My goal is to find a cheap energy sources for touring.

I cannot use solar all the time so I am planning to get Reelights outlined here, for lights, because they are cheaper than installing a hub generator. But the next problem is my laptop because it needs much more energy and I don't have much solar radiation at my latitude. I included the description about solar panel installation because I may need to use it with other energy sources which I am not aware of, perhaps gas, oil or something like that but they are expensive. So to the question:

Which cheap energy sources would you use during touring with low amount of sun energy?

One possible implementation to store energy

The ten-watt solar panel (which weighs about a pound) lies on top of my panniers on the back of the bicycle (I carry my tent and sleeping bags in the front bags). As I ride, mostly in the sun, the panel produces current which runs through 12 5.7AH nicad cells, charging them during the day. After I stop for the night, I unplug the panel, and use the same plug to connect the battery to the computer via a Targus auto/air adapter.

This setup requires me to carry the computer, an AC charger and the Targus DC charger, the solar panel, nicad cells and connector cord, a multimeter, and various nylon and plastic bags plus the computer case, with a total weight of seven pounds or less. (source)

Suggestions, some of which may be a solution

  • hub dynamo recommendations here for lighting
  • solar panels for electronics projects
  • moz suggests here to carry a solar panel but not diamond-framed
  • Amon suggests here a particularly interesting home-brew stuff that may lead to some kind of solution but with USB.
  • Darkcanuck outlines the situation with different choices here: sun, AA/etc charger and dynamo charger.
  • solar-powered Laptop during touring, more here.
  • @hhh - Fascinating topic, but "which energy sources would you use" isn't answerable in its current form. Can you please ask a specific question? Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 16:28
  • @Neil Fein: Thank you, now it should be. The limitation is that I cannot rely on just one type of energy source like sun and if at all possible, I would like to find a cheap solution.
    – user652
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 16:47
  • 1
    Leave the laptop at home and immerse yourself in the touring experience: scenery, local attractions, meeting new people.
    – darkcanuck
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 17:53
  • @hhh - I tweaked the text a little. You might also want to post the more technical aspects of this to the electronics site. Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 18:48
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    I'd probably go with a smartphone. Very low power, low voltage, small, includes internet, GPS, etc.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Mar 26, 2011 at 6:02

1 Answer 1


Assuming you add the robust stand you were talking about here it should be possible to pedal the bike on the stand. Even pedalling gently will give you 50-100W of mechanical power that you can use to spin a small generator. I suggest looking for a dead RC toy and using the motor from that, since they often use that level of power. Ideally drive it from the chain rather than the tyre, but focus on making it work to start with. A little work on voltage conversion should give you enough power to charge the laptop fairly quickly, and with a little work you could even use it while pedalling.

Otherwise a hub dyno. A decent bottle dyno will not be much cheaper but will need more maintenance.

  • what is "bottle dyno"?
    – user652
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 0:15
  • A dynamo that runs off the sidewall of the tyre. Usually shaped like a bottle, hence the name. Bottle Dyno. Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 1:17

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