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Power Supply Devices

Rodnak Kayak

Dec 19, 2007
Victoria, BC
So, what is the consensus on what to take for, say, a 4-7 trip? To keep cel phones charged, maybe an i-pod, and lets say one other device.
Solar chargers vs power paks?
Some obvious points, are you need sun for solar and power paks are a one/two-use until recharged. Plus size and weight, or is it a combo of both? What is reliability of both systems.
Seems more and more, we need that electric power!
Opinion, and any recommendations?
:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:
I've been using a 20,000mAh battery pack for the Delorme inReach SE, camera (Olympus) and VHF (Standard Horizon) that all charge via USB. I have not done a week long trip yet so not sure when I would run out of power. Still need to pack extra lithium batteries for the GPS. Make sure to put the cell phone in airplane mode so it doesn't run down trying to connect to cell towers or wifi. I only turned on the Bluetooth on my phone and the inReach in the evening so that typing messages on the inReach was not so painful (see other thread).
JohnAbercrombie said:
Are you going to be moving camp every day, or base-camping with day paddles?

John, a bit of both, maybe up to 3 days in one spot, but could move daily. So easy set up is somewhat key, as is portability.
I got to paddle with Justine Curvengen, the video maker for the This is the Sea series (among others). She has taken many long trips, and videoed them for the movies. I asked her about how she keeps her cameras and other electronics charged, thinking she would respond with solar panels and such. But she went the route of getting lots of batteries.
If you're frugal with electronics usage, batteries can be managed to last a substantial time.

I have five proprietary batteries for my camera which allows me close to 2,000 photos. A 6600 mAh lithium ion battery will fully charge my phone almost 4 times. A second 6600 mAh battery will give my iPod mini a full charge and a little more. I power off the phone and iPad when not being used. I tether my iPad to my phone for internet access and limit my online time by typing all messages on the iPad while offline as surfing the web sucks battery really fast (phone and iPad) so I limit my online usage to only what I need. Headlamps use alkalines, as does GPS.

I'm pretty sure I could easily do a two week trip with this relatively small setup and still come back with all my devices still charged (at least a bit).
On my first trip to the Bunsby Group, I took along a solar panel setup.
The panels were not waterproof, so they went inside a Pelican box, in a hatch between camps.

On that trip I learned.

1. The sun moves across the sky, so you must reposition the panels through the day for best effect.
2. The best sunny spots are away from the trees and typically below the high tide line.
3. The tide comes in.
4. Sometimes it is cloudy. Solar performance may not be reliable.
5. You can't be in camp repositioning your panels if you are on the water exploring--the whole reason you got out there in the first place.

When I came home from the Bunsbys I sold the solar panels and converted to large USB rechargeable battery packs.
Plenty of juice to charge an iPad, phone, other USB things on a 7-10 day adventure.

But the real saving was in dry space under my deck. A USB pack can be stuffed in with your cloths and takes very little room.
If you've ever seen me packing my boat on a beach, you'll know this consideration is critical.
80w solar, 27ah sla battery, 200w inverter with usb, small ac battery charger. Other kayakers pull up to our camp area, I show them the charging station, and out come the phones, cameras etc :D
I would love to see a pic of your charging system laid out on a log or table to get my head around the size and types of components. At the very least, can you post a list of brands, specs, etc. of the components.

It looks as if the issue of charging devices is a complex one that is always evolving.
Part of my ritual before every trip is to plug in and charge a myriad of devices.

Most devices in use either have batteries or need frequent charging and use different types of chargers. I tend to keep a supply of AA and AAA batteries to complement my supply of chargeables. They are compact and have decent life to keep my GPS and Headlamp working. My ICOM radio can be charged using a 12 volt system but the batteries can only be charged in the large table top charger. Ditto for my camera except that its lithium batteries require 120V. I have two spare batteries for the radio and camera and they have gotten me through 12 days without charging.
I have been giving some thought to using the 12 Volt battery that powers my new bilge pump. I would then need to recharge this battery or resort to using a hand pump again. Sometimes I really resent how much time I think about this while paddling and more than once I simply paddle on, watching the scenery.

