The technology in portable power systems has improved dramatically over the past 10 years. That’s great news for hunters and guides who travel to remote hunting destinations. Instead of packing extra weight in batteries, backcountry hunters can now power everything from GPS units to headlamps with a lightweight recharging kit.
Thanks to compact battery packs and solar panels, you can power everything you need for days and even weeks on end without the added weight of spare batteries. These out of the box systems are fantastic for hunters, guides and outfitters alike.
Here are a few tips for backcountry recharging systems:
What You’ll Need
First, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to stay charged in the wilderness. On our hunting trips in northern British Columbia, we’d recommend bringing two items.
1. USB Power Pack
First, we’d recommend a USB charging block. These come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from small power sticks that can recharge a phone once or twice, up to big bricks that can recharge larger devices multiple times. What’s the right size battery pack for a hunting trip? You want something big enough to be useful. But weight is also a concern. I’ve found the Goal Zero Venture 30 Power Bank is about right. Weighing only 8.8oz, when fully charged it can charge a smartphone or GPS unit 2-3 times, and a headlamp 5-10 times. It has multiple USB ports for charging more than one device at a time and it’s highly weatherproof.
2. Compact Solar Panel
Second, we’d recommend a compact solar panel to keep the above power pack fully charged. Like battery packs, there’s a balance between size/weight and power abilities for solar panels. You can’t bring something too heavy on a backcountry trip. But you need sufficient power. In this department, I’ve had good success with the Goal Zero Nomad 10 Solar Panel. It weighs just over a pound, and folds up to just 9.5″x7″. Given a half-day of good sunshine or even a full day of overcast light, it can put a good charge on the Venture 30 Power Bank mentioned above. This makes it possible to keep your devices charged indefinitely.
Even with a reliable recharging system, I always keep a spare headlamp in my backpack. There’s nothing worse than field dressing an animal in the dark, only to have your headlamp die on the way back to camp. I keep a Petzl e+LITE in my emergency kit. It comes in a small plastic case, weighs less than an ounce and can be stored with batteries up to 10 years.
How to Use It
Now that you have your battery pack and solar panel, how do you effectively use them on a wilderness hunting trip? There are a number of ways you could use them. But here’s how we like to use them on most hunting trips:
Assuming you’ll be hunting from a fixed camp location (not hunting with camp on your back), we recommend that you set out your solar panel attached to your battery pack every morning before you leave camp. Try to find a place where the solar panel will be getting sun throughout the day. During the day, the solar panel will charge up the battery pack. If there’s snow or rain in the forecast, no problem. Cold weather will slow the charging process. But I’ve left my Goal Zero panel and power pack out in all kinds of weather with no issues.
When you return to camp in the evening. unplug your battery pack from the solar panel. You can then bring it into your cabin or tent and recharge your devices overnight. In the morning, simply repeat the process.
What You Can Charge
Even on long, 10-day hunts, I’ve successfully kept charged: multiple camera batteries, a Petzl rechargeable headlamp, an InReach communication device and a smartphone. In order to do this, simply rotate which device gets charged each night. For example, a headlamp will typically last several days before it needs a charge. And my smartphone on airplane mode can usually last two days. With your devices on a rotation, there’s really no limit to how long you can stay charged in the backcountry.
For more packing and hunting gear tips, please check out our Gear Page.
If you’d like to learn more about guided hunting trips in remote northern British Columbia, please explore the rest of our website. If you have questions or would like more details, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Written by Ryan McSparran
Ryan McSparran is an outdoor writer, a hunting and fly fishing guide, and very proud to be a part of the Kawdy Outfitters team.