteries. Of course, I looked around to get the best price, free shipping, etc... And I have always bought extra Canon brand batteries for my Canon videocams. I do have an older compact solar charger and it does charge a Canon battery as I have a 12 volt battery charger which works with the solar charger, but, to me, it is just simpler to bring extra batteries. (My Olympus uses rechargeable AA's..I carry a set of lithiums for emergency, but never have used them.) As for the cell phone..I.just leave it turned off. The battery was still charged at the end of a 28 day hike a few years back. But, I might add...battery life diminishes in cold weather.

(Since both my camera and videocam are so much smaller than I had at the beginning of 2008, I have no problem carrying extra batteries. Heck, my old Canon batteries were about 3 times the size of the new ones! My biggest problem, as far as spending extra money of camera gear is replacing the cameras themselves...I fell on my Olympus and scratched the lens a few years back and, last year, Wapama Falls knocked my videocam out of my hand and into Hetch Hetchy.)
Re: Charging in the wilderness
November 15, 2011 09:23AM
I've had pretty good luck with generic batteries for my digital cameras bought on ebay, often for less than $10 each. Look for a seller with good feedback. Here is one for your Canon for less than $10 http://www.ebay.com/itm/BATTERY-CANON-BP-808-BP808-FS10-FS100-FS11-FS300-/180597827705?pt=Batteries_Chargers&hash=item2a0c782879#ht_500wt_1396
Re: Charging in the wilderness
November 16, 2011 08:46PM
One more thing you might consider--we leave the display on our camera in the OFF position. No need to keep it on. And that seems to more than double our battery life.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
November 20, 2011 12:40PM
Maybe a 12V solar panel. I'm not sure what kind of output connectors are employed, but I'd think it should be possible to connect any system to a typical lighter socket.

Brunton has some pretty nice ones, but they're pricey. The entry-level ones start at about $180. This one is the most basic:

http://store.bruntonoutdoor.com/portable-power/panels-and-chargers/solaris-reg-6/

They don't say it on the Brunton website, but this one supposedly comes with a lighter socket adapter. There are also aftermarket chargers with lighter connectors.
Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 05, 2011 06:08PM
A belated thank you for all the ideas. My solar charger actually has a cigarette-style adapter and I found a nice little package on Amazon for $20 that gives me a version of the charger that will plug in a cigarette lighter socket, an extra battery and even a set of screen protectors (which I've been meaning to pick up anyway).

I see some equivalent sets for my video camera but not liking everything I'm reading (mostly that the aftermarket batteries won't display time remaining on the camera and some warn that if you try to recharge the replacement battery within the camera, you'll damage the camera)

FYI, for my walkie-talkies, I found that I could upgrade to a newer (and much more powerful) for $50 and this set charges via USB so I'm handled on those.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/05/2011 06:23PM by eeek.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 08, 2011 09:47PM
Quote
DavidK42
A belated thank you for all the ideas. My solar charger actually has a cigarette-style adapter and I found a nice little package on Amazon for $20 that gives me a version of the charger that will plug in a cigarette lighter socket, an extra battery and even a set of screen protectors (which I've been meaning to pick up anyway).

I see some equivalent sets for my video camera but not liking everything I'm reading (mostly that the aftermarket batteries won't display time remaining on the camera and some warn that if you try to recharge the replacement battery within the camera, you'll damage the camera)

FYI, for my walkie-talkies, I found that I could upgrade to a newer (and much more powerful) for $50 and this set charges via USB so I'm handled on those.

I'm wondering how well some of these devices might work if they can't provide enough current. Some of the small 12V solar panel rigs are rated for 1 or 2 amp max current. A panel that can provide 6 amps is probably not going to have problem with a batter charger that sucks up 1 amp. However, with a small charger that's designed for a steady current, I wonder how it runs, especially when there's low output because of shade or reduced light. Some 12 V devices are regulated and will protect the batteries if their source goes batty. Some devices are poorly designed and could damage the batteries if the source start dropping.

I don't think there's much problem with those solar battery chargers built as a single unit. They're probably designed with regulation that protects the device and the batteries should the source become insufficient to adequately power the device.
Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 05, 2011 11:01PM
Has anyone any experience with products from this company?

http://www.goalzero.com/

They are rather expensive.

My need is to charge camera batteries, which require a special charger. I found some inexpensive chargers on amazon that have a DC 12V input. Solar PV panels could charge that directly. Has anyone tried this?
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 06, 2011 12:33AM
For the price of this solar charger, wouldn't it be less expensive and more practical (less weight) just to buy extra batteries for your camera?
Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 07, 2011 06:30PM
Quote
RobE
Has anyone any experience with products from this company?

http://www.goalzero.com/

They are rather expensive.

My need is to charge camera batteries, which require a special charger. I found some inexpensive chargers on amazon that have a DC 12V input. Solar PV panels could charge that directly. Has anyone tried this?

