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Minimal Power Bank?


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Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 36 total)
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  • #3727947
    Alex G
    BPL Member

    @radioradio

    I am using a power bank just to recharge my garmin watch on short trips (2-4 nights). My current battery pack is the smallest I could find and still weighs in at 4 ounces.

    Has anyone found something smaller and lighter?

    #3727951
    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member

    @kbabione

    Locale: Pennsylvania

    If you’re only using it for a watch you can go pretty small with the battery.  Search Amazon for “battery lipstick 3350” and you’ll that Luxtude has some at 2.45 ounces.  For roughly another ounce you can get one with a flashlight…

    #3727963
    JCH
    BPL Member

    @pastyj-2-2

    A lot of cheap, light, lower capacity power banks are given away as swag at conferences etc.  You may be able to score one (some) free.  Ask you co-workers?

    I’d be surprised if most (all?) of these small cheap PBs were terribly high quality simply because the economics wouldn’t make much sense for the manufacturer.

    #3727973
    Brad W
    BPL Member

    @rocko99

    I think most Garmin watches have about 500mah batteries. So you need at least 3,000mah. I would look at Nitecore NB5000. There are lighter options but I would bet you need low voltage mode to stop the bank from shutting off as the watches draw too little amperage-most banks will power down in this scenario.

    #3727975
    bradmacmt
    BPL Member

    @bradmacmt

    Locale: montana

    Get an analog watch :)

     

    #3727985
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    I have a 3350 mAh lipstick charger (Anker Powercore+ Mini) that is 2.8oz. Of course, you still need to carry a short cable as well.

    #3728000
    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member

    @kbabione

    Locale: Pennsylvania

    I figure the OP was carrying a cable already.  I did hike with a buddy who shortened a 3-foot cable to 8 inches to save some weight.  At the time a 3-footer was the shortest available.

    #3728005
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    I’m working on a BPL battery pack gear guide, which probably won’t be out for a few months. Currently focused on larger 10,000 and 20,000 mAh batteries, but here are tips based on my reading so far.

    Look for a battery pack that supports “low power mode” or similar, to recharge small devices like watches. But you might waste a lot of energy letting low power mode continue running overnight after fully recharging your watch. Maybe recharge when you can conveniently shut the battery pack off after a couple of hours (set a timer). Batteries without low power mode might not recharge small devices that draw too little power.

    If you find the battery pack you really want at a price you like, buy it now. I’ve seen too many desirable batteries suddenly go “out of stock” or “discontinued”, or prices double overnight for no apparent reason.

    Amazon banned some well-known battery pack brands because they illegally paid for 5-star reviews. You can still find their products elsewhere.

    Use shortthick, tough USB cables from reputable sources. And treat your cables with care. Lousy or abused cables can waste a lot of recharging energy.

    — Rex

    #3728033
    Marcus
    BPL Member

    @mcimes

    Rex, have you seen this comparison? its highly useful for the raw #’s.

    Hiking power banks comparison from Ultralight

    Also I never considered the cable as a source of loss but it makes sense. Makes sense thicker and shorter cables are better to reduce resistance losses. Any particular cable you’ve found to be good quality?

    I’m a big fan of the Nitecore 10k. Not light enough to fit the OP’s criteria, but does have low power mode and is the lightest 10k bank at the moment.

    #3728060
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    Marcus,

    Thanks, hadn’t seen that.

    I’ll test a much smaller selection of power banks, across a wider range of conditions important to backpackers, emphasizing a few parameters that actually matter. Haven’t started testing new power banks yet. Here’s a preview of some of my testing:
    https://backpackinglight.com/simple-gear-tests-usb/

    Planning on USB cable testing, no time frame yet. Others discovered that some cables waste a lot more energy than others – I was surprised. Hence these general recommendations until I can do more testing.

    My goal is to describe tests that anyone can do at home with inexpensive gear. Especially with electronics, it’s almost impossible to keep a large list up to date. Even my short list of battery packs has been challenging, and I haven’t started testing yet!

