There once was a time when taking electronic devices with us into the great out-of-doors was pretty much unimaginable. Fragile and costly, such devices offered few benefits to campers and backpackers, particularly those fascinated in going ultralight. But terms have changed and now it is not surprising to take a host of gadgets with us when catching the trail or simply car camping for the weekend with the family. Everything from smartphones and tablets, to headlamps and GPS trackers, are powered by rechargeable batteries these days and having them functioning can be a true challenge.
Fortunately, there are now some great resolutions prepared for charging our electric devices while on the go. So, whether you’re traveling out for just the day or weeks at a time, these are the best ways to limit your devices from running out of juice and enhancing nothing more than dead weight in your backpack.
There are a few various ways to keep your gadgets charged while you’re out in the forest and the option that is right for you will depend on your specific needs and the conditions, you’ll be using them in.
If you’re tenting with a vehicle, the most obvious solution to your charging needs is to take some energy from the car. Small electronics like phones and tablets can be restored via a 12-volt adapter to the car’s smoke lighter (or many newer vehicles just have a combined USB port in the dash).
If you’ve taken a laptop to the campsite though, you’ll most likely need an energy inverter to convert the car’s 12-volt power to the 110 volts your computer requires. In the latter’s position, be careful to not run the car’s battery down to point where it won’t rise again. It’s best to only charge more extensive devices while the engine is running.
Nothing says off the plate like a set of solar panels. As long as the sun is glowing you’ve got power. That’s also one of the most important downsides to them though. The time it takes to charge devices is massively dependent on the power of the sunlight reaching it.
If you’re using it at noon in the sands of Arizona, expect your devices to be up and running in a few hours. If you camp in endlessly cloudy locations, like the outskirts of Seattle, it’s performing to take a lot longer.
Solar panels come in a variety of shapes and sizes and some are more comfortable to use than others. The best option for camping is the semi-rigid technique of panels which can be folded down when not in use; this way you can buy a big panel system that still simply fits inside of a backpack.
If you’re not getting enough sun during the few hours, you’re at camp, it will be necessary to rig up an accessory to your backpack so that the panels can charge your device while you hike.
This is probably the modest way to get some energy in your battery. A variety of different sized battery packs are sold ranging from models that are barely larger than a tube of lipstick to others that consider a few pounds and can charge up numerous devices.
If all your bringing is a smartphone, you might just want to add a battery-operated case to it. Battery cases fit comfortably on the phone and provide an extra few hours of power with around 2,000 mAh of charge.
If you’re bringing several electronic devices, like a Bluetooth speaker, headlamp, and phone (all of which charge via USB), it’d be better to get approximately that has closer to 20,000 mAh.
Know that no matter what the producer claims the battery pack has for mAh, this is only an optimistic guess. The extended you own the battery pack and the more it gets used, the less charge you can expect it to hold.
Additionally, if you charge it and then don’t directly use it, expect it will lose some mAh. Always be conservative in your evaluation of how much power is needed and then choose a battery pack that meets or beats those needs.
Getting all your devices charged and care them that way can be an irritation, so only bring the things you need on each trip. Excess electronics are just somewhat else that can break, so pare it down to just the necessities.
Also, be conscious that batteries lose some of their capacity as the temperature drops. You may have noticed that your mobile will show low battery in sub-zero temperatures, but once you get it inside and warmed up, it has a sensible charge left. In colder temperatures, keep electronics warm by holding them close to your form when they’re not in use.
There was a time when backpacking or camping was a way to get away from all of the accessories of modern life. But these days we habitually head into the wilderness with a host of devices in draw, most of which require frequent charging to keep them from becoming nothing more than dead mass.