My two cents:

I've got the Goalzero Nomad 7M panel along with the accessory for charging 4 AA or AAA batteries (the main panel will connect to a device via a USB cable or a cigarette-lighter style plug). I've used it a couple of times for my cell phone and found that it worked quite well (charged my Moto Droid X from about 30% to 100% in about an hour...about what it would take to recharge from an a/c outlet). For cameras, as I mentioned above, I've just bought extra batteries (but, since they came with car chargers, I could also charge them from the panel).

With my limited experience, I've been pleased with the panel (I got it on sale at EMS (an REI type outfitter store popular on the east coast)...a bit of a splurge but the 30% off helped significantly). I found that it's important to have it aimed clearly at the sun so you're better off recharging while you're stopped, I would think (as opposed to hanging the panel off your backpack or something while you're moving).

I agree that, in most cases, you probably don't really need one of these so if it's a stretch for your budget, you may not want to bother. If you can find it on sale, however (or talk someone in to giving you one as a gift), it is sort of a cool toy that is of some use.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 07, 2011 06:50PM
I bought a Solio charger many years ago. I don't see them selling the one I have anymore.. but the
one they do sell is in the same realm. I am happy with it. For really long trips I tie it to the top of
my pack. Probably people who are not happy with solar chargers have unrealistic expectations.

No camera I have owned could be charged via USB... so always stuck with buying extra batts.
They are pretty darn good now though... Same is true for rechargable AA batts. Sanyo Eneloop.
Use em in my GPS... all year...



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 07, 2011 12:59PM
I have a Canon point and shoot. The battery lasts multiple trips and I can take up to 60 - 100 pics per two - three day trip sometimes. It also takes some video, not pro quality, but not bad, and has a multi-gig SD card for storage - if I never erased it the card would last me many months and many trips.

A spare battery (generic, from ebay) cost me less than twelve bucks and works great. Charge up both before a long journey and I'm great - very rarely have I had to put in the second battery.

While I'm sure larger, higher quality cameras require more batteries... I'd take the extra batteries. Solar chargers are never what they are cracked up to be according to folks who've tried them. A long thru hike like the PCT, I'd put a charger for the cell phone and the camera batteries in a bounce box that would follow from resupply point to resupply point, and charge everything in the hotel room or hostel.
Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 09, 2011 10:08PM
I think the decision of extra batteries vs solar charger depends on the length of the trip. If the trip is long, then the number of batteries increases and at some point the weight/volume of the batteries becomes too large.

When you consider that there may be other devices on the trip, a solar charger is even more attractive if it can keep both (or all) devices charged and limit the number of batteries needed. Other devices could include a GPS or emergency communication device (eg. cell phone or radio).

ypw: I would not assume that there is a voltage regulator circuit unless the manufacturer says so. No regulator circuit works without consuming power. Efficiency is very important for small solar (PV) devices.

A fuse would be worthwhile, since it protects from too much current without consuming power itself. Still, I would not assume there is even a fuse.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 12, 2011 01:18AM
Am I the only one that see the irony of this thread of people trying on one hand to backpack in the wilderness to commune with nature, in wilderness areas where no manmade machines (or at least vehicles) are supposed to operate, but on the other hand don't want to be without the use of their electronic tools and toys for any appreciable amount of time when out and about the said wilderness?

What ever happened to the concept of roughing it?

Okay, before anyone flames me because of what I just stated above, I'll just say that I like my electronic gizmos too (including my GPS and digital camera) when hiking or backpacking out in the wilderness. But maybe I draw the line in the proverbial sand at the point when I have to start contemplating on bringing along a solar charger.

Sometimes I just wonder how anyone in the past was able to survive weeks in the backcountry without any one of these electronic devices. Embaressed



Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 12, 2011 08:07AM
Quote
plawrence
Okay, before anyone flames me because of what I just stated above, I'll just say that I like my electronic gizmos too (including my GPS and digital camera) when hiking or backpacking out in the wilderness. But maybe I draw the line in the proverbial sand at the point when I have to start contemplating on bringing along a solar charger


Hey, plawrence...although I started this thread, I'm not taking this as anything personal. I'll also add that I WOULD see the irony of it all if I was talking about carrying a portable DVD player, electric toothbrush, ipod speakers, Cuisinart pizza oven, self-inflating air mattress, etc., etc., etc. (or, shall we say, the Oprah complex). However, you yourself say that you enjoy your GPS & digital camera. The only devices I mentioned in addition to GPS & digital camera (admittedly, digital cameras in my case) were walkie-talkies (because my wife & I frequently hike at different rates and I'm much more comfortable when I know where she is) and a Steripen (reasons for carrying that are obvious, I trust!).

