Monday, 12 July 2010

Power to the people

There have been a couple of posts on charging mobile phones, mp3 players and possibly other equipment while out on a trip.

In the past I have always used a mp3 player that would take AA/AAA batteries and just carry a spare, this usually worked quite well; as for mobile phones, well I never really worried about it because they would be switched off most of the time as they were only a phone.

Nowadays mp3 players have internal batteries that have to be charged through a USB port on the computer and mobile phones are more than just a phone.

There seems to be quite a few different types of chargers out there; from one's that can be picked up in a pound shop to in excess of £30

For my TGOC trip I had picked up one from the pound shop; as I wasn't sure how good these things were and didn't want to pay a lot for something that may not work.

The picture above is of the £1 one; which is very basic, it takes 4 AAA batteries and comes with one lead the connects to the unit and has a female USB on the other end.

Using standard Energizer batteries the unit gave me enough charge to re-charge the mp3 two to three times off one set of batteries.

For the phone is was pretty useless as it only even seemed to add one bar into the phone and I also believed the it was draining the phone but have no proof of that.

Since being back I've looked into them a bit more and if you have an iphone there seems to be plenty of choices, other phones are a bit limited because of the adaptors you need for them. Yes you could use the USB lead that connects to the computer but this means bring along a lead that is at least 3 feet in length.

One company that does seem to make a charger with a variety of adaptors is Powertraveller; they do a whole range of charger but I went for the PowerChimp mainly because is was still fairly cheap and had the tip adaptor I need for my phone.

The PowerChimp comes with 9 tips, a lead to connect the unit to your equipment, a re-trackable USB to unit cable, 2 1800 mAh AA batteries and something I found quite clever; 2 plastic sleeves so you can use AAA batteries in the AA unit. It also has a LED light build into it and also has an on/off button.

Although the unit comes with re-chargeable batteries; normal batteries can be used in it.

The unit takes about 5 hours to fully charge its batteries; and again charging the mp3 player I can get a about 3 full charges.

The website quotes the following about the charger:-

There are two rechargeable AA 1800mAh batteries in the powerchimp, but the voltage is 1.2v. Mobile phones require 4.5 ~ 5.5 v, so the powerchimp needs to convert from 1.2v to 5.5v. The battery capacity is almost divided by 5, 2 x 1800mAh NI-MH batteries are equal to 1x 1000mAh Li-ion battery, powerchimp is a typical emergency charger and therefore will give you up to one full charge of your mobile phone

To test this out I allowed my phone to go completely flat and has a full 5 hour charge in the PowerChimp. The PowerChimp did recharge the phone but not to a full charge; 3 bars did appear but even in standby the phone dropped to 2 bars with in an hour.

Another test was done but this time using Energizer Lithium batteries, again the phone charged to 3 bars but this time it stayed at 3 bars for a day but as usual started to drop as I used the phone.

The unit with the AA rechargeable batteries weights in at about 50 grams and a bit less with Lithium batteries.

The on/off button is recessed on the unit so makes the chances of being switched on by accident less, but I also reverse one of the batteries when not in use, just in case.

The first press of the button will start the charging procedure and this is accompanied by a flashing green light to tell you that that the charging is working. A flashing red light tell you that the batteries are nearly exhausted.

The second press of the button switches on the LED light and a third press will switch the unit off again.

The overall size of the unit in roughly 9x4x3 cm and it come with a small pouch case to store a couple of adaptors and the unit in.

As yet I haven't tried it with Alkaline batteries but would imagine that I will get something between the rechargeables and the Lithiums in performance.

Overall I think the unit works well for mp3 players, and is a good emergency back up for the phone.


  1. Here is another alternative that interests me very much on this issue.
    As I have an iPhone it only provides 1000mAh v ~1400mAh so at most just a 2/3 charge, weather does not matter, and I would not have to stop at a store to resupply. Looks very interesting.

  2. Anonymous7:50 am

    I'm thinking about picking up an iCharge light for just this issue. I don't know how widely they are available abroad, but they're roughly $30 here in Tokyo. And they're quite light as well, 43g.

  3. I'm wary of kinetic and solar chargers. I had a freeloader charger with the supercharger and found that I never really got a good charge to charge a mp3 never mind a phone.

    The Kinetic charger looks good but I think you would need to walk a lot of miles to get a decent charge out of it.

    I know its not environmentally friendly but I think I'll stick to the batteries