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Power Management + backups in a remote location

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Hi everyone,

I really hope this topic is in the good section, please tell me if I should move this subject somewhere else.


Next month I will be shooting in quite a remote area: a rain-forest. Here is a bit how a plan to do it and I hope you'll have some recommendations about it.


I'll be carrying a backpack and I have to expect a 2 or 3 day walk. So I started planning my workflow in order to consume the least energy possible and have some power source:



- Power source : for now my best idea is to carry a motorcycle battery, it seem to be a good compromise between power/weight. I'm am trying to figure out if it will be enough to supply everything for 10/14 days and if I need a solar panel to recharge it. I don't want to use an inverter because of the energy loss.


- Camera : Canon 5D, I found a battery charger working in 12V.


- Backups: I did some test and I'm going to use an android smartphone (lighter and consume less power than a laptop) to dump the CF card to two hard drives + a huge SD card. I'll be taking a 12V to usb car plug that you can find everywhere.



If I go down that road I need to confirm some things and it goes a bit beyond my scope of knowledge :



- 1) How can I calculate the drain of the camera battery/phone charger on the battery ?

(in order to know how much time I'll need to plug a battery to fully charge it and how many charges can the motorcycle battery hold ?)

Should I just go on the theoretical way and crunch some numbers or would it be better to actually set up and do some tests with a multi-meter ?



- 2) How can I calculate the charge of a solar panel on a battery ?


Would the solar panel need a converter ? (to smooth the electric output and be on a straight 12V ?) or will it be ok without ? OR is there a good other way to charge it ? with a manual Dynamo for instance ?


- 3) Is there some good apps on android to do backups or at least to check the integrity of the copied files ? I started checking what the play store had but I didn't find a good app for that.



If you went that far on my post thank you for reading, I'm looking for any kind of info that could help. If you know a relevant website/book/app regarding those topics or if you know other set ups that could be more effective. feel free to share it !



Thanks again and have a great day.


- Pierre



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The solar panel would need some type of charge controller to top off the battery without overcharging it. Not recommending any particular brand or model: http://www.morningstarcorp.com/products/sunguard/

How dense is the rain forest? Will you be able to get the panel in a position where it will receive direct sunlight most of the day?

Edited by JD Hartman
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Hi everyone and thank you for your interest !


The solar panel would need some type of charge controller to top off the battery without overcharging it. Not recommending any particular brand or model: http://www.morningstarcorp.com/products/sunguard/

How dense is the rain forest? Will you be able to get the panel in a position where it will receive direct sunlight most of the day?


thank you JD, I think I'll be able to find an open area to have sun during most of the day. And the purpose of the controller is to avoid the surcharge and not to regulate the tension, noted !
I'll check witch one I should invest on, do you have any idea about the way of knowing (lets say with 7hrs of sun) how much power a solar panel/controller can deliver ?



How do you use a phone to down load from a CF card..to HDD,s.. never heard of that before ..?


Hi Robin,


I know it sounds nuts and it's ridiculously simple.


Santa gave me a Huawei Honor this Christmas, it have the new USB-C kind of plugs.

I just bought a USB-C male to USB 3.0 female and the phone manage to power up the HDD by itself. Voilà ! data management in your pocket, I know it's far from a good setup but at least I don't need too much power and It's lightweight.


The only issue I have with this solution is the use of the classic file browser from the phone and it's not handy to check if the files have been well copied. If you know a good app let me know, i'll probably check on developer's websites soon if I don't find anything.


Thank you all for your interest in this adventure !

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The charge controller regulates the rate at which the battery (lead acid type) is recharged. Also prevents overcharging. You need a panel big enough to re-charge your battery at the maximum rate it can accept. The supplier of the charge controller can give you that type of help. I'd think about getting a gel-cell battery (fire/burglary alarm/emergency exit sign type) so you aren't transporting a battery filled with liquid electrolyte (acid). Might want two batteries to swap between, one to use and one to leave on charge.

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If you are walking around for a few days, a solar panel, battery and regulator is not something you want to carry around.

Well ones that do what I think you are planning which is a 6/12V system using a regular panel.


You will be better off with a couple of those portable, fold able and lightweight USB ones. These are optimised for charging phones and battery banks.

