Thread: Backcountry Wilderness Solar Power EPIC-W options

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  1. #1 Backcountry Wilderness Solar Power EPIC-W options 
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    Hi Guys! I'm starting to research power/charging options for a 1-2 week backcountry skiing shoot. We'll be pretty deep, probably a good 8 hours of hiking and 5k of vert in. The entire trip will be located in designated wilderness area which prevents the use of generators. The details are still very much in the air but the loose plan would be to use horses to pack in gear to a basecamp/staging area and then either use porters to carry loads up higher (no trail) or for them to act as runners to run media and batteries to and from the lower horse accessible camp.

    *Running the Weapon-W I'd imagine we will probably use (to empty) between 2-4 160 WH v mounts a day. We have access to quite a few spare V mounts which would probably save on charging time if we just charge to 80% instead of 100% as well as giving us a bit of a buffer if anything goes wrong with the system.

    Stuff we will need to charge:
    *Either one or two Epic-W's (if we bring two I don't think we will be running both the entire shoot, probably just a few MUST capture moments that we'd double up on)
    *13" MacBook Pro for DIT (It's possible we can roundup enough media that we might be able to skip the need for DIT in the field)
    *Mavic 2 Drone kit and Ipad (not sure if we will be able to swing the permits for the drone)
    *Walkies (FMRS)

    Not sure about all of these but they are optional or at least I don't see them needing too much juice:
    *Go pros
    *Pocket OSMO
    *5Dii timelapse kits (though I think we will probably run off of V mounts and dummy batteries)
    *Emotimo timelapse rig (probably run this off of v mounts as well)
    *Sony A7S (for some specialty night stuff)

    To start I have a couple of questions:
    *Is anybody having luck charging with a DC to DC option? This is the only charger I can find with a DC input online: (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...or_li_ion.html)
    *In some of the old posts people are talking about having cigarette adapters for their RED brick chargers (is this still a thing?).

    *Also, it seems as if the perfect solar system would be able to charge directly to a V mount battery. The idea of charging a lithium Ion battery to charge another lithium Ion battery seems like an extra unnecessary step and extra weight to carry.


    Most of the applicable research I've found on REDUSER keeps coming back to Powerenz.com though the majority of the info is now pushing 10 years old (http://www.reduser.net/forum/archive...p/t-27473.html). There are a few posts that talk about Goal Zero as well. I have access to a bit of a discount on Goal Zero which might push me that direction if all things are equal. I'm wondering what the state of the technology is 10 years later.

    Ideally we'd be able to keep the shoot shot on some flavor of RED (to match the other 7 segments of the film) but I'm not ruling out shooting on another platform if it makes more sense. We deliver in 1080p so there are a lot of options on the market.

    Put together a few contenders and their draw:
    RED Epic 60 watts (more with EVF)
    Sony fs7 19 watts
    Panasonic EVA1 19 watts
    Panasonic Varicam 47 watts-77 watts (with accessories)
    Panasonic SH1 23 watts (I think)
    Black magic pocket 4k 22 watts



    We still have some Arri Super 16SR's in the vault if all else fails:)

    I'd love to hear thoughts on a good solution.

    Many thanks!!!
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member Robert Hofmeyr's Avatar
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    Hi Jeffrey. I usually have a vehicle and rely on the alternator for charging, so I am no expert on solar. Can you guarantee sunny weather, and if not, what is your backup plan? A genny would make me a lot more relaxed, is there no way to get permission to take a small, quiet one as a backup? I've also looked for DC-DC chargers, but I've always decided against them - just too many different types of batteries to charge, and I already have AC chargers for all of them. And good inverters are pretty efficient. But I agree it is pretty wasteful to go solar to battery then battery via inverter to AC, then AC back to DC to charge smaller batteries. If you come up with something that works, please let us know.
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member Mark Phelan's Avatar
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    My son's house is run off solar and I'd hate to think about trying to recharge the number of batteries you're talking about from a portable setup. It sounds like a wonderful idea in concept, but in reality, you need a lot more surface area than you think and it always takes longer than you want/need. They have a backup generator that gets used more than the solar panels. I know, apples/oranges, but the principle is the same.

    I've got a Mavic 2 Pro myself. Charging three dead batteries using the DJI supplied charger takes about six hours because it does it serially. I'm guessing the solar panel would have to do the same, but not sure. I'm thinking you're going to need a bigger boat. Or a floatilla.
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  4. #4  
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    Don't forget solar relies on clear cloud cover and no-snow conditions which will most likely not be ideal the entire time on a trip in the winter backcountry. Avid backcountry skier here and also planning a remote trip for film work in the arctic circle so definitely interested to hear potential options for such circumstances.
    R3D DSMC2 GEMINI
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  5. #5  
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    Thanks guys! Appreciate the replies. I canít guarantee sun but the project will be in the eastern Sierra of California with nice long days with our camp at around 10,000 feet in late spring. Weíll be somewhat flexible on our shoot days and will do our best to give ourselves a nice sunny weather window.

    I really donít think a generator is going to be on the table. Even the trail crews in that wilderness arenít allowed to use chainsaws. They use two man cross cut saws the old fashion way.

    I think Iíll be on the hook for an inverter (The goal Zeroís are built in) in addition to the Red charger for the smaller misc/5dii batteries and I already have a car charger with a 4 battery hub for my Mavic.

