Backpacking and Biking Touring with Solar Energy

An early 21st century first world problem: how to keep our electronic devices charged while backpacking and/or bike touring. Is using a solar charger the solution? Maybe.

Several times while bike touring I have been asked if the 5 watt solar charger attached to my handlebar bag is propelling my bike.  This is a clear indication we are accustomed to energy on oil's terms.  Here is a quick reality check.  Burning oil does create carcinogenic, smog inducing, greenhouse gas emissions that may end up killing us all, but oil is an incredibly concentrated source of energy.  In a single gallon of gasoline there is about 114,000 BTU, or 33.41 kWh, or ~30,000 calories. That's the equivalent of 12 16oz jars of peanut butter!


Tarptent Contrail Review and Modification

In 2014 I bought a Tarptent Contrail per the enthusiastic recommendation of another bicyclist.  For $200 and under 2lbs it seemed like the best value ultralight tent around.  It provides excellent bug protection, is plenty spacious for one, and is well ventilated.  The only problem is that it leaks.

After picking up the Contrail in Oregon, I road through Washington, Vancouver Island, ferried to Alaska, rode into the Yukon, BC, Montana, Wyoming, and back east.  I experienced some very wet days and nights and ferocious mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes were kept out, but several times I woke up with a pool of water at my feet.  Upon returning I emailed Tarptent and Henry Shires (proprietor) wrote back: "yes, the Contrail can have water problems if you don’t get the sides down. You accomplish that but [sic] a) lowering your front pole down to 110cm or lower—that drops the front corners—and b) by lowering the rear edges down the rear struts to whatever height you want.  Doing those things ensures that water can’t find the floor edge because the canopy edge and/or mesh low post will be lower than the floor edge"


The Old Duct Tape Coat Hanger Bicycle Fender Trick

I once stayed with a Warm Showers host that saw the flimsy plastic Planet Bike fenders on my bike and asked if they worked.  I noticed his look of disapproval just before I noticed his bike had fancy $100 metal fenders.  The plastic ones do work, and cost about $40.  Perhaps they don't look as slick, but they are for keeping dirty road water off my backside and shoes, so who cares?

On my trip riding down to Georgia to hike the Appalachian Trail I had a hard time finding fenders, even cheap plastic ones, I could use on my road bike with 28mm tires and no eyelets. So, I got creative. And cheap(er).