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01/14/2016 by Austin Danicic

Example Solar Panel Setups

Solar chargers and batteries are becoming essential items for camping trips. However short or long your excursion is, you will probably be bringing some form of technology with you. Smart phones, emergency devices, headlamps, GPS units, and cameras all require power. Don’t let battery capacity stop you from capturing all the unique moments from your trip! Portable solar panels have gotten more rugged, lightweight, and efficient for our convenience.

Listed below are some of my favorite solar panel set-ups. Or, you can check out the complete guide to choosing a portable power device.

Example Solar Panel Setups pano
Goal Zero Nomad 7

Goal Zero Nomad 7

I’ve been a happy user of solar chargers since 2011. My first foray into the solar charging world was with the purchase of a Goal Zero Nomad 7 ($79). Its primary use was to charge (via USB) my Olympus Stylus Tough camera. Its secondary use was for its 12V car charger adaption. I was able to top off the battery to our satellite phone during a lengthy canoe trip in northern Canada.

I learned a few things in my first year of using a solar charger. First, a cloudless sunny sky is perfection. Those partly cloudy days seemed to be ideal charging weather, but uninterrupted bright sunlight (with your charger correctly positioned to capture the most sun) are actually best. Secondly, solar charging is not like plugging your device into a wall charger. Depending on the size of your solar panel, most electronics charge after 6-8 hours so patience is key!

I’ve since graduated to a more involved set up, but it is still very versatile. I have both a Nomad 7 and a Nomad 13 ($159) that can be linked together. To retain all the captured solar energy, I have a Guide 10 Plus ($49) for charging AAA and AA batteries, as well as the Venture 30 ($99) for charging all other USB-powered electronics.

For my long canoe trips I’m usually charging my Olympus Stylus Tough camera, GoPro Hero 2, Garmin GPS unit, headlamp, Kindle, and a satellite phone. My setup works great for keeping everything fully charged. I do have three batteries for my GoPro, since taking video really drains batteries. My Olympus lasts about 10 field days, the Kindle last around 30 days, and my Black Diamond Storm headlamp lasts about 10-15 days.

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Opteka BP-SC4000 Battery Pack

Opteka BP-SC4000

I’ve also tried the more portable and lighter solar charger the Opteka BP SC-4000 (Opteka $59). It is a solar panel and battery all in one. It works great for small UBS driven devices such as cameras, kindles, and smartphones. This is my go-to option for lightweight backpacking trips.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the Goal Zero Venture 30 (an external battery pack) with whatever size solar panel best fits your needs. I’ve found that regardless of sunny days, if you are able to store power from your solar charger for use later in the trip, it is your best solution.

Check out how to maximize the battery life of your phone, and then leave a comment below with your ideal solar panel setup.

Austin Danicic
Austin Danicic

Austin Danicic splits his time, when not canoeing, between working as an outdoor instructor in the United States during the summer months and construction/logistics worker at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica in the winter. Check out videos of his many adventures on YouTube.

  • Sources
  • Images via Goal Zero and Opteka.
  • All products were purchased by the author.
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