Power Banks: A Useful Tool To Have On Hand

When I was a kid, rechargeable batteries were a rarity. If someone said “battery charger,” he meant for the car. Later, as a UOTC cadet, radios got included – our PRC351 batteries were so clapped out they seemed to be constantly on charge. It’s slightly different now. Everyone has a phone, and probably a power-hungry smart phone. You might have a separate MP3 player as well and maybe a tablet. Most likely, you never go anywhere without them.

Well, you shouldn’t be taking any of that stuff on patrol with you. You won’t have time to fire up your tunes, and your phone and tablet are an intelligence gold mine for anyone who gets to take them from your body. Being dead is bad enough without your family getting phone calls from the Islamic State; so leave your personal electronics in the FOB.

Different rules apply when you’re not on deployment though. When you go camping or on a hunting trip, or if it’s SHTF time, you’re probably going to want to stay in touch as much as you can. That’s when you start running up against battery life. Most modern gadgets have integrated batteries, so you can’t carry a box of spares in your rucksack like you could when everything was fed on AAs. Obviously, if you’re out in the woods there’s nowhere to plug your stuff in, so you’re probably going to start thinking about a power bank.

Solar ChargerThe concept of a power bank is pretty simple. It’s just a plastic case stuffed with lithium ion 18650 cells, with a port to charge it through and one or more USB sockets to plug your gadgets into. You can get small, disposable ones to add a few minutes’ talk time to your phone, but a proper rechargeable one will store enough power to fully recharge most smartphones or media players. Unfortunately, their capacity isn’t limitless though, so by the time it’s drained you’ve just kicked the problem 24 hours down the road.

One option is to buy a power bank case from China – they cost less than $10 – and fit the batteries yourself. That way you can load it up with the best, highest capacity cells you can find; the result will last you a lot longer than any commercially available one. It’s still far from a perfect solution though. For real long-term use, you should seriously consider a solar power bank.

It’s possible to get compact solar panels that fold up to fit in a pack, and can be plugged directly into a device to charge it. Solar power banks are more versatile though. It’s basically just a standard power bank with a small solar panel built into one side. They take a while to fully charge, but if you get into the habit of taking it out and leaving it in the sun every time you get the chance, you’ll find there’s usually energy available when you need it.

Once you have a power bank, make sure you have the right connections for all of your devices. I’d recommend carrying two cables of each type – the plugs can get damaged. Take every chance you get to charge it up, and it should keep all your personal electronics running for years.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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