Sunday, June 13

Kit: MP3 Player & Battery Recharging in the wilds (Part 2)

A quick recap...having inevitably replaced my long lived MP3 player with a contemporary model I was left with a common problem. How to recharge the internal battery during my outdoor trips, when access to a power source would be minimal or more likely nil.

Surprisingly my web research took a couple of hours before I finally found the type of recharge-on-the-go unit I required.

I deliberately excluded offerings from Powermonkey & Freeloader both established names on the scene. I've heard some mixed reviews as to their ability to deliver what I am looking for, and whilst undoubtedly popular & well established, there is the overhead of their bulk, weight & design use.

In a similar vein I instantly ditched any recharger that was itself build around a rechargeable battery. Sort of defeats the object as far as I can see. And once again there is a weight & cost issue.

My needs were simple:
1. Lightweight, or at least at the bottom end of what I felt was an acceptable weight addition
2. Small
3. Portable
4. Durable
5. Low cost
6. Easy to use
7. Mini USB connector (to fit my MP3)
8. Infinite recharge capacity

As I said, my needs were simple.

I figured the less high tech the solution, the better the chance of the recharger standing up to the sort of physical & environmental rigours that come with a week spent in strange places, and stranger climatic conditions.

I finally succumbed to the Portapow Recharger, which at present appears to be mainly available via an E-Bay Shop outlet.

Its a simple unit made of strong black plastic, and looks very watertight.

As you can see from the snap, its very small & easily stored away in a backpack.

Basic weight is approx 25g.

Loaded with 2 AA batteries Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries (4+2 free) this increases to 54g.

Why Lithium? An AA battery weighs 14.6g compared to the 23g of the standard Energizer alternative, but I'd expect 4-6 times the power output. Excellent power to weight ratio despite a higher unit cost.

So - infinite recharge capacity is possible. Given large enough pockets to carry the spare batteries. But at least I have the choice unlike the majority of other rechargers I've looked at.

The package is basic. The USB cable supplied with my MP3 Player wasn't much use for PC/MP3 connectivity due to the shortness of the cable. But happily its ideal for the Player/Recharge meaning that I can recharge the player, whilst in use, and still tucked the bits safely away in it's usual belt pouch home.

However add another 22g to the weight for the cable, bringing the total up to 76g.

But when compared to the Freeloader's 185g ( a random comparison choice) that weight just suits me fine.

There is a sliding 3 way switch for Off, USB, & Light. Whilst the last function may be useful, perhaps trying to connect the recharger in the dark, its the main negative I can foresee.

As the switch isn't protected it could be moved from Off to Light whilst bouncing about a backpack or pocket, and flatten the batteries.

My solution, based on past experience, is a simple one. I'll reverse one of the batteries so if the switch is moved the circuit remains incomplete. In this way the unit it loaded & ready for use with merely a minor adjustment.

Finally at one end of the unit is a standard USB port, and the light itself.

All a very simple design.
1. Fit batteries
2. Connect USB cable
3. Recharge

Total Cost - £10.

Yep. Just a tenner inc P&P.

I have to say that the PortaPow construction feels robust and very durable indeed.

As to how it will work in practice...well I've tried a quick recharge test at home, and the charge-up was quite quick.

Of course the real test will be a week long trip.

So purely in your interest, dear reader, I'd better get a trip sorted in the very near future for a comprehensive field test.

One quick aside, picking up London Backpacker's comments on my last post, thinking along the same lines.

I was tempted by the Ricco Portable AA Battery Travel Emergency USB Charger.

Its much cheaper (<£4) but only uses 1 AA battery. The design once again is simple (like me) but there was something about it that caused me to doubt longer term durability.

That's not very objective, based purely on website pictures, but I've learnt to listen to these misgivings where a better alternative is available.

So there you have it - a cheap option to recharge your portable electronicl equipment, via a USB cable, whilst out in the wilds.


Thanks John, this looks really good, I've got a 4 battery charger but this looks neater, especially as it has a USB port. It will be interesting to see whether it can charge an iPhone with lithuim batteries as my current charger refuses to do so.
John, I am flummoxed, I should have known better than reading your techy things, it was bound to get me in to trouble. Ok, I got my head around the Sandisk Sansa, now then, these mini disk thingies, it sparked an idea in my head, headed over to the net to find out more; strueth John there hundreds of different types. Please help an old lady out, what do I actually need and what sort of price bracket?
I when with the power monkey charger, mainly cos they were selling them off cheap.

I've tried it out and seems O.K with the rechargeable batteries that come with it.

The real test with be on a proper trip as this is when the chargers show their true colours.

Although expensive the lithum batteries are the way to go.
Dawn - don't spend more than £50 on a player & try to stick to the more well known brands. the cheap stuff IMHO turns out to be prone to failure.

For a 1st try-out a 4-8Gb player should hold more than enough music for a long trip, and to see if you get on with this approach

Minidisk? I assume thats the SD cards?
To be honest only go for that if you are continually changing the player's content as it saves deleting stuff in order to add more.

That help?
BPL & LBP - field test is immanent!
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