25 Sep

Portable solar power for photographers

From time to time we go hiking for a few days or weeks and often face a problem of lack of electricity. This year we decided to try to charge the camera from the solar panels. And now we are going to explain why we chose them and describe our impressions.


When you are going to hike for a long time far away from electricity, you can solve the problem with the photo camera’s power supply in different ways:

The easiest way – to take a lot of charged batteries. It is possible to buy some original batteries that will cost a lot. We use batteries for Canon LP-E6  (about $70 per item). Also, it makes sense to use analogues, which can be bought for less than $10 per item, but the risk of getting a bad copy is really  high.


It is rationally to take batteries in reserve – one battery per day (of course, it depends on your needs) It means that you will have to bear the extra 0.5 kilos (75 gr. for battery) and spend extra $50.

Second way is to use batteries such as AA: for that you have to buy a battery handle to your camera. We do not describe the pros and cons of this method, because in a hike, we did not use it actively.


Recently, due to the fact that modern phones are discharged very quickly, external batteries (that feed the device via USB) become very popular . You can’t connect native charger to such a battery, but now USB charging devices for batteries LP-E6 are available in stores. We chose this one.


We were satisfied with the purchase. This variant is excellent for hiking  because it takes up little space and weighs only 37 grams. Now having powerful external battery, or even several, we are provided  with energy in the hike.

All these methods, unfortunately, did not protect us from a significant psychological barrier: we have always worried about the finiteness of our energy reserves. Therefore, no matter how many batteries we took, we were afraid that there would be no power for the last days and that is why prefered not to make a lot of photos during first days, saving the batteries for a masterpieces. Who knows how many really wonderful snapshots we haven’t done…

The psychological barrier was broken this year when we decided to buy solar panels. For hiking, it seems to us, the best variant is a 14 watt folding panel.


Portable foldable solar panel battery hanging on the outdoors on a pine tree on the seashore near the sandy beach

It weighs 760 grams, in fact, as 10 batteries, and somebody might say “Hey, what is the difference?”. The difference is that solar panels are also universal chargings  for your other devices – phones, GPS-navigator, radios and so on.


Maximum efficiency of solar panels is achieved in sunny weather when the panel is placed at 90 degrees to the direction of light rays. Unfortunately, because of the fickle weather we were not able to carry out experiments and learn how quickly this battery charges in such ideal weather conditions, so we will talk only about our experience.

We started our tests on phones. Well, depending on “sun light conditions” we had different results: in the evening with “cloudless” sunshine we were able to recharge a smartphone HTC One S (battery capacity 1650 mAh) from 80 to 100% in about three hours. In “partly cloudy” weather progress was slower and in cloudy weather smartphone refused to charge at all.

On the panel it is written such recommendations: “Some devices can not be charged directly due to weather conditions or limitations of your devices … For best results we recommend using external batteries (power bank), they are quick charge in the sun, even on cloudy days. Then you can charge them to your device at any time, anywhere. “

Due to these comments next time we took  the external battery (Lenovo MP506, 5000 mAh, cost about $ 15), which increased the weight set at 170 grams.


As a result, empirically, we have developed the following system: in the morning, when the backpacks are ready, the panel is attached to the external battery Lenovo, and the panel itself is hung on a backpack. On the way our external battery is charging. In good weather (even with variable cloudiness) it takes  5-6 hours to charge the external battery. Before going to sleep we place on a charge  “killed” during day (active shooting + live view + video) LP-E6 battery from the camera. In the middle of the night, we turn off a charged LP-E6  and connect our phones to recharge.


The next day everything repeats.

Overall, we were pleased with the result, and we will be happy to hear your stories about how you solve the problem with the power of your photocameras during hiking.

We also made a video for you where all the devices are clearly demonstrated: