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Solar Charger

August 16th, 2013 · 4 Comments

I took a small solar charger with me on the John Muir Trail, to keep my smart phone and SteriPen charged.

The Switch Eight charger by Goal Zero comes with a solar panel and a rechargeable Li-Ion battery. You charge the battery up with sunlight during the day, then use the battery to recharge phones etc.

Switch Eight

During the whole JMT hike I never turned my phone off and never charged it with anything but the sun. It got me through the whole trip. To be fair, I kept the phone in airplane mode most of the time, except for briefly turning on the GPS a few times a day to plot my position, and once in a while fruitlessly attempting to connect to a T-Mobile signal. I also used the phone to read books every night for a few minutes to an hour or more.

The SteriPen water purifier I brought along uses UV light to sterilize any organisms, and is also rechargeable. I used the Switch Eight charger to keep the SteriPen charged too, and had enough left over to occasionally recharge Dale/Castaway’s phone.

The Troverts opted instead to bring large capacity rechargeable batteries (that had to be plugged in to recharge) for their phones. I’m not sure which was the lighter method, but I liked knowing that I could go indefinitely without plugging in.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Donna // Aug 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Cool! I wondered how it worked out. What will you use it for now?

  • 2 Richard // Aug 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Sounds like it worked quite well for a trip in the western mountains where you were in sun most of the time, but I wonder if it would be of much use on the AT? Seems I remember Dale saying he was in shade most of the time.

    Did you hang it on your pack while hiking or just use it when stopped?

    Were you able to leave your phone plugged into it all day while hiking so both the phone and the Switch Eight’s battery could both be charged?

  • 3 Daryl // Aug 16, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    In France I used just the battery portion, which can be charged in any USB charger. I took it with me when I went out, in case my phone battery got too low. I’m sure I will use the battery that way again. But the solar charger portion will not be too useful until I go out backpacking again, or until WWIII. Dale and I concluded that it would not work well on the AT (“The Long Green Tunnel”) because of the lack of direct sun for most of the trail.

    I tied the panel to the top of my pack so it was basically horizontal. Whenever I took off the pack, I tried to lean it against a rock or log so it was facing the sun. When I got into camp before sunset, I would take it off the pack and lean it against a rock facing the sun.

    I generally did not leave the phone plugged in while hiking. The battery usually discharged faster into a phone than it could recharge from the sun, so it usually didn’t work to leave them both plugged in, though sometimes late in the afternoon when I had a full battery I might do that just to optimize the charge.

  • 4 don // Aug 17, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Electricity seems to be your new thing. Is that so? Should I go heavy on the electrics?

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