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4/2/2014 7:43 PM
 

Every couple of years I re-evaluate my basic loadout. Always looking for more efficient - better. Light weight is important, but it is only one component of efficiency. If you're spending extra energy messing around trying to get an ultralight item to work in real world conditions, you've just used all of the energy and maybe more that you saved by carrying a lighter item. That's before you even address reliability. The following is one of the items that I'm currently re-evaluating.

I've got a fair amount of weight tied up in spare batteries right now. The items I carry that consume batteries are:

  • DeLorme InReach 2 - AA (don't get the POS InReach that has a proprietary internal battery and non-recessed buttons)
  • Camera 2 - AA
  • Headlamp 3 - AAA
  • Pocket flashlight 1 - AAA
  • Mobile Phone (GPS, maps, sat communicator, e-reader) proprietary internal

For the most part I use rechargeable batteries in the device but carry the lighter and longer life lithiums as my spares (DeLorme always has lithiums). Good practice would dictate making sure all rechargeables are topped off prior to a trip and then not necessarily carrying spares. In reality, most of those items are used on a daily basis and a trip isn't a special event to be prepared for. I grab my stuff and head out the door. I'm currently carrying:

  • 2 - AA
  • 4 - AAA
  • 1 - mobile phone recharger battery pack

So I'm wondering if there is a way to reduce the amount of spare batteries I'm carrying. Perhaps a cutting edge battery pack that I can recharge mobile phone as well as AAs and AAAs from?  Bonus if I can also charge the battery pack using my Brunton solar roll. What's the shelf life of these kinds of battery packs? As good as lithiums or not as good? Is my current loadout as good as it gets? Any other suggestions for simplifying on this front?

If the spares were something that I used on the majority of trips, I wouldn't be looking critically at them. However, it is maybe one trip in 4 that I end up needing to replace batteries in something. And never do I need to use all types of spares that I'm carrying.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/2/2014 8:29 PM
 
Your plan is similar to what I am doing. I have tried as much as possible to minimize the number of types I carry, and to choose equipment for the most part which uses either AA or AAA. I have not gotten as good service out of rechargeables, because NiMh or NiCd are only 1.2-1.3 volts per cell and they give up some performange which may not be acceptable for high current requirements. LED lights do OK with them, but not Xenon strobes or lazers, or portable ham, marine or airband transceivers. I have also tried to get away from 123 Lithium cells, due to expense, and they don't fit in everything else. When feasible I try to pack power cords to run 12V equipment from a vehicle or marine battery, and I sometimes carry a small AGM battery which can be used to power LED lamp, portable radio gear, etc., with a small roll-up solsr panel for charging. All this is too bulky for backpack operation, but is fine for use at a fixed camp or when you are close to your vehicle.
 
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4/3/2014 11:16 AM
 

 Quickest and easiest would be to trade out the AAA items for AA. I just bout a AA zebralight headlamp so I could stop using my petzl which was the last AAA item floating around in my pack. When I lost my microstream I replaced it with a single AA Fenix pocket light. Better output and battery life for a pretty small increase in size.

I have a goal zero with a AA recharger in my emergency bag so I try to keep everything AA. If it wasn't for weapons lights and electronic ear pro I'd probably be there by now.

 
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4/3/2014 1:07 PM
 

 Evan, not to derail, but you're using the InReach that doesn't have a built in screen, right?

 
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4/3/2014 1:37 PM
 

hansford wrote

 Evan, not to derail, but you're using the InReach that doesn't have a built in screen, right?

