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alternative power source
Julio Cortez, Photographer
TREASURE COAST | FL | USA | Posted: 5:34 PM on 04.27.07
->> Hello everyone,

I'm about to go on assignment in a situation where I won't be able to plug my laptop to the wall or won't have a cigarette lighter connection for a converter. Pretty much I will be in a no electricity area for half a week.

Considering that, I need to figure out how I will be able to power my laptop and work without worrying how much more my battery will last.

Any of you know of any portable power sources that I can look into buying before going on this assignment?

many thanks

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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 5:55 PM on 04.27.07
->> Julio.... If there is a campsite involved you could consider a small sealed battery and solar charger. If you are hiking many miles and making camp each night then the weight will be an issue. You can of course carry a few spare batteries for the laptop. Not enough details for a better answer, sorry.
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Sandy Huffaker, Photographer
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 6:26 PM on 04.27.07
->> Julio,
I have a Black and Decker Electromate 400 that I got from Home Depot. I bring it out in the field quite often. It's basically a big battery with a power outlet, tire pump, car charger, light source. Not sure the cost since it was a Father's Day gift. If you have a base camp I would highly recommend it. If you need something to hike around with, it will be too heavy.
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Aaron Chabot, Student/Intern, Photographer
Ventura | CA | USA | Posted: 7:29 PM on 04.27.07
->> Julio, how portable of a solution are you looking for and what exactly will you be using the laptop for? The amount of additional time a supplemental power source will give you depends on a couple factors such as the laptop’s hardware configuration, power management presets, and software used. Keep in mind there are a variety of portable power solutions in a variety of configurations out there that can range in price from reasonable to ridiculous.

If you are relying on foot power, logging many miles each day and just using the laptop for basic image uploading and light captioning, a solar solution should work out well. Check out this blog for info on a solar solution for the Macbook. This will give you about an hour and a half of power on about 5 hours of charge time: You can leave the solar strip charging at a base camp during the day or hang it from a hiking pack if you are on the move.

For a more robust solution, APC makes Universal Notebook Batteries that weigh in between 1 & 3 pounds depending on Wh. also has similar portable solutions, although when used w/ a MacBook or MacBook Pro will not recharge the internal battery but rather act as an external power source. Although light weight, either options will only power a Mac laptop for +/- 5 hours depending and take just as long to recharge.

Larger battery systems such as the Black & Decker mentioned above, Xantrex, or Innovatronix ( will give you a couple extra hours and come with added functionality like the ability to power printers or jump start a car. Many of these larger units can be cheaper but are much heavier, sometimes between 15 and 30 pounds.

Depending on your present and future needs, sometimes it is much more convenient just to purchase two or three more laptop batteries. In this case you do not have to worry about compatibility problems and individual batteries can be a lot easier to pack in and out of various situations. This option can also be a little more economic in the long run as well.

A little off topic, but have you considered any sort of caching alternatives? On occasion it can be easier to pack in supplemental power (as well as food, extra gear, etc.) and leave it in a spot to be accessed later in the trip. Often I will pack in supplies and stash it in a hidden location and mark that location with a GPS waypoint. Other times I will have a friend hump in the cache a couple days / weeks into a trip if need be. If you have the time, or a well-intentioned friend, this can greatly reduce the amount of gear & weight you have to carry in during the trip. Mailing via USPS can also be effective (see through hikers on the AT or PCT), although you are definitely limited in regards to where you can do this, in that you would need to be near a post office to pick up the package.

I hope this helps.
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Wesley R. Bush, Photographer
Nashville | TN | U.S. | Posted: 7:51 PM on 04.27.07
->> I don't know what your budget is, but I've used a Honda generator numerous times.

Quiet, fuel efficient and WILL power 2 alien bee 1600s at full power if you give it a few seconds in between each flash. I bought it for tailgating. We use it to power a tv and portable direct tv satellite dish (on a heavy tripod). Hi-def from a parking lot. Can't beat it.
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Julio Cortez, Photographer
TREASURE COAST | FL | USA | Posted: 8:43 PM on 04.27.07
->> great feedback!

I know, i didn't give much details. Sorry, it's that "keep my project secret until it's published" mentality, I guess.

But in any case, thanks for those tips. Sandy, I actually saw that link minutes after posting my thread. But i'm glad I get your opinion and it sounds like it's a good investment.

Mostly what I will be using the laptop for is to do on-the-spot soundslide, video and, of course, my image editing. Also, I will be filing from location. There will not be any power source whatsoever, so that's my concern.

I'll post my project up on Wednesday night, once it's all out printed out and on our web.

Many thanks once again

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James Grove, Photographer
Halesowen | West Midlands | United Kingdom | Posted: 6:37 AM on 04.28.07
->> Your probebly better off with a small geni, make sure the output watts meet your requirements, i would like to think that solar is an option, but for a laptop i dont think you'll get enough power from a small scale solar panel, maybe to trickle charge the battery?

Of course if you have to carry the gear then solar maybe your only option.

I have used a small scale Honda Geni several times.
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Thread Title: alternative power source
Thread Started By: Julio Cortez
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