Recommend QRP Solar Panel

Discussion in 'QRP Corner' started by W7MDN, Feb 1, 2021.

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  1. W7MDN

    W7MDN Ham Member QRZ Page

    For SOTA type QRP, looking for a solar cell for multi-day trips. REI sells the Goal Zero Nomad series among others. Interested in lightweight with enough capacity to charge HTs and Bioenno batteries for KX2. Three to four summit activations over two to three days.

    Questions for users of QRP solar:

    - Do you drag along all the chargers for Bioenno/HT type batteries when doing backpack QRP? Seems like a lot of extra weight.
    - For things that don't use USB plugs (HT chargers) is there a way to adapt to USB for use with solar?
    - Is Goal Zero Nomad an acceptable brand? What have you used?
  2. KN6SU

    KN6SU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I happen to like the Bioenno BSP-28. It is lightweight and folds into a compact package perfect for backpacking. I use the very lightweight Powerwerx MPPT-150-14.6 solar charge controller (which someone at Powerwerx said wouldn't work with the BSP-28...but it worked just fine for me). The BSP-28 provides 28W when the sun is shining,more than enough to run your KX2 and charge your batteries.
  3. N8AFT

    N8AFT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Using a briefcase size folding portable 12v 28w with the supplied outboard charger myself.
    I'm quite happy with it and it's RFI quiet, got it from Amazon a few yrs ago.
    BTW; Powerwerx and Bioenno are Competitors.... why wud they not say that?? o_O
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2021
  4. W4ZNG

    W4ZNG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have and sometimes use an Instapark 27w panel -- it looks almost identical to the Bioenno BSP-28, may well have come out of the same factory. It weighs about 3 lbs. Throw in a Bioenno pwm controller, that's another pound. Then add a 4.5 AH LiFePO4, that's a little over a pound. Call it all 5 pounds. It'll deliver 7.5 AH @12V of power per day indefinitely (so long as Mr. Sun cooperates), which is plenty to run my FT-817nd, laptop, and phone.

    For comparison, my 12 AH LiFePO4 weights just 3 pounds. That lets me operate pretty much all weekend (even when it's cloudy), is 2 lbs lighter, and doesn't take any special sunny-spot considerations to set up. OTOH, 10-12 hours of operating (less if I charge the phone with it) is about it.

    Either way I have a little 2x USB + 1x lighter plug block from an auto parts store. Crimped on a PowerPole connector to make it work with the rest of my ham gear. It lets me charge a phone etc. and the lighter plug works with my laptop's 12V charger (which weighs about another pound+; things add up fast).

    So the answer is (as with so many things) it depends: How long are you going for? How hard are you pushing to keep the weight down? How much power does your QRP radio draw the way you operate it? What other power draws do you have (phone, computer, etc.)? If you're just going for 2 or 3 days, you might well come out lighter and maybe even cheaper without solar by simply going with a big-enough LiFePO4.
    KE8OKM likes this.
  5. W7MDN

    W7MDN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Good points all. Weight is important. My SOTA pack is already at 25-ish lbs.

    The stock KX2 battery will last me about 2 - 2.5 SOTA summits of an hour each using SSB at 10w. I'd also like to charge the phone and the HT to have APRS coverage. I love the LiFePO4 I got and have never run it completely out. Lately, I've been bringing both batteries and use the stock battery as a backup.
  6. KU3X

    KU3X Ham Member QRZ Page

  7. K1GC

    K1GC Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I assume 25lbs includes overnight gear? For that duration I feel like I can carry enough battery power and not worry about charging, but I guess it depends on how long you are wanting to activate each day. A 3ah LiFePO weights in at half a pound and will easily get me 3 hrs of average use at 10W on my KX2. Two batteries at a total weight of 1lb has me covered for a 2-3 days easily, and I could certainly carry a 3rd if needed. A small and light USB charger covers you for your phone. That said, I have never owned an HT so I don't know what would be involved with that. It still seems like an extra battery would be easier than solar charging if we are only talking about 2-3 days, but I like less systems to worry about.
  8. W7MDN

    W7MDN Ham Member QRZ Page

    No overnight gear included...yet. 25 lbs gets me:
    BioEnno 3Ah LiFePo
    stock KX2 battery
    powerpole adapter
    EFHW wire
    SOTABeams mast
    tent stakes
    roll up J Pole
    3.5 liters of water
    trauma kit
    extra layers for winter
    Z Lite pad
    trekking poles
    sometimes a JetBoil plus a meal

    If I refit for overnight, it'll add probably 10 lbs:
    sleeping bag
    hammock + straps
    rain fly
    more food
    sundries kit
    KN6BRK, K6MAA and W4ZNG like this.
  9. W4ZNG

    W4ZNG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    You'd be astonished (eh, probably already are!) at how quickly the weight adds up. I stumbled across one of the best references on the how and why of reducing pack weight in a QSO with a retired flight surgeon up in Ohio. He pointed me toward his book "A Wildly Successful 200-Mile Hike," and I wrote up a little bit on it at my blog

    The main point he makes is that in the long run it's cheaper to buy titanium backpacking gear than to buy titanium replacement knees. Still working on the part where I spend $250 to replace a perfectly good 4 lb pack (which is pretty light already compared to my old 7 lb ALICE) with a 1.8 lb pack. But I'm getting there.
    W7MDN and K1GC like this.
  10. KE8OKM

    KE8OKM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am looking at buying the 28w Bioenno panel for SOTA/extended overnight hiking. I would pair this with my 4.5ah Bioenno batteries. Looking forward to what others suggest about this subject.

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