How do you charge all your electronics while traveling?

My friend from high school posted this shot on Facebook of her charging four devices while traveling home from vacation in Florida.

My friend from high school posted this shot on Facebook of her charging four devices while traveling home from vacation in Florida.

We are preparing for our July camping trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, and we are trying to figure out the best way to charge our phones so we have them safety and photos. I am sure the kids would like the iPad charged as well but I don’t care about that one.

I’m not as worried about the travel days because you can just plug them into the car (although we are wondering about a dual-plug adapter so we can charge both phones at once), but I am concerned about the days that we are in the woods hiking and on the campgrounds.

So here are some devices were are considering for camping:

* How are the solar chargers? I think this would be useful while we are on the campgrounds and not driving.  Are they effective? Will they capture enough of a charge? Has anyone used these? (Here’s a review from CNET on the solar chargers.)

* What about an external back-up battery chargers. They ranged in price at Best Buy from around $20 to $100 but how how much difference would that make? Would the $20 one not work or are you a fool to pay $100?  Eventually you have to charge those too so what do you if you’re camping for 3 or 4 days without driving someplace? This one is pretty cheap and it says it will do iPads too.

* Another option is a a battery-charged charger. I think with the micro-USB charger it should work for the iPhone 5. I know it would work with my Samsung. Since it’s lithium battery-powered, you don’t have to worry about charging the charger. Amazon gave the older version of this some pretty good reviews. Has anyone used this type of charger?

* 10 in 1 charging compatibility device – I’ve seen other versions of this but the price is right on this one less than $3 but will it work? Is it necessary?

So what are the most efficient and inexpensive ways to keep your devices charged while traveling or camping? Do you want your phones and iPads charged on vacation or is it better to let them not work? (I don’t really want the iPad to work, except maybe in the car. It is a 20-hour drive to Yellowstone. But at the campground, I want the kids doing other things!)

37 comments Add your comment

guy

June 27th, 2013
8:41 am

iphone 5 doesnt use a micro usb, FYI.

http://www.npowerpeg.com/ a friend has this and likes it. it would cover you for several days away from power. or you could just unplug for a few days…

catlady

June 27th, 2013
8:46 am

Just keep one phone on till it gets low, then turn it off and wake up the other phone. Let the kids be free of electronics while camping.

Hope you have a great time!

ATL Born and Raised

June 27th, 2013
8:48 am

You could just turn them off while you’re hiking. That way you’d have them if you needed them and you wouldn’t have to worry about the batteries running out.

ATL Born and Raised

June 27th, 2013
8:49 am

Another thought, switch them all to airplane mode so the wifi and/or 3G/4G isn’t sucking the battery life. That way you can still take photos.

Mayhem

June 27th, 2013
9:03 am

Take the ONLY the cell phones, but leave EVERYTHING else electronic at home. You are CAMPING, getting back to nature. Let the kids go without electronics for a week, it forces them to be creative. It can be done, remember YOU are the parent, YOU are in charge. Sure they will fuss, but I’m willing to bet they find plenty to do, and encourage their little minds.

I only take my phone on vacation. It’s called Vacation for a reason, get away FROM IT ALL!!!!! Your kids will survive a week without iPads or Nintendos. Trust me. Try it.

I swear, in about 3 years, there is going to be a rush at doctor’s offices and hospitals, with people complaining about their necks and upper backs, from constantly hunching over an electronic device.

catlady

June 27th, 2013
9:28 am

I agree with mayhem. Invest in the Here and Now. Unplug everyone except one emergency phone. No checking on grandma, or looking up stuff. Pick up a book on Yellowstone, or on animals you are likely to see. Fish, hike, look at stars, let the kids be bored a little. It might even be hard for you and Michael, but the world is not likely to stop while you are gone. This is your chance to be relaxed and completely with your family!

TnT's Mom

June 27th, 2013
9:30 am

When camping we turn off all phones. Don’t you have a camara that is not on your phone? Use that and cut off all electronics. Take the time to talk to one another and enjoy the great outdoors. Take along a deck of cards for entertainment.

Ann

June 27th, 2013
9:50 am

I would definitely leave the Ipad at home and all other electronic games, devices, dvd players for the car, etc. I would only take a cell phone for emergencies. You don’t need the Ipad for the kids during the car ride. Didn’t we just have a blog about all the great games to play in the car? It may be boring to some kids, who are used to their devices, but you can learn a lot about the world by looking out the window at the different terrain, sights, wildlife, towns, etc.