Some day I hope to have enough spare cash to buy a new radio, camera, GPS, headlamp, tent light that all use the same (USB) connectors, that charge from a single battery pack that is charged by a solar panel that charges in the dark at the end of a long day.
WG- I havent figured out how to post a picture, but its not hard to describe. Everything you need is at Canadian Tire. First if all I put the panels on my top deck behind me, my kayak is huge and I dont care about weight. Panels are 14" × 31" 40w Coleman brand from CT. They come with a 7amp charge controller. Look at SLA batteries at CT on line, dimensions are usually listed, these batteries cant leak, and are deep cycle. Just grab a low wattage inverter from CT and hook to battery, keep in mind inverters eat a little wattage on their own, this is listed in the manual, inside box, open them up. Thats it. Panel to controller, controller to battery, battery to inverter, from inverter plug in AC or use usb, tons of juice.
As for radio consider the amazing Baofeng UV 5RTP an 8 watt fully programable vhf uhf simplex transceiver, also has fm radio and led light. Set of 2 might cost $120 CD, the UV 5R, 5w version costs a little less. Not water proof, but one hell of a good tough radio/scanner etc, see youtube and buy off amazon. Your supposed to have amature radio license, but I just program in the 22 free use gfrs channels. Huge value!
I've had to put some thought into bringing power along for kayak trips. A recent diagnosis of sleep apnea necessitates a CPAP machine, which needs power. Lithium Ion batteries to power it were insanely expensive, so I purchased a Goal Zero Yeti 400. It's heavy, but it provides more than enough power for my needs. Using the CPAP alone, I can get 4 nights before I need to recharge. For my off grid cabin needs, I bought a 100 watt panel. It provides plenty of power to charge the GZ, but it's much too big for kayaking.

So - I'm on the hunt for a reasonably priced foldable solar panel. It must be at least 20 watts or more to provide meaningful power to the GV. It just needs to fit in the hatch of my kayak. If anyone reading has a suggestion or experience with a folding panel, please share.
These seem to get great reviews, plus sizes to fit all needs, i really like the look of this one, would like to see the size of the portable power station.

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station & Nomad 28 Plus Solar Panel Kit
Out of the box thinking (crazy talk)
Why not have a 12 volt 12-Volt Lithium-Ion cordless drill motor fitted with an USB port. (car lighter plugin sold in any drugstore)
It would:
cost less
weigh less
Have a lot more power storage

And you would have a power tool with a light. (or a cordless saw )
Silly maybe but:
It just seems like combing lead acid batteries with solar is incongruent.


A power supply is not just a power supply - a battery is not just a battery. That is, they provide "juice" but at a specific voltage and current level for the devices plugged into them. If you are going to wire up a USB connection, I believe the USB standard voltage is 5 volts, not 12.

Oh, I see - you are attaching the "cigarette" connector to the battery and plugging a automobile USB transformer/connector into the cigarette connector.

Doable, but we already have plenty of smart device "bricks" that provide additional power. I've probably collected 5 by now - various sizes, weight, capacity. I'm sure anyone of them would power my device (starting my trip with a full change) for the duration of any mini-expedition I'd take; say, two additional changes. If I needed longer, I'd pull out my solar panel I got for portable ham radio work.

Good out of the box thinking, but I'm not sure it adds more "feature" to what is already out there - the power bricks. On the other hand, if you can pickup spare batteries on summer garage sales, that might give an inexpensive source of spare power. Just note that power equipment battery voltage is not always 12V. I believe a lot of it is 18V these days.
Not directly on topic, but perhaps of interest to somebody:
Canadian Tire has 5000mAH (rechargeable) battery packs on sale this weekend - $13, supposedly reduced from $50.
My longest river trip last year was 28 days, and I had to charge 2 cameras, a GPS, an iPod, and a satellite phone. On earlier trips, I used a solar charger but found that I basically had to stay in camp on layover days fussing with the thing to keep it charging well. PITA! And I had trouble finding the connectors I needed. And then it died on Day 1 of a trip! So I went in a similar direction as Super Paddler and switched to Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries, specifically two 10-amp hour scooter batteries.

Advantages of SLA's: cheap, reliable power and it's easy to find the connectors you need on Amazon, which are cheap, as well. I brought two 10 amp-hour batteries, but even on the 28-day trip, the second SLA had lots of juice left. Best of all, you can charge your equipment while you sleep at night, or inside your kayak while you're paddling during a travel day. Very simple and easy to use.

Disadvantage of SLA's: WEIGHT! These suckers are heavy... which only really matters when you land. On the water it's a non-issue. When I'm on shorter (one or two week) solo trips, I only bring one SLA, but that's more than enough juice to power my devices.

Call me a Luddite, but I am perfectly happy to use cheap, low tech solutions. Those $500 Lithium-Ion bricks and solar arrays are not worth it, IMO.