Wilderness charging solutions

yqrninjayqrninja Posts: 2Member
edited March 2014 in General Discussions
Hi all. new here.

I'm researching the best way to charge a nikon d7100 while off the grid. Going on a multi week wilderness canoe trip in a few months. I need to find a solution for charging. To Save space and weight the d7100 will be my primary video recorder as well as photos. Any good options for me. Solar, Battery brick, lots of spare batteries?? Thanks


  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    It turns out that a bunch of batteries is the cheapest and lightest weight way to go. I can do the math for you if you'd like :-)
    The next best bet is to use a solar panel to charge a battery brick and then use that to directly power your camera with the right cables/adapters. This however will cost and weigh more. You are also at the mercy of the weather (no sun, no charge). Finally you can solar charge the brick and then dump the charge to the batteries, but this is the least efficient from a weight and electrical perspective.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited March 2014
    @yqrninja: You have some options. 1) I highly recommend you getting the optional battery pack for your D7100. This will allow you to have two batteries for you to use at any given time. You can setup the body to use one battery first and then switch to the other. 3) +1 on Ironheart recommendation getting 3-4 Nikon EN-EL15 batteries. I have always use Nikon ones and they last a long time and I have never had an issue with them. Thus, I would not recommend OEM's or third party. The risk is yours, but I would not risk it given the task in the field. 2) If you get the battery grip made by Nikon, the unit comes with an optional module that will go within the battery grip that will allow you to use regular AA batteries. Get yourself a bunch of Eneloop 1800AA rechargeable batteries...they last a long time and will hold their charge nicely when not used. Moreover, this pack allows you to use any AA battery should you need it.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • stevefstevef Posts: 10Member
    I've been looking for a solution to this as well. One option I've looked at would be to use Switronix batteries and adaptors. The Switronix NP-L60 battery (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/333350-REG/Switronix_NP_L60_NP_L60_Li_Ion_Chemistry_NP_1.html )
    can be used with the EN-EL15 adapter (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/899563-REG/switronix_xp_dslr_el15_powertap_cable_for_nikon.html).

    These aren't cheap and you need to buy the switronix charger but the battery provides 60wH which would be about 8500maH at 7V compared to 1900 for each EN-EL15.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    Has anyone used a crank operated generator to charge batteries?
    Msmoto, mod
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    You mean crank as in crankshaft? Then yes I have charged my camera batteries off of my car's 110v outlet. works great.

    If you mean like the eaton hand crank battery charger, then you would wear your wrist out before you put a meaningful charge into the battery. You have to crank continuously to generate the miniumum 0.5A charging current needed to say, charge a cell phone. I estimate you would have to crank for several hours to charge a Nikon camera battery.
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    Stevef, not trying to say what you have is a bad solution, in fact I rather like it and it isn't one I've heard of before , so great. It would also be great for long time-lapse stuff as the external battery has roughly 4x the amount of juice that the internal one has. However, for backpacking/wilderness stuff here goes the math:

    Switronix L60 battery: 417 grams, $167
    Switronix el15 cable: ~100 grams $136

    For a total of 517 grams $303

    EN-EL15 battery: 56.7 grams $47

    Seven EN-EL15 batteries costs $329 and weighs 396 grams. You also get 13,300 mAh from the seven EL15's, vs 8500 mAh from the switronix. (The EL15 regulator actually runs at 9.2V vs 7, so you may only get 6500 mAh...)

    I said I was going to do the math ;-)
  • ChasCSChasCS Posts: 309Member
    I can't recomend this from my own personal experience, atleast not yet, but I hope to find out for myself very soon...


    If you can start a fire, you can charge your batteries... With a Flamestower!

    D800, AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, B+W Clear MRC 77mm, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR, Sigma DG UV 77mm,
    SB-910~WG-AS3, SB-50, ME-1, Lexar Professional 600x 64GB SDXC UHS-I 90MB/s* x2, 400x 32GB SDHC UHS-I 60MB/s* x1
    Vanguard ALTA PRO 263AT, GH-300T, SBH-250, SBH-100, PH-22 Panhead
    Lowepro S&F Deluxe Technical Belt and Harness ~ Pouch 60 AW 50 AW & 10, S&F Toploader 70 AW, Lens Case 11 x 26cm
    FE, NIKKOR 2-20mm f/1.8, OPTEX UV 52mm, Vivitar Zoom 285, Kodacolor VR 1000 CF 135-24 EXP DX 35mm, rePlay XD1080

  • yqrninjayqrninja Posts: 2Member
    Wow. Thanks for the ideas. The grip idea is a possibility I did not consider before. . . . Does anyone know if the AAs with have enough power to operate the camera once the nikon battery pack runs down to absolutely zero?

    Charging AAs off the grid is easy to do with my Goal Zero - Nomad solar panel charger (I use that for charging GPS, iPhone, & GoPro).

    In the end however buying 5 or 6 Batteries might get me through the trip. Still need to do the math :>).
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,433Member
    Yes AA batteries work just fine for running the camera. In the D300/D700 I would easily get 1000 frames on AA batteries. Not sure how they would hold up for video.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • Parke1953Parke1953 Posts: 456Member
    yqrninja as Golf007sd said AA Eneloop made by Sanyo. You can get them at B&H for cheap. 4 pack 2000mAh with charger $18.35. Cant beat it. Best batteries on the planet. :-B
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 392Member
    Just a couple of thoughts on the AA rechargeable front. You need to label and manage AA rechargeable batteries to keep track of when you put them in service and to know if they have been charged..

