Solar Power seems to be the hot new thing these days however it’s been around for like, I dunno, forever. I mean come on, you remember back in the 80′s in grade school when you had your solar powered calculator that you could put your finger over and the numbers would disappear when you’d spell the word “BOOB” on it and you didn’t want the teach to see?
Surely this wasn’t just me.
Regardless if you had one of those bad boys growing up or not, we’ve had solar for a while. But since we’re in a day and age of “going green” (which if you ask me is a day late and a dollar short) solar power is the hip new thing. I really don’t get all into the going green mess, I guess because I’m on my bike anyway and always surrounded by green, so I’m always going there. But what I do like going for me is having some form of power while on a long bike ride, enter Voltiac Solar System.
Voltiac solar battery systems are just flat out awesome for long bike tours (like the TourDivide or the TNGA) as well as hiking or backpacking along the Appalachian Trail. It’s relatively lightweight and the battery works very well charging your GPS or Smartphone. I used the battery portion on the TNGA and it was a godsend (the solar panel would not have worked due to the heavy tree canopy I was in most of the 350 miles). It kept my iPhone, lights and GPS charged while it was being charged by a small, cheap USB-to-Battery charger. For the most part, from city to city I was able to keep power running which was super important to be able to see my GPS…
…and be able to constantly listen to Nickleback tunes <3
Oh yes, and it works well. The two lightweight and ginormous solar panels capture light and can independently charge a gadget or the battery, and if you’ve got full sunlight, it does it at a pretty rapid pace. I now take the Voltiac charger with me everywhere I go, not just on endurance bike races and rides. Any picnic, camping, hiking or event? I have it with me. Why? Because I’m a Twitter and Facebook whore and it tends to drain my battery quickly when I’m want to Facebook about that think I just tweeted about.
Voltiac System Video
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Currently I’ve modified it to fit on my handlebars with some straps I bought at Wally World however when I go on the Divide it’s my goal to have it strapped on the back of the bike on the extended seat pack. It’s a work in progress and I’ll give updates as they happen (trust me, I’m going to go through several modifications on my bike for the TourDivide). You can also mount the solar panels on your backpack however I don’t ride with a camelbak or hydration pack so this is moot for me.
Ugh, I’m not a weight weenie nor do I really care that much. I try to go as ultralight as possible but power is very important to me on a 100-200 mile stretch between cities on the TourDivide. So I’d rather have some solar panels and a reliable battery to keep me charged than to be coaxing some AA and AAA’s to give me one more ounce of power. I understand how valuable it is to go as light as possible, but I also want a powered cell phone and gps as well. The solar panels are a tad heavy but the trade off is that it acts as a pouch that you can charge (or hold) a gadget while riding.
The solar panel can fit on your backpack, your bike, your person or can be modified to fit a plethora of other things too. One thing I do is wedge it in my sunroof of my SUV to have a constantly charged battery. Also, as stated before, the Voltiac battery without the solar panels works just fine as well. I had the larger one but it actually did weigh a bit much so I opted for the small battery and it does a great job lasting for several hours.
The Voltiac Solar setup is great and I think it’s the best of the solar chargers out there. I’ve used three and have had lackluster results. I find the Votiac solar system a tad bulky for my bike but when I have my Revelate seat bag on the back, it should strap on there nicely, and the solar panels will be able to grab full sunlight there. Whether you are bikepacking, doing a multi day event or at a place where you’ll be draining down your battery – this solar setup works well.
Voltiac Solar Panel
[FMP width="640" height="360"]http://www.driven2divide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Video-2012-10-10-08.19.59-AM.mov[/FMP]