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Backpacking Gear for Beginners: Batteries and Battery Packs

This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.

Why do you need batteries and a battery pack? 

Most people take things hiking that require batteries. Headlamps, phones, GPS, satellite communicators, cameras, and radios all need to be charged at some point. 

On short tips you’ll likely be able to get through without charging anything. If you go any longer than a day or two, you’ll probably be charging something. Part of the 10 Essentials is to have backup power for essential electronic gear like a headlamp and satellite communicator. 

Bring what you need

Battery packs come in all different sizes. Some are small, fit in your pocket and charge your phone once. Others weigh 30 pounds, can charge your phone 50 times or power your house. Something small and light is good for a bit of extra juice if you happen to run out. 

Capacity on battery packs is measured in milliamp-hours or mAh. An iPhone 12 battery is 2815 mAh. 

Keep in mind that your battery is still using power when it’s turned on. When it’s off with 0% battery it would take just over 2815 mAh to fully charge it. 6000 to 8000 mAh is a great size for backpacking if you are just charging a couple things. 

How heavy is it?

Some battery packs are very sturdy but weigh a lot. For the same amount of electricity you might be able to find something lighter.

What cable do you need?

It’s nice to charge everything with the same cable. That might not be possible with an iPhone if yours uses a lightning cable. Most other devices use USB micro. Some are starting to use USB-C. 

Is it rechargeable?

Not about battery packs specifically but the devices you need to charge. Are they rechargeable? Do they have odd-sized battery packs that require special chargers or can you just plug them in with USB? If you want to recharge on the trail aim for devices that charge with USB.

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