Pictures Letters Journals Bikes Camp Plan Funding/Cost MyBooks Media Support Contact


Custom Search

The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

My 3 Books
I write, self publish and sell books about touring

Picture Gallery
Travel Plan

My Books
About Me
Media/Press Room


Photo Use Info

Read Sample Letter
Continue My Travels

Places I have been
How can I afford this?)

India and Neighbors
May 2010 to present

Alaska / Canada / USA
May 2008 to April 2010

New Zealand
Sept 2007 to May 2008

Sept 2006 to Sept 2007

SE Asia / China
Nov 2004 to Sept 2006

South America
June 2003 to June 2004

AZ, Mexico, and Central America
March 2002 to April 2003

How I started
The 5 years before I left

*Help Support this Web Site and Continue My Travels.

Equipment Pages Index

How Much to Bring and Weight
Some Advice About Advice
A Note to Perspective Sponsors and Gear Suppliers
(See more about Sponsorship)

START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
Bicycle Touring Frames 
The Steel Repair Myth.
Steel and Aluminum Derailleur Hanger Repair.
Bicycle Touring Wheels
Phil Wood: The Best Bicycle Hubs

Panniers / Bike Bags
Cargo Trailers Vs Panniers
Tires for Bike Tours..
Bicycle Touring Saddles.
Women's Specific Bike Touring Saddles
Brooks Leather Touring Bicycle Saddle Care and Conditioning
Bike Computer
Touring Handlebars, Bar Ends, Adjustable Stems, and Padded Grips.
Sealed Cartridge Headsets

How to prevent flat tires
Bike Route Trails and Maps

Buying Camping Equipment
Tent and Ground Cloth
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad
Camp Stove
Pots and Pans
Water Filter
First Aide Kits
Solar Power for Camp

Bike Touring Shorts

Short-wave Radio
Bicycle touring lights

Packing list
Pictures of Equipment Failures

See My Videos Here

(see all 3 book)

Bicycle touring and Camping with a portable solar panel for Off Grid Electricity and Charging Batteries in Tablet, cell phone, GPS, laptop and Netbook Computer and AAA Batteries

What could be more earth friendly and carbon neutral than bicycle touring? Powering my electronic devices with a portable solar panel, of course! In my daydreams about world travel and negative carbon footprint adventures, I imagined riding along sunny roads with a solar panel strapped to the top of my load, charging my computer, cell phone, rechargeable AAA batteries, and ipod during the ride. I would live off the power of the sun, free from fossil fuel forever. I pictured myself tapping away at my fully charged computer while lounging at my camp in the mountains, enjoying the beauty of nature while updating my website. I was sure that much of my trip would be spent far from conventional power sources, that I would be completely reliant on off-the-grid green solar energy.

I began my trip with a 13-watt solar panel (10-watt was a more realistic expectation). It was the size of a thin 3-ring binder and unfolded like a book to reveal the solar array.

My first idea, strapping the panel to the back of my bike while riding, met with immediate problems. How to strap it down? My usual method (bungee cords) seemed likely to break the fragile components. There was also the problem of keeping the solar array angled properly towards the sun. One turn in the road, and the panel would lose its path of direct sunlight. It may still be functioning, but itís certainly not optimal. And then thereís always the possibility of a crash while cycling. Expensive equipment should be kept padded and protected. My solar panel was definitely vulnerable tied to the back of my rack. I was also concerned with the issue of having expensive equipment on such conspicuous display in poorer countries. Flaunting tempting electronics, especially gear that is worth several monthsí wages to someone in the developing world, is not a smart way to travel. I make every effort to be low-key and not present any obvious or easily snatch-able targets. The solar panel definitely broke that rule. My conclusion was that the solar panel would be awkward, damage-prone and unsafe while strapped to my load.

It seemed more realistic to use my solar device at camp rather than while riding. I could set the array at the optimal angle to the sun, rather that worrying about it falling off the bike, crushed in a fall or stolen by some green-minded thief.

Right away I ran into two more stumbling blocks. As anyone who has ever tried using a laptop in the sunlight can attest, itís pretty difficult to see the screen. Most laptops work better with indoor lighting conditions. If I sat inside my tent, I could see the screen as long as it was cloudy outside, but who wants to sit inside a tent while camping in the woods? Of course, if it is cloudy or overcast these solar panels do not work well no matter what the advertising says. 

The other drawback was how long it took the solar device to charge my computer. If I attempted to use the computer while it was plugged into the solar panel, it used power much faster than the rate it was charging.  Fully charging the computer battery required at least a full day of sunshine and I was usually ready to move on before then. If I were only using it to charge an iPod or a cell phone, the power output would have been enough, but it wasnít sufficient for my laptop usage.  (see below)

I gave the solar panel my best shot, but pretty soon all the fiddling seemed tedious and unproductive. Finally I bought a new extension cord, rechargeable batteries and an extra laptop battery. As unromantic as it sounds, I found that I spent more time hanging out in Laundromats, restaurants, and hotel rooms than backwoods mountain camps. Two hours of charging while doing laundry was equivalent to several days of solar panel charging. I got creative about finding electrical outlets to plug into. Hotel rooms in developing countries donít always have outlets, but you can always find one if you know where to look. I couldnít use the solar panel in most urban environments at all so I still needed all the extra cords and adaptors. In the end, the solar panel was too impractical to justify the extra weight, worry and hassle. I sent it home to retire in my parentsí garage.

I still have hope for my green dreams of fossil fuel independence. Solar panels have come a long way in recent years. When I find one that can keep up with my usage, while being sturdy and low-key, Iíll be happy to replace all the cords and adaptors.


Solar Chargers for Bicycle Touring and Camping

Most of the solar panels that bike tourists use these days are more geared with charging cell phones and iPods rather than the heavy demands of a computer.

If I were to cross the outback parts of Australia again or do one of the famous Adventure cycling trails like the Great Divide Trail or the Sierra Nevada Crest Trail I would buy a 5-watt solar panel to keep my music and communications going while off the grid.


Portable Power Storage and Reserve Batteries

A good solution is the new breed of battery reserve packs that I am starting to see on the market.  They can be charged with a wall outlet or a solar panel and seem much more practical on a bike tour than just using the sun power alone.  I recommend starting with one of these battery solutions and adding a solar panel if you find you want one later.

Camp Stove
Sleeping Bags
Sleeping pad
Water Filter
Camp Cooking
First Aide
Touring/Utility Bikes
Solar Charging
Tools and Repair
Topeak Deluxe Kit


eXTReMe Tracker

Bicycle Touring
Tips & Advice

- Bike Stuff
- Camping

Touring Bicycles

Tools and Spares

Sleeping Bags
Camping Mattress
Camp Stove
Water Filter
Pots and Pans
First Aide Kits
Solar Power
Bike Maps
Preventing Flat Tires

Bike Computer
Cargo Trailers
Kick Stands
Commuting Bikes

Camp Shower/Toiletry Bag


Bike Shoes
Bike Touring Shorts

Stealth/Free Camp

What I Have Learned On The Road

Dreaming of Endless Travel

Injustice of Poverty

Much MORE Gear Here!

Sponsors (how?)

Cycle Touring Racks

Tents and ground cloths
Sleeping Bags
Camping Mattress Pads

Email Newsletter











2002 - 2020 © (TM) All Rights Reserved

© Find out how you can use my pictures on your web site legally and free of charge.