Solar panels, Travel electronics, Watts, Volts and Amps

Solar panels and travel electronics
There may be more exiting images but I hope this one is useful

WARNING: This is a purely practical and potentially dull article. If you’re not a fan of watts, volts and amps and have no need to play with solar panels then you might want to skip this one. My apologies…

It’s taken a lot of research to find an effective way to charge my assortment of travel electronics so I’ve decided to share a photo of my set up in the hope that someone else finds it useful.

The centre piece is the 21,000 mAh battery that can be charged by the 10 Watt solar panel or an assortment of mains adaptors. It’s able to pump out  5v, 8.4v, 9.5, 12v, 16v, 19v or 24v  and has a dedicated USB charging port for smaller devices.

The outputs I will be using are:

USB – for the Kindle, Android phone (which doubles at my digital music player and is loaded with music, audio-books and pod-casts) My rear light which, quite unusually, has a lithium-ion battery and has a standard USB connector for charging and my Garmin 310XT which I take as a backup to paper maps and has some very interesting and obscure routes installed that are absent from my roughly 250,000:1 ratio touring maps.

The second Important output is the 12v to the Ansmann battery charger that handles most smallish lithium-ion batteries, so long as they can be removed for charging (phones, cameras, etc) and can charge AA and AAA batteries – I use Ansmann’s low self discharge cells called ‘maxE’, they have a lower mAh rating than the high capacity Ansmann cells but they stay charged for longer, retaining about 80% of charge after one year. So if my spare set of AA batteries get used 3 weeks into a tour then my lower capacity maxE cells will actually have more retained power by that time than standard high capacity cells. Regular AA’s typically discharge by as much as 20% in the first 24 hours and then from 1 – 4% per day thereafter; pretty useless then if you don’t use them within a few weeks.

Finally the 19 volt output will power my MSI wind laptop/net-book of which I’m using now; it uses a power sipping Intel Atom processor and I’ve bumped up the RAM to 2GB. With that small and inexpensive upgrade the tiny critter became a reasonably performing and very power efficient blogging machine.

So that’s everything, now to see if a 10 watt solar panel, supplemented with the occasional boost from a mains supply, can power my hoard of gadgets; or will I be cycling in the dark struggling with paper maps as I realise my newly developed dependency on GPS might have been a mistake? I guess time, and a few cloudy days, will tell.

2 thoughts on “Solar panels, Travel electronics, Watts, Volts and Amps”

  1. Hi,

    Am wondering how you went powerwise. I posted this earlier but it seems to not have made it.

    Anyway, thanks for this article. It is always problematic powering our devices whilst on tour. How did you go? Did you get enough power from the solar panel?

    Also how does your panel connect to the battery? Is it usb or a non usb cable?

    Happy riding.

  2. Hi, thanks for your write up. Powering our devices is indeed an important issue to solve in touring. I am wondering if you can elaborate a bit on how you connect your solar panel to your battery pack? Is it via usb or some other plug setup?

    Also how did you go power wise? Did you get enough charge from your panel or did you have to charge in towns a lot?

    Cheers and happy rides

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