Portable power banks and batteries

Small portable power banks

Small power banksPortable power banks are excellent for charging smaller USB-charged electronic devices such as phones, tablets, speakers, camp lights, torches and other gadgets.

The challenge with these devices is to keep them charged when on the road in the absence of mains electricity. Starting your trip with a fully charged power bank will give you a head start, but once on the road they will need recharging.

While on the road, some portable power banks can be charged with a compatible solar panel. Others can really only be charged from your car battery, larger power banks, auxiliary / deep cycle batteries or mains electricity.

To be of any real use at the campsite for charging lights and smaller devices, you should look at power banks with a battery capacity of at least 20,000 mAh, and have two to three of them on hand.  We take along a power bank that is in excess of 40,000 mAh, plus a smaller 10,000 mAh battery charger, which will charge our lights, smart phones and other smaller devices for up to a week without a recharge.

Large power banks and deep cycle batteries

Large power bank rUnless you have access to mains electricity, once you decide to add bigger and more power hungry items to your camping gear, such as a compressor camp fridge, your power requirements are going to skyrocket, and you will definitely need considerable additional battery power and a power source.

There are so many different products and solutions out there on the market, and your choice will really depend on:
  • What type of camping you will be doing - long stay, short stay, touring or all three
  • How many people you have in your camping group
  • The power requirements of your particular camping setup
  • The types of activities you will be doing while camping that also require power
  • Your budget - including the cost of any professional help you might need to set it all up
  • The type of car you have
  • Whether your car will be able to carry these items and still keep within it's payload limit, as these larger batteries can be extremely heavy

Setting up these types of batteries is a bit of a science, which might be best left to the experts. At the very least, thoroughly read the instructions and do your research.

Most importantly though, completely flattening these types of batteries can really reduce their useful life. Essentially, they should be kept at a minimum charge of at least 50% of the full charge, which will be a consideration when choosing your battery size. 

As batteries will self-discharge over time, keep them in optimal condition when not in use with a full monthly charge, or alternatively permanently store them on a trickle charge, say attached to a solar panel. If it does discharge, fully recharge as soon as possible to minimise the damage.

Click HERE for more on recharging your power banks and batteries.

Disposable batteries

Batteries disp
The common household disposable battery can power a number of items around the campsite, most commonly torches, lanterns, head torches and other forms of lighting. While they might be convenient in some ways, we try to limit their use to small, energy efficient, single or double battery operated torches and headlamps for the following reasons:
  • They generally end up in landfill and are not great for our environment, especially if they are not disposed of properly.
  • If used often you will find over time the cost of batteries for lighting can really add up, especially for the larger energy intensive lanterns that can require up to 6 D cell batteries.
  • Searching for new batteries and replacing drained ones in the dark isn’t much fun, nor is putting up with dim or no lighting until the morning.

Rechargeable batteries

Batteries reusableRechargeable batteries can be recharged up to 1000 times and are kinder to the environment than the disposable equivalents, but in our opinion they have the following disadvantages.
  • Recharging drained batteries takes time and can be problematic if you don’t have a good source of power.
  • They are very expensive to purchase.
  • In our experience anyway, the charge they hold doesn’t last as long as their disposable equivalents, and so you will be changing and recharging them even more often than disposable batteries.
  • D cell rechargeable batteries required to power many of the large camping lanterns are not commonly available.