In Search of Power

by Barrett

When going away on a camping trip, don’t forget to pack some portable power.  Otherwise, your tech will quickly go dark…

When going away on a camping trip, don’t forget to pack some portable power. Otherwise, your tech will quickly go dark…

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I crave power. Pure power. And sustainable power.
Okay… not absolute power…
I’m just talking about the energy needed to power my lowly, but hungry tech.
(What did you think I meant?)

A big part of my story to date has been figuring out how to keep my iPhone going after it runs through a full charge.

And to be fair, my iPhone 6 Plus can get through a busy day on one charge. But I’m the kind of nervous tech guy who starts to worry once my smartphone dips below 20%.

So I typically want some extra juice nearby…
…just in case.
(My son used to prefer a juice box or two.)

Power Sticks
A couple of years back, I picked up an Innergie PocketCell, which is essentially a power stick the size of a pack of gum. It has 3,000mAh of power, which isn’t bad, because an iPhone 6 Plus requires 2915mAh for a full charge.
The current Innergie PockeCell Plus Duo model gives you 6,000mAh, which is a really big punch.
($83.92 on Amazon.)

Swag Power
And if you’re not into dropping any money on a power stick right now, you might be able to find one for free. They’re popular these days as giveaways… Though usually with less power.
(I came across one recently with 2600mAh.)

iPhone Case with Built-in Battery
Another good idea is to pick up a Mophie Juice Pack Plus, which is a smartphone case with a battery baked into it.
The 2,600 mAh model that wraps around the current iPhone 6 Plus costs $99.95.
(I had a Mophie for my old iPhone 4S, but I’ve held out so far with my 6 Plus due to size concerns.)

Preparing for the Family Camping Trip
All these cool power solutions go a long way towards feeding your smartphone the necessary extra energy it might need.

But then I had a new challenge.
Go where no Barrett has gone before…

  • Two nights of family camping.
    (Which meant three days away with my iPhone, camera, and my wife’s iPhone…and no power)

I needed to bring a more powerful and flexible solution to ensure I would stay on the grid….

Goal Zero Sherpa 50
Goal Zero makes a variety of portable, solar and battery-driven power solutions.
I came across the Sherpa 50 Power Pack at REI, a rare moment of brick and mortar shopping for me.

The Sherpa 50 carries 5200mAh of power, which isn’t quite as beefy as the newer Innergie. But the Sherpa is more flexible. And even though it’s not as slim as a stick of gum, it’s only 1.2 lbs and is smaller than your typical paperback book.

  • It’s got a USB port to plug in your iPhone
  • An onboard flashlight
  • A separate output to power laptops… its big selling point
    (Though not for Macs)
  • A 12v cable that powers a tent light… the ‘Light-A-Life 350’
    (Which came bundled in the REI box)
  • And a 100W AC inverter to charge up any other gear you may have
    (Also bundled in the REI box)

Normally $289, the whole kit and kaboodle was on sale for $199.99.
(The Sherpa 50 alone sells for $199 on Goal Zero’s website.)

What a deal.
Sold!

Field Test
On our camping trip’s second night, I proudly broke out my new Sherpa 50. After sunset, I easily illuminated our tent with the Goal Zero light.

Goal Zero Light-A-Life 350 in Action

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as my family turned in for the night, I plugged in my iPhone to the Sherpa 50 and began charging it up from 36%.

Sherpa 50 in action

 

 

 

 

 

 

I turned off the light and felt ‘Tech Zen’ surge throughout my body.
And then I drifted off to sleep…

The next morning, I awoke and immediately turned to my iPhone.

47%.

What?!

I picked up my Sherpa 50.
(Yes, it had been fully charged.)
Perhaps it had somehow prematurely turned off.

Nope.
It was totally dead.
Well, not entirely. The universal empty-battery signal still blinked momentarily when I pushed the power button.

Dead Sherpa 50 battery

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple hours of light and an 11% boost to my iPhone, my new Sherpa 50 had promptly failed me.
(It’s rated to charge a smartphone seven times!)

Innergie to the Rescue
As I realized my ‘dire’ predicament, I took three deep breaths and turned to my back up plan… My old Innergie PowerCell.

Innergie to the rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

I attached it to my iPhone, and a little over an hour later; I was back to full charge.
(The Innergie was exhausted, but it had done its job.)

Then, I assigned my ‘swag’ power stick to rescue my wife’s limping iPhone battery.

By the time breakfast at the tent was finished, we were prepared to face the day with our tech.
(Good thing I had an extra camera battery… )

REI is Your Friend
REI is well known for standing by its products. That’s important, because I’ll be certainly returning my faulty Sherpa 50.

The good news is my family camping trip was a big success…. Even if I didn’t have all the power I thought I’d need.

Perhaps that’s just Mother Nature reminding me that technology can’t always tame the wild. And also that 47% should be plenty enough to get through your day in the great outdoors…

Message received.

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