    — Rex

    #3728064
    Matthew S
    BPL Member

    @battlerattle

    Poweradd 5000mAh lipstick style is 3.5oz iirc

    #3728088
    Brad W
    BPL Member

    @rocko99

    @Rex OP is more than likely using the OEM Garmin watch cable which is short and stout. I would never use a 3rd party cable for my Garmin watch-I have yet to see one that is near the quality of OEM.

    Also, to hammer the low voltage point home-this may be needed. Watches generally draw 100mah or less-many banks will power off around this current. IME low power/current mode is a must. Unfortunately most smaller lipstick style banks don’t have this or published low current shut off thresholds-may have to try a few out. You need to watch the watch-it usually stops charging after 30-60 minutes if the watch is not drawing enough current for said bank.

     

    This might be a good option. https://smile.amazon.com/Anker-PowerCore-Lipstick-Sized-Compatible-Smartphones/dp/B005X1Y7I2/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=anker%2Bpower%2Bbank%2B3350&qid=1632496855&sr=8-3&th=1

    In the questions someone answered that 50mah is the low current threshold.

    #3728105
    NoCO-Jim
    BPL Member

    @noco-jim

    Locale: NoCO

    Brad W: Did you mean mA instead of mAh?

    #3728107
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    In my limited fiddling, 50 milliamps (mA, not mAh), or roughly 1/4 watt, is the cut off for a few chargers and battery banks. Like you said, some keep running at low current for a little while, which might fool people into thinking small devices will completely recharge.

    Low power cut off preserves battery bank energy, at the expense of the last few percent of recharging for larger devices like smartphones. But makes recharging small devices like smartwatches almost impossible.

    That’s why many newer battery banks include a low power mode. Charge your smartwatch, but maybe waste too much energy if you let it run for too many hours. Probably no big deal for people in town; maybe a very big deal for backpackers. Tradeoffs worth testing.

    OEM cables aren’t always the best. Others have found Apple-supplied cables are mediocre at best for energy loss. I’d like to find out for myself.

    Rumors that future iPhones might drop wired charging in several years, inefficient wireless charging only. If that comes true, bad news for backpackers. We’ll see.

    https://www.macworld.com/article/538706/no-apple-isnt-dumping-the-iphones-lightning-port.html

    — Rex

    #3728108
    Brad W
    BPL Member

    @rocko99

    @NoCo Yes, sorry, 50mA.  FWIW, of the Anker banks I have used with my Garmin Instinct watch, they have not powered off until the watch was 100% charged, which was quite some time-very slow charging on that watch regardless of the power source.  The banks used did NOT have a low current mode.

    #3729844
    Mike W
    BPL Member

    @skopeo

    Locale: British Columbia

    This charger uses an 18650 battery, so you can take an extra battery as needed.   I don’t have the weight handy.  I use mine with 3400 mah flat top (unprotected) cell.  The charger has built in charge protection.

    https://m.fasttech.com/products/1421/10001919/1137904-miller-ml-102-universal-usb-smart-charger-version

    #3771390
    John S.
    BPL Member

    @jshann

    I was checking out powerbanks wondering what the lightest is these days (18650 charger/powerbank)

    and noticed that fasttech shut down late last year.

    #3774379
    Stephane G
    BPL Member

    @gauvins

    Fenix ARE X11 . Works with standard 18650 (3500mAh). 42g (+45g per battery)

    Nitecore F21i.  Works with proprietary 21700 (5000mAH). 22g (+69g per battery)

    #3774385
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    It’s not simple mAh math. mAh are specified at the internal batteries, not useful places like USB ports.

    Plan on losing 30% or more going from battery pack to watch battery.

    Figuring out battery pack energy needs on paper is hard. Experience works. Take notes.

    Lots more here, progressively nerdier:
    https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/unsupported-how-to-recharge-phone-spot-headlamp/
    https://backpackinglight.com/episode-56-portable-battery-chargers-for-backpacking/
    https://backpackinglight.com/battery-bench-test-explainer/
    https://backpackinglight.com/anker-nitecore-portable-battery-charger-tests-batterybench/

    — Rex

    #3774394
    Mike W
    BPL Member

    @skopeo

    Locale: British Columbia

    I agree that experience works.

