Recharging Portable Electronic Devices

Grace Digital’s Eco Rainbow

We love the woods, we love the outdoors, we love the peace of nature — and we love our iPhones, iPods, and even the laptop or tablet that lets us get an extra day away from the office — if we can keep up with our documents while we’re in the woods. Perhaps the only feature all of these devices have in common is an insatiable need for power. Well, that and the fact that the batteries never seem to last as long as the manufacturers claim they will.

There are essentially two options:

  •  A power pack is a stout battery which you charge up at home before you leave. The power pack alone will generally provide a single recharge for any electronic device, assuming you have chosen your gear properly. For greater versatility on longer trips, there are also add-on solar panels available, which in turn recharge the power pack.
  •  A standalone solar-panel charger, which does not include a battery, is generally much lighter than a power pack, and thus a better solution for the backpacker. The drawback is that you need sunlight. If you’ve arrived at your campsite, gotten your tent all set up and your gear stowed, sat down to watch a movie on your tablet, and realized that the battery was low just as that old sun was slipping behind the mountain, your stand-alone solar charger won’t be much help.

If you have an iPhone, you may want to select a charger specifically designed to charge iPhones, as they are notoriously picky about the amperage of the DC input.

If you are charging any Apple product with an USB cable, it is always best to use the Apple USB cable that came with your device.

Almost all devices which charge via USB cable require 5-volt DC input from the charger.

But the two most most foolproof ways to determine what input your device needs are both quite simple. First, check the owner’s manual. The second and even easier way is to examine the wall charger that came with your device. Look for the “DC Output” rating in milliAmps (mA), and volts (VDC). If your solar charger can match this, you should have no problems at all.

In general terms, laptop computers are the most demanding of devices to charge, while simple cell phones and mp3 players are the least demanding.

Your solar charger may not top up your device’s battery completely. Try to start the recharge before the batteries in your device are completely exhausted. And by all means, try to leave home with everything completely charged up.

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