Sunday, February 1, 2015

Solar Charging System for dSLR Batteries

Finally! I have a solar charging system for backpacking that actually charges anything, including the big batteries on my Canon full frame dSLR! It's tricky because many camera batteries are 7.4V or 7.2V far more than the 5V of most USB devices. The good news: once I found something that could charge at 7.4V, it had no trouble with my phone, AA and AAA batteries and all other 5V USB devices!

The video provides a rough overview, but here is the breakdown of each component:

1. Brunton Solaris 12 Watt Panel

The Brunton solar panel is great! It is far lighter than other backpacking panels and far more powerful. Even more importantly, it has flexible output options. Many solar panels output power only over USB. This is great for phones and other USB devices, but it is worthless for the higher voltage requirements of my 7.4V Canon LP-E6 battery. This panel has a flexible connector.
The Brunton has two outlet ports

Pros: lightweight, powerful, flexible with built in eyelets to make mounting easier, connector port allows for more options beyond USB.
Cons: Price.
I owned a Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel which never charged my battery. While the Nomad has both USB and 12V outputs, the 7 watts was not enough. To add to this problem, it would not output the full 7 watts over 12V. The Nomad 7 is cheaper than the Brunton, but it is also significantly heavier. Note that this is an older version of the Nomad 7. The newer edition may have resolved this issue. 
The specs show only 4W going
to the 12V connector

2. Solar Panel to 12V adapter

This adapter was included with our Brunton solar panel. I plan to solder this directly to the cable leading to the universal charger. 

3. 12V Car Adapter for Universal Battery Charger

This cable came with the universal charger.

4. DigiPower Universal Camera Battery Charger

This charger can charge just about anything! I've tested it with several camera batteries, AAs, AAAs, and cell phone batteries (as long as they are small enough to fit).

There are cheaper universal battery chargers, but none that I have found with a flip out plug in the back for town stops. Many had a bulky AC power cord. 

5. My Canon LP-E6 Battery Finally Charging Successfully!

6. Micro USB Charging Cable

At 0.2 oz, these guys are lightweight and compact. For under $10, I was able get several, so if one breaks, I can always have a replacement tossed in with my next resupply! 

Edit: I created a custom solar panel to universal battery charger cable that shaved some weight off the system. The total weight is now 17.3oz. 

[Many of the links on this page take you to Amazon where, if you buy anything, I get some support!]

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