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High Power : The Neurotics Guide to Charging Cameras & Gadgets In The Himalayas

February 4, 2012

But … but … the other goser in front of me is starting to panic as his worldly possesions are stripped from him , one by one. We are at the outermost layer of the Dalai Lamas security cordon at the teachings in Kaza, and his protests are being mixed with chanting ,and near toxic levels of incense. No , not the iPhone either : also a camera. Finally the Himachali policeman makes his first full sentence , pointing to the water bottle : ” Bring only what you need”.

Ironic comments on real and created needs could and should be inserted at some point here. At the same time : as I´m writing this scheduled power cuts in Leh and Kathmandu are up to sixteen hours per day . And this is not the real periphery of the Himalyan landscape, go beyond this there are power cuts up to days at times. Faced with this we are left with the horror of changing our behavior , or tweaking power solutions.

This will be a part of the upcoming High Altitude Travel Checklist , with a practical format : points listed in bold are what I consider mandatory . The rest merits a place depending on usefulness , weight and price. The ratings are positive values taken from my kit : lowest price values for the most expensive gadgetry ( a 12 V solar panel ) , Highest weight value for memory cards. A lot of the solutions mentioned at the end I use rarely even myself , on the other hand the starting kit I carry every day at home in my leg pocket.

The essential kit :

*Thumbnail sized LED lights is the gadget equivalent of six grains of rice. Buddha would have carried one , I carry three : one each around my neck , one in the inner tent zipper and one in the snow lock of my backpack.
work fine for night time tours to the loo and finding stuf in your pack. With minimal discipline they last for many weeks.

* One more battery.
Not Just for your camera. Either a generic USB power pack , or like here a iPod/iPhone extra.

2. Dump your regular phone charger , and replace it with a compact USB charger and cable.

3. Get a two way Japan plug. Now you can charge minimum three things at the same time .

4. Get a surge protector , if you carry a laptop.

5. If you use AA´s or AAA´s , get a case with USB out . One more way to charge phone , mp3 player etc.

6. If Buying a AA/AAA charger invest a little more money and volume in a charger with a USB point as well.

7. Dump your hard drive , and carry enough memory cards for JPEG´s . If you shoot RAW , don´t try to use anything hard drive based above 4000 meters – this includes some video cams , and all mp3 players with more than 32 or 64 gigs.

8. Dump your regular camera charger for a universal charger . This works with practically all camera batteries , AA/AAA´s , has a USB charging point as well and can be charged from both wall points and 12 V outlets in cars.

9. For long time urban use , consider a second USB charger for the home base. This model, the same size as first generation USB chargers , has a built in battery that will continue to charge the devices down the chain when the power is cut.

10. For really long time use in the periphery, consider solar power. Panels start being useful from palm size and up. On the low end of the scale you have pocket sized batteries that can be charged either from the wall or the sun , at the high end 12 V solar panels that can drive universal chargers.

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3 comments

  1. did use the ipod over the pass from manali to kaza without problems – why not to use over 4000 meters??
    Also i have a little universal charger that takes care of all your different cameras and aaa or aa and has a usb out. one for all!
    google hähnel UniPal II – it is quite small!
    thanks for your usefull article!!


  2. Thanks for the nice comment.

    Why not to use some iPods at high altitude : because hard drives is a technology based on air pressure . You have a spinning disc separated from the reading head by a few thousands of a millimeter , riding on an air cushion. Cut the air pressure by half for example at the Tanglang La or Khardung La and you´ll see a lot of drives crashing when the reading head slams in to the disc : the warranty says 3000 meters max. In 2005 I met three different persons with crashed drives with thousands of pics on portable hard drives when travelling in Ladakh , Nepal & Tibet.

    Without the hard drive ( today it´s only the 160 gig iPod Classic that has one ) iPods are insensitive to altitude in the same way as cameras etc. They are also hard to kill from other factors . Not recommending this , but I have run my iPod Shuffle thru the washing machine. Twice . Still works fine , in fact I´m using it at the moment.

    The Hähnel looks neat , one of several good chargers in the same class, a bit larger than mine. Two main points for this type of solution : USB output means you can charge practically all phones without having to take out the battery first , and also look for the least fiddly way of adjusting the contact points.


    • true it is a bit of fiddeling but it chares all of my cameras. and the ipod at the same time. whis it would charge the mac book as well.

      that makes sense – did never read the manual of the ipod. and i have the 160gb… ok – i can do the back up for fotos in shimla so it is no problem as i should have enough sd cards.

      cheers :-)



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