Yep -- a little heavier, fully recessed buttons, AA batteries.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/13/2014 12:14 PM
 

I like the suggestion of switching AAA devices out for AA devices. I tried a (1)AA pocket light and disliked several things about it. The Streamlight Microstream is still far and away tops for that. The funny thing about the Microstream - it is so integrated with my daily life that I rarely use the headlamp backpacking now. During regular daily use I get 2-3 weeks out of the Microstream before needing to switch a battery. A single (AAA) battery wouldn't be a big deal to add to carry for the Microstream. That leaves GPS and headlamp both using AAA batteries. The GPS is an easy one - it's only my backup that I carry because I don't 100% trust my mobile phone. A fresh set of lithiums in the GPS, rotated once a year, is probably all I need for that device. I used it once 2 years ago because I failed to keep my mobile in my pocket overnight. Since then I haven't had any trouble keeping the mobile up and running. So if I switched out the headlamp for a AA version I'd pretty much be converted to AAs.

On to my goal of a single battery pack that would charge either AA/AAA or mobile phones. I talked to the guys at batteries plus and they didn't have any good recommendations other than to "look at REI". Since goal zero has been making waves recently, I decided to check them out. Lo and behold, they solved that problem very elegantly:

http://www.goalzero.com/ecommerce/product.i?pid=133

Rather than a battery pack from which you could charge AA/AAA, it turns a set of (4) AA batteries into a battery pack that you can charge a mobile phone from. The "battery pack" itself can be charged via USB input (mini USB input can be recharged from wall or car charger) or solar panel input. With luck, the solar panel input will be compatible with the Brunton solar roll I already have. This goal zero product also seems like a really big deal for folks using other devices with propietary battery packs like cameras and the fancier DeLorme InReach. It presumably will allow you to put easily sourced normal AA batteries in and charge devices from those.

So, based on this thread, my plan is:

  • Switch headlamp to AA lamp
  • Replace lithium AAAs in my GPS every year
  • consolidate current spare batteries and mobile phone battery pack with Guide 10 plus pack and single AAA lithium backup for microstream

 


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/13/2014 5:31 PM
 

What a nice solution!

It looks like you could always charge slowly with the usb port if you already have the 5V regulator to charge usb devices from any old solar panel.

It looks like the quicker charge uses this port (from the specs):

Mini solar port (input): 6.5V, up to 1.1A

And the proprietary GoalZero panels apparently have two built in regulators on the panels. A 5V reg. for the usb port, and a 6.5 V reg. for the "mini solar port".

With my fold up panel, I'd have to put a 6.5 V regulator in the "mini solar port" cable. These PWM regulators are great. Over 90% efficient with small solar panels. My daughter used  their 5V version in a science project that compared regulator efficiency and solar charging. She was charging her ipod.

Anyway, if I was to try this with my non-compatible panel, I'd need their 6.5 V regulator to provide the 6.5 Volts that the Guide 10 "mini solar port" expects to see:

www.newark.com/tracopower/tsr-1-2465/converter-dc-dc-6-5v-6-5w/dp/08R5933

 
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4/13/2014 6:45 PM
 

huskyrunnr, you're the man! I was just about to start researching how to charge the goal zero pack from the Brunton Solar Roll when you posted this. You've obviously got way more understanding of what needs to happen than I do. Just to make sure I'm tracking, this is what I think I would need to do based on your post  --

  • cut an end off of one of the Brunton charging cables
  • cut an end off of the "mini solar port" cable that came with the goal zero
  • splice the two cables together with the device that you linked to above in between them

Is that correct?

ETA: after a little more research and investigation... It appears as though the Goal Zero input plug cable has a single wire inside of it, just based on the casing. That has me confused as to how I'd wire everything together. My Brunton is an older model with a somewhat proprietary looking output plug, but it came with a variety of connections. None of them is a USB, but one of them is a cigarette lighter style receptacle. Makes me wonder if the Brunton has a regulator built in. At any rate, would I be losing a huge amount of charging efficiency if I put together this out of readily available parts?:

  • Brunton cigarette lighter receptacle
  • cigarette lighter USB insert
  • USB input cable on goal zero pack

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/13/2014 7:45 PM
 

Hi Evan, you're following me. But if there's only one wire on the GZ side, then I have no idea how that would work. I'd think it would have to have two wires. Does the input plug have the little insulator separating the upper shaft from the lower shaft? You'd simply tie the + side of the Brunton cable to V_in of the regulator, - side of both Brunton and GZ cable to Gnd of the regulator, + side of GZ cable to V_out of regulator.

