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Solar/Batterypack Phone Chargers

nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
edited August 2011 in Tour & expedition
Has anyone used a solar or battery pack to charge up their phone while on tour or similar?

Essentially I want to GPS log using my phone but chances are, if I do that any more than 2 days in a row the battery will be flat, so I need some way of charging it up while on the road or camping or just plain not allowed near the mains supply (gripp-it B&B or Hotel).

I saw stuff about the "Freeloader" solar chargeable pack but also saw that most reviews say it's "Rubbish", but that's the sort of Idea I had in mind. Of course if it turns out buying a genuine battery from Nokia is cheaper I may as well do that.

Any advice, experience etc. with such things here?
Do Nellyphants count?

Commuter: FCN 9
Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
Off Road: FCN 11

+1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
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  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    PowerChimp and say 4 rechargeable AA batteries.

    The problem is that something like the Freeloader might be OK for triclle charging a small mobile but to charge a smartphone/GPS you need something bigger.
  • 16mm16mm Posts: 545
    You could use a front dynamo hub with a charger.
    http://bla.obda.net/wordpress/?p=155
  • andymiller wrote:
    The problem is that something like the Freeloader might be OK for triclle charging a small mobile but to charge a smartphone/GPS you need something bigger.

    Their site says that the Freeloader Pro can charge power hungry devices... I did see a good review of one by a touring cyclist who was going to be at the Adventure Show...
    Offroad: Canyon Nerve XC8 (2012)
    Touring / Commuting: On-One Inbred (2011)(FCN9)

    http://uninspiredramblings.wordpress.com
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    Their site says that the Freeloader Pro can charge power hungry devices...

    As someone once famously said; "Well they would wouldn't they?'

    The SolarPro has a 1600mAh battery - that's equivalent to two average rechargeable AAA batteries - ie not that much. They say it will charge these in 7-9 hours in sunny conditions. In the real world conditions most of us are likely to encounter you could probably at least double, if not triple that time.

    Sorry, but with the technology where it is at the moment, if you want a decent amount of power you need to invest in a larger panel.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    Whatever you do, don't buy the Freeloader Pico. Fantastic at charging something like an iPod shuffle, useless at charging an iPhone.

    As above, in real world light conditions, even after 2-3 days it was never full when the website says something like 8-10 hours.
  • andymiller wrote:

    Sorry, but with the technology where it is at the moment, if you want a decent amount of power you need to invest in a larger panel.

    Fair point. They do a globetrotter panel to go with the various chargers. Wonder how good it is. Gets better reviews on Amazon than the chargers on their own, but who knows.

    (I don't work for them - I'm actually looking for something similar for a ride down to the Alps later in the year!)
    Offroad: Canyon Nerve XC8 (2012)
    Touring / Commuting: On-One Inbred (2011)(FCN9)

    http://uninspiredramblings.wordpress.com
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    Thanks, I think the PowerChip is exactly what I'm looking for, I'm not exactly short of 2500mA rechargeable AA batteries I can recharge and carry around.
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    they're about a tenner on eBay as opposed to the official price of £25.
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    Ended up going for the Monkey after reading reviews.
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    nwallace wrote:
    Ended up going for the Monkey after reading reviews.
    I know it's too late, but mainly for the benefit of anyone else reading this, the PowerMonkey has an inbuilt battery while the PowerChimp uses AA batteries. This means that with the PowerChimp you could carry a supply of pre-charged batteries or in an emergency buy alkaline batteries. I think it is the more flexible option.
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    Yes I considered that.
    The reviews of the chimp weren't good, most claiming only 20% charging from 2000mah AA's and not much better from 2650mah ones.

    The comment "More use as a handwarmer" appeared a lot.

    The monkey got better reviews about it's effectiveness, the monkey wasn't that much more expensive and the loss of flexibility when it appears to be more efficient seems a reasonable trade off for what I'm likely to be doing.

    The reality of the things is that a Genuine Nokia BP4-L battery is £20, and 2 of them should do fine for 4 days.
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    I hope you'll post something about what results you get: the PowerMonkey has a capacity of 2200 mAh but I don't know what this means in terms of the percentage charge of an iPod/iPhone.

    My experience is that fast battery chargers don't fully charge the batteries - and in fact the green light can often only mean that the battery is usable rather than fully charged. Also iPods/iPhones and other similar devices are very fussy about the input voltage and will refuse to charge any more even when yhere is still plenty of life left in the battery (eg a radio or bike lights will run perfectly happily). I suspect Lion batteries may be better at maintaining the voltage - but by how much I don't know.

    BTW I came across this (also available from Amazon UK) - lots of satisfied customers.
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    Review:

    Well it does what it says on the tin, but it takes a long time to charge up which wasn't something I was expecting. (Am I just used to 1hr charges for AA and RC car batteries?)

    I think I will get a Chimp too though and see what that's like with decent Ni-Mh AA batteries in it, because where I'm going I don't expect to find power sockets for use.