To be honest, I find the phrase "...when I have to start contemplating on bringing along a solar charger" a bit of a non-sequitor. The GPS and (to a lesser extent) digital camera hold a limited battery life and need to be recharged on (approximately) a daily basis. You either recharge in advance (extra batteries) or on the trail. I don't make the connection between carrying a solar charger and taking excessive amounts of civilization in to the wilderness, especially because the bulk of the items I mentioned are basic safety features. I also mentioned, by the way, extra batteries as an alternative in my original post but rejected that because I hadn't seen anything but very high prices for the proprietary batteries that my devices use (FWIW, my wife's camera uses AA batteries and she simply carries extras). Some of the folks here pointed me to sources for lower-priced replacement batteries and I'll be giving these a try.

I don't mean this to sound defensive so I hope it doesn't land that way...I just think you may be reading (at least parts of) this thread in a way other than it was intended (at least by me!).

There ARE, of course, non-electronic equivalents to most of these things (SLR camera, compass and topo maps, water filtration pumps, not sure what the non-powered walkie-talkie alternative is other than a really loud voice!) and that could make a very interesting off-shoot of this conversation.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 12, 2011 10:12AM
I'm glad you didn't take it personally, because it wasn't meant to be any type of attack, just a late night musing reading the posts on this thread. As I said, I make use of modern technology while on the trail too. I've just usually associated in the past the need for portable solar panels for those who like to bring more of their creature comforts into the wilderness. Like those who hire packers and mules to bring along their cargo and set up camp with a dining tent and such.

When I backpack I've always tried to keep my electronics gizmos to the minimum. BTW, how many photos you shoot during the day? Usually my P&S cameras can take about 400 outdoor (non-flash) photos on one battery. My DSLR takes about 800 photos on a single charge if I limit the use of its LCD screen.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/12/2011 10:44AM by plawrence.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 12, 2011 05:13PM
Quote
DavidK42
non-powered walkie-talkie alternative

Two cans and a very long string.



Old Dude
Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 14, 2011 01:55PM
The GPS is not essential, and you can easily get 30+ hours out of a set of batteries by using suspend religiously. It will turn off all functions except tracking. When you stop for the day turn it off entirely. If I ever went beyond two sets of batteries on a trip, I'd just use the map.

The headlamp/flashlight thing is a non starter - two sets of triple As get me through two weeks and then some. Use moonlight when you can. NBD.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 12, 2011 09:35PM
Quote
plawrence
Am I the only one that see the irony of this thread of people trying on one hand to backpack in the wilderness to commune with nature, in wilderness areas where no manmade machines (or at least vehicles) are supposed to operate, but on the other hand don't want to be without the use of their electronic tools and toys for any appreciable amount of time when out and about the said wilderness?

What ever happened to the concept of roughing it?

Okay, before anyone flames me because of what I just stated above, I'll just say that I like my electronic gizmos too (including my GPS and digital camera) when hiking or backpacking out in the wilderness. But maybe I draw the line in the proverbial sand at the point when I have to start contemplating on bringing along a solar charger.

Sometimes I just wonder how anyone in the past was able to survive weeks in the backcountry without any one of these electronic devices. Embaressed




Well - for my trip in 2007 I brought my cell phone, a digital camera, a headlamp, an AM/FM radio with weather band, and a flashlight. I had no means of charging my cell phone. I used it a couple of times, as there's actually decent coverage on the top of Half Dome, as well as Clouds Rest. As for the digital camera, I used a Canon model that takes AAs. I brought like 3 full sets of four, and it was good for about 400-500 shots on a single charge. I also had a fresh set of alkalines that I keep in my camera bag as a backup. The headlamp got alkalines, which will last at least four days even if left on continuously, and I packed some spares too.

I actually took photos for a group that had their one and only camera battery die out.
Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 12, 2011 10:39PM
I have a heavier camera that requires recharging its batteries fairly often. I may never take it on a longer trip - but I think about it. The photos with it are superior. So I am considering the idea of bringing a solar charger. Or a very long extension cord.

Generally I just take a smaller camera and a spare battery. Plus the GPS, cell phone (emergencies only) and a two way radio (also for emergencies only). I don't take my music - for me it detracts from the experience.
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 13, 2011 02:00PM
Quote
RobE
I have a heavier camera that requires recharging its batteries fairly often.

I have a heavier camera that doesn't even use batteries. But having hiked with it a few times I have to say it's a bit much for me to carry these days and the film is getting quite expensive.


http://yosemitephotos.net/main.php/v/yellowstone/pa050009.jpg.html
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 13, 2011 10:17PM
I used to see LF cameras at Yosemite every trip.

I haven't seen any at all the last few years.

Digital sure has changed things!
avatar Re: Charging in the wilderness
December 14, 2011 01:22AM
Quote
qumqats
I used to see LF cameras at Yosemite every trip.

I haven't seen any at all the last few years.

Digital sure has changed things!

They're still the best. But the cost factor makes digital much more attractive.
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