Ultralight, Ultra-Performance Backcountry Electronics for 2018
Jul 14, 2018 at 2:38 pm #3546744Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Ultralight, Ultra-Performance Backcountry Electronics for 2018
I’ve been immersing myself in the study of backcountry electronics this year, including technologies for lighting, navigation, and photo/video. This article highlights some gear that I’m using this summer, and how I’m calculating, and managing rechargeable battery needs.Jul 14, 2018 at 10:31 pm #3546786Chad SSpectator
“My approach to calculating battery recharging needs is simple.”
It might be too simple. What about battery efficiency factors such as resistance? You don’t get 1000 mAh out of a 1000 mAh battery, and plus it takes more than 1000 mAh to fully charge a 1000 mAh device battery. I’m no expert, but I was thinking charging efficiency was usually around 80% or worse, excluding additional variances such as cold or hot conditions.Jul 15, 2018 at 1:37 am #3546807Diane PinkersBPL Member
@dipinkLocale: Western Washington
I’ve been thinking about this, because I carry an ENB charger with 2 18650 rechargeable batteries. For overnights it’s great, enough charge without extra weight. I have two questions, though: is it better to top up electronics every night, or let them run down aways before recharging? And, (I’ll probably have to figure this out for myself) how many days of travel would it be before it makes better sense to bring a heavier battery pack vs. more 18650’s that are already charged? I believe the Anker battery pack I use for EDC is 10500, so at some point it might make better sense?Jul 15, 2018 at 2:09 pm #3546852Patrick O’NeilSpectator
I think I’m missing something, how do you recharge the camera’s battery? Can it be recharged via usb while in the camera?Jul 15, 2018 at 7:01 pm #3546878
Chad: An Anker FAQ lists output efficiency at 60% to 70%, much worse than your 80% estimate.
Diane: Recharging efficiency gets worse as you get closer to 100% for most batteries. I would consider running devices down to around 20%, then recharging to 80%, for maximum efficiency. Unfortunately, that means you can’t plug in and forget during recharging.
ENB + 18650 batteries versus Anker battery – it’s about a wash. Four Panasonic 3400 mAh 18650 batteries plus an ENB two-battery charger weighs about 258 grams, and yields 50.3 Watt-hours, before efficiency losses. An Anker 10050 battery weighs 236 grams and yields 50.3 Watt-hours. But with the ENB, if you need a little more or less power, you just take a couple more or fewer 18650 batteries. Most sleek battery packs like the Anker have 18650s inside; and the electronics for charging/discharging is about the same, so not a big surprise.
Patrick: Yes, you can recharge the battery inside the Sony RX100 Mark VI via USB. Many cameras do that now.
— RexJul 15, 2018 at 7:06 pm #3546882Patrick O’NeilSpectator
Thanks for the clarification I bet video sucks juice pretty quick I would still want an extra battery. I’ve been eyeing the Rx cameras but the price is up there.Jul 15, 2018 at 7:45 pm #3546885
More on recharging:
Thru-hikers also value rapid recharging, not wanting to hang out in town waiting for battery packs to recharge, while competing with other hikers for limited outlets. But there’s a lot of confusing marketing around new quick-charging standards, so buyer beware.
Non-rechargeable lithium AA batteries pack more energy into less weight. Unfortunately, most USB chargers that use regular AA batteries are junk. If this tiny, 10 gram Ovtech charger is any good:
… then replacing Diane’s Anker 10050 battery theoretically would take 14 Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries and weigh a total of 184 grams – saving 52 grams (1.8 ounces). Plus you can carry more or fewer batteries depending on your needs. And these batteries work great at sub-freezing temperatures.
You can ship small quantities of lithium AA batteries for thru-hikes; be sure to follow the rules of your carrier.
Downside: disposable batteries versus rechargeable. TANSTAAFL, HYOH.
— RexJul 16, 2018 at 4:55 am #3546957Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
Great information Rex.Jul 16, 2018 at 1:49 pm #3546980Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
USB chargers are rated at the capacity of the battery, which is 3.6 volts
This has to be converted to 5 volts for USB, so there’s an inefficiency of 3.6 / 5 = 72%.
10,000 mAh battery will yield 7200 mAh of USB voltage to charge devices
Plus, there is inefficiency added so it’s less than 7200 mAh
But, maybe the calculations are futile. A lot of people use Anker 10,000 or that 2 18650 charger. They seem to be fairly reliable. Try that on a trip and get a bigger one for the next trip if you run out.Jul 16, 2018 at 2:08 pm #3546981Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I’ve been using Black Diamond Iota, 1.8 ounces, similar to Bindi. I don’t usually have to recharge on a trip, but if I had to do a long night hike, I could recharge. With my 3 AAA LED headlamp, I’d also have to take spare batteries, so that’s about 4 ounces.