The cigarette lighter USB insert usually has a 5V regulator in it. The output of the Brunton cigarette lighter receptacle should have the direct open circuit voltage from the panel of about 20V in full sun, if it is like most other small 12V panels. The voltage droops to 13-14 V when you hook them directly to a 12V battery. If under 20 Watts, they can be used directly on car batteries without any regulation.

The GZ website claims USB charging at 5V is about half as fast as charging at 6.5V using the mini-port. found under the "how it Charges" tab.

 
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4/13/2014 8:28 PM
 

Good so far, thanks. It sounds like I'm no worse off using the lighter than 5v. I was worried that I might be dropping it lower than that by hooking all of those elements together. On the other hand, the 3-6hrs vs 6-10hrs that I see now that you pointed it out is a pretty big difference.

Here is the GZ insert cable:

http://www.goalzero.com/p/141/super-charge-cable/28:4/

I suppose I'm not out much money if I cut it to see what the inside looks like, and it's of no use to me elsewise...


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/13/2014 9:11 PM
 

 Evan,

I've been testing out a Petzl Tikka RXP. It's a rechargeable headlamp, that I really like it so far.  If your interested in testing out a rechargeable headlamp let me know and I'll ship it over to you.  

 
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4/14/2014 11:53 AM
 

Paulgus wrote

 Evan,

I've been testing out a Petzl Tikka RXP. It's a rechargeable headlamp, that I really like it so far.  If your interested in testing out a rechargeable headlamp let me know and I'll ship it over to you.  

Thanks for the offer, but I'm not ready to take the leap to rechargeable anything just yet.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/18/2014 4:15 PM
 

Works like a charm, steady 6.5V, 1A into the GZ pack from a 10W panel. The "mini-solar port" cable is, get this, coaxial! The outer sheath conductor of the coax cable is connected to the outside surface of the cylindrical power plug on the cable, the inner conductor of the coax cable is connected to the inside surface of the cylindrical power plug on the cable. The only ambiguity was whether Goal Zero followed the convention of having the inner surface of the cylindrical power plug as the positive lead. This is the case.

 
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4/18/2014 10:39 PM
 
You might consider cutting even more weight, leaving the GPS at home and travel at night using your star navigation super powers.
 
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4/21/2014 3:47 PM
 

oldpinecricker wrote
You might consider cutting even more weight, leaving the GPS at home and travel at night using your star navigation super powers.

Ha! That time I was following pack goat droppings, not stars. I was wishing for a GPS a couple of times though.

Terrain association is by far my primary means of nav. I've only used GPS a half dozen times in the last couple of years, but when you want it, you really want it!


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/21/2014 3:48 PM
 

huskyrunnr wrote

Works like a charm, steady 6.5V, 1A into the GZ pack from a 10W panel. The "mini-solar port" cable is, get this, coaxial! The outer sheath conductor of the coax cable is connected to the outside surface of the cylindrical power plug on the cable, the inner conductor of the coax cable is connected to the inside surface of the cylindrical power plug on the cable. The only ambiguity was whether Goal Zero followed the convention of having the inner surface of the cylindrical power plug as the positive lead. This is the case.

Perfect, thanks.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/29/2014 11:38 PM
 

For charging batteries the Goal Zero seems to be the best choice. For charging items that have an internal battery, I like my Joos Orange. It's heavy but stout, and it can charge well even when overcast and in indirect light. The internal battery is replaceable for when it craps out.  I also like that it can be locked up, which has come in handy when biking and leaving my ger locked up in populated areas. It's my go to battery for general everyday use, and is still kickign strong after at least 18 months.

 
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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralBattery spare / recharge options?Battery spare / recharge options?