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How to charge your smartphone while camping

A person using a smartphone in front of a campfire at night.
Youproduction / Shutterstock

Most of us can not leave home without our smartphone, even if we are camping in the wilderness. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep your device charged, even in the middle of nowhere, getting wind, rain or shine.

A USB battery bank

It does not get much easier than charging a USB battery at home before you go. Then you can top up your iPhone or Android phone as needed during your trip. This is great for short trips, overnight camping or weekend festivals.

Examine the total battery capacity of the device (measured in milliamp hours, or mAh) to make sure you have enough charge before you go. You also need to consider how often you charge your device, although it is best to use it as little as possible to conserve as much juice as you can.

Anchor PowerCore Slim 10000 PD

Let’s use the iPhone 11, which has a 3,110 mAh battery, as an example. To charge it once a night for three nights, you need about 10,000 mAh. It may sound like a lot, but a charger of that size easily fits in a backpack or a daypack.

Something that Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 should do the trick. Just make sure you buy a fast delivery bank if you have a compatible device.

If you are looking for a multifunctional USB charger, you can think of a specially built camping lantern. These light sources are durable, bright and often contain USB ports for charging your gadgets.

Seriously with camping and want to charge the whole family appliances and power lights or a laptop when you are away? In that case, you may want to invest in a portable power plant, such as the EcoFlow River series. These larger devices start at 100,000 mAh (at 3.7 V) for about $ 550.

Portable solar panels

If you do not want to rely on a battery pack you have no way to charge, solar panels may be the answer. However, their efficiency depends on a number of factors, including how sunny it is, and the effect on the solar cells.

The problem with solar panels is that they are largely dependent on the weather. That is why so many solutions designed for charging smartphones and similar devices use multiple panels. For a truly effective solar charging solution, you will need a quantity of about three panels to charge your phone within a few hours.

Nekteck Solar panel charger
Nekteck / Amazon

It can be a problem if you do not live in one place. Many hikers choose to hang solar panels over their backpacks to recharge while hiking. Of course, this inevitably affects how much direct sunlight the solar panels receive. For this to work effectively, you need to position your matrix so that it faces the sun for as long as you want to charge.

Solar sets that offer about 25 watts of charge should be sufficient for individual use. The Amazon reviews on the Nekteck 28 Watt Portable Solar Panel suggest that it can charge a 10,000 mAh power bank from empty to full in two days. Another reviewer saw a 50 percent increase in a smartphone’s charge after two hours in the sun.

For best results, connect your solar panels with a large battery bank. Recharge when the sun is shining, and when it is not, you should have enough extra juice in your battery pack for emergencies.

Hand crank loader

Kinetic chargers are not the same as battery banks or even solar chargers. You do not charge your smartphone from empty to full with one of these. These are designed for the last resort when you need to make a call, but you are miles away from a wall outlet.

They also have a pretty price range, from cheap 20 handcarts to $ 400 man-made generators. Some offer raw power to the USB device of your choice, while others use the crank to charge a built-in battery, which you then use to charge other devices. If you buy one with a battery, you can usually charge it at home before you need it.

Aivica Portable Hand Crank Radio / USB Charger
Aivica / Amazon

At the cheapest end of the market (about $ 20) you will find chargers like the Aivica USB charger with radio and flashlight. Most products in this price range offer the same limited set of features. You will take a long time to make a phone call that lasts even a minute.

If you want something more capable, a small 30-watt hand crank generator will cost you about $ 150- $ 250. Its better gear means more efficient charging because you trade revolutions per minute for more resistance. Most chargers in this price range also let you control the voltage, and many also have features such as waterproofing and an all-metal chassis.

K-TOR Power Box 50

If you want the best possible solution and are not afraid to work up sweat, the K-TOR Power Box 50 is a pedal-driven generator that can output 50 watts (at 14 volts, up to 3 amps). This rugged yet portable solution gives you back about $ 375.

Convert running water to electricity

If you want to impress everyone at the campsite, WaterLily Portable Turbine is the charging solution for you. For just $ 200, you can convert flowing water in a river or stream to a USB or 12-volt (car adapter) power source that charges 24/7.

You can even use WaterLily to recharge with wind, which is perfect if you are not camping near a water source. The Canadian manufacturer claims that WaterLily can generate about 15 watts and charge most small electronics at the same rate as a wall charger.

Unlike the sun, a river is a constant source of energy regardless of the weather or time of day.

The biggest downside is that you have to be next to a river with your device to charge it or use a very long, weatherproof cable. Therefore, it is probably best to use WaterLily to charge a USB battery bank, which you can then use to charge smartphones and other devices.

If you are particularly power hungry, you can also chain several 12-volt WaterLily units to double or triple (and so on) your power.

Use your stove

Camping stoves allow you to cook a delicious meal in the middle of nowhere. BioLite CampStove 2 not only cooks food but also converts waste heat into electricity that you can then use to charge your smartphone. It generates 3 watts (5 volts) of power and contains a built-in USB battery, which you can use to charge devices or turbo charge the stove.

CampStove 2 uses sticks, scrap wood or biofuel pellets as its primary fuel source. A heating probe captures waste heat, which is then converted into electricity and stored. The battery pack can then charge smartphones or power internal fans to improve airflow and increase the intensity of the stove.

BioLite also has a USB-powered FlexLight so you can watch cooking at night. The battery only holds about 2,600 mAh. But if you cook several times a day, it should be enough to keep most smartphones alive with minimal use.

Since biomass is its primary fuel source, BioLite is a cooking and charging device in one. As long as you can light a fire, you can boil water to drink, cook something and make a phone call.

Use your car

If you are not hiking in the wilderness or camping miles away from your vehicle, you may want to use it as a power source. As long as you have enough fuel, you can run the engine for a short while to recharge a phone battery or charge any additional devices.

Most modern vehicles have USB ports that provide at least 5 volts over 1 amp, which is enough to (slowly) charge your smartphone. If your vehicle is older or you have run out of USB ports, you can also convert a 12-volt cigarette lighter to a charger with an adapter. Anker PowerDrive PD 2 gives you a USB charger with two ports for about $ 20.

Anchor PowerDrive 2 PD 12V USB adapter

Because this 12-volt adapter consumes much more power (up to 18 watts), it can charge your smartphone much faster. Just do not let the ignition go for too long, otherwise you may end up with a dead battery when it’s time to go home.

Stay in touch wherever you are

Although camping is about getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, most of us cannot turn it off completely. Limiting the time you spend on your smartphone allows your mind to turn off and conserve the device’s battery power.

Has it been a while since you went camping? Brush up the necessary tools you need before you go out.

RELATED: What equipment do you need to camp?

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