Tenba Toolbox: Portable Power
/ Published by TenbaWe've all been there: You grab your camera to capture the incredible moment unfolding before your eyes, push the button, and . . . nothing. Your battery's dead. Here are five power accessories that will help you keep the juice flowing while you're on the road.
Sanyo eneloop and Maha/Powerex Imedion Low Self-Discharge NiMH Batteries
You’ll want to make sure you have a good set of AAs in your bag if you’re traveling with a flash or a pocket camera that takes standard batteries. Rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMH) cells are usually the best option, both because they’re long-lasting and because they’re green. One of their notable flaws, however, is that they gradually lose their charge when they’re not in use. You can evade this problem by using low self-discharge batteries that retain a significantly higher percentage of their charge than standard ones. Sanyo eneloop and Maha/Powerex Imedion are two low self-discharge NiMH options. Make sure you also pick up a good charger with them. Sanyo sells its eneloop batteries in a package with the MDU01 USB charger, which is handy if you’re on the road with a USB power source but don’t have access to an outlet.
Wagan Smart AC 120 USB Inverter with FM Transmitter
If you’re traveling by car or boat, you can charge your camera batteries and electronics en route through the cigarette-lighter DC power socket. Many planes also have DC sockets, either of the same type as in a car or of the Empower type, which has a slightly different shape. Instead of getting a separate car charger for each device, you can bring a single power inverter and plug your standard AC and USB connectors into that. This Wagan inverter lets you plug your MP3 player in to play music through a car radio as well. Other models offer different features and numbers of outlets, so look around a little and get one that meets your needs. If you want to use your power inverter on a plane, pick up an Empower adapter in case the sockets are that type, and check with your airline about getting a seat with a power socket nearby. Numerous other brands sell power inverters too, including Belkin and Duracell.
BioLogic ReeCharge Power Pack
No, being able to charge your electronics by pedaling your bike isn’t something that exists only in jokes about nerds. You can do it in real life. What you’ll need is a hub dynamo to go on your bike and Biologic’s ReeCharge Power Pack to hook it up to. Inside the Power Pack is a 1600 mAh battery that you’ll fill with power through your diligent pedaling. Then you can plug any USB-chargeable device into its port to get some juice. The Power Pack only outputs power for 5V devices, so it won’t help you with your SLR, but it will keep your camera phone and other gadgets powered up. If your legs get tired, you can charge it from an AC outlet or a computer’s USB port, too. Happy trails, and don’t forget your propeller beenie!
Solar Technology International Freeloader Pro
If you’re going somewhere that has more sunlight than power lines, consider bringing a solar charger. What sets the Freeloader Pro apart from the rest is the CamCaddy power cradle that comes with it. It’s designed to charge just about any kind of camera battery. The Freeloader Pro can accumulate enough power from the sun to give your SLR battery a charge in about eight hours, and you can also fill the charger with power via a computer’s USB port in about three hours.
Photographers who are traveling with a monolight or other Profoto strobes can still pack light while working with a professional power source. The 25-pound BatPac comes in its own nylon transport bag, which has a harness and a detachable shoulder strap to make it easy to carry. It’s just 14 inches high and 11 inches wide. While the BatPac is designed to support professional strobes with fast recycle times, you can also plug in other devices that you might need to power up in the field.
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