As modern technology becomes increasingly useful in the outdoors, keeping it charged, so you can actually use it is the next big challenge.
Currently I am aware of Three reliable methods that are sufficiently portable to be useful hiking;
Carry back up Batteries.
(Disposable Alkaline or Rechargeable NiMH)
- Simply and probably the most light weight option.
- Common batteries can be swapped between low and high priority devices as required.
- Low Set up cost.
- You need to ensure your batteries are full charged before you leave home using a Battery Tester.
- How many batteries should you carry?
- Regular trips can make disposable batteries expensive.
- Temperature changes can greatly affect how long Batteries last, particularly rechargeable’s. (last longer in cold)
- You must carry all batteries out with you.
2. Power Bank. This is essentially the modern version of carrying individual Batteries. They come in two types: those that must be USB charged to replenish their storage(pictured) and those that you can added fresh AA Batteries to replenish.
- Simply and light weight.
- Low to Moderate Set up cost.
- Pretty much limited to charging one device 1-2 times i.e: a phone.
- Only compatible with devices that can be USB charged.
Solar Charging. There are some good quality Solar systems around now days, most or which are a combination of a panel and a battery charger/ power bank.
- All you require is UV light. Modern Panels will charge well in most conditions including light rain…
- With a good quality system, you should be able to charge batteries and USB devices from both the panel and the power bank.
- often you are able to charge the Power Bank side from other USB sources also.
- Generally greater weight then previous options.
- You still have to carry at least 4 -6 AA batteries to allow rotation and USB charging if you are using other electronics beyond a smart phone.
- You need all of your outdoor electronics to use compatible batteries or USB charging.
- Greater Set up cost
How do I keep charged?
All of my outdoor electronics/ devices either use AA or AAA batteries or are compatible with USB charging from AA Batteries. Using a common battery type between electronics has the advantage of being able to swap between devices depending on the priority of the device when conserving power.
Single Day Hikes;
- Rechargeable NiMH AA Batteries in a Battery Containers(prevent accidental discharge) and Disposable Alkaline’s*1) for Head Lamp.(plus spare set)
- A Power bank for emergency recharge of phone (gives me approx 3 days on flight mode.)
Overnight or Multi Day Hikes;
- Rechargeable NiMH AA Batteries in a Battery Containers and Disposable Alkaline’s(*1 )for Head Lamp.(plus spare set)
- The Goal Zero Solar Charging System, Nomad 7 Solar Panel(*2) and Guide 10 Plus Power Bank.(*3)
If you end up using rechargeable batteries,(AA, AAA or Power Banks) when your not hiking its important to regularly charge the batteries, even better if you can get a mains charger that also has a discharge cycle on it. (simulates being used by a device)
Goal Zero Charging
If you don’t already have a Solar charging system, I highly recommend taking a serious look at Goal Zero.
- In the New Zealand high UV conditions it takes approx 4 hours to fully charge 4x AA batteries in the Power Bank connected to the Solar Panel,(*4) walking under a clear sky.
- Walking in and out of sky cover (Bush and clearings) it takes the same combination about 6-8 hours depending on how much your under cover.
- The Power Bank requires 4 AA or 4 AAA to start charging, it doesn’t matter what state of charge the individual batteries are.
- The Power Bank can be charged from a USB power source in the absence of good UV conditions.
- Charge just batteries or divide the charge with a USB device.
- The Power Bank has an LED light source – always handy when your head lamp batteries need changing.
- The solar panel also works perfectly fine through the deck of my plastic sea kayak! I just strap it across one of the dry bags in the sealed gear compartment.(Mine is a light yellow – not sure if that makes a difference?)
(*1) LED head Lamps perform best with Alkaline Batteries, which also have a longer shelf life then rechargeable Batteries.
(*2)The GZero Nomad 7, while still listed on the Website, seems to have been replaced by the newer generation Nomad 7 Plus in New Zealand outdoor stores.
(*3) When buying GZero Gear, make sure that the solar panel and Power Bank has the correct output power for your device. (The Nomad 7/ Guide 10 has and output of 1 amp, with the Nomad 7 Plus/ Venture 30 Power Bank being greater.
(*4) You can charge a USB device like a smart phone directly from the Solar Panel, but its recommend to go via the Power Pack, so momentary shade doesn’t cause the charge to stop ( smart phones are fussy!) compensates for these moments and keeps the charge alive.