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Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I must be a freaking idiot.... on 07/14/2013 17:07:17 MDT Print View

Exactly the point, Chad. Many backpackers who purchase a thing like this get one with an included battery pack. Sure, that makes for additional weight, but it allows the user to plug in the load device and keep it charging no matter whether the sun goes behind a cloud or not. Others take an intermediate step and hook up something like this to external replaceable batteries, and then those can be used in the load device.

If you use a system like this in Palm Springs where the sun is highly reliable, you tend to skip the extra battery.

A product like this one could get some good out of a charge controller. That is sort of a special power regulator that follows the solar panel. If the sun goes behind a cloud, a blocking diode prevents your battery power from flowing backward into the solar panel. That would be energy lost. It also provides low voltage cutoff and related controls. Your review didn't state whether a charge controller was used.

We already knew that you were in Idaho or pretty close to Idaho (Targhee).

--B.G.--

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Suntactics sCharger-5 on 07/14/2013 17:09:06 MDT Print View

Stephen, excellent. That's using your head!

--B.G.--

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Don't sweat it on 07/14/2013 17:11:56 MDT Print View

I care if it works and is it easy. No numbers for me.

And don't mind bob. He's old and grumpy.

Kronos Master of Fate
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Suntactics sCharger-5 on 07/14/2013 17:18:17 MDT Print View

Isn't Germany #1 in solar production?

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/04/16/solar-power-record-in-germany-22-68-gw-infographic/


my previous comment is based on proofread'n


Edit: I meant to change that before I posted. Thanks Bob.

Edited by kthompson on 07/14/2013 17:53:25 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Suntactics sCharger-5 on 07/14/2013 17:23:14 MDT Print View

Ken, I think that Germany is bragging about its solar generation, not usage. Still, its solar generation is a fraction of the conventional power generation.

--B.G.--

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I must be a freaking idiot.... on 07/14/2013 17:35:01 MDT Print View

I wouldn't plug it into an iPhone. An iPhone needs a regulated power supply.

Too much power in full sun or not enough power and the iPhone will give you a message that says the power supply does not support the iPhone.

Bob is correct when he says the power output of a panel will vary with latitude, time of day, time of year, and weather (clouds/rain). That is a pretty important fact, don't you think?

You need a panel with a higher rated wattage and with a regulated power supply.

It would be a shame if someone spent $139 on this unit, based on the reviewers here, and found it did not work most of the time.

At a minimum, it would be nice if the reviewers gave us the specs of the devices they are charging. Better yet, discharge your device to 0% (real world) and then recharge it to 100% and report back.

You may want to compare this unit to the heavier GoalZero Nomad 7 which can charge other devices other than a USB device. This unit has a boost regulator and a linear regulator for different devices.

This is not the kind of review Roger Caffin would do.

You may want to read this where I verified the specifications of the system and presented the charge times from 0% charge in the phone. Solar for Backpacking?.


I am not a scientist, just an old auto mechanic. At least, I tried to be objective with what I could understand. I just didn't say I liked it without anything to back it up.

Come on guys, lets but a little effort into reviews to help our fellow backpackers make good gear choices for themselves.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Suntactics sCharger-5 on 07/14/2013 18:04:55 MDT Print View

"Isn't Germany #1 in solar production?"

Ken, that is a _fairly_ good thing, and it is nice that solar power production tends to peak in the afternoon of a summer day when air conditioning power demands so much. The problem is that even now, solar panel production (a lot in China) is kind of hard on the environment. It probably works out in the end.

--B.G.--

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I must be a freaking idiot.... on 07/14/2013 18:16:45 MDT Print View

Well nick you ought to tell all the cdt hikers I'm following on blogs that they shouldn't be charging their phones directly from it.

Of course none have mentioned any problems.

And that is just the feedback I want. Keep your caffin reviews. There is a place for both. And while you have given good feedback it isn't the only useful view. Try to see it from people who have a non technical view.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Suntactics sCharger-5 on 07/14/2013 18:23:50 MDT Print View

Another little tidbit is price of these solar systems.

As we have already concluded, there are all sorts, big ones, little ones, ones with an included battery, ones without any battery, ones with charge controllers, ones without, etc.

The standard retail price tends to fall into the range of $5 to $10 per watt of output. If you buy a really big one, the price may be slightly less than $5 per watt. If you buy a really small one, the price may be significantly more than $10 per watt. What drives the price is that wattage plus the extra features like charge control, batteries, nifty packaging, etc. So, this price varies a bit, but think where the final price is with respect to $5 or $10 per watt standard. Then look for the Suntactics 5-watt price. Now you can begin to do some good comparison shopping. You probably do not want to compare apples and oranges (one with a battery against one without a battery).

