How To Charge Your Phone While Camping
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While you might want to camp to disconnect from life and get away from technology, you often still use your phone. We use phones to take photos, we use phones for maps and you might want to watch movies in your tent at night. So we need to keep our phones charged. There are three ways to charge our phones while camping. You can use a battery power pack, a solar-powered charger, or find an electrical outlet.
Why Do You Need To Keep Your Phone Charged
At work, I am constantly on my phone. And to promote this website, I am also active on social media. However, when I go camping or backpacking, I rarely check my phone for the latest on Facebook.
But this doesn’t mean our phones are turned off.
First, for most people, our phones are our cameras. And when we’re camping there’s always plenty of things to take photos or video of. Whether it’s that amazing sunset or to remember the campfire, we want to capture it.
Second, many people use apps for maps. This could be the standard map apps like Google Maps or something specialized like AllTrails. These apps can help you find your way even without cell or WiFi service.
Third, you might need your phone for communication. While phone service can be spotty in our campsites, generally, we can find a way to get connected if necessary. For example, I text my wife when I get to my camping location (or trailhead if I expect to lose service at the actual campsite), and when I am heading home.
You might also use your phone for entertainment purposes. I like to listen to podcasts and other friends like to watch movies in their tent before going to sleep.
So let us look at ways to keep our phones charged.
Battery Power Pack
My preference is to bring along portable power banks. I am a fan of the Mogix External Power Bank Charger. I have used these for travel for work for many years. They’re small, they’re affordable and you can a couple of charges from a single pack.
The only downside to these chargers is that you do need to charge them with an electrical source instead of solar.
I keep them in Ziploc bags. And put the phone in the Ziploc bag at night. This also provides rain protection if I have a leak in my tent.
However, in the next section, I am going to explain why that’s not a limitation.
Some battery packs do come with their own solar panels. But I would rather bring along a separate charger like the BigBlue 28W Solar Charger with Digital Ammeter. These panels are much larger and you can plug in whatever power bank you wish to use.
While solar panels have come down in price and they do work well, you need to remember to put them out in the morning. And they need direct sunlight. This might be a challenge, not just when it’s raining. But even a heavily wooded campsite, can prevent you from getting enough sunlight to charge your device.
I have found this out the hard way on a camping trip. Thankfully, it was a front-country campsite and my vehicle was nearby to charge it.
Many campsites now have electrical power. While purists might not like this, then you don’t have to use it. But it can be handy when you need to charge your devices, in particular if you are camping with your family and have multiple devices to keep topped off.
If you are car camping and have your vehicle nearby then you can, of course, use your vehicle to keep your phone charged. This is the least preferred option because every other option can be used while you’re sleeping in your tent.
Besides keeping our phones charged with power, there are things you can do to reduce the number of times you need to fill up the battery on the device.
The simplest option is to turn it off. If you don’t need your maps, are not taking photos, and not using your phone for entertainment, then you can turn the phone off. This will keep the battery at maximum charge. But it is extreme. Yet, it is a viable option.
You can also enable Airplane Mode. When in Airplane Mode, you can still access the features of the app you might want such as the camera or audio. But you won’t be able to communicate with anyone or retrieve any data. This allows your phone to sip power. I most frequently keep my phone in Airplane Mode while camping.
A final option for saving juice is to enable Low Power Mode. When in Low Power Mode, your phone can still get phone calls and texts but the phone will limit the amount of data synchronization it will do. It will dim the screen and reduce the inactivity time on the lock screen.
When out camping and hiking, learning to properly manage your battery life will help reduce the time you need to take to charge your phones.
How To Use Your Maps and GPS Without Cell Or WiFi Service
In modern camping, there are constant arguments over whether to use a map and compass or depend upon a GPS.
The belief is that a map and compass will always work because you will not depend upon batteries or a good signal.
However, the map and compass depend upon having a reliable map, a reliable compass, and knowing how to use them together. Anyone can use a GPS within a couple of minutes of getting a dedicated device or opening the app.
Meanwhile, for a compass, you need to be taught how to use the compass. Then you need to practice with the compass.
While using a compass isn’t particularly hard, it does have a learning curve. Plus you have to have an accurate map, which can be hard to come by now. Because of the popularity of GPS, paper maps are not updated as frequently - if at all.
And you might be thinking, well the backcountry hasn’t changed much so a map that’s several years old will be fine. Except, it might not be due to changes in declination. Declination is the degrees of difference between true north and magnetic north at a specific location. This changes over time and if you don’t adjust for this properly, you can end up going off course.
Most of us will not depend entirely upon a map and compass for our camping adventures. At the very least, we will have our cell phones with us. And this will be sufficient. After all, our phones do so much.
Our phones are our still photo cameras, they let us record video, they provide endless entertainment options, and they even let us make phone calls!
But we’re here to talk about how to use our phones for navigation when we don’t have a cell signal.
Contrary to popular belief, your phone’s map apps such as Google Maps or AllTrails will still work without a cell signal. This is because your phone has a GPS radio built into it.
However, you do need to do some preparation before heading out on your adventure. Specifically, you need to download the maps before you lose service. This way the app will be able to show you where you are to prevent you from getting lost. For apps like Google Maps, this can be done for free, though you might have to enable a setting for offline use.
Other apps like AllTrails might require you to sign-up for a paid membership. However, if you are a frequent hiker and camper, I find AllTrails to be worth the money. It’s great to have not only the offline maps but a variety of maps such as topographical and satellite photos.
If you are going into a national forest, BLM, or on private property with permission (such as a deer lease), I also like the ONX app. This does a great job of letting you know property boundaries.
Finally, be aware that streets that have local names but are not named on Google Maps such as Sugarberry Trail in Hochatown, Oklahoma. The street is on Google Maps but by its original county road designation. I also bookmark important locations to make them easy to find.
Camping is a great way to disconnect from the stresses of the world and see beautiful things such as lakefront sunsets or frolicking deer.
And while we shouldn’t spend all of our time camping staring at our phones just like we do at home, the reality is that there are many valid reasons to use our phones while camping. This includes taking photos, tracking our location, watching movies in our tent to unwind, or calling home to let loved ones know that we’re having fun.
This is why it’s important to keep your phone charged while camping whether you use a battery pack, a solar-charger, or plug in your phone to campground electrical power.