Many kayak anglers bring their cell phones, gps, cameras, and fish finders with them on their adventures. In many cases that means you need to take extra batteries and power sources for the devices if you are spending a long day on the water and especially on a multi-day trip. This leads to more weight, and more fussing around when you could be catching your new personal record fish. One way to help alleviate this pain would be to find a way to charge the devices as your paddling and fishing.
After hearing stories from friends how have to carry multiple batteries or have their batteries die on them in the middle of an adventure I wanted to check into the possibility of charging my devices while I was out on the water. One company that makes a solar powered chargers is Voltaic. They are based out of Brooklyn, New York and have some interesting experiences which made them design and create these chargers. They offer a variety of different size solar panels, batteries, and accessories to fit your specific need. I wanted one that could not only charge my phone, but also work as a battery for my fish finder. So I ended up getting the 17 watt solar panel, the V72 Laptop battery, and the Nanuk 904 Waterproof Case.
When it arrived in the mail I was very excited to take a closer look at it and start testing it out. The 17 watt solar panel wasn’t too big, 15.5” x 10.75” x .25”. And with the battery the whole thing weighs 2.9 pounds. The battery is housed in the waterproof case that has padding to protect the battery and still allows room for you phone. The output and input cords that plug into the battery through the case and are sealed with marine sealant. The battery has a usb port so you can easily charge any device that uses a usb style charger. Plus the it has a variety of levels for the output, 12V, 16V, and 19V. This allows you to charge your phone or other usb style device and power another device. Voltaic has many cord and adaptor options on their site so you can find the ones that fit your needs best. Before I tested it on my kayak I placed it on my patio table, connected the wires, and plugged in my phone. The lights on the battery lit up when the panel was in the sunlight. I did notice that if it was not in direct sunlight it would not charge the battery. Although it still charged my phone because the battery had enough stored power.
The quality of the products is outstanding! The waterproof case is rugged, made of durable materials and protects the contents very well. All of the connection points are tight and secure. And the solar panel has protection on its corners and is built tough to withstand the elements and the abuse we would put it through.
Now for the real test, how does it work on the water. The trickiest part was finding a place for it on the kayak. Although the panel did not look that big at first it was tricky to find a spot where I could place it so it would receive sunlight. In have an oversized crate that fills most of the area behind the seat in my Jackson Cuda 12. It didn’t allow enough space for me to put the waterproof box and solar panel. When I go fly fishing, I don’t bring my crate and there is plenty of room behind the seat. The next challenge is that I did not get a long enough cord so I could place the solar panel in a different area than the waterproof case. Plus I had another goal for the solar charger, I wanted it to run my fish finder. I had a long enough chord to run to the FF from the battery but now to find a spot to put the panel and case. I decided that the bungee cords on the front of my kayak were a perfect spot to hold the solar panel. And I placed the waterproof case next to it and secured it with a bungee cord. Now the panel will receive as much light as possible and be able to run my FF from the battery itself. The one issue I have with this set up is that it makes the waterproof a little tricky to get to and work with while I’m on the water. Not impossible, but tricky. I turned everything on and started paddling and fishing. Everything was working great until the battery ran out of juice. I figured it was because it was a partly cloudy day and the battery lost its power. After it got some sunlight, I turned it back on and it worked great! When the battery was charged or was charging it kept my FF running and my phone charged! The biggest issue was that when it wasn’t getting enough sun that the FF drained the battery pretty quickly.
My suggestion for improvement on installing and use of it would be to insure you get long enough cords and use it slightly differently than what I initially tried. By getting long enough cords you can put the solar panel where you wish (my suggestion would be the far front of the kayak), run the cord to the waterproof case (which would make sense to have near you for easy access), and then run the output to your current FF battery. Instead of using the solar battery to run your FF get the circuit adaptors and connect it to your FF battery. That you will still be using your regular battery but it will be charging when the solar panel gets enough sunlight. By running it like this you will be able to keep your FF battery charged and be able to charge your phone or other usb charging devices.
The cost of the 17 Watt solar panel, laptop battery, waterproof case, and various cords come to $337. It is quite a drop of change just to keep your devices charged while on the water. However, the battery and solar panel is on the more expensive side of their products. They do offer smaller panels and batteries that may fit your needs better. I don’t believe that a kayak angler who goes out for just a couple hours and then comes back home would need any of these products. However, if you are paddling and fishing from dawn to dusk, doing any overnight camping trips, or multi-day adventures the Voltaic products would be a huge asset to keep your devices charged so you can always be able to use them at a moments notice. I can especially see these products coming in extremely handy if you take pictures and/or video on your adventures so you can carry two batteries with you, one in the device, and the other charging. So if you are an adventurous type of person and plan on taking photos/videos and/or doing big trips the Voltaic products are a CATCH!
QUICK NOTE: After I sent the video and review to Voltaic they highly suggest not covering the panel with bungee cords as it will drop the power output of the panel significantly! They suggest using the braces on the corners as much as possible!