Solar Chargers for Backpacking, Hunting or During Emergencies?
Avid backpackers and hikers often buy solar chargers online before beginning their trips. The purpose behind choosing solar chargers for hiking or off grid adventures such as hunting is the ability to eliminate dependency on alkaline batteries. Solar charges operate by providing a power source that stores energy in a primary rechargeable battery, typically lithium ion, or by direct connection with a device. Primary batteries are used to recharge the devices internal battery when it’s low on power. Typical equipment includes cell phone, camera, GPS, LED flashlight or LED lantern.
With a direct solar panel connection, the panel is directly attached to a devices charge port. In this case the primary battery can be saved for charging devices used during night time hours. The energy storage of a primary battery is typically significantly greater than device storage batteries.
A major advantage of solar panels is although relatively small in size their surface area is sufficient enough to produce up to 5 watts of power. Today’s lightweight solar panels, such as those sold at HaveLight.com, conveniently attach to a backpack or can stand alone allowing orientation towards the sun for maximum power generating efficiency.
Factors to consider when depending upon solar power generation include time of year, surrounding vegetation, geographic latitude and clarity of the sky. The higher the sun angle the greater the concentration of photons collected by the panel. Typically the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM provide the best results for solar power generation. Naturally, if it’s a cloudy day or you’re hiking in a thick forest then power generation declines. The closer to the winter solstice and higher latitudes also results in reduced hours in which solar panels are effective. Fortunately, panel designs are continuously improving reducing the impact of these negative factors.
Solar panels incorporated into the housing of a solar flashlight or solar lantern is an alternative approach. In some cases these devices operate as a charging station for other low voltage devices. Typically the flashlight or lantern can also be charged by both AC and DC outlets. It’s recommended to fully charge your solar flashlight or solar lantern before hitting the trail and use solar energy as a backup energy source.
Whether using a portable solar panel to charge a high capacity battery to power multiple devices, or selecting a product in which the solar panel is incorporated into the design, with solar you will always have a backup power system that can be a lifesaver. As the people in the Caribbean are experiencing, weeks have passed without electricity and several more weeks if not months will pass before the electrical grid is functioning again.