It’s a gray, overcast day here in Estes Park, more typical of the Pacific Northwest than sunny Colorado. We spent a good part of the day test packing our kayaks, and on the way home received a small package in the mail, a 12V car charger for our cell phone.
Until now, I haven’t been able to experiment with our solar charging setup. I plugged in the components and we stood excitedly on the porch as the battery indicator flashed a lightning bolt! It felt like we had just plugged a socket into the overcast and started siphoning it’s meager energy into our phone. Neither Apryle or I have any prior experience with solar charging (beyond a calculator or two), so it was an exciting moment.
The business end of the solar charging system is a cadmium-free, waterproof, flexible Powerfilm R-7 rollable integrated solar panel. The panel comes with the RA-2 female 12 volt adapter, which plugs into the panel using a marine-grade connection. Using the female 12V plug, we can plug in anything that would plug into a car cigarette lighter.
Before the trip, I will drill a hole in a Pelican 1050 micro case and run the 12v plug into the case, sealing the hole with silicon and/or marine epoxy. The Pelican box will serve as a power center, into which we can plug either the 12v charger for our cell phone, or a battery charger that can accept 4 AA or AAA batteries.
During the trip, I will be able to attach the panel to the stern deck of my kayak and place the power center in a deck bag or in my cockpit behind my seat. In camp, we can simply place the panel in a sunny spot and charge away. Charging time is yet to be determined, but should be around a day or two for 4 AA batteries depending on the amount of sun. We’ll be using Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries, which are reputed to hold a charge for longer than typical rechargeable batteries and last roughly 4 times longer before becoming depleted.
Our solar battery charging system is small in physical size and in power, but should be adequate for our relatively low power needs during four months of paddling. Here is a video demonstration of the solar charging system: