Portable Power

To keep our site updated in real time, one of our first challenges was to find a source of portable power for our mobile devices, so we set out to find a battery pack that met the following criteria:

  • It had to be reasonably priced
  • Able to charge a blackberry, iPhone and iPad Mini at least twice
  • and with four days worth of food and equipment in our packs, it had to be light.

Unfortunately, nothing really fit the bill. We found a couple of expensive power packs that had enough juice to charge 3 devices at least once (like the $80.00 2000mAh Mophie Juice Pack) or inexpensive gadgets that neither had the capacity nor the connectors to handle our needs.

I am one of those old fashion types that is willing to carry an extra pound to enjoy a good book (ebook or paper) after I pitch my tent, so I was willing to ignore the weight issue. But with a tight budget for our basic hiking necessities, an $80.00 pack was simply out of the question, so I headed to our local electronics store to see if I could find what I needed to build an alternative.

Our solution is definitely not very elegant, but it came at a great price and, after several tests, it was able to charge a Blackberry Bold 9930 and iPhone 4S twice, and our iPad Mini once with enough power left for another half-a-charge before the batteries were completely depleted. And if the weight becomes an issue, the device travels in pieces and it can be divided among packs. If you want to build your own, this is what you will need to purchase:

  • a battery holder, preferably one for eight AA batteries (around $4.00)
  • a cigarette lighter receptacle with alligator clips (around $9.00)
  • a USB from a car charger you may have laying around already

Now all you need to do is connect the positive and negative alligator clips to the appropriate connectors in the battery pack, insert the USB adapter in the cigarette lighter, and use the cables that came with your device to start charging. One item to keep in mind is that the cigarette lighter receptacle will be generating 12 volts, and your cell phone requires only 5 so our approach is not very efficient. On the other hand, you can find an adapter with 2 USB ports and charge two cellphones at once. Set them both to airplane mode before you plug them in, and you will go from 0 to 100% faster than it would take if you plug your device to your PC.

For us, this little contraption has an added benefit: we survived through Hurricane Sandy, looking for a way to recharge our phones for 7 days. Now, all we have to do is keep enough batteries around to stay in touch with our families when the next one comes around! You should probably do the same and I hope this article helps.