Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solar Power

I have started looking into solar panels back around 2007, while following Craig Stanton's blog of hiking the PCT. I really liked the fact he was using a GPS to log the trail while he was hiking it, mostly because I am really into mapping. He was using an OHararp LLC GPSlogger (An older version of this) that came along with a solar panel to keep it running during the long hike.
My Geo Logger in its OtterBox case.
Before I set out to hike the Israel trail I ordered the same kind of GPS logger for myself, along with the generic solar panel. This was all in the days before smartphones, don't forget. I carried it with me while walking all the way from kibbutz Dan in the north, to Tel Lachish (Where I quit my INT hike), and photographed every trail crossing along the way, for future geo tagging of points of interest. I never did anything with the data I collected. Although I checked it out once, and the trail had sampling errors all over the place..

I later got my dad (who is an electrical technician) to fix a simple female USB connector to the solar panel, and took it with me to my hike on the GR20 in Corsica. This time I had a smartphone for the geo logging, but it stopped working on the fourth day or so. Only when I got back home I found out I managed to fry its motherboard. Oopsie. Maybe it was the improvised solar panel. Maybe it was the under clocking I'd tried applying on the phone. I don't know. After I got back home I sent the panel back to my father, for another round of checks and fixes. I noticed I couldn't get it to charge my Nexus 4 at all, and I almost gave up on the idea. But then I found a website with schematics on how to make your own smartphone solar charger. I have no idea what those schematics mean, but my father does. Another round at dad's, and I now own a solar charger that might actually work. I only received it about two weeks ago, and I haven't had any serious sunny days to try it on yet, but it does send the phone into charging mode when under sun light, so I'm optimistic. Since I do not plan on geo logging my bike this time. The charger will just have to keep the phone running occasionally to contact home, and maybe check the maps and GPS applications, if I get lost. I hope it can pull this off in between town stops. If it fails, I will probably buy the SunTactics sCharger 5 instead, since I heard a lot about it on trail forums and the Facebook group.
Getting to work by bus today, so I'll try to see if it charges my phone on the way.
Update: My test failed miserably. Even though I turned off all mobile data access during my ride to work, and did not use my phone for music or internet access, I managed to lose ~2% of battery. The panel was in the sun for most of the bus ride. I guess it is not working well...