How to Power Your Electronics When Backpacking
The internet is full of gadgets and gizmos when it comes to powering your electronics when you’re backpacking. When I started backpacking I had this idea that I needed to have backup batteries for this, backup batteries for that, a solar charger (that I couldn’t afford), and who knows what else. Honestly it was overwhelming and confusing.
Let’s Make it Simple
Backpacking is NOT complicated, but it can be if you don’t think about why you’re putting something in your pack. The truth is, I was worried about things that were never even a concern. The gear I was trying to power in the backcountry and have backups for was basically my headlamp and my phone. For some reason though, I thought I needed to have a headlamp that lasted for days and days with backups to make that happen. I was afraid that the worst would happen at all times which looking back now, only added to my anxiety going into a trip.
Most backpacking trips fall into the 1-3 day category. Those who are a little further down the path with experience might stretch that out to 5-7 days. I know that sounds like a lot and that you’d really need to have backups in that scenario, but you don’t, and here’s why.
Here’s what you need.
Before you head out on a backpacking trip, charge what you can, and put fresh batteries into your battery eating devices. I’ve found that the more gadgets you can bring with you that can be charged via USB ports the less you need to bring. I have a headlamp that an be charged over and over again and my phone serves as my camera that also charges via USB. There are point and shoot cameras out there that also charge via USB in the event you want better quality than your phone can deliver. In my kit today, the only thing that requires an electric charge is my phone, headlamp, and my SPOT Tracker (I’ll be replacing this for the GARMIN version).
Once you have all your electrical gadgets sorted out, get yourself a portable power bank. I hiked the PCT with JUST a powerbank (links below) to charge my phone when it needed it and I never once ran out of juice or had a dead device even on those stretches of trail that lasted for 6 days. If you’re worried about running out of juice in your power bank, get a bigger one…it’s really that simple.
Managing your Power
Conserve your precious power as much as possible. Put your phone into airplane mode so it’s not always searching for a signal. Take the time you have on trail to give yourself a break from technology by putting your phone away unless you’re playing music, checking your map, or taking a picture. The games, social media, and texting can wait. Trust me, the world won’t change all that much in 3 days… I’ve been on trail with people who drain their batteries in a matter of hours and I can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong. If it’s navigation you’re worried about and you’re on your phone all the time, pull out your printed map and check that instead of always pulling out the phone.
Step by step
Step 1: Leave the trailhead with a full charge on all devices.
Step 2: Put your phone in airplane mode.
Step 3: Charge you phone and devices at night when you’re sleeping.
Honestly, it’s that easy. The average backpacker doesn’t need a big solar panel for their gear or a fancy cookpot that requires a fire to be built so it can provide an electric charge. All you really need is a powerbank that can supply USB power to your devices, and fresh batteries in whatever devices require that kind of power.
Here’s the power bank I’ve personally used to charge my iphone 7plus while on the PCT and the USB powered headlamp. The powerbank provided at least 2 full charges of my phone.
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