How to keep electronics charged when you're on the road

How to keep electronics charged when you're on the road
What can you do when your electronic devices are about to go into snooze mode because your battery is running low? Here are some ways to find the juice of life. (Catharine Hamm/ Los Angeles Times)

When United Airlines’ Terminals 7 and 8 are remodeled, they’ll have more charging stations. Our fixation on gadgets has made us power hungry, and sometimes, an airport charging station is like manna from heaven.

What if all the plugs are taken? Here are some solutions for a juice boost when things look dark.

External battery packs

There are dozens out there. This is what I carry.

Jockery Mini Portable External Battery charger

Weight: 3 ounces

Specs: Rated at 3200 mAh, which stands for milliampere hours. You want that number to be as large or larger than the mAh of the battery you’re going to charge. For example, the battery on an iPhone 6 is 1810 mAh, according to Mac Rumors.

Cost: About $15

You don’t know what the mAh of your battery is? In his article on choosing the right mobile charger, Rick Broida suggests Googling the product name and “battery mAh.” That tells me this Jockery would not work on my iPad mini, but it has given a needed boost to my Blackberry Q10 phone. Read on, though.

Anker 2nd Gen Astro E3 Ultra Compact 10000mAh Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank

Weight: 7.8 ounces without case, 8 ounces with

Specs: 10000 mAh

Cost: About $25

This should take care of the iPad mini. It might even restore the depleted Mac in the photo above if the mAh is 5100, as reported on I FixIt.

I’ve seen it restore an iPhone to almost 100%. (Could have done that easily but time was of the essence.) It wasn’t fast, but it delivered.

Cords and plugs

Again, lots out there. I'm especially fond of these.

Monster Outlets to Go Powerstrip

Thanks to business traveler Phil Baker, a contributor to the JoeSentMe business travel newsletter, I now carry one of these.

If you’re at one of the aforementioned charging stations and you need to juice up more than one thing or you’re in a hotel room with limited outlets, this is handy. (And if you’re at a conference in a room that doesn’t have enough outlets, you’re sure to impress your fellow conferees with your generosity.)

Specs: Three outlets and a cord that measures about a foot. There’s also a model that comes with a USB port and outlets.

Weight: 4.4 ounces

Cost: About $20


I’ve carried this Scosche 4 Port USB Home Charger for so long it has been discontinued (although in the world of electronics, that could mean six months). But there are plenty of items like it out there. This one weighs in at 2.4 ounces, takes four USB plugs. Can also make you a hero at those charging stations (or allow you to charge even more devices, including your external battery pack).

Other batteries

If you’re shooting, you don’t want to run out of battery power. I use a Nikon D3100 DSLR; I carry two batteries (one in the camera and one spare that I charge) and alternate them. Cost of an extra Nikon battery: about $100; off-brands will cost less.

I also shoot with a very small Nikon Coolpix S3300. I carry a spare battery because this one will die if you overcharge, which I’ve done several times. Carrying an extra battery saved me on my last trip, when I once again overcharged and killed the battery. The Nikon version of this battery costs about $20; off-brands are less.

I also pack dry cell batteries for my flash.

Remember, though, that the weight of what you carry will add up. (I seem to forget this.) Err on the side of caution or err on the side of not wrecking your back when you pick up your bag? Your call.

What do you carry to keep your gadgets going? Email or Tweet @CatHamm.

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