- Dec 3, 2019 at 2:42 am #3621277
The number of USB chargeable devices that I own has grown over the last decade. And while these devices are a lot lighter than some of their alternatives, they all will need to be charged at some point.
Here’s some gear I can bring with me that might require USB charging if backpacking for a week or more without resupply:
- inReach Mini
- NU25 headlamp
- smart watch (not really necessary)
Save for the iPhone, the gear above is all relatively light weight, and I use it all. But the battery pack isn’t light at all.
Right now, I’m using a ~7 oz Anker battery pack. It has one USB port, which isn’t really practical. If I want one with two ports, the weight creeps up to a pound or more. Now, it’s practical, but it’s heavy. It’s also mind boggling to worry about cutting ounces off a tent when I’m carrying a heavy battery with me.
I’m trying to wrap my head around alternative ways to approach this. Do I charge up a couple of GoPro batteries ahead of time to avoid having to charge it? Do I mess around with iPhone settings to delay charging it? What settings can I tweak on the InReach that will reduce battery use without making it less useful? The questions all have a common theme of bringing a device that’s useful but limits its actual use. And how much power will I actually end up using? Is the battery big enough to get me through a week, so I don’t end up carrying devices that I’m not using?
What are your thoughts on chargeable devices?Dec 3, 2019 at 3:02 am #3621279
in before Roger says something about how he doesn’t bring electronicsDec 3, 2019 at 3:08 am #3621280
I think tweaking your phone settings to get more battery life makes sense.
Sometimes I think about picking up a digital camera or a 360 camera or that DJI mini Osmo(?) but then I decide that a really good phone gives me a good balance between weight, battery life and (perhaps most important) simplicity.
I don’t feel a need to track with my InReach. I fire off a few “doing fine” messages a day.
I’ve been using an Ambit 3 Peak for a while now and while I love the battery life I’m not convinced this watch is for me.
I’ve never felt a need to charge more than one thing at a time so one charging port is not a problem.Dec 3, 2019 at 3:41 am #3621282Rex SandersBPL Member
@rexLocale: Central California Coast
How long are your trips? How many days does each device last before requiring recharging for your “typical” trip? Are you willing to buy and carry different sized battery packs for different trip lengths? A few minutes with a spreadsheet might help you trim battery weight.
A bunch of people have writeups on saving smartphone energy while backpacking, but it depends on how you use it. Constantly shooting videos and staring at Gaia every step of the way? Snapping a couple photos per day and that’s it?
Saving inReach energy is all about tradeoffs. Screen brightness, tracking, Bluetooth, message frequency, and more can affect battery life. Some people want 10 second breadcrumbs and constant connections to civilization; some just want a reliable two-way SOS device.
And temperature plays a bigger role than most people realize. Recharging from your battery pack at night is convenient, but colder temperatures can chew up a lot of watt-hours for nothing. Recharge warm and slow. Staring at your iPhone screen reading a novel when the ambient temperature is 30° F will rapidly drain your battery.
Lots of variables, very little hard, reliable data. Mostly you need experience.
— RexDec 3, 2019 at 4:52 am #3621285
Phone charging is hard to wrap my head around. A three year old phone is going to use its battery faster than a one year old phone. A bad update can cause battery problems. Apple has done this in the past. I might take a lot of pictures with it one day, but I might take none another day. I realistically can’t track my hiking with GAIA like I do for day hikes without seriously draining the battery. I’m realistically not going to have a new phone for every trip. But I am going to use it as my primary camera.
Right now, I take with me 10000 power core, but I’m not sure if I need more power. And these battery packs lose their power over time too. I’ve found it good enough for weekend trips. The lightest might not be the right answer, but I haven’t figured out how much power I really need. I’ve done some car camping tests, and I found myself charging it every night having drained the power to 20% or below. I’ve seriously limited my usage on backpacking trips since I didn’t want to end up with a dead phone, but this defeated the purpose of having it at all. And I ended up taking less pictures than I wanted. However, I don’t want to carry a bunch of backup cameras with me.
How do you guys manage the trade off of usage versus battery pack weight? Have you found any good guides that don’t tell you to turn everything off on phones, which pretty much make them dead weight? What size battery packs do you bring with you? How frequently do you charge your devices?
