What really is “off the grid?” In some ways I feel it might be out in the wilderness with only my significant other, some rugged boots and a bowie knife. Maybe off the grid means you live in a city without a grid pattern? Can you just unplug power and be off the grid?
Abby and I took off one day on our trusty touring bikes to take a little tour of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The plan was to follow a loose schedule from Yarmouth NS around Cape Breton, round to Pictou and finish our last week touring Prince Eward Island before shipping our bikes back and catching a plane home to NYC. We carried typical backpacking camping gear including a tiny stove and would resupply as we passed through towns.
Being that I’m a self employed photographer, as much as I love to think I can walk out of the office and leave it all behind, I end up bringing a pile of technology wherever I go. No surprise here, I shoot digital now. We (mostly I) had about 8Ah of lithium ion batteries between the camera (Canon 5D) media viewer/downloader, Ipod touch for checking email via WIFI (is that still off the grid?) and two cell phones. Had we needed to charge devices along the way, we would have required a receptacle and four or five chargers, maybe a hundred foot extension cord? How about a dynamo on a bike and then I could just ride in circles while taking pictures? I opted for solar panels, we had a nice stable platform on the back of each bike that would be facing the sky for 120 kilometers or so a day over most of the next month. How to make it all work? Rather than reinvent the wheel, I found a nifty little device in Radioshack that would enable, with a little modification, us to charge most any small battery powered device with our setup. Perhaps I’ll detail in a another post modding the Igo dual power adapter shown below.
Off Ebay, I purchased a couple of 1/3 watt 12 volt thin film (flexible) solar panels that would not only charge our stuff, but with a few bungee cords, keep our sleeping pads, food and miscellany from flying off the back of our racks.