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good solar chargers?


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hey there,

so with festival season coming, I was wondering how do you guys keep your electronic gadgets charged when on the go? A few years ago, cellphone batteries lasted days on a single charge so it wasn't much of a problem but now you need to recharge smartphones every day, especially if you take lots of pictures. Last year I used one of the like 20 ac plugs available but I find it annoying to have to wait sometimes for HOURS before finding a free one, so this year I was thinking of getting a nifty solar charger. Problem is, there are THOUSANDS of different models and a bit of extra reading showed me that most of them are just worthless gadgets (like you have to stay in direct sunlight for 20 hours for a full charge, the sun doesn't even shine for that long unless you're going past the Arctic circle lol)


So what do you people use?

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I'm waiting for the handcrank cellphone - for use in all developing nations...


heh that would be a cool idea... although I suppose it would be just a basic phone, in which case you can just put your SIM card into a simple 20€ phone that would hold a charge for like a week, I guess it's a pretty hard equation to solve :(


Anyway, I did some through research and this is my conclusion:



1st and foremost, look at the charge rating for your device! A closer inspection on cheap solar chargers will show you that most have an output current of less than 500mA, meaning that most devices won't even recognize it as a charger and won't charge at all! That's especially true with very new high-power USB devices who need a current of up to 2.5A just to accept the charge. Which is to say that the solar charger you've just bought would be completely worthless...


Now there are some pretty efficient chargers out there once you weed them out like the Joos Orange and the sCharger-5, the problem is that if you want something worthwhile it will be at least 100€, which is kindof expensive if you plan on just using it for a few days a year...


In the end, the best solution is to buy a powerbank, basically a big battery pack, charge it to the brim before you leave and use it to recharge your devices. There also powerbanks that get trickle-charged by a small solar panel on the back, this has the big advantage of recharging itself with low current produced by the panel but then allowing for a higher current to recharge your device thus bypassing the charger-recognition problem. That said, I'm not sure that letting a battery pack sit in the bright sun all day is a reliable solution, I suppose that the heat would destroy the battery after a while but hey at least they're cheap, you can easily find them in the 20-30€ price range.


So what do you guys think?

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From my own hobby of photography I know that it is always suggested to bring extra batteries to outdoor shoots.

Solar cell technology is slowly getting better, but like always, new technology is expensive so no one I know has a solar charger. Perhaps in ten years. I read where they are using nano-structures to create super- efficient solar cells :)

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