My husband and I are passionate about the outdoors and travel. Tony is a 200 nights a year business traveler and product development specialist. I am an artist and outdoor enthusiast that frequently finds my self miles from an outlet but still needing to keep my technology powered up. Earlier this year we launched No Outlet No Problem power banks that we successfully funded on an alternative crowd funding site and have received rave reviews from our community of backers and customers with a 97.4% satisfaction rating from the survey we sent out!
(you can visit our website at http://www.nooutletnoproblem.com).
There are many different versions of the portable solar panel on the market, and we aren't claiming to have invented the underlying technology, only to have improved it while creating a nexus of price and performance that puts the technology within reach of the back-country adventurer, remote worker and preparedness community. We have also optimized the form to protect the devices you are charging from direct sun exposure (a major flaw in other designs). We are also introducing the Round Trip multi-voltage 23,000mAh power bank that is compatible with our largest solar panel as a perk for the truly power hungry remote worker who needs to keep a laptop computer powered while working miles from wall power.
Goals and Perks
We have finished all the development and raw materials sourcing. We have created 5 of each model with our contract manufacturer for third party testing and received the results we were targeting, so we are ready for our first production run. We need to raise a minimum of $25,000 to make that happen. We have included all the development details at the bottom of the page if you are interested in the roadmap we followed to bring these three products to you.
The Walkabout 7W (21" x 10" x 0.5" open / 10" x 7" x 1" closed)
This two cell solar panel weighs under 14oz (0.48kg) and has two 5V USB outputs that will charge at 500mA each. 21 x 10 x 0.5 inches when fully opened and only 10 x 7 x 1 inches when folded closed, it is perfect for keeping a battery topped off under light device loads. We recommend plugging your device in one port and your Adventurer, Expedition or Destination into the other while you are out hiking, backpacking or sitting around your campsite. ( A Walkabout Outfitter pack is available if you don't have a power bank yet. ) Available in three colors: black, high-viz yellow and woodland camouflage.
The Outback 10W (27" x 10" x 0.5" open / 10" x 7" x 1.5" closed)
This three cell solar panel weighs just over 22oz (0.64kg) and has two 5V USB outputs that will charge at 800+mA each. 27 x 10 x 0.5 inches when fully opened and only 10 x 7 x 1.5 inches when folded closed. It is ideal for keeping your device battery topped off under medium to heavy loads (GPS active). We recommend plugging your device into one and your Adventurer, Expedition or Destination into the other while you'er hiking, backpacking or sitting around your campsite. Also ideal for RVs, back decks, the beach - you get the picture. (An Outback Outfitter pack is available if you don't have a power bank yet. ) Available in three colors: black, high-viz yellow and woodland camouflage.
The Base Camp 25W (38" x 22" x 0.5" open / 11" x 7.5" x 2" closed)
This 8 cell solar panel is our largest and most powerful unit and is wired to provide enough voltage to charge a laptop computer (18V @ 1.4A) in strong direct sunlight. This unit weighs in at 3.3 pounds (1.6kg) and measures 38 x 22 x 0.5 inches when fully opened and only 11 x 7.5 x 2.0 inches when folded closed. The Base Camp comes with 1x 5VDC USB @ 1.5A (max), 1x 12VDC @ 2.0A (max) and 18VDC 1.4A (max). An assortment of charging tips for a wide variety of PC laptops are included - no Apple Magsafe connectors available but there are other options out on the internet that will work with the Base Camp system for Apple. The Base Camp was able to provide a charge to both Compaq and Samsung laptops in strong full sun with the adaptors provided during our testing. From the 12VDC output you can charge auto accessories (DVD players GPS etc) and MS Surface Tablets.
Please Note: It will not provide a charge to a laptop computer unless sunlight conditions are ideal and will charge at a significantly slower rate than a wall charger since it is only capable of providing 38% of the current a typical laptop wall charger would provide.
A Base Camp Outfitter pack featuring the BETA Round Trip is available that will act as a buffer, accepting the solar charge while distributing the internal battery to your laptop at AC wall adaptor rates.
