DIY Mobile Solar Charger

On my recent trip to Boundary Waters in Minnesota I brought my Sony a6300 along for the ride. Months of planning and design accumulated in a week of full camera, fitbit, and GPS logging batteries.

I chose the Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panel due to its 20 watt output power during peak sunlight, and it’s portability. I purposefully oversized the panel so even on cloudy days I’d still be able to get a small amount of power from it, while relying on the main battery to charge my devices until the sun would come back out.

For the battery charging I used a Mohoo 20A Charge Controller Solar Charge Regulator. Although it’s menu navigation is pretty confusing after you set it up the first time (by selecting which type of battery you’re charging) it’s plug and play from that point.

In order to get the solar panel powering the solar charger I hacked off the cigarette lighter attachment coming out of the solar panel. I was a little dismayed that hot glue was used to separate the positive and negative wires inside the adapter. Pretty bad build quality here considering the $200 price tag.

I velcro-ed the charger to the side of a 12v 7Ah lead acid battery.
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The battery uses a Y adapter to attach to both the regulator and whatever I’m charging at the same time. Documentation I read online said it’s better to have the load pull from the battery then the “aux” port on the regulator. This setup allows the battery to be both charged and used at the same time. I used some left over XT90 connectors I had from my RC quadcopter.
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Quick pic of the solar charger plugged into the battery but not the solar panel.
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The whole setup was enclosed in a Leader Accessories 5L Dry Bag to keep things safe while on the water.
I also stored the various chargers in this.
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On the charging end I spliced a Wagan 4-way 12v Automotive Splitter with another XT-90 connector. This would allow me to use stock hardware to charge the camera batteries, my fitbit, and a GPS logger for the trip.

Once on the water I used my tripod as a support for the solar panel, keeping it accurately pointed at the sun while it charged my batteries in the shade of itself.
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Overall it worked excellently. It kept all my devices charged throughout the week long trip and was very easy to portage with across land. It helped me get a shot like this one!

Boats in a Row, South Temperance Lake, MN
Boats in a Row, South Temperance Lake, MN

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