In my first cycling life, 'high tech' meant a bottle dynamo with a spare globe clipped inside the headlight. These things required a noticeable effort to push, and on long moonlight rides home to Gladstone, it was not uncommon to turn mine off. 'Geeky' would have been the little cog on the front axle which was ticked over by a striker mounted on the spokes; that was the speedo. And a 'GPS' was an ordinance survey map. These were expensive and bulky, but the only reliable way to navigate off the main roads; I once set off for NSW without a map.

I used to entertain myself converting kilometres to miles in my head, as I still couldn’t think in kilometres, and would then estimate average speeds and likely arrival times as I passed each 5km sign, or the occasional surviving mile post. I did not have a camera, and after thousands of miles, have only one photo from those years. A camera, a phone with GPS and maps, not to mention decent lights, are all a vast improvement on that period. My little laptop weighs 1160 grams, and I can write and publish on the road—although most of the NT and Queensland is minus internet access.

But it all needs electricity. It costs an extra ten dollars a night, on average, for a powered site in a caravan park where you can charge up— assuming there is a camp ground at all. Dynamos are expensive, although allegedly less heavy to push these days, but don’t work during lunch hours or on a rest day. So I’ve gone solar. The battery sitting here brought my laptop to almost full charge overnight, and will be fully charged by the end of today. This 12 watt solar panel collects as much power as I would generate with any dynamo I could afford. It sits neatly across my back panniers. Cost? $89.00 from Solaru.

I’ll take my normal double adaptor and multipoint USB charger, and my short extension cable, as usual. But at least half the time there will be nowhere to plug them in, and what I’ll save on unpowered tent sites will more than pay the cost of the panel. My power pack is a Comsol 8800mAh which has served me well in the past. It sits nicely in the handlebar pack and juices the phone for music or GPS. The panel has a mesh container underneath where I can zip the battery in on the road.

The one photo. 1975.

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