With the winter closing in, if you do any camping then unless you can sleep for 18 hours, you’ll probably be taking a gadget or two along on your trip. Here are a few ideas and tips on keeping them charged: Make sure that everything is fully charged before you leave!
1 – Brunton Hydrodgen Reactor™ (£135).
This isn’t something used to power inter-planetary probes, but a portable power generator that uses replaceable hydrogen containing cores to produce power. The initial outlay isn’t cheap, but this is cutting edge technology that’s harder to find than a three peaker with respect for mountains. The latest news is that it’ll be available in the UK in time for the Christmas period.
Once you’ve invested in the generator however, ongoing costs are reasonable as you get two free ‘hydrogen ‘cores’ that can be recharged at outdoor retailers at only £4 each, if you can find a participating retailer. You can do this at home, but the Hydrolyser costs $250 and makes the price prohibitive.
Each core is the equivalent of 30 AA batteries and can charge a smartphone 5 or 6 times, making them the rough equivalent of a 10-12,000 mAh power-pack. They’re also environmentally friendly, producing no waste products other than water vapour or oxygen (depending on whether you’re charging or depleting the core).
This makes the Hydrogen Reactor an expensive, but reliable option for the long term where you could conceivably carry a number of cores, which would also make it an exceptionally lightweight option at 136g for the reactor and 80g for each core!
This really gets our shiny-shiny-gadget senses tingling, and while it’s a bit expensive at the moment, and the recharging options require a participating outlet (which will mean a long car journey for me), this really is like garlic bread. It’s the future, and can only get cheaper as the tech becomes more widespread and trickles down to us poor folk.
This is a wood burning stove that creates electricity via a thermoelectric generator in order to power a fan that increases the efficiency of the fire. It also creates a surplus of energy that you can use to charge devices. The video gives more information.
biolite campstove instruction video 1280×720 from BioLite on Vimeo.
All that’s well and good, but this is firmly in the wood burning stove category with phone charging as an added bonus. However they do claim that 20 minutes of charging provides 60 minutes of talk time on an iPhone, which is an impressive charge. You can take wood pellets with you if you don’t expect readily available firewood, the default state in the UK, which is sold disguised as kitty litter in supermarkets.
Unfortunately, we get ripped off with the UK price – £150 as opposed to $130 for the stove. Which makes it a very expensive biomass stove.
If you’re out on a wilderness trip and intend on using a wood burner for cooking and want to keep a phone topped up, this makes an excellent choice as you can probably charge your phone and cook your meals at the same time. However, if you expect heavy use of your gadgets then it could become a chore to fire up the stove for longer than you need, just to charge your toys. Of course, that’s also part of the fun!
3 – Solar Chargers
These usually consist of some sort of solar panel and a battery that it charges. However, we’ve had no luck with the solar devices we’ve tested. They’d be more useful in sunnier climes, or in the future as the cells become more efficient at transforming our daylight into electrickery. Some of the newer devices are designed to work in conjunction with a power pack, which is a combination that might well work. You know you’ve got a load of juice in the battery, and any sunshine will get it topped up.
For now, we wouldn’t consider these for UK conditions, unless you know it’s going to be a scorcher and they’re obviously not going to be any use over the winter!
4 – USB Powerpacks
These provide guaranteed power for any USB chargeable gadgets and are available reasonably cheaply. We reviewed the New Trent iCruiser a few years back which packs a massive 12,000 mAh or enough to recharge an average smartphone 4 or 5 times, and it’s now available for under £30 with the added bonus of charging via USB. That means you can hook up a solar panel, making it suitable for longer term use. You can even get heavy duty versions that can charge tablets and laptops.
This provides guaranteed power, but once it’s gone, it’s gone. Ideal for a long weekend, which we use it for, and judicious use over a week, but you’ll need to find a wall socket after that.
5 – Spare Batteries – if your kit doesn’t recharge, then this lower tech idea might be the best option where a battery can be replaced. Taking a spare mobile or camera battery can be much lighter than the alternative, and means you can use your drained gadget immediately. I wouldn’t be without a spare for my camera, but my smartphone no longer has a replaceable battery.
6 – Don’t forget gas! With care, gas lanterns provide atmosphere and are all you need along with Analogue Book TM for your evening’s entertainment, especially if you’re carrying gas cannisters for cooking. Of course, gas doesn’t work all that well in sub zero temperatures.
Overall, there’s a load of options out there and in reality you’ll find one or two that best works for you. I swear by the battery packs as my mainstay, with a few spare batteries for my camera and head torches. However, I think there’s potential for solar in the right conditions and that in a few years time hydrogen reactor technology will be commonplace on the hill.