Use the phone only for emergencies or if you need to get directions or occasionally look up a site you are visiting on your vacation. But, I would state, in advance, that it is not for entertainment purposes. I think it’s best to take a break from reading the news, web surfing, etc. as well.

Taking the Ipad will only lead the kids to request to use it or charge it during the vacation at the campground. Leaving it at home frees the parents up from having any of those discussions. Have a cell phone charged for emergencies, but only use it for emergencies. You can keep it off most of the time. We use a “non-phone” camera for vacations, as you can usually get better photos (with more zoom) if you have a decent camera. Kids enjoy the disposable cameras.

Geodon

June 27th, 2013
9:53 am

Cell phone service is very spotty in Yellowstone, so the phones may not work at all if you are any distance from the developed areas. See this link: http://www.nps.gov/yell/parknews/09023.htm . You might want to check your carrier’s coverage map. WiFi there is nearly nonexistent. For charging in the van, we used a multiple USB jack (one USB in, 4 out) and plugged that into the A/C outlet using a phone charging unit. It handled 4 phones charging at one time just fine.

Ann

June 27th, 2013
9:55 am

On 2nd thought, don’t even look at tourist info on your phone while on your trip. I agree with Catlady. Escape from the electronics and enjoy the peacefulness and nature. Aside from books, Park Rangers and Visitor Centers are great sources for information on things to do. My son loves getting the maps at parks and figuring out what to do and where to go. So much more fun than looking at a map on a phone.

Ann

June 27th, 2013
10:10 am

Also, put the phones on silent. Do not answer calls or check emails. Your vacation (and mental break) can really be interrupted if you do. If you answer each ring, thinking it may be important, you will be taking a lot of unimportant calls. Make sure any elderly parents have the phone # of the campground so they can reach you in the event of a real emergency and let them know not to rely on the cell phone, especially since you may not have a signal anyway.

Mayhem

June 27th, 2013
10:18 am

@Ann – I love the idea of an actual MAP.

When I was younger, and we were planning our trips, my Dad would sit me down with a map. He would tell me, ok we are going “here”, tell me how to get there. I would plot our course, and the map was mine, all mine. I would tell him what roads we needed to be on, when to turn, what places to stop and rest, visit, etc. I have an uncanny abillity to navigate. My mom is horrible at directions, so I have gotten us out of many a place.

Hand the kids a map and let them navigate short distances while in the car.

Also, let each one pick an activity for the family to do each day. Disposable cameras are a great idea, one for each kid. I’d take a deck of cards, paper and markers. We used to pack up each kid with their own “office” using an accordion file. Each kid got a tablet of paper, 3 pens, crayons, pencils, and stickers. HOURS of entertainment in the car. Don’t forget their blankets and pillows too, for napping in the car.

Oh, and give each kid a flashlight for nighttime explorations. And making hand animals in the tents…LOL.

Don’t forget the S’mores!!!

CWESQ

June 27th, 2013
10:18 am

We were in Yellowstone 2 summers ago. NO cell service in Lamar Valley, Roosevelt, Mammoth Hot Springs. Extremely spotty service in and around Old Faithful. OK service at the Canyon Lodge. Do NOT expect or count on anyone to be able to reach you while in Yellowstone and as Ann said, leave your family, etc. the phone numbers of the campground check in desks where you will be staying in the event they do need to reach you. After the first day of “withdrawal” from the tech gadgets, we found it very liberating to be “off grid”! That’s the way vacations should be.

By the way – if you don’t already have it, invest in the book Yellowstone Treasures. By far the best travel guide of the Park. We had it in the car with us each day as we made our way around the park. It has fabulous information concerning hikes, vistas, etc. You can order it from Amazon.

Richard

June 27th, 2013
10:37 am

Leave the phones/electronics off (or don’t take them at all). Why do you want to talk to people while you’re on vacation? I don’t even want to talk to them normally.

My wife asked me the other week how I would feel if I didn’t have my cell phone for a weekend. I answered with one word: backflips. She then expressed a level of disbelief so I turned the phone off, left it in the glove box, and went to the airport. Makes the vacation so much better.

Mayhem

June 27th, 2013
10:45 am

I’ve worked for the same company for over 20 years. EVERY time I go on vacation, my boss would call me at least 3 times. Finally, about 5 years ago, I told him, “If you call me while I’m on vacation, I will charge you another vacation day”. I haven’t heard from him while on vacation since!!!!

Techmom

June 27th, 2013
10:52 am

Most campsites have electrical outlets- bring a power strip for charging when you’re at the site. I also agree about turning the phones on airplane mode when you’re in places you know you won’t get a good signal- or at least turn wifi off so it isn’t constantly searching for a network. I’ve found that you will often be able to get text messages even in spotty coverage but won’t be able to get a strong enough signal for a call.If you’re not using the data and on your phones or devices constantly, you won’t use the battery as quickly as normal.

