Field Testing of the solar power pack at Burning Man was a huge success. I did, however, make some modifications specifically for this experiment. First, I glued some paracord onto the back of the solar panel so that it could be tied to the MOLLE webbing on my hydration pack (which is basically a backpack). I also replaced the solar panel’s DC connector with a latching connector so that I didn’t have to worry about the power pack and solar panel getting disconnected. The power pack itself simply went inside my hydration pack, and stayed there for most of the week.
Since a hydration pack is something you always carry with you at Burning Man, I basically had my solar panel and power pack with me at all times during the week. I also had EL wire attached to my hydration pack, which was driven by a USB inverter that was, in turn, powered by my power pack. During the day, if I went into shade, I’d just leave my pack outside in the sun to let the internal battery recharge. Of course, with the solar panel attached to my back, I was also recharging simply by being outside, riding my bike around the playa. Overall, it was a maintenance-free way to keep my EL wire running, and we also kept a couple of iPhones charged all week from just one power pack.
There were a couple of concerns going in, both of which proved to be non-issues in real life. The first was heat. I was concerned that leaving everything out in the sun would cause the power pack to overheat, but the inside of my hydration pack never seemed to get very hot. I suspect the tan color helped reflect heat, and the large water reservoir helped act as a coolant as well. The second concern was the fact that my power pack doesn’t have a battery-level indicator. It does have a low battery indicator, but unless that comes on, I don’t know if the internal battery is at 30%, 60% or 100%. In reality, this wasn’t a huge problem, because I basically tried to let it recharge whenever I could.
So, over all, I’m very happy with how the system performed. It works. It’s practical. It’s useful. It survived a week at Burning Man. That’s more than you can say for a lot of solar gadgets out there.