In this post, you'll learn how to charge your GoPro battery with solar power.
Note: SunJack sent us a review copy of the 14W Portable Solar Charger at no charge. They did not pay for a review and our comments and opinions remain our own.
So you want to charge your GoPro battery with solar power? Here's how:
How to Charge Your GoPro with Solar Power
There are 3 ways to use solar power:
- Charge directly from the solar panels: The SunJack has two USB outputs – one can charge the included lithium-polymer battery and the other can charge your GoPro. You'll need constant direct sunlight for this to be a good option.
- Charge directly from the included 8000mAh battery bank: Use your SunJack battery bank (which charged during the day) to recharge all your device batteries (GoPro, phone, etc) at night. Just plug your charger into the battery bank. I have some aftermarket battery chargers that will charge up to 3 GoPro batteries at once.
- Direct connect the SunJack battery bank to your GoPro. This is a great option for night lapse shoots. The included battery is 7 times more powerful (8000mAh compared to 1160mAh) than the standard internal GoPro Hero4 battery. I easily shot an 8-hour nightlapse of the milky way – and the battery still had juice to spare in the morning.
While it sounds okay to charge from the solar panel directly, this isn't the easiest. Likely you'll need your batteries charged as you head out. I recommend charging the battery bank during the day (option #2) and using that to charge your devices at night.
Why Solar Power?
If you are always near an outlet, you don't need to worry about this. But if you like to hike and camp – you'll need a source of power. I used the SunJack on two recent camping trips and it saved me. I would have had to bring a backpack full of GoPro batteries. Instead, I brought just a few and charged them every night.
Pictured with the GoPro Hero4 Black, mounted on the Pedco UltraClamp. This setup is shown with option #3 (see above): directly powering the GoPro with the SunJack battery bank.
SunJack Portable Solar Charger Review
I've been using the 14Watt Portable Solar Charger for a few months. Here's what I think of it so far:
Product specs: Price: $119.95. This four-panel foldable solar charger folds to the size of an iPad in an Otterbox case. It weights 2.3lbs and measures 6.75″ x 9.25″ 1.75″. The case has eye loops and carabiners for mounting /hanging on trees, backpacks or clotheslines. This model produces 14 Watts of power using 19% mono-crystaline solar cells. (More on the type of solar cells at the end of the post.)
Charging time: I timed the charging time by placing the panels in direct sunlight. I began at noon (11:55am) with one bar. It was fully charged by 3:25 pm. It charged 80% in 3.5hrs. At that rate, it would have fully charged from empty in just over 4 hours. This is even less than the 5hrs that the company advertises.
Battery life: The SunJack 8000mAh battery has five LED lights – each representing 20% of battery life. One evening, I used the fully charged battery to charge 5 GoPro batteries (2 for the Hero3 and 3 for the Hero4), one phone and an iPad. And it still had charge left over. On another night, I shot an 8-hour night lapse (the camera was on all night) and it still have 40% charge in the morning.
Positioning: While the solar panels will continue to collect solar energy with some cloud cover, it will slow it down. Even in direct sunlight, it's best to play with the angle – so the panels can get the most direct sunlight possible.
The Sunjack Solar Charger comes in 3 sizes:
- 7 Watt SunJack Solar Charger: This 2 panel solar charger comes with a 4000mAh fast charge battery that will charge in approximately 5 hours.
- 14 Watt SunJack Solar Charger: This is the model that I have. It comes with an 8000mAh fast charge battery that will charge in approximately 5 hours. This is a four panel charger. See it also on Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk
- 20 Watt SunJack Solar Charger: This is their largest solar charger and is slightly larger (10″ x 7.5″) than the 14Watt model. It comes with 2 x 8000mAh batteries that will both charge in 5 hours.
Unboxing the Sunjack 14W Solar Charger
Watch on YouTube
SunJack 4-Panel Solar Charger Review
Watch on YouTube
Difference between Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline Solar Cells
This solar charger is powered by 19% mono-crystaline solar cells. What's the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells? Good question. Here's how I understand it.
- Monocrystalline silicion (mono-Si) cells are made out of a cylindrical silicon ingot. It is easily recognizable by it's even color and uniform external appearance. This indicates high-purity silicon. Mono-Si solar panels have higher efficiency rate because they are made out of the highest grade silicon. They are also space efficient and last longer than other types. Because of their purity, they also tend to perform better in low-light conditions. Monocrystalline silicion has a 15-20% efficiency rate.
- Polycrystalline silicon (p-Si) is the alternative material. The first solar panels created (back in the 1980's) were made with this less expensive and less efficient material. It has an efficiency rate of 13-16%.
How many watts does a solar panel produce? It depends on four factors:
- The sun's intensity
- Solar cell efficiency (are your solar cells made with monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon)
- Solar panel size
- The amount of sunlight directly hitting the panel
In the case of the 14W SunJack, the combined wattage from four panels is 14 watts. That means that each panel produces 3.5 watts. This changes with the different sizes of solar panel.
And that's how to charge your GoPro battery with solar power.
Have you used solar chargers? How do you charge your GoPro batteries charged while traveling? Please join me in the comments!