Lyons

June 27th, 2013
11:23 am

I agree with most posters here that you should turn off, or leave at home, all electronics except a cell phone. What’s the use of going to a national park if you don’t look at anything except a screen? You haven’t even left home and you’re stressing about how to charge them; relax and take the slow lane.

fes

June 27th, 2013
11:57 am

While in the car, I use a Coffee Cup Power Inverter. When not in the car, I use the iGeek portable charger (I also carry it to Braves games when there’s a chance of rain delay). I’m a big fan of thinkgeek and their offerings.

Becky

June 27th, 2013
12:51 pm

We charge one thing at a time in the car..If it goes dead before we get to where we are staying at night, you are just out of luck..Husband and I both take phones, but only for emergencies..The kids take a DSI player and we take the Kindle..All are charged before we leave and usually don’t have to be recharged until bedtime…

xxx

June 27th, 2013
3:15 pm

If your phone will not hold an 8 hr charge, throw it into Old Faithful and buy a new one.

DB

June 27th, 2013
4:24 pm

I’m going to join the Hallelujah Chorus here, and urge you to leave all the electronics at home. Telephone coverage is VERY spotty in the national parks, as I can attest from a scary 8 hour period where my husband and son weren’t where they were supposed to be at Yosemite. Turns out the trail they had started down was blocked by late snow (IN JUNE) near the end and they had to turn around and go all the way back –but they had no way to tell us that, with the lack of phone service, and it took us hours to meet back up (I’ll never forget the ranger saying nonchalantly at 7pm –”Oh, he’s an Eagle Scout? Your husband’s in good physical shape? OK, then, they’ll be fine during the night — maybe a little chilly, but there’s no sense looking for them in the dark. If they are still missing at dawn, we’ll start looking for them.” )

Moral of the story: Don’t count on your cell phone for emergencies. If you go hiking, let the ranger know, and check the trail conditions THOROUGHLY before setting out! I doubt you’d be taking on a trail like my husband and son did with your little ones, but yeah . . .

I’ve got a $20 battery backup I keep in my purse, it’s great for EMERGENCIES, which is all you should be using it for. Go into airplane mode, as suggested, to save juice. And consider getting a camera instead of depending on your cell phone. If you must, get a DropBox account and have your photos automatically dumped to that account so they aren’t on your phone if your phone is lost or ends up at the bottom of a stream (it happens :-)

We’re in China right now, no phone for seven weeks (it’s kinda nice!) and I forgot the recharge cable for my camera. Picked up the wrong cable. Grr — that’s my project today, while wandering around, to drop in on the Nikon repair shop here in Shanghai!

motherjanegoose

June 27th, 2013
7:29 pm

DB…where was that backup when we were walking in Chicago at 10:30 at night…haha! I could use a dose of that February air about now! I can’t wait to hear all about your trip!

I agree that you should leave the electronics at home! I need my phone, in case a client calls me. When you are self employed, this is how it works. I have been out all week and just got home. Someone called me on my home phone and left a message. I have no idea why they decided to use my home phone, as that is not the number I give out.

I do NOT camp but when I am on vacation, I am not about electronics. I am also about MAPS. I have been without cell service or GPS more times than I want to mention and having a MAP is best!

Ann

June 27th, 2013
8:29 pm

@ Mayhem – That’s great what your Dad did with you, letting you plan out the routes and be in charge of the map like that. It’s fun, plus a great learning experience for kids. I think I will try that with my 8 year old son on the next trip. I’ve always enjoyed using road maps and my son loves maps, too, including maps of places like the zoo or museums. He likes studying the legends and the map and topography symbols.

I have terrific navigational skills now as a result of reading maps all my life and it really comes in handy. For some people, though, it’s a lost skill that they aren’t exposed to. We don’t have a GPS and we use maps to plan all our trips and routes and figure out what towns to stop at on the way. We have a collection of maps on the bookshelves. My husband also enjoys the graphic cartoon type maps of various towns we have visited.

Mayhem

June 28th, 2013
6:57 am

@Ann, you should see my collection of State Maps, I probably have about 35. I used to get one in every state we visited, including Alaska & Hawaii. I saved them all. Memories……

Becky

June 28th, 2013
7:29 am

@Mayhem..That is pretty cool.. Need to start picking up State Maps for our two..We have been to several states and never thought about maps..

