Thursday, October 04, 2012

Solar Power On Tour

Our recent tour of western Washington was a good field test of solar gadget charging. We had wonderful, sunny weather and each day I had a Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Charger strapped to the top of the tent roll on my bike's rear rack. While in motion, I had the solar charger hooked to a small USB AA battery charger. In camp, if it was sunny, I could hook the solar panel directly to my Kindle to charge it or I could transfer the charged cells to another little USB unit to charge the Kindle. The AA cells also work in my bike headlight and camera. Yeah, it's a lot of gadgetry, but I'm a gadget geek.

So, how did things work? In general, pretty good but there are a lot of trees in western Washington so a lot of times I wasn't getting much sun at the campsites. And we really had ideal weather for this tour. In rainy conditions, I know solar wouldn't give me enough juice to keep everything going. As wise travelers Russ and Laura have pointed out, an extension cord to tap AC power is often your best investment.

My Kindle doesn't draw a lot of power, but Christine and I both read a lot on our Kindles on this trip and I also used the 3G connection and Kindle web browser to check the weather forecasts, send email and update Twitter. The Kindle is an awesome device for touring, it's like having hundreds of books with you (with access to tens of thousands) in something that weighs less than one single book.

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Charger is light and tough and worth its weight. My kit keeps evolving, but I'm a fan of rechargeable batteries. The folks at Burro have a nice looking, inexpensive charger and batteries that I'll be checking out soon. I just started reading Bright Lights, No City and I'm impressed with what they're doing.

How do you keep your gadgets juiced up on tour? Let me know in the comments.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA
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