Saturday, November 28, 2020

Bug Out Batteries

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I had hoped to write my annual "Cool Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals!" post this weekend, but either I'm out of the loop these days or manufacturers just aren't having any specials on interesting products any more. Sure, you can find some great price cuts out there, but I just can't find anything which is so exciting that I have to share it with you. I know that this isn't the first time I've said this, but I think it will be the last; consider it yet another institution that 2020 has killed. 

That said, I'm going to continue with Part 2 of my "Alkaline or Rechargeable?" series, this time focusing on how I plan to recharge my electronics in the field. 

While you can always bring along Goal Zero solar panels such as the Nomad 7, I find them to be just a little too large and a little too fragile for me to be comfortable with putting them inside a backpack that may see rough treatment. I'm still getting a lot of use out of my (now sadly discontinued) Brunton Explorer, which folds up into a handy 9.5" x 5" x 1.25" package -- about the same length and height as most road maps. 

The Explorer has two drawbacks, which to me are quite minor:
  1. It doesn't charge Apple products very well.
  2. It only has a single USB output. 
I've solved the problems of both by pairing it with a Panergy Solar Charger & Battery Bank. Now, I will be the first to say that the Panergy takes a long time to charge; even the manufacturer states that it will take between 6 to 8 hours to charge it to 5-10%... but I didn't buy it for its solar panels. No, I bought it for its 10,000 mAh battery pack and its dual USB outputs.

In case it isn't obvious, I charge the battery bank with the much larger Brunton solar panels, and then I use the battery to charge my electronics. What's more, while I am not certain that the bank can be recharged by both solar and USB input, I note that the solar indicator lights up in sunlight even when attached to house current via the input plug. I haven't tested this, mainly because the bank holds onto power for a long time (I bought it in March, and it arrived with what seemed a full charge, and 6 months later it still indicated a nearly full charge), and I just haven't been reminded to drain the battery, time how long it takes to charge with the Brunton, then drain it and time how long it takes to charge with the Brunton and its own solar panels. Hopefully I can remember to test it on a bright, clear day and if I can I'll post the results here. 

However, solar isn't my only method of recharging! I also have in both my Bug Out Bag and my Get Home Bag an Eton FRX2, a great piece of kit which I recommend to everyone. Not only is it a hand cranked generator for those days when you can't recharge via solar power, it's also a flashlight and an AM/FM/NOAA Weatherband radio. Everyone needs something like this in all their preps, and I cannot say enough good things about this brand. It's currently a steal at $22 on Amazon. 

Finally, let's talk batteries themselves. I've given you ways to recharge internal batteries, but what about external ones? 

For AA and AAA batteries, I recommend the Guide 10 Plus recharger from Goal Zero. Not only is it a recharger in itself, but it can also serve as a battery bank for anything which recharges with a USB cord.

However, there are some things you need to know about this charger:
  1. The input is Mini USB, not Micro. This is critically important!
  2. You must have 4 batteries in the Guide 10 before it will charge. They don't all have to have the same charge, but you need 4 or it won't work. 
  3. You cannot mix AA and AAA batteries. The AAAs have an interior adapter sleeve that cannot accommodate AA batteries. 
  4. While you cannot recharge alkaline batteries with this (nor should you try), you can still put them in the Guide 10 to serve as a battery bank. Yes, this means you can use AA batteries to charge your cell phone if necessary. 
If you looking to recharge a Lithium-Ion battery in the field, then I suggest the Nitecore UM20 charger. Unlike the Guide 10, the UM20 can charge just 1 battery, or two batteries of different size, and its input is Mini USB. Like the Guide 10, however, it can also be used as a battery bank, which increases its usefulness. 

Finally, there are AAA to AA converters. These are plastic sheaths into which you stick a AAA battery so that it will fit inside a case designed for the larger AA. I keep about 4 in my BOB, just in case I need them, and they're so lightweight that I don't even notice them. I'm told they're also great for reducing the weight of an electronic device, although I imagine you'd have the change the batteries more frequently. 

Those are all my tips and tricks for recharging batteries in the field. Do you know of a technique that I missed? If so, please tell us about it in the comments below. 

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