Thinking Green

Drew May


Going green doesn’t require spending a lot of money. In fact, with some simple steps you can use nature to your own benefit. I’m going to teach you how to make a solar backpack for under $50. It will be able to charge your iPod or any USB device as long as the sun is making contact with your backpack. It’s not the most practical for use in dismal Washington, but at least have bragging rights that you made a solar backpack on your own.

Before you begin gather some tools and materials.

Tools include soldering iron; wire strippers; scissors for the tape; and a multimeter.

The materials you’ll need include a 6 volt solar panel. (I recommend model MPT6-150 from; a 5 volt voltage regulator; a USB female connector you can connect to the gauge wires; solder; insulated copper wire; and two sheets of laminating film.

First, use the electrical tape to secure the voltage regulator and female USB port to the back of the solar panel.

Next, turn the solar panel around and you will see at least two spots where you can solder onto. Tin the surfaces by applying heat with your solder gun and soldering the wires onto them. Take two strands of copper wire (enough to run to your voltage regulator) and solder them onto the spots on your solar panel.

Then, run these wires around the back and solder them to your voltage regulator and USB connector. Voltage regulators often come with instructions to determine the polarity for each of the pins. The solar panel should also tell you which polarity is which according to the wires on the front. If not, then I recommend looking up extra diagrams online according to your model number.

Next, use your test leads from your multimeter on the USB connector to ensure your polarity is correct.

Then, attach your preferred USB charging cable to the USB connector and run it off the solar panel so you can access it after the panel has been laminated.

Double check every step to ensure everything looks okay, then laminate the whole thing using the laminating sheets so your solar panel isn’t damaged by water.

Duct tape or attach to your backpack in whatever manner you see fit and voila! You have a fully functioning solar backpack.

Disclaimer: Using the wrong material could harm your device. It may take as long as 24 hours to receive a full charge on your iPod.

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Thinking Green

by Drew May time to read: 2 min