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I am planning a multi-week backpacking trip (the JMT in California), and want to bring a real camera.

What are some good solar power options for charging my camera batteries on a long backpacking trip?

(Just to be clear, my camera is a Sony a7 and doesn't take AA or AAA batteries. It takes those wonky "camera batteries" that you have to charge with a special wall-socket charger.)

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    Might be better to take extra batteries. The weight of a solar panel and charger is about 5 or 6 camera batteries, or a couple of 10000mA External battery packs. Depends on how reliable reliable direct sunlight will be and how much photography you plan to do as to which is the best. – user5330 May 21 '15 at 2:54
  • @mattnz An interesting idea. I will leave a battery on my balcony for a week or two and see if it keeps its charge full time. The entire 214-mile hike will be above 8000 feet (2.5km), so direct sunlight won't be a problem. The cold might be, though. Cold might drain batteries. – theJollySin May 21 '15 at 3:31
  • Cold will drain batteries. – ShemSeger May 21 '15 at 3:44
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    Solar panels perform better when cold, although I would not presume 2500meters ensures sunny days :) Also be aware consumer-grade lithium-ion batteries should not be charged at temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F). – user5330 May 21 '15 at 5:12
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    @mattnz - So bring an extension cable so you can keep your batteries in your jacket while they charge eh? That'd perform double duty, your batteries would warm you up at the same time they're charging. – ShemSeger May 21 '15 at 15:53
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I'm very satisfied with my Goalzero Nomad 7, it's small, easy to strap to your backpack, and it fully charges your batteries or anything that charges from USB or even 12V power in as little as 3hrs in good sunlight.

enter image description here

There are lots of solar panels to choose from, any one will probably do the job, so shop for one that suits you. What you really need in your situation, is an adapter to charge your sony specific batteries using USB power (which most backpacking solar panels generate). For example, you can pick up something pretty cheap on ebay like the USB charger for Sony a7 batteries shown below:

enter image description here

S USB Travel Home Battery Charger For Sony ILCE-7 a7 ILCE-7R a7R Digital Camera

You can shop for whatever solar panel suits your fancy, you simply need to order a USB charger so you can use whatever panel you get to charge your camera specific batteries.

  • Looks good, not cheap though – user2766 May 21 '15 at 8:46
  • Thanks ShemSeger, this solution only adds a pound to my pack. The weight really matters and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to find a light enough solution. – theJollySin May 21 '15 at 14:43
  • @Liam, believe it or not, the Nomad 7 sells for less than what you can spend on a new stock battery for a nice DSLR camera. A new battery from canon for my 5D costs about $100. You can buy after market batteries for cheaper, but they don't last anywhere near as long. – ShemSeger May 21 '15 at 15:04
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I use two cheap solar panels (A5-paper size, folding ones) on bike trips, one without a battery and one with. I have both installed on my bike all day, with my GPS device plugged in to one of them all the time. I travel on roads and in a particular direction, so I can adjust them every two hours or so to face the sun. This keeps the battery on a respectable level, but the real charge comes when I stop for an hour to make something to eat. I direct the panels to the sunlight, and after one hour, my GPS is full, phone is recharged, and the camera (pocket-size automatic one) also gets some. In the evening I plug the camera to the second charger. Never had energy problems, but I am aware that this setup is very sensitive to unexpected sun outages.

Sorry for lack of specs, the new bike season is starting soon, and forgot everything from the last summer. :-) Just my 0,02€.

  • ANy chance you can tell us where you got these cheap panels, or what brand and model they were? – ShemSeger May 22 '15 at 15:09
  • This looks like either a knockoff or the next version of one of the chargers I'm using (sans the suction cups, mine looks exactly the same). It links to a Polish shop, which makes sense since I ordered them directly from the manufacturer in Poland. – Erik Ambrož May 23 '15 at 13:29
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Having done tonnes of research in this area, I settled for products from a company called Portapow. They do an 11w panel which I combined with their 6000mah solar battery and a AA/ AAA battery charger. With this set up I can charge my phone from either the solar panel, battery pack or solar battery. I can charge batteries for my GPS. The 11w panel charges my phone in full sunlight in about 1.30 hr.

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