I try to journey once a month from Philly to New York, and on those days, especially in winter, my phone tends to die. I remember carefully planning my afternoon between coffee shops and train stations where I might find an outlet to plug my phone. One of the most frustrating times was trying to visit a wearable tech show in Brooklyn with no power. I made it there, but I knew there was no way I was going to navigate back to my Bolt Bus stop without my trusty subway app. Luckily, Becky Stern was there and gave me a spare power box from her Solar Boost Bag project. I remember liking that project, and it was that moment when I figured out it was the perfect New York solution. So, I set about putting one together.
Choosing the Right Purse/Bag
Although I liked Becky’s bag shown in the tutorial for this project, I really wanted something that would look nice in a business situation, or something more casual. A black purse just seemed right. Here’s what you should be looking for:
- Sturdy Material – I opted for a medium vinyl, but a heavy canvas also works well. You want it to support the solar panel without caving in.
- A Front Pocket – this is crucial for the storage of the power pack, hiding the cable and accessing the interior of the purse behind the lining
- Comfort/Placement – You want to be able to hold the bag, but have a good part of the solar panel exposed while you are walking
Lets’s get down to the details here. First, the material has to be sturdy, but it also can’t be too thick. The screws that come mounted on the solar panel are quite short, so my purse made of vinyl backed with thin foam was just thick enough. Any more would not have allowed the bolt to be tightened on the screw. As for the front pocket, you’ll need to cut open the lining of that pocket in order to get directly behind the fabric on the outside of the bag without compromising the inside fabric. Granted, I could have chosen to puncture holes entirely through the wall of vinyl and the inside layers, but then it would have maxed out the screw length anyway. That front pocket is also handy because it allows you to store the cord for the solar panel, and it also is big enough for the power box when in charging mode.
Here are some things that made the project easier:
- A Nice Wire Stripper/Cutter – For cutting the cable on the solar panel to replace the barrel jack
- White Grease Pencil – I used this on the tips of the screws to mark the placement on the purse
- Jeweler’s Screwdriver – I didn’t have an awl, so this is what I used to create holes for the solar panel
- Hair Dryer – Replaces a heat gun for the heat shrink tubing on the cable
Probably the only tricky thing in this project is snipping off the barrel jack on the solar panel since you have to replace it with a different size jack for the power box. The cable is quite thick and my combination of mini-Leatherman stripper and small nippy cutters took three attempts until I got it right. You really want to have the black and red protective casing exposed on those small wires when you go to solder the new jack. That way when you apply the heat shrink tube you will be sure to have no shorts.
Why I Love It
- Power When You Need It- Keep the power box charged and you can keep it in any purse
- Good all year round-Even when the sun isn’t shining, you can also charge the power box through an AC outlet
- Meets My Specs-This purse is practical and good looking
I’ve had fun taking this purse to a park where it charges nicely laying on it’s side. I’ve also been able to charge it on my windowsill, although the glass window does make the process slower. The cool thing is that wherever you take it, people definitely notice it, and it’s a reminder that alternative power can be incorporated into our lives. So,take advantage of this sunny weather and follow our Solar Boost Bag tutorial. You’ll have something useful for the beach and definitely a good traveling companion.
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