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Power for the Digital Nomad

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Power On The Go

Whether you are trying to navigate on a map app, finding your way in the dark by an electric light, or listening to your favourite songs, electricity is the life blood of our modern devices. In a survival situation, being able to check things on your phone can be a life saver, as is contacting people in an emergency.

But with this increase reliance on powered devices also comes the uncertainty of keeping your devices charged. With an empty battery, that phone is dead weight, and a flashlight without batteries will not be helpful at night.

So what can you do to keep your pack light but your devices full of juice?

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Power in your Pocket

While a phone has an internal battery, you can carry a power bank to recharge this battery if you are not anywhere near a socket to plug in your charger. In essence, you take along a big battery to go longer between charges.

The battery capacity of mobile phones and other electrical devices is calculated in mAh, so miliamperes per hour. An average mobile phone has 4000 mAh, a AA battery average at 1000, and laptop batteries usually have 4000-6000.

So when you are looking to buy a power bank, try and find one that allows you to charge your devices multiple times. A bank that can power your phone two or three times is excellent. So if your mobile phone has a 5k mAh battery, get a power bank that is at least 10k mAh, but preferably 15k.

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Unify Your Cables

Different devices can come with different plugs, and you want to be able to make do with as few different cables as possible. In some cases this comes with a proprietary brand, like Apple, sharing a single connector type across all devices.

In other cases, it means selecting your devices to use a single type of connector. In this case, either USB 3.0 or USB-C (which have improved power as well as data capacity). You might be able to make do with an adapter, but in my personal opinion those are quite easy to lose, and then you are back to your original problem.

Additionally, if you have fewer cable types it means that you need to carry less and you won't end up with a bundle of cables in the bottom of your pack, which you need to untangle before you can charge your devices. And if your cable does break or get lost, it is easier to replace it at a gas station or electronics store.

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Old School Technology

I am a fan of listening to music on cassette, and I often carry a vintage walkman with me. Those do not come with batteries as an integral part, instead they use traditional AA size batteries. This does come with the inconvenience of having to carry a small supply of those batteries with me where I go.

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In order to be prepared if I go on a city trip, I carry with me rechargeable batteries and a USB-compatible battery charger. This specific charger comes with the benefit that it has a USB-in as well as a USB-out port, meaning that not only can I charge the batteries with the same cable as my mobile phone, but I can also use the charger (with the batteries in it) as a power bank.

Should I come into a situation where I need to recharge my phone, I will prioritize that over my walkman, so I can use the batteries from it to recharge my phone. Additional flexibility without sacrificing extra space or weight!

When you look for such a charger, keep the following things in mind:

  • You want a charger that can handle multiple battery types, at least AA and AAA, but C and 9V types would be ideal.
  • You want the charger to have USB-in and USB-out. Usually the USB-out is of the old USB-A type, so it will fit most cables easily. The USB-in often comes in mini-USB or (preferably) USB-C sizes.
  • Look for a charger with "individual channels". This means it doesn't matter where you put the batteries, or if you fill up the entire charger.
  • When looking for rechargeable batteries for this device, more expensive brands come with 2k mAh or even 2.6k mAh. If you have four AA slots in the charger, this means you now also have a 8k to 10k mAh powerbank at your disposal.

GP Charge Anyway battery charger

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Integrated Solutions: An Example

Looking at my own personal situation, I decided that I wanted a single integrated solution that I could use at home, bring with me if I went backpacking or if there was an emergency and I would have to leave the house behind. I knew I would not always be able to charge my phone, so I decided on the following solution:

Biolite Camping Gear

There is a company called Biolite commonly known for their CampStove, which is a small camping stove that you can use to burn pellets or sticks so you can make heat and cook your water or food while camping. It also comes with an integrated battery and uses the heat from the fire to charge this battery. With a USB-out port, this allows you to charge your phone from your cooking stove. I carry their foldable solar panel, which I can hang on my packpack and charge its battery during a sunny day.

This means I already carry two power banks with me when I go out the door with my camping pack. They also produce a rather large power bank (20k mAh) which I carry in my backpack. If my phone is full, I can charge this from the CampStove and keep even more power on me.

GP Charge Anyway

Because I also have several battery-operated devices, I carry a small battery charger, the GP Charge Anyway, which I can also charge from my CampStove or the solar panel. This allows me to keep full batteries on me at all time, and it is also a backup power bank if I need it.

All in all, this gives me plenty of renewable energy and energy storage, so I don't think I need to worry about running out of power while on a camping trip or in an emergency.

If I am going on a city trip, I probably would bring only the power bank, because I can expect to find plenty opportunities to charge my phone and the bank itself. If I were to go out into the outdoors, I would carry the full kit instead.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Lolcrow

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