--B.G.--

Chad Webster
(blaktee) - F

Locale: Targhee National Forest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I must be a freaking idiot.... on 07/14/2013 18:37:59 MDT Print View

To be honest I don't get the point. Why would I bring up an included battery pack when it does not have one. Maybe many backpackers do buy one with an included battery pack, but many don't as well.

I'm not sure this qualifies for a "special power regulator" but here is what Suntactics has to say about the topic. Again this is right off of their website

Built in Auto-Retry Technology
The sCharger-5 has something that the leading competition does not have; “Auto-Retry Technology”. The sCharger-5 will immediately re-start charging within minutes after being temporarily blocked from the sun, other portable USB solar chargers require a manual reset in order to start charging again. With the sCharger-5, you will never have to worry if your device is charging properly.

I'm surprised you knew where I am Bob.

....to Nick
you said:
"Come on guys, lets but a little effort into reviews to help our fellow backpackers make good gear choices for themselves"
Are you suggesting this is a bad gear choice?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I must be a freaking idiot.... on 07/14/2013 18:46:12 MDT Print View

"Try to see it from people who have a non technical view."

We don't need to be technical to make a smart purchase. Just some facts. Amy has done a great job on her iPhone series of GPS apps. What is also important is how you use a phone. Turn on the GPS tracking all day and listen to music all day while hiking may not be a good idea. Then a hiker finds himself all alone in the middle of the New Mexico desert, lost without water, with a dead phone.

BTW, I just did a trip similar to Chad. Brought my iPhone and no map. No solar charger. No backup battery. Rained everyday. Hiked in dense forests with little sun. Was in an unfamiliar place 3,000 miles from home. Phone battery had 18% left when I got to my car. A solar panel would have been unnecessary weight.

Stephen Adams
(stevemkedcom) - MLife

Locale: Northwest
Suntactics sCharger-5 on 07/14/2013 19:02:25 MDT Print View

To Comment on using the Suntactics with an Iphone.
I did find that if I plugged in the Suntactics before exposing it to the sun I would get an error on the Iphone and It would not work. I always had to make sure it was exposed to the sun first. I used it every day for 6 weeks and some times I did try to use it while walking in and out of the trees. I would guess that if I was in the shade more than 50% of the time It would do nothing but at least it did not drain the battery.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I must be a freaking idiot.... on 07/14/2013 19:04:06 MDT Print View

"I'm surprised you knew where I am Bob."

That's OK, Chad. Some people are easily surprised by lots of things.

I don't speak for Nick, but I think the point is that a review would be good to distinguish between a solar panel with internal battery versus solar panel without battery. Some buyers will want one, and some will want the other.

Also, I thought that auto-reset feature is a bit of hogwash. I've never seen a solar panel with manual reset button, but that extends to only about twenty different ones. Not exactly hogwash, but more marketing spin. The bit about you will never have to worry... that's total hogwash.

Again, that is one primary reason why some buyers want a system with the battery included. That way, they don't have to deal with auto-resets and things like that. Still, a charge controller is a fairly important thing to have, but this assumes that your load device is valuable.

--B.G.--

Chad Webster
(blaktee) - F

Locale: Targhee National Forest
A review is not a comparison on 07/14/2013 19:35:37 MDT Print View

I do think there is many who would chose a solar charger with a battery pack. And many who would not. We have a choice.

That being said this was never intended to be a comparison between the two.

Bob you said: "I think the point is that a review would be good to distinguish between a solar panel with internal battery versus solar panel without battery. Some buyers will want one, and some will want the other."

You can compare the two if you would like. I was am not interested in one with a battery pack. And I am not planning to buy both just to write a great review in your opinion.

Nicks review did not compare the Suntactics or any charger without a battery pack, he gave a great technical write up on the Goal Zero. If the point was to compare the two you probably should rip Nicks review apart as well. Just to be fair. I do not expect Nick to buy the Sunatactics charger just to compare the two.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I must be a freaking idiot.... on 07/14/2013 19:55:21 MDT Print View

"Are you suggesting this is a bad gear choice?"

Not at all, I don't have enough information. Which is the point.

Some questions that would come to mind...

