Off grid charging?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by thequintessentialman, Jul 22, 2021.

  1. What are some of the solutions you guys use for off grid power cameras now require battery power to work at all. This is for when traveling to areas where grid power may not be available for a few days like camping, remote travel, or such. I was looking at solar phone chargers and got to wondering what solutions my fellow photogs have come up with.
  2. Spare batteries, more convenient and take up less space than a charger, but one battery will do me for a couple of days normally (mirrorless digital).

    Film camera as backup?
    za33photo and Ludmilla like this.
  3. For AC chargers, get a 12V to AC power supply with a pure sine wave output. They cost at least twice as much as one with a chopped output, but work with anything, including iPads and laptops. An AC adapter with universal voltage compatibility uses a switching circuit rather than a heavy, single voltage transformer. Chopped AC sources interact with switched adapters, with sometimes bizarre results.
  4. Ed's advice is very good, but only helps if you have access to AC power. Another approach is a 12 volt charger. I have a couple of 3rd party chargers that have an AC plug that folds down out of the body of the charger. But each charger also comes with a 12-v car adapter so it can be plugged into a port in an automobile. The brand I have is Premium Tech, and both have worked just fine for around 10 years, including in several European countries.
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I have several similar car chargers and also European plug ins from Wasabi and others. Have never needed to use one, because I have never run through the three spare batteries per camera I travel with. Backpackers and long range hikers have a different challenge. Have had excellent results from these folks in past years (still a member, though none near yet!). Link How to Choose Solar Chargers and Portable Power
  6. I 'd try to use the 12V of a really moving vehicle. Trafic jamming or trial like offroading might not provide enough generator output though. Try not to drain your vehicle battery, contemporary bikes have way too small ones.
    As a step up, for a weekend warrior, I 'd ponder a "solar" generator or jumpstarting aid Lithium battery with at least 12V & USB outlets charged at home or on the road. If you 'll park for weeks add solar panels.

    I fear solar phone chargers are dimensioned to be placed in ideal sunlight for 6 days of radio silence, to permit family calls on Sunday. = Way too underpowered for serious photography and also hard to use since nobody wants to park or be in areas, where they are working unless you cobble the cells on a parasol.
    I'd stay away from tiny phone power banks.

    No "anti solar bias" intended. If you have a chance to utilize panels all year long, at home too, get some.
    tcyin likes this.
  7. I was referring to an AC converter to be used in an automobile. Not all portable devices have a 12V adapter. A sine-wave converter can be used with any AC device up to about 180 watts total. They should be used only with the engine running, and otherwise will drain the car battery in a few hours (don't ask).

    When traveling abroad, I carry an outlet strip with US (or universal) sockets and a cable terminated according to the local standard. European voltage is typically 230 VAC, so any extension device has to be rated for that. The strip doesn't change the voltage, but universal chargers can be used at any voltage betweeon 90 and 240 VAC. My evening ritual includes recharging batteries, and backing up the day's photos to a hard drive (or two). I will probably have to charge drone batteries on the go as well as at night.

    20 years ago, prior to universal adapters, I needed a transformer the weight of a bowling ball in Europe.

    Solar power is not inexhaustible. Mid-latitude insolation is about 1 KW per square meter, of which solar panels capture only about 25%. Use this to calculate how large a collector is required for your needs. Solar collectors to replace coal fired power plants would cover about 1/4th the state of Arizona.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2021
  8. It's a lot harder to get off some kind of electrical grid (accessible with converters, etc.) these days than it used to be. Even then, carrying a bunch of charged spare batteries can get you a long way between charges.
  9. The YouTube channel / website "cheapRVliving" covers / reviews solar solutions for boondockers. Other channels cover (re)building batteries for e-bikes or solar systems. I'd love to have a 24Ah/day 12V battery for my tent, YMMV.
  10. 10-20 watt solar panels are readily available for under $25 USD. Look for one that also has a USB port in addition to the "normal" 12vdc output. I use the 12v output to charge12v battery packs for my QRP (low power) ham radio transceivers. The Wasabi system I use for my X-e1 batteries has a 12vdc input ability so the solar panel can be plug directly into that charger. The USB ports can be used to keep your phone topped off. Yes, everything works much better on a full sun day, but even bright, overcast days provide usable energy. Bill
    Jochen and steve_gallimore|1 like this.
  11. I was pondering this question a couple of years ago getting ready to travel to Eastern Europe and finally decided that a second battery was all I needed. I got a couple thousand images writing raw and jpeg on two cards and had plenty of battery left when we got back.

    Rick H.

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