    In a previous career I worked with a company that used piles of AA batteries. In order to save "money" they purchased a raft of rechargeable AA and chargers (50+ of them). They didn't label the "in service" date or have any method to determine if they had been charged. Mass confusion prevailed as they mixed discharged and charged batteries along with new and old batteries and they complained that the equipment they were using them in (which I supported) was the problem. I showed up on site with 50 Duracell AA and the problem disappeared. Shortly thereafter so did the rechargeable batteries.

    If you are going to use rechargeable AA batteries you need to know when you put them in service so to keep like dated batteries together (as their capacity will be less as they age than newer ones you add to your fleet and you don't want to mix capacities). You also need to know that you charged them fully before using them. Additionally you don't want to leave discharged batteries in a discharged state for a long duration as it impacts the life by reducing capacity of the battery. Most all modern battery chemistry doesn't have a "memory" problem and deep cycling rechargeable batteries (which was how you fixed memory problems in older battery chemistry) results in reduced capacity and shorter life. There isn't any penalty for charging partially discharged batteries that use modern chemistry.

    Frankly I would just buy a bunch of the Nikon batteries and put the inservice date on them with a Sharpie (which is what I do) and forgo the whole AA rechargeable thing. Its a significant effort to manage a fleet of 50 or so AA and keep it all sorted out and running in the right direction and Duracell is a good cost effective solution that won't let you down. YMMV

    Denver Shooter
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    No doubt eneloops are great batteries, and are cost effective. I have a bunch I use in my speedlights. However for backpacking/wilderness, you need to worry about weight. You need 6 AA eneloops for a total of 162 grams, compared to 56.7 grams for the EN-EL15, for roughly the same amount of power, three times the weight. If you bring 7 EL15s you total 396 grams (14 oz, less than a pound). You need 42 AA eneloops, for a total 1134 grams (40 oz, or 2.5 pounds)

    If I were going into the wilderness I'd take the Nikon Li-Ion over the AA Ni-MH. +1 to what DenverShooter says as well. Plus the MB-D15 grip adds another 264 grams.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    @Ironheart: Loved the math job bro. I totally agree with you on just going with a many EN-EL15 as needed.

    As for the weight of the battery grip vs. the benefits it offers the end user, I think the added 396 grams is worth it. :P

    I wounded if you are willing to calculate one's heart rate for the additional weight 8-}
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited March 2014
    @yqrninja, a nomad 7 takes 3-6 hours to charge 4 AA batteries. You need 6 AA to run the camera. If you get a rainy day, no photos :-(

    @golf, every extra pound causes you to burn an additional 3.98 calories per hour while backpacking, so I would estimate an extra 37 heartbeats per hour ;-). The formula for men is calories/minute = (-55.0969 + 0.6309 x Heart Rate + 0.1988 x weight + 0.2017 x age) / 4.184 for women calories/minute = (-20.4022 + 0.4472 x HR - 0.1263 x weight + 0.074 x age) / 4.184.
    Post edited by Ironheart on
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,181Member
    http://www.voltaicsystems.com/fuse4w.shtml the guys at voltaic have been busy.. this new pack seems interesting... The previous time i looked and wanted to purchase they were all sold out and back ordered due to some war somewhere .. or maybe it was the tsunami .. i think it was the tsunami they gave priority to all the support services ..
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • stevefstevef Posts: 10Member
    Ironheart, I agree with your math completely. One of my objectives is also to be able to do extended time lapse and star trail sequences so having a single larger battery helps for that.
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 5,524Member
    Ironheart, thanks for all the great math. It's been fun reading this forum with all the solutions for providing batteries while away from civilization. Your detailed math has been refreshing. You convinced me that more EN-EL-15'swas the way to go.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    Has anyone used a crank operated generator to charge batteries?
    I'm assuming you are referring to hand crank winders. I did the math once, it would take you cranking non-stop for a few days just to charge the battery. They just don't pump out enough amps.

    I have looked into this continuously, watched videos of field reporters from around the world and the math does work out to just buy more batteries for anything less than 2-3 weeks out in the wilderness. For photos, 3-4 batteries should easily cover you for that time. If you shoot video - I have no clue for that.

    That said, the better solar charger options that many spoke to come from Brunton & GoalZero. Every time I have priced it out it falls, but still is north of $300-$600 for a "good" system. Oh and add about 20lbs of gear weight as well. Consider that is the equiv of 6-12 OEM batteries.

    Realize this though, to charge 1 camera battery direct from solar it will take 6-8 hours with any roll-able, fold-able, small portable solar panel. And those are the high power very expensive ones and you are not moving anywhere. Clipping panels to your back pack doesn't work - they need direct sunlight to charge fast - and fast is 6 hours. I have read & watched many journalists who were in Afghanistan using solar panels to charge Laptops, DSLR cameras and video cameras and it is not pretty. They never get a full charge in and are usually running on empty. Video guys rarely have more than 10-20min of video they can shoot at any one time once all the batteries are drained. If you have a "base camp" where solar chargers can sit out all day, they probably work very well. If not, the extra battery route is probably the best bet.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited March 2014
    @stevef and everyone else, I agree it is a trade-off. For backpacking and for normal shooting I think we all agree that a bunch of Nikon Li-Ion batteries are hard to beat from a cost/weight perspective. If you are shooting video or doing extended time-lapse you might have to trade-off cost/weight against continuous power. In addition to some of the other solutions, I've shown this before:

    For a mere $425 you can use a quantum flash battery pack and power your camera directly via the Nikon dummy battery and the right conversion cable. If you upgrade to the quantum Turbo 3 battery pack they claim "5 hours of DSLR video", you probably get about 3 hours on the Turbo SC. Expensive and heavy solution, but will give you the extended run time.
    Post edited by Ironheart on
Sign In or Register to comment.