    One of the issues I’ve had with some of my battery banks is that they are too sophisticated!   To avoid parasitic drain, many portable chargers shut off when the draw is low.  I have a Mountain Glo light string that I use to test portable chargers.  The majority of the ones I test will only light the string for about 10 seconds and then shut off.  I’ve also had this happen when I try to charge my watch.   Higher  power draws don’t have an issue (like my inReach and iphone), they don’t shutoff until the charge is complete.

    So make sure you test “all” of your devices with your battery bank before heading out because as I have found out the hard way, they don’t always work as expected.   I still take my old Miller charger that uses a single 18650 battery.  It works with every device I have (no auto-shutoff), but unfortunately, they aren’t available anymore.

    #3774399
    Jeff McWilliams
    BPL Member

    @jjmcwill

    Locale: Midwest

    On the topic of battery banks, charging devices, and charging the battery bank:

    Looks like maybe the Nitecore F21i has been replaced with the NPB1?

    I use the XTAR PB2S power bank and in fact own two of them.  It’s similar to the Nitecore F21i that was mentioned earlier, and the NiteCore NPB2 in that you supply your own 21700 cells for it.  I get 5000mah cells from IMRBattery.com, usually IMREM, Molicel, or Samsung.  Don’t get protected cells.  They can shut down if you use your battery bank to charge your phone and it goes into “quick charge” mode and draws a lot of current.

    What I’ve also found is that when charging the batteries, it’s important to have a good wall adapter charger that will charge your power bank quickly, especially if you’re pressed for time.  For this, I find that something like the Anker 511 Nano-Pro works best along with a quality USB-C to USB-C cable.

    What’s been enlightening about using the XTAR PBS2 bank is that the LED display will show voltage and current both when it’s charging a device, and when it’s being charged.  This is very informative, as you can see if it’s delivering “high power” to your device to quick charge it, or it’s being slow charged.  Probably not a big deal for watches, but definitely a big deal for your smart phone.

    What I found was that most USB-A to USB-C cables can’t quick charge the same as good USB-C to USB-C or USB-C to Lightning cable can, so almost all my charging cables are USB-C to USB-C or USB-C to Lightning, with the exception of my Garmin watch and Garmin InReach cables, which are USB-A.

    Another reason I like the XTAR PB2S (and NiteCore F21i/NPB2) power banks is that when the Lithium cells wear out, I can replace the cells without having to dump the electronics in a land fill.   I’ve cycled several generations of 21700 cells through my two PB2S banks.

    Also, if I ever needed more capacity than two 5000maH cells can provide, I can just bring along a 2nd set of cells in a protective case, and swap them into the PB2S when the first pair are discharged.  This gives me a lot of flexibility.

    Weekend trip:  Just take the PB2s with two fully charged cells.  8 day trip?  Grab a 2nd pair of cells.  This keeps me from needing to own different sized power banks (lipstick, 10000maH, 20000maH) for different occasions.

    Since I’m already invested in 21700 cells, it would be nice to own a Nitecore NPB1 for those short weekends where I don’t need a lot of charging capacity.

     

    #3774518
    John S.
    BPL Member

    @jshann

    #3774556
    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member

    @philip-ak

    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    On a somewhat related note, this is my new cable kit. It’s a standard USB to USB-C 6-inch braided cable along with USB-C to 1) lightning, 2) USB mini, and 3) USB micro adapters.

    I wonder if there is any circuitry or similar in the adapters that would cause power loss.

    #3774572
    Bill Budney
    BPL Member

    @billb

    Locale: Central NYS

    No circuitry, but size and quality of wire and connectors can cause loss. That’s why you see recommendations for thick, high quality, cables.

    #3774578
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    In general, short, thick, high-quality cables lose less energy.

    Significant losses from adapters? Don’t know, haven’t tested, haven’t seen others test.

    Most adapters don’t have chips. I think some Apple-approved (MFi) Lightning cables or adapters have teeny tiny chips. Doubt they consume much energy.

    In Philip’s case, four short thick individual cables might lose less energy. And weigh more while being a little harder to misplace. Tradeoffs.

    Some people like so-called octopus or squid cables – one battery pack USB connector that fans out to multiple device connectors. Creates other tradeoffs if two or more devices recharge at once. Haven’t tested or seen other tests.

    — Rex

     

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