Often when you are out there hiking or what not, your mobile phone or GPS unit runs out of charge. You might carry some extra batteries for your GPS unit, but most likely not for your cell phone. One option is a crank dynamo charger, which I wrote about in my previous blog, and for which we made a video review on the nwsisu YouTube channel.
Another option is to bring a solar-powered USB charger. The solar charger can charge most USB chargeable devices. There are some Apple devices that might not be compatible.
If your GPS unit doesn’t have an USB port, but uses standard batteries, you can have the solar charger charge the batteries separately from the GPS unit
These solar chargers can be found pre-made online, but I haven’t checked if any retail stores carry them. But if you are a DIY (do-it-yourself) type of a person, you could easily make one yourself at low cost.
All you need is a solar panel, a voltage regulator, and an USB female port. I purchased a 6V solar panel from Radio Shack. As voltage regulator, I got a 12V->5V car cigarette lighter phone charger from Goodwill for dirt cheap, and I had an old USB extension cable laying around. You can also get the USB port from some old junked device, or buy one from Radio Shack.
If you are skilled in electronics, you could make your own voltage regulator, instead of using an old car charger.
The solar chargers don’t put out much current, but if it’s kept on all day, it should keep the charged devices topped up. It would be easy to attach the charger on top of your backpack, so it would keep your units charged while hiking. Of course, it only works when the it’s sunny.
I connected all the parts together and tested it on my smart phone and my GPS. The phone charged just fine, but the GPS wasn’t charging. The battery was probably too dead to trigger the charge.
I will later on put it all in a weather-proof package and hopefully I get around making a YouTube review of the project.