    I also noticed Nokia now sell their own bottle dynamo system for some models of phone.
    http://www.nokia.co.uk/find-products/ac ... harger-kit
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • alan_shermanalan_sherman Posts: 1,153
    I have the nokia charger. The dynamo is rubbish but the electronics work very well. Pair the charger electronics with a dynamo hub and it is a great system. I am on the lookout for a more secure handlebar mount than that rubber band though. It works, but I'd prefer to have a case of some description, ideally on the stem.
  • ralexralex Posts: 85
    I'm just back from two weeks away in Wales and Normandy and kept my new Motorola Defy charged from AA rechargeables via a PowerChimp, the batteries were charged during the day in my B&M Ixon IQ light connected to a Shimano hub dynamo via the B&M Ride & Charge unit which converts the dynamo output to the correct voltage to charge the Ixon IQ batteries.

    I don't think the PowerChimp is a very efficient means of getting the power out of the AA rechargeables but 3-4 hours riding was enough to put a 60% charge into my phone from the four AA batteries which was enough for me.

    Phone used for a few texts and maybe 20 -30 minutes internet each day plus the occasional call and some gps use.

    The only day when I didn't generate enough power was a really hilly day in Wales when my speed was pretty low for most of the day.
  • blorgblorg Posts: 1,169
    I used a PowerMonkey SolarMonkey through Iran, UAE and Oman. It was better than nothing but not that much better; it took a very long time to charge and that was with more sun than you could shake a stick at. I wouldnt fancy its chances in Northern Europe. After a few months the wiring on the solar panel broke. While the solar bit was not ideal the actual battery unit, which is separate, is good and solid, still going strong six months later (but can only charge it from the mains.)
  • blorgblorg Posts: 1,169
    edited June 2011
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  • blorgblorg Posts: 1,169
    edited June 2011
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  • blorgblorg Posts: 1,169
    edited June 2011
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  • blorgblorg Posts: 1,169
    I used a PowerMonkey SolarMonkey through Iran, UAE and Oman. It was better than nothing but not that much better; it took a very long time to charge and that was with more sun than you could shake a stick at. I wouldnt fancy its chances in Northern Europe. After a few months the wiring on the solar panel broke. While the solar bit was not ideal the actual battery unit, which is separate, is good and solid, still going strong six months later (but can only charge it from the mains.)
  • EnglishChrisEnglishChris Posts: 210
    nwallace wrote:
    Review:

    I think I will get a Chimp too though and see what that's like with decent Ni-Mh AA batteries in it, because where I'm going I don't expect to find power sockets for use.

    Where ARE you going?
    Offroad: Canyon Nerve XC8 (2012)
    Touring / Commuting: On-One Inbred (2011)(FCN9)

    http://uninspiredramblings.wordpress.com
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    nwallace wrote:
    Review:

    Well it does what it says on the tin, but it takes a long time to charge up which wasn't something I was expecting. (Am I just used to 1hr charges for AA and RC car batteries?)

    I think I will get a Chimp too though and see what that's like with decent Ni-Mh AA batteries in it, because where I'm going I don't expect to find power sockets ...

    So when you say 'does what it says on the can' do you mean (for example) charge an iPod or iPhone from 20 to 100 percent (which would be pretty good).

    Where are you going? A short campsite hookup lead doesn't cost that much and doesn't weigh that much and is quite a useful thing to have - unless you are going somewhere remote.
  • blorgblorg Posts: 1,169
    andymiller wrote:
    So when you say 'does what it says on the can' do you mean (for example) charge an iPod or iPhone from 20 to 100 percent (which would be pretty good).

    Where are you going? A short campsite hookup lead doesn't cost that much and doesn't weigh that much and is quite a useful thing to have - unless you are going somewhere remote.
    I have three PowerMonkey aux batteries, and the one SolarMonkey panel (now broken.)

    In my experience one full PM battery will charge my iPod Touch (1st gen) from 0 to 100% twice, with maybe a tiny bit left over. The manufacturers suggest it will do an iPhone 1.5 times, which would tally with this (the iPhone has a bigger battery than the iPod, 1400mAh vs 900mAh.)

    The issue is the charging of the PM battery by solar panel which is really slow. A full day in strong sun (e.g. in the Arabian desert) might get it 1/3-1/2 charged. The charge it would give was just slightly less than what my GPS (Garmin Edge 705) would use in one day if I was careful to always turn it off when stopped, etc.

    When I camp it is rarely in a campsite so there isn't the luxury of a power hookup. So far on this trip it has been mostly in the desert in Iran and UAE and the mountains in Oman, although I also used the batteries a lot in the Himalayas where although not camping there wasn't always electricity either. But even in Europe I would avoid a campsite more often than not so there isn't any more mains power there in the circumstances.

    When the solar panel broke in Oman I found myself taking extended lunches so I could recharge all my gadgets in a restaurant, which was a pain in the neck to have to do. The 3 aux batteries alone could keep my GPS going for about a week if I rationed the iPod and phone, but we spent near a month camping rough with no overnight power.