The Round Trip 23,000mAh Lithium Polymer Power Bank - BETA VERSION
The Round Trip is in Beta Testing and as a backer of this perk you will be come part of our pilot run and beta testing group. Your input will be instrumental in the final production version of this product. This product is ready and safety agency approved, but a pilot run has not been completed and we have only limited tester input. Please understand you are getting a BETA unit from the initial PILOT run of this product and it does not have all the asthetic finishing touches the retail version will have. The case is an open mold and not our design, the internal electronics are the secret sauce and our proprietary Charge-Thru technology.
The round trip features a multiple voltage output selector that allows the user to chose from 5V / 7.4V / 9V / 12V / 16V / 19V output through the high-quality multiple tip cable. You simple hold down the power button and scroll through the options to select your voltage. You can create your own cable for specific applications by mixing and matching the supplied tips. Output current is auto-sensed and supplied from 1A to a max of 4.2A to provide the same power as your OEM adaptor. (this buffer lets you extend your work time while used in conjunction with the Base Camp or can be used as a standalone backup for your laptop)
Tips that are supplied are for: Apple (old style magsafe), Sharp, IBM/Lenova, Asus, HP, DELL, Fujitsu, NEC and Sony. Many other computers share these power charging tips. Your factory OEM cables will work as designed from the USB output for Retina and Lightning versions of Apple products.
The Round Trip is charged from the suppled UL Listed 3A wall charger which can accept 110/240VAC at 50/60hz making it compatible world wide. Charge time from wall power is 7-10 hours. Charge time from the Base Camp solar panel is 15~23 hours. It can take multiple days to charge the Round Trip from solar power depending on your sunlight conditions and usage. The Round trip features our unique Charge-Thru(tm) technology and can be accepting a solar charge while powering a laptop or other DC powered device. You can expect an additional 4-7 hours of additional run time from a typical laptop depending upon your usage.
Out of the Lab: Real World Results
The way solar panels are measured creates some built in disappointment for most consumers and non-solar familiar folks. (We learned our lesson during out last campaign not to try to redefine how an established industry measures things!) Testing labs simulate bright, cloudless noon day sun in a perfect orientation to the solar panel at 25c creating a maximum potential output. They measure at one sun:
- Voc(V) open circuit voltage
- Isc(A) short circuit current
- Vmp(V) maximum power voltage
- imp(A) maximum power current
- Pmax(W) maximum power / rated power
- Fill Factor - a power ratio
In the real world you are going to have cloud cover and won't be around to direct the panel as the sun moves in many cases. So we have done some testing in a variety of real-world applications to give you an idea of how long something will take to charge - still the best indicator to the average person.
The Walkabout averaged 380mA output from both USBs left in a single location during a lightly cloudy day. If your phone has a 1500mAh battery it would have taken four hours to charge from empty at that rate. With the dual outputs (one on phone/one on power bank) the Adventurer got a little better than a 50% charge in 10 hours.
The Outback averaged closer to 700mA output from both USBs left in a single location during the same lightly cloudy day. If your phone has a 1500mAh battery it would have taken just over 2 hours to charge from empty at that rate. With the dual outputs (one on phone/one on power bank) the Adventurer got a full charge in under 9 hours, the Expedition got over a 65% charge in the same time period.
The Base Camp averaged over 1000mA output through the 5VDC USB and 1A at 18VDC from the laptop charging output during a lightly cloudy day (three day test). Your 1500mAh battery phone would have taken less than an hour and a half to charge from empty (about the same as a stock wall charger) And an iPad Retina display unit would have charged 60-65%. An Expedition charged to almost 90% in a 10 hours test.
There are so many variables with laptops and we have not been able to test with all the various manufacturers combinations. Some laptops will not allow lower current charging such as the HP Elite Book which in our testing requires 3.5A @ 18V to charge. We are comfortable with reporting that 1A @ 18VDC charging is supported, and works very well, but you need to look at your individual charging specification for your specific laptop to determine if lower current charging is supported we do not have a master list available of all the various combinations.