I got to get one of those InReach minis, thanks for the review.Jul 16, 2018 at 7:01 pm #3547014BlackHatGuySpectator
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
“Long Lens: 24-200mm (equivalent) lens. An incredible achievement for a camera that’s pocketable, has a mid-sized sensor, and only weighs 10.6 oz (I verified the weight – that includes the battery and SD card).”
The Panasonic Lumix ZS200 has a 1″ sensor, shoots 4K digital, RAW, has a 24-360mm lens, weighs just under 12 oz with battery and card, and only costs $800. Looks like a great little camera. The ZS100 that it replaces is even cheaper with most of the same specs, but only a 25-250 lens.Jul 16, 2018 at 8:42 pm #3547034Matt DirksenBPL Member
@namelesswayLocale: Mid Atlantic
“And these batteries work great at sub-freezing temperatures.”
Speaking of temperature – battery users should always pay close attention to what temperatures they are hiking in.
Rex, you can likely elaborate more on this, but I understand that battery types have a sweet spot when operating. When one is dealing with temperatures outside of their respective sweet spot, contingencies should be considered.
While I’m not a scientist or researcher, I offer a quote from battery university which caught my attention:
“All batteries achieve optimum service life if used at 20°C (68°F) or slightly below. If, for example, a battery operates at 30°C (86°F) instead of a more moderate lower room temperature, the cycle life is reduced by 20 percent. At 40°C (104°F), the loss jumps to a whopping 40 percent, and if charged and discharged at 45°C (113°F), the cycle life is only half of what can be expected if used at 20°C (68°F)”
I think also I read somewhere that rechargeable li-ion batteries degrade at high temps and wont rapid recharge at 0F.
If I’m hiking on an extended trip at extreme temps (0f or 100f), I should pay close attention to the batteries I’m using, especially any battery pack I’m depending on. It would suck to put all my eggs in one basket and have it fail because the battery pack starts failing at high or low temps.
In hindsight, this is precisely what happened to me a few years ago (high temps & charging a battery pack with solar). Fortunately, I had contingencies in place.Jul 17, 2018 at 5:01 am #3547115
Battery temperature ranges is not something I’ve dug into. Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries have an extraordinary range of good operating temperatures; most common batteries don’t, including rechargeable lithium-ion.
<steps up to soapbox>
For backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts who play or work in a wide range of temperatures, rechargeable batteries suck when we have lighter, wider-temperature-range batteries available like the Energizer Ultimate Lithium. That goes for headlamps, flashlights, satellite communicators, watches, cell phones, tablets, cameras, twinkling tent lights, blenders, etc.
I’m astounded that people who sell electronics specifically for emergency outdoor use, like the Garmin inReach, use rechargeable batteries that are guaranteed to let you down when it gets a little too warm or cool. Note the original DeLorme inReach ran fine on off-the-shelf AA batteries.
We compound the problem by carrying another rechargeable lithium-ion battery to recharge the other stupid batteries. No wonder overnight recharging in the backcountry fails to meet our expectations!
Yep – there are a bunch of other tradeoffs. At least if most outdoor electronics ran on standard replaceable batteries, we’d have a choice between cheap alkalines, rechargeables with various chemistries, and high-performance non-rechargable lithium primary batteries. But we don’t, and that’s a shame.
Some designers have figured out how to include rechargeable wide-temperature range batteries, like the Yellowbrick YB3. Why can’t the others?
<steps down from soapbox>
— RexJul 17, 2018 at 5:08 am #3547118Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
but the convenience Rex…,lol.Jul 17, 2018 at 1:26 pm #3547136Chad SSpectator
Most of my electronic devices I use in the backcountry would be significantly bulkier if they used replaceable lithium batteries. Worse, the waste and cost would be ridiculous. Most in the lightweight backpacking community don’t seem to care too much about cost to save weight, but some of us care about reducing waste.Jul 19, 2018 at 4:23 pm #3547472john hansfordBPL Member
I read that for a mobile phone, the most efficient charging zone for battery life is 40 – 75%Feb 12, 2019 at 8:12 pm #3578109John WBPL Member
Li-ion betteries do not really like the cold indeed.
I’ve bought a waist pack at my local market as an experiment. It is not ultralight but worn under outer layers it did the job of keeping my phone, camera and power bank batteries in good condition in near- and sub-freezing conditions. I found it more comfortable to wear diagonally like a sling bag rather than horizontally as it was intended.
Sucks to open up all the zippers every time to take a picture but the difference in battery longevity is worth it.Feb 15, 2019 at 4:49 am #3578572Cameron MBPL Member
@cameronm-aka-backstrokeLocale: Los Angeles
I recently tested my Anker 10,000 by my standard 0-99% iPhone charge test and it has lost a shocking 25% charge ability from a year ago. I am also beginning to feel that my Steripen is no longer delivering the 20 cycles it used to. Several years ago my iPhone started failing in the field; although it was reporting a 50% charge it would just flat-out turn off.Aug 9, 2021 at 6:30 pm #3724415nanook ofthenorthBPL Member
Hi Ryan, any updates to your approach to backcountry electronics since 2018?
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