By Brendon: We have spent some time delving into the issues of charging all of our gear and really wanting to be as self-sufficient as possible on our tour. I have been flipping between wanting to use our MacBook air on tour , or just using an iPad/iPad mini to make the charging requirements easier.
By re-reading and reviewing others blogs on the subject over the past few months (check out Cyclingabout.com for a great article on the subject) we have decided to stick with our MacBook for major blog changes, photo and video editing as well as carrying an iPad mini as an e-reader and additional access to wi-fi hotspots. This way we think we can overcome the issue of the power-hungry MacBook.
My original plan was to use a massive cache battery from Hyperjuice (60 watt 16,000mAh capacity). Hyperjuice have overcome the Magsafe charging system from apple by developing a field battery that can charge the MacBook air. However, we have learnt much from other bike tourists who have attempted to charge the Hyperjuice battery from a dynamo hub and voltage converter system. They have discovered that fluctuations in voltage from the dynamo i.e the slowing down and speeding up in normal riding, causes the surge protection built into the battery, to shut down the charge input.
This is unfortunate for bicycle tourists as it is impossible to avoid these voltage changes. I am thinking an additional cache battery between the dynamo hub and the Hyperjuice battery may solve this problem but it will add unwanted costs and weight. Unfortunately, I can’t test this theory right now, so we have had to change our original “pedal powered plans” and have moved back to reviewing solar power as a source for the MacBook and cache battery.
It would appear that realistically ,solar charging is the only practical way to produce enough voltage to charge a laptop while on the road, so this is what we are going to use. In addition to the solar / cache battery component, we will also use the super-i-cable from Pedal Power + to utilise the energy generated from the hub dynamo.
There are a number of leading companies that have some fantastic solar systems on the market. The ones I have been looking into are Goal zero, Brunton, and Power traveller. I have decided to use the Power Traveller set up, which involves the Solar Gorilla/Power Gorilla combination. The solar gorilla panel can be used to charge the cache battery. It also has the ability to charge the MacBook simultaneously, as well as having the bonus of being able to use the cache battery-power to charge up other gear over night. Although it is going to add extra costs into our start-up, I feel this idea is the most superior way to guarantee enough voltage to keep us powered.
The second part of our charging system involves utilising the dynamo hub that we have on the front wheel. This was going to be our primary source of power but, with the addition of the solar panel, we now can use this energy to keep other gadgets charged. Originally the e-werk by Busch & Muller was my choice for a voltage converter. The choice of variable voltage and more compact & water proof construction made it more appealing. The second choice was the super-i-cable (SIC) by Pedal Power+. This system has it own 2200 mAh battery that can be used to charge smaller items such as a GPS, iPod, AA and AAA batteries that we will be carrying. With the extra cache battery in the SIC system, it has now become the more appealing unit and, together with the power gorilla battery, it will give us access to enough back-up power for extended periods while away from mains power.
These ideas come with a price (in the region of $600 AU- crikey!) and we have no way of testing the systems before we pay for them. The best we can do is use other people’s’ ideas and experiences and work out what we really want/need out there, and decide how much we are willing to spend to achieve our goal of living off the grid for the majority of this tour. Not sure if this is what we will end up with, but it feels like the best option with the gear we want to take. Will report back when we get a chance to fully test it.