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Mounting a Solar Charger

Old 08-02-20, 07:06 AM
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KFC
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Mounting a Solar Charger


I recently purchased a 21 watt solar charger for an 11 day tour where electrical outlets would be scarce. I specifically choose the 21 watt variety because I thought the 28 watt would be too large to mount on my bike or on ,my trailer ( Bob Yak) I am looking for some advice on mounting methods and options for this unit. How do you secure it? I used four pieces of thick electrical wire to attached it on top of the dry bag on my trailer, but it made it difficult and time consuming to get into the bag. Any suggestions? Pictures?

Safe Travels....

Last edited by KFC; 08-02-20 at 07:12 AM. Reason: inserted picture of existing rig
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Old 08-02-20, 07:24 AM
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Unless you wear it like a backpack , where else could you put it?
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Old 08-02-20, 07:52 AM
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Here are some ideas...

Bungee cords with hooks would be quicker to hook and unhook, but less secure and put more stress on the panel itself. Perhaps using wire on one side and bungee cords on the other? Then you could just unhook from the bungee side.

Wide velcro straps can be very, very secure.

You could also make a high shelf out of pvc pipe or pvc shelving, or just use a lighweight narrow table like for patio or camping use. This would make a shelf that's hopefully high enough to allow easy access to the dry bag.

What about mounting a rear rack on the yak wheel? Some racks use skewer mounts and then a small stabilizing rail or rails (or straps) could be used in the front. And if the front stabilizer could sit behind the day bag, then you's have very good access to the bag.

Another thought. If you are just interested in easy access to the bag zipper. Would it be possible to lay the bag on its side so that the zipper is to the left or right?

Found this photo on a google search.


Last edited by BobbyG; 08-02-20 at 08:05 AM.
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Old 08-02-20, 07:55 AM
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A point well taken. I am not as concerned about where I mount it as I am on how to mount it. Ideally it would be some way, whether I tour with the trailer or panniers, that would allow reasonably quick and easy access to the bag(s) beneath it, while maximizing its exposure to the sunlight. The unit came with four small carabiners, which proved useless (at least to me).
I thought that mounting it on the trailer would be good in that it provided great exposure, but, being so close to the ground and at the rear of bike, it got covered in dust, mud and road debris - all of which reduced its efficiency. I have yet to use it on a tour with panniers.
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Old 08-02-20, 07:57 AM
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how often do you really need to get into the yellow bag? I'd be in the keep it simple camp and have some sort of light, carabiner sort of clips that are easy to open and move panel, but are secure.
I cant imagine you'll be needing to have the panel out all the time--youre using it to charge a battery bank I presume?
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Old 08-02-20, 07:05 PM
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Generally a solar panel on a bicycle trip is going to be a "fail"... a battery pack, meant as a back up power source is going to be more "efficient" in the long run. IMO...

Last edited by 350htrr; 08-03-20 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 08-02-20, 08:35 PM
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I have a three panel solar panel that charges a storage battery from which I charge my devices: phone, ipod, light. This prevents a common problem of devices shutting off if the charge cycle is interrupted (cloudy weather for example). Works great.

I use 4 small micro carabiners (the panel has 4 loops sown into the corners) and attach the panel across my panniers in the back.

Sorry, away on a trip atm so I can't link a photo.

I chose a solar panel to augment my power needs because I do several genres of travel; cycling, kayaking, hiking, so a dynohub wasn't a comprehensive choice given that.

If you lack attachment places on your trailer bag you can add some small D rings from a camping supply store. If it is urethane you can get glue on ones from a canoe/kayak shop so you don't pierce the waterproof design.

