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Tag: family camping

How to Recharge Your Tech During Weekend Camping

If you’re the kind of camper who doesn’t enjoy being totally disconnected from your digital world, then you have to bring some gear to help keep your tech in the game…

If you’re the kind of camper who doesn’t enjoy being totally disconnected from your digital world, then you have to bring some gear to help keep your tech in the game…

How ironic… I’m going camping with my family where the whole point is to spend some quality time with Mother Nature where there’s no electricity. But I have remained determined to bring enough portable power with me to sustain my tech happiness for a few days… as if I’ve never left.
(Do those two equations not entirely sync up?)

And even though technically we’re ‘car’ camping, I’m not allowing myself the obvious failsafe option of simply running my Toyota RAV4’s engine for a bit and plugging in my hungry tech to feed like little piglets.

That would be so not cool, right?
In mastering my little kingdom in the wilderness, I need to be able to handle it on my own… using my available tech smarts.
(And who knows if that’s going to be enough!)

Power Up!
You may recall, I have something of an ongoing quest for power…

Last year, I went to REI and purchased the Goal Zero Sherpa 50 rechargeable power pack to support my tech while camping.

The Sherpa 50 is not cheap… currently $199.95 on Amazon, and it only offers 5,200mAh of power. But my Sherpa has a lot of flexibility being able to power my Goal Zero Light-A-Life 350 portable lamp and charge USB devices simultaneously. Plus, it can power a PC laptop. And with an AC inverter attachment, you can charge up other gear that uses standard wall plugs.

Goal Zero Sherpa 50_







The allure is it’s a jack-of-all-trades… but again, with only 5,200mAh of power, it can only take you so far….

So this year, I decided I’m going to need some back up…

Assembling the Troops
I summoned my existing ragtag army of portable power…

-Three little power sticks ranging from 2,200-2,600mAh

-And a 7,800mAh PNY power block (T7800)

Power Sticks








‘I think we’re going to need a bigger boat!’

RAVPower to the Rescue
Next, I jumped online to purchase a little more juice…

I came across this 26,800mAh RAVPower Power Bank for $49.99 on Amazon.
A whopping 26,800mAh?

It’s slightly bigger than my iPhone 6 Plus and about four times thicker.








It weighs just under a pound. So it’s not light.

But 26,800mAh?
Heck, yeah!


So I was done, right?

Not quite…

The Power of the Sun
And then I added in the solar equation.
I figured… why not harness the power of the sun, right?

First off, there are lots of portable solar panels out there ranging from fifty bucks to many hundreds of dollars.

Confronting the mind-numbing amount of choices, I decided to stay in the same ‘Goal Zero’ ecosystem and pair up gear I would be sure would work well together.

So I went with the Goal Zero Nomad 20.
$199.93 on Amazon.
(The sun may be free to use, but solar charging is clearly still not cheap.)

Goal Zero Nomad 20







The Nomad 20 weights 2.5 lbs and delivers up to 20 watts of power.

And that translates to 6-12 hours of continuous use to fully charge up my Sherpa 50.
(So my solar charging plan is going to be a slow one… as an all-day project.)

But that’s still faster than Goal Zero’s Nomad 13 model, which only provides up to 13 watts of power.
(You’ll need 8-16 hours to power up the Sherpa 50.)

Sure, the Nomad 13 is a little smaller (1.6 lbs) and a little lighter on your wallet at $159.99.
But I figured for the extra forty bucks, it’s definitely worth it to have the faster charging capacity.


One other shopping note for you REI diehards out there… For some reason, REI doesn’t sell the Nomad 20… only the Nomad 13.

Going Off the Grid
So now I had my magnificent seven…

  • 3 little power sticks
  • 1 PNY power block
  • 1 RAVPower Power Bank
  • 1 Sherpa 50
  • 1 Nomad 20

And then I juiced up the first six.
(The Nomad 20 solar panel doesn’t store power.)

And I was ready for my upcoming adventure!

Do you think I have enough?
(Can anyone ever have enough power…?)

Of course, how much battery power you need in the wild is entirely based on how much energy you’re going to use…

For me…truthfully, I’m not really sure.

I know there’s a mathematical solution to the question based on the specific draw of the power-sucking gear you bring with you. Plus…

  • How much will you actually use them?
  • And how many times will they need to recharge?

That’s simple arithmetic, right?
But honestly, I don’t yet know the exact power draw of the Lester family over five days and four nights of camping.

So I topped off of my portable power, clutched my solar panel close, packed up the car, loaded in the family… and headed out into the wilderness.

Here’s hoping the sun shines bright, and it doesn’t rain.

Wish me luck…

In Search of Power

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.
Today, I’m partial to Anker, which makes the PowerCore 10,000, packing a really big punch.
($24.99 on Amazon Prime)

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)

It goes for $179.95 on Amazon Prime.

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.



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

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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