Off-grid on that epic hiking vacation into the depths of the Grand Canyon and blogging about it on your iPad? Camping on that working vacation in the Rocky Mountains with your family while polishing that report on your laptop? One of the most frequent questions we get in technical support is how much portable solar power does it take to charge an iPad or laptop battery while hiking or camping. With a little more information, it is easy to look at the right size portable solar charger or the lightest portable battery power options available.
The first thing you need to do, in creating a portable battery pack and solar charger, is to look hard at your total power requirements. Choosing a solar panel and battery to match it is fairly simple. An iPad comes out of the box with 25 amp hour batter that will deliver its advertised 10 hours of run time which means it is sucking around 2.5 watts of power. Most laptops, in comparison use around 40 watts. The challenge when calculating portable solar hiking or camping needs is your iPad or laptop battery life is a function of how hard you are using it. Listening to music is less of a battery power drain than typing a blog.
The 2nd consideration that is often overlooked, to charge your equipment you need to be pushing more solar generated power at it than it consumes. That means your iPad may not charge using your laptop USB port if it is turned on even if the laptop is being powered by AC outlet. Apple recommends you put your iPad in the sleep mode when that happens.
A common question we get from customers is “will a portable solar panel run my laptop?” The answer is maybe, but it is usually not a great idea simply because of the power match. A 26 watt Brunton Solaris portable solar panel will not run a 40 watt laptop, but it will power the battery while the computer is off. However, a 62 watt Brunton portable solar panel has ample power, but in low light conditions it is unlikely it will put out close to 62 watts of power.
Because the power put out by a portable solar panel can fluxuate with sunlight exposure, we recommend you consider bringing along a portable battery pack to store energy. While you are on a side trip, you can sling the portable solar panel over the outside of your tent and power the portable battery pack.
Brunton Sustain portable battery pack with 73 watt hours has enough power to run a iPad for a couple of day depending on hard you use it. The Brunton Sustain is lightweight at 6 oz. but has enough adjustable power setting to accomidate all your off-grid electronics.