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Author Topic: Battery charging in the field  (Read 1503 times)

Rob Reiter

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Battery charging in the field
« on: March 25, 2013, 01:07:09 PM »

These days one can buy any number of solar charging options for cell phones and tablets that can keep those devices powered while backpacking or otherwise away from other sources of electricity, but I've yet to find one that is as convenient for the batteries in DSLR cameras like my Nikon D800E. At best I would have to find a charger/battery storage option that could output 12v DC that could then be fed into an inverter to get the 120v AC needed by my camera's battery charger. That's all too cumbersome for me.

Does anyone know of a simpler solution? Any electrical engineering types out there want to initiate a Kickstarter project to build such a device? I'm sure you'd get enough subscribers, probably just from this discussion board, to fully fund the project. Well, at least you'd get one subscriber!
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Hulyss

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Re: Battery charging in the field
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2013, 02:01:10 PM »

There is many solutions for what you ask but I only use one : Bear Grylls method.

First you nee to find the tallest tree of the area where you are. Once you found him, do the following things :

Always bring a ribbon of electrical wire with you. Cut at least one meter of electrical wire, shave of the plastic around the copper then wrap you batteries in the wire, about 20 cm are necessary. Then cut a straight rod of nut tree, fresh (not dry, very important). The rod should be solid, elastic and around 2 meter tall. Fix the warped battery at the top and then wrap the rod with the rest of the copper to make it solidly attached.

Prepare yourself for the climbing. Cut your pants off to make a belt, like baby diaper, use whatever rope you can have around you and start the climbing. Once you reached the top of the tree, if you still alive, fix the branch at the top of the tree and go back.

Now, its time to make a fire because, in survival situations, a fire is always welcome to warm your little heart. Wait patiently a large storm and, with luck, a lightning should hit your installation. If yes, you will know it, be sure of that. Once the storm is gone, go up the tree to take off the rod.

You batteries is now full charged and ready to ignite you camera for at least one hundred years burst.

 
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Gary Brown

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Re: Battery charging in the field
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2013, 02:53:52 PM »

There's an old article by Thom Hogan, You'll Get a Charge Out of This, on that topic. In his case he was able to find a DC-powered charger for the battery for his D200.
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mvsoske

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Re: Battery charging in the field
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2013, 03:41:32 PM »

There is many solutions for what you ask but I only use one : Bear Grylls method.
Arr,arr, arr.  :D

Mark

nairb

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Re: Battery charging in the field
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2013, 04:07:39 PM »

When I did some month long canoe trips a few years ago with a D200, then a D300 & D3, I purchased a third party ac/dc charger for the D200/300 batteries that would allow me to plug that charger directly into a 12w solar panel. This was in the central Yukon through August and it worked quite well. Part of this trip was a 12 day 120km hike in the mountains where I brought along the charger and panel. I powered a D200 and eight AA's for a month using this. I now have a Pearstone ac\dc charger for my D800e, but haven't really used it yet or tried it with the solar panel. Should work though.

For the year I had the D3, I had to go with the battery pack and inverter solution, which also worked quite well charging two D3's, a D300, and a 40d and two backup hard drives (hyperdrive Space) for 4 weeks. It required much more baby sitting (mostly because the other guy with the D3 wasn't conserving at all and would plop 4 dead En-el4a's in my lap at one time cause every night he'd be in his tent chimping and deleting instead of just offloading to the hard drive) and I had two panels that time, the 12 watt and a 10 watt.

I had initially purchased the solar panel, and then the power package with inverter from this place:
http://www.modernoutpost.com/shop/23-power-packages

and the AC/DC charger from B&H. Here's the one for the D800:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/823953-REG/Pearstone_ADC_NIENEL15_Compact_AC_DC_Charger_for.html


« Last Edit: March 25, 2013, 04:10:04 PM by nairb »
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Rob Reiter

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Re: Battery charging in the field
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2013, 07:18:17 PM »

Thanks, nairb. Modern Outpost seems to have stuff that would work.
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KevinA

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Re: Battery charging in the field
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2013, 06:08:23 AM »

Thanks, nairb. Modern Outpost seems to have stuff that would work.
I wonder if a clockwork camera and a few rolls of film would make a good backup if charging became a problem. What happens if you get days of heavy cloud or trekking through dense forest?
It's a lot of trust placed on a solar panel/charger to keep working in difficult conditions.
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BartvanderWolf

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Re: Battery charging in the field
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2013, 06:49:05 AM »

It's a lot of trust placed on a solar panel/charger to keep working in difficult conditions.

Hi Kevin,

That's correct, I agree fully. Solar chargers need a lot of light to do some serious charging in a reasonable amount of time, or a lot of photovoltaic cell surface at an optimal angle to the sun (if available). Also, the rated output power of solar panels can deteriorate rapidly when small defects occur in the conductive paths. There is a huge spread in quality.

Cheers,
Bart
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nairb

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Re: Battery charging in the field
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2013, 02:11:02 PM »

Well like I said, it worked very well for me for a month at a time. And it would still trickle charge on days with light cloud (this was a bit harder with the AA charger as it seemed to need to draw more then the camera battery needed). It makes sense to bring 2 or 3 camera batteries and rotate them. Charge one while the other is discharging. That being said, yes, it will be better or worse depending on where you're using it. Both my trips were far north, through August before the Autumnal equinox. The sun was not high in the sky but was out for more than 12 hours. I would hang the panel on the side of my tent so as to make sure the suns rays were hitting it as close to perpendicular as possible. We also did a few base camp day hikes, where the tents were left up and the batteries charging while we hiked. As for trees, the Yukon ones were relatively small, but still up to 8 or 10 meters high or more in some places, especially along the river. You just make do with what you find and think of positioning when you set up camp.

Like I'd mentioned though, I did use this system on a 12 day hike through the mountains. The folded solar panel wasn't any worse to carry than a paper back novel, and then there was just one cable, the small charger, and a couple batteries.

All this being said, it will just depend on what you are doing and for how long. For $200 spent on a solar panel and a dc charger, you could just as easily buy 4 en-el15's and hope they last for the length of your hike. Canoeing has the advantage of minimal weight concerns as well as being able to charge while you paddle which worked well for the battery pack/inverter situation. For that trip I had two D3 batteries and always had a charged one. I think I may have had three D200 batteries for the first trip, but it may have been only two.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 02:35:56 PM by nairb »
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