Using the Round Trip power bank in conjunction with the Base Camp solar panel provides you the best of both worlds. Acting as a buffer the Round Trip will power your laptop from the internal batteries while charging the internal batteries from the provided solar power. This will extend your laptops battery by as much as 7 hours in a typical lightly cloudy day and leave you with enough extra power to charge a phone or GPS.
Our Development Roadmap
We started early on with 9V mono-crystalline panels that we could readily source in Asia for all our first prototypes. After extensive testing internally and submission to a third party testing house we determined they were not delivering the current and voltage we anticipated. Our Two-cell "7-Watt" and "10-Watt" units came closest, but as we added more cells the miss-matches between cells added up and we saw efficiency drop and fall short of our targets. We switched to 6V cells for the higher capacity "25-Watt" unit and saw considerable increases in performance and cell mismatch had a smaller net impact.
After settling on a solar panel sources (3.5W @ 9VDC and 3.5W @ 6VDC) we set about designing a durable, foldable structure to house the assemblies.
We visited with a number of factories that specialized in camping goods and found one that had experience sewing up foldable solar panels. We initially provided them the panels and an optimized USB charging circuit and they sewed us up some examples for test. We knew that we needed a large mesh pocket on the back side of the panels to hold whatever we wanted to charge and to keep it out of direct sun. This was a major flaw we noted in existing products and one of the significant improvements in ours. They either did not provide a pocket to hold a phone or battery or they put it right on the panel side of the unit in direct sunlight! Most electronics don't like elevated temperatures and exposurer to them will reduce a product's life and can even destroy it. We think that this is a key feature that all companies should employ (and probably will a few days after our project goes live).
We reviewed the materials that the factory had the best purchasing power for and ended up selecting 600D Polyester canvas for the enclosures. It is rugged, available in a bunch of colors (we selected black, high-visibility yellow and woodland camouflage) and inexpensive to procure. We sketched out the pouches and where we wanted them on the units and had some functional prototypes in just a few weeks. We learned form our last project (on Kickstarter) that we needed to create a cohesive look and "brand" feel for these, and since we were doing all three at one time, it was easy to settle on stitching, embroidery, pocket locations and mounting methods.
We decided on 550 chord for the lighter weight units. You can clip it to a back pack or tie it over a tent with ease. The 550 did not hold up on the heavier 25W unit so we went back to more traditional metal grommets. We also decided to embroider our company name into each unit right on the front, so there was no mistaking whose solar charger you have!
We enlisted a US company to provide third party testing over a wider range of temperatures as well. Our first tests were very disappointing and resulted in additional tweaks until we hit the numbers we are providing you now.
We have identified the factories to perform the final assembly and they require a 50% deposit to start work. Once we are successfully funded we will wire them the deposit so they can procure the materials. From our last experience with crowd funding, it takes 10 days to transfer the money to us and backers take a week to fill out the surveys for color choice, Indiegogo says expect 15 days. We would expect to have all our purchase orders placed within 3 weeks of a successful close to this campaign.
We are using our existing factory for the electronics, final packaging and test, all quoted lead-times for the raw solar panels have been taken into consideration. We have an established track record here with an on-time reward delivery for our last project. Our factory partner will be responsible for local market procurement, electronic assembly and test.
We will provide weekly updates during the production phase with photographs and adjustments if needed to the shipping schedule.
We feel that solar chargers should not cost a fortune and that with careful design, creative manufacturing techniques and basic economies of scale we can create a price and performance point that puts solar charging within the reach of the average technology user. Freeing up people to enjoy the places they want to be without being tethered to a wall outlet is our goal and your support is key. You are the critical component to our success. There is no way we a little husband and wife team can get the word out and have any hope of reaching our goal without people like you who are willing to give us a shot and trust us to deliver on our promise. We appreciate you and know you are the backbone of what we do and pledge not to let you down! Please share our project on Facebook and Twitter! Let your friends know about us and together we can reach out goal and bring these to market!
Other Ways You Can Help
Please share our project with your community of friends and aquaintences! Indiegogo has tons of easy to use and effective sharing tools! We really appreciate you help in getting our Solar Chargers and Power Banks off the ground!