Portable power

Spending a week in a tent can be tricky when electronic gadgets are involved. In previous years, the only power-hungry gadget in the family has been my iPhone. I’ve been able to get by for a week by turning off WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. rationing my access to the internet, and using a Freeloader for an occasional top-up. A week is about the limit, though, because the iPhone consumes electrons slightly faster than a Freeloader can generate them on a typical British summer’s day! This summer the problem is a little bigger. My kids are older and they have power hungry devices of their own – between us we have my iPhone, two iPod Touches, and an Android phone, and will probably take a MiFi too. How is that going to work…?

In preparation for the whole family spending a week without access to power sockets I bought a New Trent iCruiser portable battery. This is essentially an 11Ah rechargeable battery with a USB socket. Anything that will charge from USB will charge from this (I think), including the iPad. I’ve been testing it over the last week to see exactly how much charge it provides. From full I’ve recharged an iPod Touch 4 times, an iPhone twice and a MiFi once, which is about right. That should just about keep us going. I might just take the Freeloader too, just in case! One interesting point of information – when the “low charge” light comes on, there’s about one iPhone/iPod charge left.

In use, the iCruiser is pretty simple. It comes with a charger, and takes about 5 hours to fully charge from empty. After that you simply plug your device into the USB socket, push the on button, and off it goes. When your device is full, unplug it and the iCruiser turns itself off. It would be nice if it detected that the device was full while still connected and turned itself off then. I guess most devices continue to trickle-charge when they’re full? As it is, you can’t really leave it charging a device overnight, for example.

Will this have uses beyond powering my family’s annual camping trips? It will certainly help with using mobile devices at conferences. I find that taking notes, photos and heavier than usual twitter use takes its toll on mobile devices at conferences and not having to hunt for places to recharge will be useful. More creatively I have got quite addicted to using the Frame by Frame app from Joby to make time-lapse movies on my iPod. The problem with that is that the iPod is on permanently and can’t manage much more than about 45 minutes on a full charge. The iCruiser will make it possible to make longer time-lapse movies away from a source of mains power. I’m looking forward to finding interesting subjects to try this out on. Suggestions anyone?

Can you think of other things that 11Ah of mobile power would make possible/easier?



  1. John Rawnsley @ 2011-07-27 10:07

    Hopefully your devices won’t all need recharging at the same time as that is a limitation of these devices. I have a similar device which has 2 outputs but still often wish for more when my 2 phones, iPod Touch, iPod classic and 4 camera batteries all need recharging at once…

  2. Steve Rumsby @ 2011-07-27 10:14

    New Trent do make a device with two USB ports – this one. But it has half the capacity and that was not going to be good enough. You can buy USB splitter cables, can’t you?

  3. John Rawnsley @ 2011-07-28 09:09

    It also depends on the total current that the storage device can deliver. I’ve never put one of those Car socket to multiple USB adapters into my battery pack to see how many it can support, There’s a risk of it overheating which might have unfortunate consequences.

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