When I first started going out for extended periods on my stand up paddleboard (SUP) I remember paddling up to docks along the river and searching for outlets to get a quick charge. Getting tired of being run off docks and with trips getting farther away from civilization, I started using external batteries and eventually I started searching out solar panels. The purpose of these trips are to help connect people to the outdoors, spread awareness of its beauty and also the issues affecting it and in today's world electronics are a huge part of that. So I'm stoked to share a little bit of what I've learned with y'all about keeping them charged.
Before we get started lets determine what exactly you will be charging (phone, laptop, GPS, etc...) and figure how much it will take to charge them. Personally I usually carry an iPhone, two Garmin Virb cameras, Fenix 3 and rechargeable headlamp. Most smart phones run between 1400 - 3000 mAh (milliampere-hour), Action cameras 980 - 1100 mAh, Fenix 3 300 mAh, Headlamp 880 mAh, all of these require at least 5 volts to charge. So if you want to charge your iPhone 6s which the battery size on it is 1,750 mAh, you would need a external battery size of 8,000 -10, 000 mAh in order to get 4 to 6 charges out of it. Milliamp hours (mAh) is used to determine how long a battery will last with a constant power draw, also for storage as well.
External Battery requirements
External batteries come in all shapes and sizes, the larger the capacity usually the bigger and heavier the battery will be. So definitely think about the device you're charging and how long you will be away from power to determine the size battery you need.
- Figure out the size battery you will be charging
- Figure out how many times you want to charge it and how long you will be away from power.
- Once you figure out the size battery you're charging multiply that by how many charges you would like to get out of the external battery.
Other considerations are speed of charging, user friendliness, weight and accessories. When looking at the speed pay attention to the amps instead of the volts. Anything with an output of 2-3 amps will charge your device that much faster than a .5 - 1 amp battery. How easy is the battery to use? Does it charge more than one device and does it have a battery life display? Whats the weight and does it have a light built into the battery? These are all things to look at when selecting an external battery for your next adventure. Here are a few that I've used and like.
Goalzero Venture 30, check out full specs by clicking on the picture
Goalzero Sherpa 100, click on picture for full specs
GOpuck 5x, click pic for full specs
Solar Panel Requirements
Portable solar has come a long way and there are a multitude of companies making panels now ranging from 60$ to 600$ plus. Here is what you want to look for in selecting a panel that is right for you, output, portability, material. I've used and like the Goalzero 20watt nomad, Mercury10 watt instapark, Goalzero 7 watt nomad and 7 watt rollable powerfilm panel.
Panels run from 3 watts to 100 watts and higher, but what you want to think about is the amps that they produce. You can charge straight from the panel but it's best if you pair them with a external battery, most companies sell kits. If your panel is only feeding your device at .5 to .8 amps it will charge but will take longer, some panels are regulated in the output they provide. Here are some of the readings I got from each panel using a Droke USB tester.
From left to right 1st row: PowerFilm 7watt and GoalZero Nomad 7 watt
From left to right 2nd row: GoalZero Nomad 20 watt and Instapark Mercury 10 watt
This is important since you most likely will be backpacking or paddling with little storage for large bulky heavy panels, you need to think of how much room you have, length of trip and power needed. Most panels made now are very compact and durable, some are even rollable which is amazing, so this category is up to personal preference.
Left to right: GoalZero Sherpa 100/Nomad20 Kit, GoalZero Venture 30/Nomad 7 watt kit, Instapark Mercury 10 paired with GOpuck 5x, Rollable PowerFilm 7 watt panel
Most panels are made from mono-crystalline and some companies like Powerfilm are using a material that is flexible, rollable and waterproof. Most panels are safe for use in light rain and snow, Goalzero's Venture 30 has a weather rating of ipx6 which means it has been tested for heavy splashing and rain. The Venture 30 paired with a Nomad 7 or 20 is perfect for SUP and hiking adventures.
Left to right: PowerFilm 7 watt flexible and rollable, GoalZero Nomad 7 watt mono-crystalline, Instapark Mercury 10, GoalZero Nomad 20 watt
This is a brief breakdown of what I have learned throughout my travels, I know there is still quite a bit to learn but I hope this helps you in choosing a system that works for you. Fill free to comment or ask any questions you may have I'll answer them the best I can.