Power cables connecting a 100Ah battery box, solar charger, and solar panel sitting on the ground in the sun.

Using the portable LiFePO4 battery banks in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

This won’t really be a post about doing a lot of operating. It’s mostly about powering and recharging stuff. The long story short of operating from the specific site we were at is that I didn’t make any contacts apart from another station on JS8Call that heard one of my heartbeats. I wasn’t in a good position to be heard, but I could hear a lot of other stations on 40m throughout the afternoon and evening. I was also able to hear Radio Havana and what I suspect might have been Zambia NBC Radio 1 for a few minutes.

I was able to recharge the Bioenno 4.5Ah battery in an hour or so as we broke camp and packed the vehicle. I’d been using that radio the previous day and listening to shortwave stations the whole night. A solid hour of charging at 1.1A using the BuddiPole PowerMini on a single GoalZero Nomad 20 solar panel was enough to replentish the battery.

The 100Ah battery was easily charged in about 45 minutes. We’d only drawn about 3.5Ah from the battery running lights, charging a phone, and a portable projector. The panel in use here is a Bioenno 100W folding panel and from the VictronConnect application screenshot it’s charging at about 4.5A. The back view shows how the solar panel is connected to the charging unit and the battery. This is the first time I’ve used the West Mountain Radio Epic PWRGate to charge the 100Ah battery. I’m hoping to use it for charging from a vehicle alternator, an existing DC power supply, or solar panel. I’m also hoping to add a charger like this to the box along with a temperature probe to ensure the battery isn’t charged when it’s too hot or cold. The Relion RB100 has a minimum charging temperature of -4F.

This a detailed view of the West Mountain Radio Epic PWRGate. The green LED indicates it has good solar charging voltage, and the blue LED that was slowly pulsing which indicated that the battery was being bulk charged by the solar panel. The PWRGate is programmed with the specific battery chemistry settings for LiFePO4 batteries and is current limited at 6A for some of the other batteries I charge with this setup.