What happens when there is no sun? Does the phone battery lose its charge back to the circuitry? A proper diode in the circuitry will prevent this. How do we know what happens with the unit? I would want to see a test, I distrust the marketing crap the manufacturers use as specifications.

What happens if the panel output drops down to say 30% of rated output due to time of day, angle of panel, or weather? An iPhone will shut down the circuit if the voltage/amps is too low. A larger wattage panel could solve this with a proper controller to continually provide the correct power to the device.

What happens if the voltage goes too high for the device? A charge controller will regulate this. Does this unit have a charge controller built in? I suspect that if I orient the panel directly at the sun, at noon, in July, in Palm Springs the unit will put out too much power and my iPhone would shut down the charge circuit. I bring up the iPhone because it is popular and the battery is not user replaceable. Apple designed the charge circuit so these variables will not shorten the life of the battery.

If someone *needs* their phone or other device and it rains for 5 days, what is the plan?

I bring all of this up because these solar solutions are not inexpensive. Also, for me, a solar system for backpacking is not viable for how I hike. That said, if I where to do a multi-month trip I would need some sort of communication/charge solution to stay in contact with my wife, or she may not let me go. I would choose something like the GoalZero system with the battery pack. I am not saying it is the best, but it solves a lot of problems, especially reserve capacity. I have tested it and it does what the manufacture says it does, verified with testing. I own one because it was a gift. My wife and I have spent weeks in our camper self-sustained in bad weather without a dead battery bank. We do this because we know how much we consume each day, how much we can put back into the battery bank, and how long we can operate without sun. All of this is part of the formula.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: A review is not a comparison on 07/14/2013 19:58:53 MDT Print View

Chad, you keep getting confused.

I don't think that it is necessary to compare two different products in order to make a review. A market comparison would do that. However, it is good to distinguish between two types and mention why you chose Type A versus Type B.

Nor was I trying to compare Brand A versus Brand B. Nor was Nick. I couldn't rip Nick's review apart because I thought it was pretty comprehensive for what it was intended to be.

--B.G.--

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: A review is not a comparison on 07/14/2013 20:15:13 MDT Print View

Ah, but I did not recommend it for backpacking. That was the point. I also linked it to another article that discussed what a solar user should consider as the charging strategy and the methodology used to properly size the solar system and battery capacity.

Chad,

Please don't take any of this personally. Solar is probably a good solution for some people. But they need to think about how they will use it, how much capacity they need, the potential pitfalls, and cost. Heck if you had said that your phone battery is rated at X mAh, and at noon, in July, in Idaho, with the panel oriented directly at the sun, with 0% battery and the phone charged to 100% in 180 minutes, I would have some useful information. Even a dense guy like me can understand that.

A lot of people with campers ask me about solar systems for their campers. It is not unusual for me to recommend they just buy a 2nd battery and skip the panel. Others I recommend a larger system than they are thinking about getting. Needs vary.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: A review is not a comparison on 07/14/2013 20:29:20 MDT Print View

Nick, where I was one week ago, a fellow had a big Airstream with the roof entirely covered in panels. That must have cost a pretty penny.

He also had two satellite dishes up. One was for TV, and one was for Internet. Yikes.

Why would you go to a remote campground with all of that stuff? Just because you can?

--B.G.--

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: A review is not a comparison on 07/14/2013 20:36:24 MDT Print View

Status? Penis envy?

There was a guy who supported himself with advertising on his blog about his off grid camping adventures. Several solar panels and satellite Internet. He has been living in his motor home for ten years, most of it in Mexico.

But you have to admit that a blended Margarita in the afternoon or perfectly toasted English Muffin in the morning are nice touches. Not to mention a hot shower with pressurized water :)

Ian Destroyer of Forums
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: A review is not a comparison on 07/14/2013 20:36:51 MDT Print View

"A lot of people with campers ask me about solar systems for their campers. It is not unusual for me to recommend they just buy a 2nd battery and skip the panel. "

+1

I went down that road with my RV. After a lot of research and figuring out what gauge wire for what distance between the flux capacitor and blah blah blah, I quickly came to the conclusion that I could never justify the investment. At some point I'll just pony up the dough for a couple T105s and call it good.

With backpacking solar systems there is the additional challenge of justifying the additional weight which once again keeps me out of the market. I'm really happy there are people like Chad who are investing into this technology in its relative infancy. I'm still waiting for the future lighter/cheaper options.

The one thing I think is true whether you are talking residential or back country solar is that it's best to reduce & refine the energy demand first and address the supply second.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 07/14/2013 20:40:43 MDT.