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any soldering ninjas around here??


Active Member
so I have a solar backpack that can charge a macbook and would like to use it to charge my surface pro. the problem is, I emailed the backpack maker to see if they had plans to release a surface pro cable and of course they aren't planning one. the tech said it was possible to get one of their notebook cables and solder to a surface pro tip.

so my plan is to buy a laptop cable from them to get the right connection to the pack's battery, and a new surface pro charger to get the right connection to the pro. thing is, I'm not much the soldering type. does this sound doable? I know it's a bit of effort for a charging cable but it would be really trick to be able to feed the pro a little extra juice at school or at the airports when traveling. is anyone willing to help?? :) I can post some pics of the macbook cable and the backpack's battery. would be a cool little project.


Super Moderator
You can probably get a kid from best buy or a local computer store to do it for a couple of bucks as well:)


Active Member
Soldiering is an Art form. I am damn good at it, but my buddies wife who worked at Tel-Labs for years is a true soldering MASTER. That being said, this doesn't sound like Master-work stuff. Flux, solder, heat shrink tubing of appropriate sizes and a little thinking before hand should be all it takes. Post your plans and goods to be purchased. This sounds like something I would be into giving a shot. Assuming I did take on the project, I would be glad to ship you the first shot at it for cost. :)
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Active Member
Soldiering is an Art form. I am damn good at it, but my buddies wife who worked at Tel-Labs for years is a true soldering MASTER. That being said, this doesn't sound like Master-work stuff. Flux, solder, heat shrink tubing of appropriate sizes and a little thinking before hand should be all it takes. Post your plans and goods to be purchased. This sounds like something I would be into giving a shot. Assuming I did take on the project, I would be glad to ship you the first shot at it for cost. :)
EXCELLENT!! ok, here is the pack in question:

it is a voltaic systems "array." here's a link to the product page with specs. I guess the first thing to determine is whether the specs of the pack are sufficient to power the surface pro. I'm not sure what the surface pro's power requirements are, but since this charges my macbook air, I would assume it will work.
Voltaic Array Solar Laptop Charger

here is the actual battery pack that the solar panels charge

this is the magsafe cable that charges the macbook. now what I don't like about this cable is it terminates to a certain end that doesn't connect directly to the battery. it plugs into an adapter cable then into the battery.

so this is how it actually connects to the battery pack.

and finally, here's a close-up of the adapter cable.

sorry for the big pictures but I figured you'd want to see as much detail as possible. machistmo, I can order all the necessary cables from voltaic systems and a surface pro charger from microsoft and have them shipped directly to you. I would really prefer skipping the adapter cable and just have a cable that can plug directly into the battery on one end and the surface pro on the other end if that's doable. with all the parts paid for, you can PM me and let me know what you would charge to work your magic and ship back to me. :) let me know if you're still interested, and thanks!!


Active Member
I have not seen those connectors since my RC days, bjornb. Nice rig. As for this as a project, that's a pricey unit to be Frankensteining. I have contacted that company by phone and email this morning about a tip for the Pro. If they say no, I may give it a shot on my dime and let you know the results.

Wayne Orwig

Active Member
That is a huge amount of $$ for what you get.
I have done a lot of experimenting with portable solar panels, and generally, they are novelties. Don't take them seriously. And at nearly $400 that is pretty serious for something like that.

I have a camper that I tow behind my motorcycle. I often set up camp where there is no power, but I want to keep my devices chargers. My smartphone consumes about 8 watt hours per day. A 2 watt solar panel getting about 5 hours of sunlight, or about 10 watt hours per day, can't keep up. That is because the 2 watt solar panel specs are for perfect conditions. I'll never see 2 watts. Plus there are some conversion losses in the power supplies, etc.

This thing has a claimed 10 watt peak solar power. You'll likely never see that and you may be able to get 5 watts for ??? hours. So, say you get 2 hours of good sunlight. So maybe you collect 10 watt hours of energy. I believe the SP has a 42 watt hour battery in it. So that is only 1/4 charge per day. Not much.
Now it has a battery in it, that they say is 60 watt hours, and it can be charged via multiple methods. That is good for 1 1/2 charges of the SP battery. That is a good thing. So if you keep is charged via AC or whatever, that should be good.