    It would be great to have something that would give complete freedom from the electricity socket for an arbitrary period of time... the SolarMonkey when working in good sun would just about keep my GPS going if I didn't use any other electronics I reckon, or at least push out that week with the three batteries to two or three. But it is still weak and limited. Their SolarGorilla is much more powerful (by a factor of around 10 I think) and would be more practical, but at the expense of size/weght.

    To be honest I think a hub dynamo is the best option and I'd be interested in getting one if possible before I hit Australia where I'll be back in the tent full time away from any electricity. Solar is a big thing here in Nepal though (the grid is not exactly univeral; some towns get all their limited electricity from solar) and more powerful panels are available here for not that much money so I may give one of them a go. They are not small, light or ruggedised for travel though priced at £14 for a panel with a power output similar to the SolarGorilla rather than £140.

    If you are planning to be away from power for only a few days at a time though, the aux batteries on their own are more than sufficient (they charge up from the mains quickly enough.) I also carry a very small little USB charger that runs off a single AA for emergencies. That cost a fiver in Maplin IIRC.
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    nwallace wrote:
    Review:

    I think I will get a Chimp too though and see what that's like with decent Ni-Mh AA batteries in it, because where I'm going I don't expect to find power sockets for use.

    Where ARE you going?

    The islands between St Kilda and the Inner Hebridies, with a tent.
    andymiller wrote:
    So when you say 'does what it says on the can' do you mean (for example) charge an iPod or iPhone from 20 to 100 percent (which would be pretty good).

    Can't vouch for iPhone, Nokia E72 from power saving mode to fully charged. So basically it's a back up battery, which is what the bumpf on the can says.
    andymiller wrote:
    Where are you going? A short campsite hookup lead doesn't cost that much and doesn't weigh that much and is quite a useful thing to have - unless you are going somewhere remote.

    Fine if you're going to campsites that will definitely have hookups available for tents, I'm fairly sure the Machair on Vatersay won't have that!
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • ralexralex Posts: 85
    nwallace wrote:
    The islands between St Kilda and the Inner Hebridies, with a tent.

    In other words the Outer Hebrides/Western Isles?
    I think you will find plenty of opportunities to access mains electricity there if you need to. Wild camping won't have a supply of course, but formal campsites will have, and there are several cafes etc where you could probably borrow some electricity, or you could camp at the hostels and charge up your stuff there.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    @blorg PowerTraveller have recently announced the powrmonkeyeXtreme (or at least Zi think that is the name). I can't remember the details but the claims about charge up time were (if true) quite impressive.
  • Special KSpecial K Posts: 449
    I used the freeloader a couple of years ago and it was pretty rubbish - very long time to charge even in bright sunlight.

    i also bought a Solio which was equally rubbish, but much better built and designed than the freeloader

    Totally agree with posts about trickle charging and would add that charging the unit at the mains whenever you can will improve the use you get.

    I think it is a case of adjusting expectations. If you want a rechargeable batttery that you can also trickle charge using solar power, and can provide emergency juice to a phone or GPS, then one of these is great. Expecting it t provide you with all your power needs in a desert would be a mistake.

    I recently heard a podcast on radio 4 (excess baggage 25h june) and one of the guests mentioned carrying solar panels, but I suspect these were more specialist and powerful units than the kit mentioned in this thread.
    "There are holes in the sky,
    Where the rain gets in.
    But they're ever so small
    That's why rain is thin. " Spike Milligan
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    Report from extended use of them

    PowerMonkey
    Worked as I said before, filled the battery of my E-72, but I didn't have a charger with me because I had loads of AA rechargeable batteries.

    PowerChimp
    Provided you use Rechargeables it's ok, heats up a lot though BUT
    Use Alkaline batteries and it's of absolutely no use at all.
    Shoved the Duracels from my Fenix in (I wasn't using it for lighting) this morning, nae charging. Got some other non-rechargeable AA batteries, even less charging.

    So if you can recharge your AA's on the go it will be fine, but don't expect to make a quick dash into a shop to buy some batteries to top up with. (Well unless it's Duracell StayCharged or similar, but 8 quid on 4 AAs when you already have a good supply of them?)


    However!

    The guy I did the tour with had some big battery pack that could fill my nokia a few times over off one charge, we were charging, my phone, his iPod, his Camera AND his front light off a single charging. (He wasn't with me going round the Beauly firth this morning)

    Going to get more details from him.
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    New Trent iCruiser

    http://www.newtrent.com/


    Only thing we couldn't charge was my Fuji EXR200 because the charger for that plugs straight into mains.
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • Perhaps the answer is a Nomad 7 foldable solar charger. Some good reviews on US Amazon site as well as at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1r4vFZo&doc_id=9258&v=8W.

    Found it for £55 + £5 p&p on eBay http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/NOMAD-7M-SOLAR-CHARGER-W-12V-USB-OUTPUTS-GOAL0-/290583431117?pt=UK_Gadgets&hash=item43a81f47cd#ht_883wt_689. Seller has 100% positive feedback.

    Tempting at that price.
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