I don’t want to end up with my electronics weighing more than my tent, but I also want to use them if I’m taking them with me.Dec 3, 2019 at 6:36 am #3621288Mark FowlerBPL Member
You need to analyse your usage. For me I travel with a Android phone, Inreach Mini, Petzl Bindi and Steripen Freedom. I don’t track my progress sending 2 messages per day and use the phone for navigation and photos. For charging I use a cut down Miller charger (24g with cable) with 18650 3400Ah batteries (46g). The number of batteries changes with the length of my trip. I know I can go 2 days without recharging so no charger but 3-4 days I carry the charger and one battery (70g), 5-6 days I add a second battery (116g). On longer trips I then add in an 88g 6W solar panel to the charger and one battery (158g). The solar charger works for me because I like a decent break in the middle of the day and usually only walk about 6 hours a day so there is plenty of time to deploy the panel.If I am likley to have cloud and bad weather I may drop the panel and carry and extra battery or two,Dec 3, 2019 at 11:14 am #3621294William ChiltonBPL Member
@williamc3Locale: AntakyaDec 3, 2019 at 12:56 pm #3621298
Brian, I can get 3-4 days out of an iPhone XS battery. I’m in airplane mode (there’s no signal out there anyways), use Gaia a half dozen times a day, take a buttload if photos and maybe a couple videos. If I’m having trouble sleeping (likely) I might turn on a podcast on a 15 minute sleep timer. I listen to music on a headphone if I’m really struggling on a tough climb for an hour. More trouble sleeping/climbing = 3 days. Less of that = 4.
I turn location services off on everything other than Gaia. I screenshot my settings so I can turn them back on after the trip. this for a long trip in the Sierras. For a weekend trip I don’t bother.Dec 3, 2019 at 12:58 pm #3621299Andre WBPL Member
Sadly electricity is still quite heavy.
I believe the latest iphone battery is about 3000mah, inreach mini 1200mah, gopro 1200mah, nu25 600mah, apple watch 300mah. The total is 6300mah. Depending on how you use these devices, its quite possible to completely drain all the batteries in 1 day.
A 10,000mah power bank has an effective capacity of around 6500mah, its barely enough to recharge all of your devices 1 time.
Sometimes you can optimize the device settings (screen brightness, disabling features etc.)to save some power, but “utilization of the device” will be the biggest factor, ie. if you want to save power, then you have to limit your usage.
Some tips on optimizing phone: On my android phone there is a setting for one handed mode which shrinks the display to about 1/2, i suppose it saves a bit of power. I also turn down brightness and the display resolution. Turn off bluetooth if you dont need it connecting to your watch. I dont take too long to compose the shots and dont always review them, thereby reducing screen-on time. I imagine the shot and if i dont think it can be spectacular I dont bother. Also, if you really enjoy taking photos, i believe using compact cameras with optical viewfinders and small LCD screen will be more power (and weight) efficient than using a phone on longer trips.
As for the gopro, it is the only device in your list that has removable batteries and i believe it will be more efficient weight-wise to bring several batteries than recharging one battery multiple times with the power bank.
But if you really enjoy taking photo and recording video all day long out there, then yes, the batteries/power banks may be heavier than your tent. Nothing wrong with that.
PS: I know a guy who always brings 4 x 10,000mah power banks to weekend trips.Dec 3, 2019 at 1:06 pm #3621302dirtbagBPL Member
Airplane mode on phone .. you can still use camera and video and battery will last a long time. Also the Anker 10,000.. 2 ports.. small and compact, not much weight..Dec 3, 2019 at 1:47 pm #3621307Christopher GilmoreBPL Member
Well, I use an InReach SE, iPhone XS Max, black diamond rechargeable headlamp and Garmin Fenix 5X. My inReach and watch will last a week-long trip because I only turn the inReach on to let the wife know I’m ok in the morning and leaving camp and then again when I get to my next location right before bed. The watch lasts a week unless I put in hiking mode in which case it needs a charge every few days. The black diamond I carry an extra set of triple-A batteries for it as they weigh very little and I don’t find I use it much anyway.
My charging solution is very light, however. I have two batteries from a Powertraveler Power Monkey and a custom solar panel that is super light and will completely recharge 1 of the batteries with moderate sun each day. That gives me one to consume each day while the other charges.</div>
My biggest issue was figuring out how to conquer the cold as this was killing all of my devices juice. I finally figured out to tuck them inside my clothes bag at night and put them in the foot box of my quilt. I don’t sleep with socks on at night because I overhear so this works well for me.
CGDec 3, 2019 at 2:06 pm #3621310bradmacmtBPL Member
a custom solar panel that is super light and will completely recharge 1 of the batteries with moderate sun each day.
I’d love to hear more about this!Dec 3, 2019 at 2:28 pm #3621311bradmacmtBPL Member
I wonder whether ditching the Gopro, and not using the iphone as a camera (or not bringing it at all), and instead carrying a light camera like the Sony RX100 would offset your battery charging needs/weights?