These are also allow you to mount them on your backpack to charge while walking. Bigger the back pack, the more you can have.



The battery banks you want are those decent "20,000"mAh ones from brands like Anker (don't skimp on these in terms of quality or quantity).

Each one will charge a decent Android 3-5 times plus being used at the same time.


I use these on set all the time and 1 battery bank (actually the smaller 15,000mAh) lasts a day and a half, sometimes 3 depending on how much I am using my phone.

I actually have half a dozen on set as multiple people are always asking to charge up.



Some things to consider...

When are you going to be able to stop and charge? I am guessing you are walking during the day and stopping at night?

These smaller folder able ones will work well on your backpack because of this.

Though don't expect great results in a dense tree canopy area.

You already wont have them in the perfect angle, so they will be getting mostly indirect light. Which is around 10-25% of the panel's rating.

In theory, off the top of my head, this should charge one of these banks half way over a whole day.

Though you are best off testing this....


The great thing about USB over 12v is you can also get nice little LP-E6 chargers than use Micro USB for your DSLR.

I have a handful that are dotted everywhere from my charging station to my van.

They are like $7 to. Really good price.


You might be better off buying 5 banks tbh and charging them before you go on your trip...

This will be enough to charge your phone several times as well as charging your DSLR multiple times.

Maybe a single foldable panel just as backup...





Though you are best off testing this....

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  • 4 months later...

Hey everyone,



Thank you very much for your answers. I've taken them into consideration and this is what I did with the available budget :



Power :


You were right about the weight of a 12V battery, going towards 5.5V and usb devices was the best mobile solution.


I used two 5.5V USB LPE6 chargers, Two 15600 MAH ANKER batteries (pretty big and way cheaper that the 20000MAH), a small 6000MAH battery and an ANKER 21W solar panel.


This solution worked pretty well but I needed a backup plan in case I couldn't charge enough with the sun.


So I also used a more modular solution: a buck/boost converter. Those devices can change the Voltage, buck lowers it and boost....boost it. It allowed me to make modular setups and use common batteries ( in this case I used "D" size of alkaline,) or any other kind I could find on the way and lower the voltage to 5.5V.


I was also hoping to use this device to power my 5D directly from the 5.5V battery (to avoid the energy loss of charging the LPE6) and bought a DR-E6 DC coupler and all the AC powering kit. This didn't work because my buck/boost converter wasn't powerful enough.


In order to make it modular I needed to be able to change the outputs of the buck/boost converter (USB A/B , male/female etc...) So I took a set of connector plug.



Backups :


I needed a safe and light way to make my backups. So I decided to use my new cellphone (a Huawei Honor 8) as interface between my hard drives. It's using USB C so I took two USB3.0 FEMALE TO C MALE and a 124 GB micro SD card for the phone.



How it went :



I spent 9 days shooting up there, trying to use the solar panel and 20 alkaline D batteries as backup.


The two 15000MAH power bank lasted 4-5 charges on the LP-E6, I tried to use solar the most and managed to get 10000MAH on good sunny days.


I had to use the buck/boost as well and charged the power banks or the LPE6 with 8 "D" batteries. They discharged pretty fast but I wasn't needing them too much. Also, 20 D batteries weight about 4.3 kilos (8.6 pounds) it's a lot to carry.


I had shared feelings about the LPE6 USB charger, they worked well in open air but heated a lot. I couldn't use them to charge in my bag during the day because of this.


The backups went fine but the copy was slow. I should have bought a faster Micro SD card, this one was slower that the USB 3 norm.

Also physical hard drives tend to draw a lot of power from the phone, the 2000MAH battery from the phone was holding enough time to copy 70/80 Gb... SSD's would have been better or maybe a system to power the HDD from an external source.



Hope this was useful or interesting ! If you have any question about how it went let me know and thank you again for the suggestions, it helped me a lot.



Edited by Pierre-Louis MARTINEL
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Hi Phil,


It was for a small documentary I'm making in Costa Rica, second time going there.


I wanted to see how natives were living their original lifestyle and went to a village settled 8 hours walking from the closest road.


It was quite an experience..


I'm still editing it so there's no footage online yet, sorry !

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  • 4 weeks later...

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