Last edited by Happy Feet; 08-02-20 at 08:51 PM.
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Old 08-03-20, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by KFC View Post
... I am not as concerned about where I mount it as I am on how to mount it. Ideally it would be some way, whether I tour with the trailer or panniers, that would allow reasonably quick and easy access to the bag(s) beneath it, ...
I try to pack my bags in such a way that my handlebar bag is the only bag I have to open during the day when bike touring. I usually strap my rain gear on top of my front panniers, so do not even need to open a bag to access rain gear. The only common exception is a stop at a grocery store necessitates packing the groceries, thus access to the bags.
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Old 08-03-20, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I try to pack my bags in such a way that my handlebar bag is the only bag I have to open during the day when bike touring. I usually strap my rain gear on top of my front panniers, so do not even need to open a bag to access rain gear. The only common exception is a stop at a grocery store necessitates packing the groceries, thus access to the bags.
I do as well. In fact, on my last journey I carried an easily accessible trunk bag on the rear rack where I kept things I was likely to routinely need during the day. It was in addition to the small handle bar bag where I carried immediate requirements (camera, snacks, small battery. etc.). I found it very inconvenient, at least compared to traditional panniers, for things like picking up daily groceries, retrieving the water filter, getting out so food for lunch etc. In all fairness, my complaint is not entirely with the charger. The BOB drybag has a traditional roll-top design with the 'ears' buckled at the base of the bag, both front and read. The problem is that with the bag installed in the trailer, it is very difficult to get to the buckles in order to release them. Generally, I have to remove the charger from the top of the bag, remove the bag from the trailer, and finally open the bag. The process is reversed when it comes time to stow everything away. I am working on a custom strap that would allow me to buckle the drybag at the top, thereby allowing me to access the contents of the bag while still in the trailer.
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Old 08-04-20, 05:23 PM
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Four pieces of para cord hold mine down. Knots are easy to tie/untie, adaptable to changing size and shape of the support, and don't cost much
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Old 08-04-20, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
Four pieces of para cord hold mine down. Knots are easy to tie/untie, adaptable to changing size and shape of the support, and don't cost much
Could you combine Pratt's idea with two trailer length tubes to lift the panel (lean to style)?
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Old 08-05-20, 12:48 PM
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I like this idea of solar power a lot, so Iíll probably eventually try something like this. 😎 Too bad someone doesnít just invent a helmet with built in solar panels. High-viz green, of course. 🙄😁
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Old 08-08-20, 06:29 PM
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I have a 16 watt RavPower solar charger myself, I don't have a trailer but I just strap mine with bungee cords to the holes in the charger opened on top of the tent on the rear bike rack.

I wasn't sure how well the solar thing would work but after using it several times I really like it, the only problem is lack of sun, so I bought a Anker 10,000 amp hour powerpack that is fully charged, so if there is no sun I just use the battery backup, I can charge both my iPhone and my two lights from that battery and still have 1/2 a battery left. When the sun is out I can recharge a 5% charged phone to 100% in 4 hours with the Nekteck, that's only an hour longer than the wall charger will take!

If you go with a solar don't go with anything less or more than a 16 watt unit, going less than 16 watts will take about twice as long to charge stuff, and while 21 watts is faster but you add another pound of weight, so you have to decide if you want to deal with the extra weight to get faster charging times or go for less weight and slower charging times. And you should get a backup battery, but I got a 10,000 one because it was only $14, but also the larger ones weigh quite a bit more, so I don't want the weight. Of course in case of emergency, you haven't had sun for a week, take your wall charger cords. But since I got the solar I've done several camping trips and haven't needed to use the backup battery.

Those powerpacks with a solar panel built on one side of the battery do not work well at all, I have a friend who bought one, and after a full day in the sun the powerpack battery wasn't even 1/4th charged! He sent it back. He found out later that you have to keep those charged fully off the wall and not to rely on the solar panel...well then why attach a solar panel to the powerpack? Anyway he ended up with something similar to what I got just a different brand, he paid more than I did but they both work just as good when we tested them. Anyway be careful buying these solar panel chargers because some do not get good reviews, one in particular costs 3 times as much as mine did and in tests I saw the one I got actually outperformed the expensive one.

The other think I do for tent lighting is using a Luci inflatable solar powered lantern, this thing is fantastic, I used it for 5 nights in a row and the darn charge level lights are still on full afterwards! And it casts enough light to read by easily. HOWEVER do not get the model that promises it can charge your phone, it can't, the solar panel is far too small to do that in a timely fashion, unless you allowed it 4 days to do it. The only battery powered light I have is a small Nebo Slim 400 lumen light that is very, well, slim, and it fits into the handlebar bag taking up next to nothing in space; because the one I have is not rechargeable I carry a set of AAA batteries in case the first set dies, but I don't use the light much, just rely on the Luci light; they don't make that AAA version anymore. I think the new rechargeable one would be great so then all you have to do is recharge it with the solar panel system.

Anyway, do your research before buying a solar unit, it has to fit for your needs, and the panels need to be the most efficient ones you can find, my research turned up the RavPower unit, your research could turn up something different.
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Old 08-08-20, 06:50 PM
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^^^ Looks like good advice, thanks. 👍 Part of why Iím dragging my feet about it is, I have one of those 10,000 amp batteries, too. It takes a long time to charge, but it recharges my iphone 6 plus a few times, which is pretty darn decent. 🙂

So really, I just want something to keep my battery topped up good, over the course of normal riding.

EDIT: Adding a pic. I forgot how much capacity I have, got this blackweb battery pack on sale, at a Fryeís Electronics. 😎


Last edited by stardognine; 08-08-20 at 09:25 PM.
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