OK, went out looking for a new camera last night..Found a couple that I really like, but was wondering what kind most of y’all use? One is a Canon 12.2 MP DSLR 18-55 MM IS lens, the other one (sales guy) was really knowlegeable about..It’s a Sony NEX-5R.. He has one and showed me pictures that he has taken on his..Really nice pics..Any suggestions?

catlady

June 28th, 2013
8:03 am

I am also big on maps. I have quite a collection of all kinds that I share with my kids at school ( yeah, I know it is not in the CCGPS that I am supposed to teach, but it is IMPORTANT! )

Anyway, Theresa, are ya hearing this? Cell phone only– no pads or other trappings of the techno lifestyle! The first day or two will be,hard, but smile and laugh at how dependent we are and then use your other info-gathering, game-playing skills! I second the idea of a card game or two– low tech, no batteries or signal required!

One thing I do at the end of the year is teach my students games. This is after the CRCT, and I can tie each one to a book and using realia. You would not believe how few kids know marbles, jack straws, or jacks!

Mayhem

June 28th, 2013
8:44 am

@Becky – I just got a Nikon P510 for my birthday last month. I LOVE IT!!!!

I don’t know much about cameras, as I have used my iPhone for several years, but my middle child gave me the Nikon and I absolutely LOVE it. I never leave home without it now. it’s actually sitting here on my desk right now. On my lunch hour, I go over to a nearby park and practice taking pictures. This camera is AMAZING.

Becky

June 28th, 2013
9:30 am

Thanks, I’ll look at one of those this wekend Mayhem.. :)

motherjanegoose

June 28th, 2013
10:41 am

@ Becky….my daughter has a camera she loves and it takes awesome pictures. I will ask her the model and get back with you. Also, if you join AAA they will send you maps of just about anything for FREE. Might be worth the membership!

Ann

June 28th, 2013
11:50 am

@ Mayhem – We make a point to stop at every Visitor Center that is open when we are crossing state lines on trips and get a free map. We also get AAA maps occasionally, as well.

Ann

June 28th, 2013
11:59 am

@ Becky – I don’t know the ages of your kids, but they might like the Which Way USA club subscription from Highlights. You get 2 cool colorful maps & books on various states every 4-6 weeks along with activity/learning books that help you find things/routes on the maps and learn about each state. It’s geared for ages 6 and up, but I think it would work with kids as young as 5, depending on the child. We did the subscription when my son was about 7 and a half for about six months. He loved the maps, but the book activities and puzzles were too easy for him, as he is very advanced for his age. But, generally, I think it would work for many kids up to age 9 or 10. You can cancel the subscription at any time.

Ann

June 28th, 2013
12:12 pm

In addition to finding routes on maps, analyzing and figuring out the legends on maps are good skills for kids to learn. My son now adds legends & symbols to drawings and maps that he makes of our house and other things.

Ann

June 28th, 2013
12:39 pm

@ Becky – Regarding cameras, read plenty of customer reviews for each model you are considering, so you know what you are getting and can see if there are any common issues. If you think you may want to ever enlarge any pictures to poster type size for mounting on the wall, then go with a higher megapixel than the 12.2 model you mentioned. We are doing that with some family and travel photos. I bought a Sony camera this past year and when looking at the various models, sometimes very similar models had big variations in the lens parts used and this was mentioned in some customer reviews. Some model or model years had Carl Zeiss lens and other similar models had cheaper lens parts.

Becky

June 28th, 2013
3:23 pm

@MJG.. That woul be great..I have a Canon already, but I want something that takes better pictures and continuous pictures..

@Ann..My two will be 11 on Sun..I’m not sure how they got to be that “old” so quickly though..lol..
Thanks for the info on cameras..I will really do some checking before I buy something..

Ann

June 28th, 2013
4:14 pm

@ Becky – Regarding camera reviews, I try to read both professional magazine reviews (which describe the features in detail) and also consumer reviews from people who have actually owned the camera awhile, which can be a whole different perspective. Those are often wildly different on Consumer Reports website, for example. I am sure there are photography forums with comments, but I find it’s easy to find reviews on Amazon from camera owners for whatever models you are considering.

DB

July 2nd, 2013
12:32 am

@Mayhem: What a coincidence, my husband gave me a Nikon 510, too! I LOVE it, too. It’s a great mid-range camera. It’s so much fun to use while we’re here in Shanghai! We got the biggest SD card we could find for memory, and are droppiing the pictures in DropBox whenever we get a chance. My daughter’s graduation present was a Canon camera system — she is over the moon with playing with lenses, etc. Thank goodness we’ve moved beyond film — developing all these pics would break us!