RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

Solar Charger Suggestions

Hey, everyone!
I really want to have a solar charger in tow so I can always have the ability to charge my phone, headphones, etc. while on the road. I don’t plan on taking any sort of rack or saddle bag (but will have a couple of small bags on my bike), so I want something that is efficient and small; maybe something I can clip onto my bike or small bag with a carabiner so it can sit in the sun all day. Does anyone have a specific one they like or recommend?

11 Replies

David, May 16, 2018 at 6:51 am

I would suggest getting 1 or 2 portable battery packs in the 200,000mAh range. They can be had for around $50 and charge a large phone 4-5 times.

If you had a small solar panel that folded out over the top of a rear rack and was able to keep it in direct sunlight for 8 hours a day (which is the max where the sun is direct enough to generate much power) you would only be able to recharge about 1/4 of such a battery. While nice for emergencies, it is hardly worth the cost/effort on a trip like this. Just get another battery for cheaper and keep the extras in your overnight baggage.

If you get an even smaller panel that just clips on and hangs so that it isn’t well positioned to get direct sunlight then the power generated will be negligible for a phone.


CyclingCyclone, May 16, 2018 at 8:35 am

I bought a Goal Zero solar kit about 7-8 years ago. I think it was the Guide 10, for about $120.00.
It came with a solar panel that can be attached to a rack, backpack, etc., and it came with rechargeable batteries. Once in town, I’ll set up my tent, and set the panel up in the sun, and get plenty of juice for a phone, and Garmin. Between directly charging to my device, or using the recharge batteries it came with, I’ve rarely needed an outlet on RAGBRAI. Used it plenty of times camping outside of RAGBRAI. pretty rugged too.


jeffreydennis, May 16, 2018 at 10:26 am

You dont say if you’ll be camping with electricity avsilable. I never had much luck with solar panel set ups. You might want your phone in airplane or even off while riding. Cell service is a crap shoot and you wouldnt be talking on it while riding anyway….right???


Keith Misegades, May 18, 2018 at 6:35 am

Have Peter White Cycles build you a front wheel with an integrated SON generator hub. Take the hub electrical output to charge a cache battery and then plug your devices into the cache battery.

Endless power, no additional panel needed, and it works very well. Been using one for years on many long trips. You can also power a light.


soianewlee, May 18, 2018 at 7:39 am

I decided to go with a portable charger and tried the Anker PowerCore II 20000 from Amazon. It’s working great so far and expect to charge it 2 or 3 times to charge 2 phones for the whole week.


KenH, May 18, 2018 at 9:38 am

Small solar panels will be disappointing, the ones that are large enough to be useful are small enough to use at the campsite but too large to use on the bike if your size limit is as small as it seems to be. So the battery route is the better option for daily charging. On the bike I would suggest learning how to turn off the data connection on your phone. This will still allow you to receive texts and phone calls but it will save a TON of battery life. Just turn the data connection on when you will actually use it, keep it off the rest of the time. If you are traveling with a team or charter then almost all of them will have a charging station you can use every night and morning.


montestaples, May 19, 2018 at 6:04 pm

I have looked long and hard at solar panels to do what you propose. In my opinion the math does not work out unless you are pulling a trailer on which to mount a much larger solar panel than you could ever mount on your bike. The output is just way too low to be of any use. I do use a couple of battery packs. A 10,000 to 20,000 mAh lithium ion battery pack is compact and the prices are getting pretty reasonable. A 10,000 mAh or smaller pack can fit in a jersey pocket if you need to carry one all day. I never have carried one and my i-phone 5 has always made it through the day. I just charge up at night and have enough power to make it through the week. The last couple years the charter I use has been running a generator every night for re-charging so no problems. If you do buy any battery packs look out for fakes with really high output claims, super cheap, and probably made in China. Some of them have really small batteries and are packed with sand. They are common on Amazon. As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. By the way, KenH always has some good comments.


Candice Lynes, May 21, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Thanks, everyone! I’ll look into battery packs. I want my phone for pictures, music, and hopefully Strava whenever we might have service.


Heriberto Arroyo, May 21, 2018 at 2:31 pm

STRAVA will run even if you don’t have service. It acquires the signal from the satellite but it won’t upload until you have service. I often use an old phone just to run strava and upload vi wi-fi when i get home. this way i don’t use power on my real phone during long rides.


Kip Johnson, May 24, 2018 at 6:55 pm

PowerFilm Solar is an Ames company. We’re thinking about putting up a vendor booth for RAGBRAI and offering our solar charger at a discount: https://www.powerfilmsolar.com/products/lightsaver/lightsaver-portable-solar-charger

It’s a panel that rolls around a tube with a 3200 mAh battery inside. It’ll charge in a day of full sun if it’s facing the sun. Not sure if folks would be interested or not, but since we’re already in Ames…



Dizzy, May 26, 2018 at 8:46 am

Bicycling Magazine did an article on chargers. The link is below.



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