    I just ordered an in-line watt meter that I can use to check the draw of my devices with.
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  6. #6  
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    Good to have some fellow skiers here! Where are you going? I've only been that high once to the Lyngen Alps in Norway but it was on a sailboat which made it pretty easy.
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  7. #7  
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    I have a little experience with solar. We used them on battery banks on sailboats in the sunny Carribean. We put up many panels and had a huge, heavy and expensive battery bank, but still needed to run generator for higher energy needs. I also run a dozen LED porch lights (1W) on my roof on a solar system. It is surprisingly large and expensive for such a small draw, but I live in Chicago and lose much with inverter. I don't think your idea will work for your high energy needs. You would need a really heavy and expensive set-up. Traditional deep cycle lead acid batteries can only be drained to 50% and you will need at least 3x your projected wH needs for any cloudy days.

    You might want to experiment with a charge converter and see if you can directly charge the batteries. Maybe you could bring a bunch of flexible solar panels to charge directly, but I know solar isn't very efficient. I usually only see portable solar for adding a little charge to cell phones or similar small needs.

    Can you ask for an exception to bring the smallest generator available? If you try the solar route, I would definitely test it first because you might be surprised how inefficient it is for your needs.

    You might need a lower consumption camera system and rent a bunch of batteries. I know Canon C300 II's can run about 3-4 hours on a small battery, but my Dragon is good for about 25-50 minutes on my AB batteries (90wH-155wH). When I was in Africa for a month, I was happy with my 3 Dynacore 155s, but I could charge them every night and was in a vehicle.

    If you need 3 batteries/day. It might be easiest to rent all the needed batteries and bring them by horse to your basecamp.

    This is a tricky problem. I hope you update us with your solution.
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  8. #8  
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    [QUOTE=Tom S;1897440]I have a little experience with solar. We used them on battery banks on sailboats in the sunny Carribean. We put up many panels and had a huge, heavy and expensive battery bank, but still needed to run generator for higher energy needs. I also run a dozen LED porch lights (1W) on my roof on a solar system. It is surprisingly large and expensive for such a small draw, but I live in Chicago and lose much with inverter. I don't think your idea will work for your high energy needs. You would need a really heavy and expensive set-up. Traditional deep cycle lead acid batteries can only be drained to 50% and you will need at least 3x your projected wH needs for any cloudy days.

    You might want to experiment with a charge converter and see if you can directly charge the batteries. Maybe you could bring a bunch of flexible solar panels to charge directly, but I know solar isn't very efficient. I usually only see portable solar for adding a little charge to cell phones or similar small needs.

    Can you ask for an exception to bring the smallest generator available? If you try the solar route, I would definitely test it first because you might be surprised how inefficient it is for your needs.

    You might need a lower consumption camera system and rent a bunch of batteries. I know Canon C300 II's can run about 3-4 hours on a small battery, but my Dragon is good for about 25-50 minutes on my AB batteries (90wH-155wH). When I was in Africa for a month, I was happy with my 3 Dynacore 155s, but I could charge them every night and was in a vehicle.

    If you need 3 batteries/day. It might be easiest to rent all the needed batteries and bring them by horse to your basecamp.

    This is a tricky problem. I hope you update us with your solution.[/QUOTE

    Thanks Tom!


    I have a 100 watt solar setup with 175 wh of AGM lead batteries in my pop up camper so I'm very familiar with the limitations of solar systems. I really don't think we'd use any kind of lead batteries, the weight and 50% limitation would make them pretty inefficient for our needs. Goal Zero is all Lithium Ion

    I've been thinking about the battery only options as well. Between my personal supply and the production company I work for we have quite a few v mounts lying around. It will probably come down to how many days in the field we end up settling on.

    I'll keep you posted on what I find!
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  9. #9  
    Member Steve Wall's Avatar
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    Hey Jeffrey,

    I've done something similar with goalzero lithium blocks - but it's realistically a pretty challenging situation if you want to consistently burn through 500 + wH of battery every single day. That Yeti 3000 weighs about 35KG alone so it'd be a tricky thing to move uphill.. I guess you're already looking at pulks and have that stuff dialled.

    Personally, i'd be taking a good look at using a Pocket 6K/4K for a good chunk of shooting.. I did a 4 hour approach on skis with mine attached to the shoulder strap of my pack the other day, and can't believe the ease of moving around on foot with that setup compared to moving around on snow with the full size cameras. I really like that it opens up the possibility of using gimbals in places which would otherwise be a total sufferfest, or impractically slow for action sports production.

    I often run mine off the smaller 98wH batteries w/ d-tap (CoreSwx EVA-1 batteries) and they give us 4 hours of runtime. Plus the other advantage is that the boot up time is < 5 seconds from switch to recording, so you end up being able to turn the cameras off a lot more than is possible with the RED, which when doing a lot of sitting around and waiting can really eat into your battery resources.
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  10. #10  
    Senior Member Robert Hofmeyr's Avatar
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    Those goal zero power stations look pretty good. How far is it from base camp to the nearest mains power? Perhaps you can get a pair of them and have someone swap them out every couple of days? You could also add a solar panel to make them last a bit longer. If you are using about 500Wh per day, a 1400Wh yeti should last about 2 days, taking into account inefficiencies. Add a 200W panel and you can probably extend that to 3 days.
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