Now, if you already have this, and it sounds like you do, and you want to, send me the cables and I will wire them for you. I enjoy working on this stuff.

Here is what I plan to do for my camper. In the camper, I have a small 12 volt gel battery. It is charged from the motorcycle when traveling (or by the nearly worthless solar charger when camping). I have ordered a cheap 12 volt RT charge plug from China, which isn't here yet. I will plug it into my camper battery cigarette light plug to charge the SP. I know that it isn't rated for the higher current, but I suspect it will put enough current into the tablet to help me. I also have an Anker Astro 3 40 watt hour battery pack that has a 5 and a 12 volt output. I am going to put a cigarette lighter socket on a cable and connect that to the Anker battery pack. Then I will plug the 12 volt Surface charger into that.
If cigarette lighter plug doesn't work out, I will cut the cord off of the cheap China 12 volt charger and make a more direct connection to my 12 volt sources.

So, you could try the cigarette lighter adapter route and not cut or solder anything. I can't say for certain yet how well that will work out though.
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Active Member
Posted from another forums post:

Based on the post by member darktiger, I did a bit of research on Paul Buff's new Vagabond Mini - Lithium (See: Paul C. Buff - Vagabond Portable Power ).

The unit is approximately 3" x 4" x 8" and weighs in at ~3.5 lb. It has an integrated, user-swap-able 130 Whr battery and the Vagabond comes with a separate, 3-hour AC adapter / charger. Buff advertises that the "discharged battery can be safely stored for months at a time without damage; no sulfating or “memory effect”..." Extra batteries are also available and can be charged outside the unit. The Vagabond Mini - Lithium sells for $240. Extra Batteries will set you back $90.

The Vagabond Mini will provide 120VAC at 1A continuously. Based on the power measurements discussed in this thread:

Surface Pro Power Consumption (Through the AC Adapter)

...the Mini can provide enough power to run and recharge the Surface Pro when you are away from a normal AC outlet. Note that the Vagabond also provides a 5V, 0.5A USB charging port.

Considering its form factor and size, I speculate that the Vagabond Mini is based on the BA Power Model B-12S120, a true sine wave inverter. the B-12S120 is spec'ed as providing a 115VAC (±3%) output at up to 120W steady-state (that is, about 1A steady-state output current). Total harmonic distortion (a measure of the purity of the sine wave output) is pretty good at less than 3%. Conversion efficiency is a bit low at ~85% (other sine wave inverters range from 88% to "over 90%"). The implication of this last performance metric is that the 130Whrs of input power provides ~110 Whrs of AC output (although that is still a health amount). In the absence of an actual test, it seems reasonable to assume that the Vagabond Mini ought to be able to recharge the Surface Pro's 42Whr battery about twice. Although the case appears to be plastic, some simple sheet-metal internal shielding should adequately control radiated electromagnetic interference.

However, the downside to all of this is that you have lug around not just the Vagabond, but the Pro's AC adapter as well. Maybe the fact that the Vagabond can be used with any low-power AC appliance makes up, in part, for its weight and bulk...???

(Images courtesy of PaulCBuff.com site)


Active Member
machistmo, I've already contacted voltaic and they said they have no plans on releasing a surface pro tip. that was about 2 weeks ago. it was one of their reps that suggested mocking one up. I'm not worried about frankensteining this thing since the cables are a separate component and are relatively cheap. unless you think I can damage the battery, the panels, or even worse, my surface.

wayne, thanks for the comments. you seem very knowledgable about this sort of thing. yes, I already own the backpack. I got it for Christmas one year so the cost isn't really an issue. actually, this is my second backpack from voltaic, I have a smaller one that is only capable of charging iphones, ipads and such. typically, I use both more for reviving my iphone after heavy usage but I've occasionally needed it for a bit more power on the macbook. and also, you can plug the battery into AC to top it off which is handy for when I know I'll be on a quick plane trip to one of my california shops. admittedly, the pack is in the office or the house much of the time so it's not charging strongly for a good part of my typical day, but if I know I'm going on a trip, I can top off the battery or there's also a higher voltage charging option of connecting directly to the panels if I'm out and about and it's come in handy in quite a few situations.

I can order the cables this coming week. if anyone wants to give it a whirl, I'd be very grateful!! :) thanks to you both!!


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