Portable Solar Power Setup

I was asked to write up my solution for emergency solar power.

System requirements:

  • Portable
  • USB (5v) and 12 volt device support
  • Ability to operate a mobile ham radio, recharge portable electronics, provide light.

The core of the solution is the ReadySet from Fenix International. This device provides the necessary core functions in a nearly foolproof package. Power is supplied to the back of the device at a wide range of voltages, passed to the front panel on 4 outputs (2 at usb 5v, and 2 at 12v CLA).

Power supplied to the ReadySet can be via mains adapter, at two different recharge rates, or from solar panels, where the ReadySet will do peak power tracking.

The included solar cell is a 15 watt fixed rigid panel which is inconvenient to move around.

Thus I supplemented the system with flexible solar cells from power film solar.

The flexible panels are lighter, smaller, and easier to generate a temporary install with.

This particular setup was sent with a family member on a 2 week camping outing. I intended it to support a 2 adult + 2 child tent. It ended up support a dozen adults with somewhere upward of 17 mobile devices.

A wild success.

Your mileage may vary.

Solar cells from http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/
ReadySet from http://www.fenixintl.com/product/readyset-solar-kit/

What I wanted to know when I became an Amateur Radio Operator

Over 15 years ago, I became a Ham. I stumbled around lost for quite a while, lost and confused about what happened where and how. Here’s a listing of the stuff I would have wanted to know then, updated to today. This list is most useful to you if you live in the vicinity of Lansing, Michigan, and work for Michigan State University.

Local Organizations

Lansing Civil Defense Repeater Association (LCDRA)

Builds and maintains several repeaters in the Lansing area. High profile, highly used public and open repeaters. Membership supports the repeater operations which are not cheap or free. $15 a year last I checked. I’m a member, you should be too.

Central Michigan Amateur Radio Club (CMARC)

A social club for the Lansing area. Occasionally has interesting speakers. Also runs the Lansing area hamfest which is generally in July.

Lansing Amateur Radio Public Service Corps

Public service volunteer organization. Want to end up in weird places, doing interesting radio things, with the local community of emergency and disaster response and management groups? Then this is the group for you. Lug large heavy radios to the tops of roofs where you get the oddest seat in the house.

Membership in ARPSC requires passing FEMA Independent Study Courses 22, 100, 200, and 700. I did these all in 2 days, but I’m really weird. You might want to take it a bit slower. Additionally a background check is required.

MSU Amateur Radio Club

MSU Student Amateur Radio Club, open to all MSU community.


Do you like looking at the sky during storms? Would you like a better idea of what you are looking at? Then Skywarn training is for you.

For 2016, Lansing training is Saturday, April 16, 2pm – 4pm. Admission is free. Location, Directions, and Sign up Here

Channels and frequencies of note

High profile frequented repeater: The LCDRA 145.39. Most social nets happen on this repeater, along with SkyWarn.

The other LCDRA repeaters of 146.70 and 146.940 are also commonly used.

MSUARC repeater 442.900. Limited range and power but very useful around the MSU campus.

Big list of repeaters in the area.

NOAA weather radio is 162.400.

Ingham county FIPS code is 026065.

Basic tool kit bag

In a fit of organization, I’ve found a reasonable tool set to carry in my backpack normally. The constraints of this system is as follows:

  • Lightweight
  • Smallish (bigger backpacks are easier than heavier backpacks)
  • Versatile and practical
  • Usable in the field, in non-workbench conditions.

Specifically, I’m looking for something to augment the standard pocket tool I carry, the Leatherman Skeletool CX. The augmentation is intended for small devices and electronics for field disassembly and re-assembly.

My current solution is as follows:

Ifixit Tech Pro toolkit and a cutter/plier set such as this (Not actually tested with this set, my pliers were collected long ago) all loaded into a Condor T and T bag.

The ifixit tool roll wasn’t practical for me. Between the elastic strap holding the screwdriver kit it, the pouch pocket that got folded, and the need to open the roll on a bench, it didn’t work.

The tool kit provides the screwdriver set, which is the primary element I end up using, along with some prying and manipulation tools. The plier set adds bigger manipulation tools and cutting capability that’s not knife based. The pouch comes as a ‘chest mounted admin pouch’. I’m not using it for that. Remove (and retain for parts) the paracord, map pocket, and molle mount straps. At that point, the side velcro straps make the pouch a standard top open tool pouch you can top load tools from. When you pop the velcro tabs, the whole pouch opens up to lay on the desk or bench you’ve found, and you have easy access to all the tools.

Thus, you can work out of it like it’s a bag, or open it up like a tool roll.

The elastic straps hold all the pliers cutters and long skinny object well. The back pocket holds the screwdriver set.

My solution is as light as the original system. Replacing the bag makes it about 10 times easier to use, and a bit bigger without really changing the weight. Additionally, if it doesn’t fit in your bag, you can hang it on the outside of your main bag with the molle loops. You have a main bag with molle on it, right?

And that’s why I have the screwdriver you need.