That’s what I do… My Sony RX100 and Nitcore will typically go a week without needing charging. I keep the iphone off and only use it for emergencies, and don’t carry a charger.
Definitely get rid of the smart watch, and use a good old fashioned one that just tells time.Dec 3, 2019 at 2:39 pm #3621312Christopher GilmoreBPL Member
There really isn’t much to tell I took a cloth flexible panel off two bear grills small batteries and linked them together and made a connection out to a connection off of the original powermonkey panel which broke. I had three of the batteries with panels so I can include a photo of the original device and battery.Dec 3, 2019 at 5:35 pm #3621343Bob KernerBPL Member
Very timely post considering someone just posted about a new, rechargeable Bluetooth controlled headlamp with a giant battery and I thought, “great, another thing that needs to be recharged!” This is one thing that has kept me from buying a Suunto watch > another thing that needs a cable and juice.
I have a 10,000 mah Anker with two outlets. It can do a cell phone and light several times but it is heavy and takes about 3 hours to recharge. I don’t think solar is practical for most hikers unless you can set it up and leave it for several hours. So that leaves (a) selecting an appropriate battery and (b) conserving energy like described in the other posts.Dec 3, 2019 at 7:47 pm #3621359
Bob, that’s the challenge. I’m going to take pictures on my hikes, and I find it super easy to take my phone out of my pocket, swipe left and click. I used to carry a camera too, but I found my phone more convenient.
What’s happening now is that to save weight vendors are producing rechargeable products and pushing the weight to the battery pack producers. It’s an easy way to produce low weight outdoor products. And folks are ignoring the weight of the battery packs or jumping through hoops to get their gadgets to last longer. My NU25 weights less than ounce by itself, but now I might need to charge it. So is it really less weight if I need to carry bigger battery packs?
Rechargeable devices are becoming far more prevalent. I have so many devices now plugged into usb chargers at home. Far more than I did even five years ago.
I think it’s a realistic problem for backpacking weight management. You can’t ignore the recharge weight cost.Dec 3, 2019 at 11:51 pm #3621377HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Longer hikes of about 1 week, I’ll use my smartphone (mostly as a camera/navigation tool) on airplane mode. My headlamp is also rechargeable. So, I may need a charge or even 2 on my 10,000 mAH Anker for the phone, then 1 for the headlamp.
It’s worked so far ..Dec 4, 2019 at 1:02 am #3621400John McBPL Member
Am I that old???? I carry single sheet maps. I don’t carry a phone or camera. After 5 decades of hiking I noticed long ago all my photos are the same….lakes, trees, mountains, etc. People were surprised when I did the JMT without a single photo.
I wear a 30 year old triathlon Timex watch that has the original battery and a Fastfind PBL with a five year battery life. I have one of those little squeeze lights for in my tent.Dec 4, 2019 at 1:14 am #3621402David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I don’t bring an (electric) flashlight.
Actually, I do bring LED lights, but they go a LONG time on a recharge at home. In the 1980s and 1990s, carbide lights were my UL alternative to Coleman WG lanterns. Not as many lumens but far more than electric lights at the time – enough to light up a group kitchen area – and far lighter and more compact than a lantern.Dec 4, 2019 at 1:56 am #3621411
John, the pictures that have the most meaning to me are those with my friends in it. I’m not a solitary hiker. I’ve been hiking with the same people for over a decade now.
Why do I have a phone on me? I don’t want to leave it in my car. They cost a lot of money now. So I figure I should use it. I ended up using it as my main camera. Apple iPhones have really good cameras. They’re not SLR great, but they great for a point and shoot. They can also provide me a light, work as a GPS, and allow me to text my significant other and tell her I’m okay. It’s worth it me to have a working a phone, rather than just dead weight, which is what I used to do. I’d turn it off and put it in my pack.
Now, I’ve added more rechargeable devices. I purchased my first rechargeable headlamp that I’m testing out on day hikes and car camping before I take it backpacking. I also have an inReach. This is because when I hiked in Banff I had no cell coverage, and I’d like to be able to assure folks that I’m good. I also have a smart watch that I use mainly for working out and tracking my heart rate on local day hikes. And I’ve added these in the last year.
Five years ago, I carried a camera with spare batteries and a cell phone turned off and a headlamp with spare batteries. I never liked the squeeze light on the key chain as a camp light. I tried it, but it wasn’t bright enough for me. Now, my devices have grown, and instead of keeping my cell off, I now actively use it. GAIA is a great app. The light app is good for quick one offs.
Times have changed. And I’m okay with change even if its a little heavier. But I don’t want it to get out of control either.
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