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  1. #1
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Who needs rechargeable devices?

    On a long tour, a rechargeable device like a smart phone is obviously incredibly useful. It can be a bit of an issue recharging it but there are solutions to that problem.

    Maybe it makes sense to have "dumber" devices that operate on batteries, though. A cell phone that operates on a single A battery like this "spareone plus emergency" can do the job: SpareOne Plus Emergency Phone

    For GPS, a garmin etrex 20 works on double A batteries, https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/on-t...prod87771.html

    Is a smart phone the way to go for long distance touring (and you just need to deal with the recharging issue) or are 2 devices that use readily available double A batteries the way to go? I'm leaning towards the latter. A smartphone is sweet but I'm not sure I want to pay for a smart phone plus data plan.
    Last edited by bikemig; 12-16-14 at 02:42 PM.

  2. #2
    Bike touring webrarian
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    I use a camera that runs on 2 AA batteries and I always carry spare batteries.

    As for a GPS, I recently got the Pocket Earth app on my iPhone. I downloaded the country maps and, without a data plan but with the phone connected to the local cellular network (I had foreign calling set up on my phone but didn't use it--emergency use only), the GPS in Pocket Earth showed me exactly where I was. No data plan required.

    I tour in developed areas and always manage to pass an electrical outlet at some point in the day. If necessary, I spend extra time sitting around to charge a depleted phone.
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  3. #3
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    I try to get devices that use AA cells as much as possible. That lets me use rechargeable NiMH AA cells whenever I can recharge them but also allows for the option to buy regular cells if necessary. And I carry a 4-cell AA holder that recharges the cells from either a solar cell panel or from USB and can in turn recharge/power USB devices, incl. my phone. This gives the flexibility to move AA cells between devices as needed - i.e. if my phone battery dies just when I want to make a call to a motel I can take the cells out of my camera and put them into the AA holder with USB output to power the phone.

    In developed areas it's usually pretty easy to find an outlet to recharge my AA cells. Many campgrounds have outlets available and otherwise I'll ask at a restaurant where I stop to eat if I can plug my charger in somewhere. The solar panel recharge option is more for backpacking trips.
    Last edited by prathmann; 12-16-14 at 02:38 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member jrickards's Avatar
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    You forgot camera and computer. Many digital cameras run on AA batteries so purchasing replacements should be relatively easy to do. Computers, like most smartphones, don't run on AA or AAA batteries (some old netbooks or the like might but not current ones).

    What do you define as long distance? A cross-country (such as USA or Canada) trip might not be much of an issue because a wall socket for a charger should be relatively easy to find (unless you're doing the Continental Divide). A world trip could be an issue because of different plugs.
    Yeah, I've been thinking about it and I've come to the conclusion that being an adult isn't going to work for me.

  5. #5
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
    You forgot camera and computer. Many digital cameras run on AA batteries so purchasing replacements should be relatively easy to do. Computers, like most smartphones, don't run on AA or AAA batteries (some old netbooks or the like might but not current ones).

    What do you define as long distance? A cross-country (such as USA or Canada) trip might not be much of an issue because a wall socket for a charger should be relatively easy to find (unless you're doing the Continental Divide). A world trip could be an issue because of different plugs.
    Yeah actually a camera with batteries is potentially on my list. I agree that a computer is a real issue though. So is weight. I could ditch the computer or hand held and be happy but not the camera!

  6. #6
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    i have a shimano dyno - was on my fargo now on my krampus. i have the usbwerk for charging a lime fuel battery or my exposure diablo light, as well as topping off the iPhone or running the garmin.

    my exposure revo light is on its way back from the UK for warranty repair, when it gets back i'll be building a switch setup that diverts current from the light to the usbwerk (or all off) using this 3d printed housing that fits on my steerer tube.

    for me, GPS rides on the stem, light on the jones loop. i may or may not run aero bars... have mounted them but just don't need them for 90% of my local riding (they will go on for a TD attempt at some point in the future...) - but i plan on making a bridge that connects the 2 aero arms and putting the gps or light up there.

    Dyno Switch Housing v1 (minuteman sent me the wrong switch so I'm hoping they ship out new ones ASAP) by mbeganyi, on Flickr

    dynoswitchschematic by mbeganyi, on Flickr

    Untitled by mbeganyi, on Flickr

    current cockpit (without the charging switch mounted up)

    IMG_3867 by mbeganyi, on Flickr

    (spot will ride elsewhere, put it on the bars temporarily)

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Honestly, few of us need anything electrical when we're touring. Postcards, pencil and paper, fuel, and you can survive a long time.

    What do you want with a smartphone? laptop? camera? Is it worth it to pfutz around with batteries?

    If it is, how much pfutzing do you want to do? You can turn off a smartphone when you're riding, and make it last quite a few days between evening calls home. Of course, then you need to find a way to recharge -- library, motel, diner, etc. all make recharging possible.

  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
    Is a smart phone the way to go for long distance touring (and you just need to deal with the recharging issue) or are 2 devices that use readily available double A batteries the way to go? I'm leaning towards the latter. A smartphone is sweet but I'm not sure I want to pay for a smart phone plus data plan.
    I don't find my iPhone to be that onerous to deal with regard to power issues. I do have an external battery with solar charger which comes in handy for those times when I'm not near a plug. Just having a phone is fairly useless in my experience but having access to data and information about where you are riding is worth the hassles. It frees you up in terms of routing and locating services. Paper maps and guide books only go so far while a smart phone will tell you everything you need to know.

    Depending on locals can get you into trouble as well. They think in "car" not in "bike". I've learned the hard way that "Oh, it's just 20 minutes over there," means usually means more like 40 minutes by car and is 40 to 50 miles away.

    I try and make everything else work on AA batteries, however. Any camera I carry is powered by AA batteries. If you get too many devices, the number of chargers you need to carry explodes.
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  9. #9
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
    Honestly, few of us need anything electrical when we're touring. Postcards, pencil and paper, fuel, and you can survive a long time.

    What do you want with a smartphone? laptop? camera? Is it worth it to pfutz around with batteries?

    If it is, how much pfutzing do you want to do? You can turn off a smartphone when you're riding, and make it last quite a few days between evening calls home. Of course, then you need to find a way to recharge -- library, motel, diner, etc. all make recharging possible.
    Honestly, no one needs to go bike touring. Waking is so much less hassle. Slower so you can see more. No parts to break. I mean, who wants to futz around with chains and brakes and flat tires?

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Short wave/ AM/FM/ radio and a 35mm camera , had a cassette recorder , but mailed it home before I got started on Pub Sessions to record to learn the tunes .

    Now as I saw on Nat Geo TV yesterday they had to set up a reward - demerit contest to get people to ignore the Phones long enough to talk to each other at Dinner.

    its an Addiction-conditioning, Pavlov would love..

  11. #11
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Short wave/ AM/FM/ radio and a 35mm camera , had a cassette recorder , but mailed it home before I got started on Pub Sessions to record to learn the tunes .

    Now as I saw on Nat Geo TV yesterday they had to set up a reward - demerit contest to get people to ignore the Phones long enough to talk to each other at Dinner.

    its an Addiction-conditioning, Pavlov would love..
    I was waiting for bikebob to respond to my thread. I always dig the zen like replies (although this one could almost be a haiku) which take me a while to puzzle through, .

  12. #12
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    Note added on December 17. I forgot to mention below that all my AA and AAA batteries are rechargeable. But if I do not have access to a power outlet, I can as a last resort buy non-rechargeable batteries.

    Original post below:

    I usually try to carry enough batteries to last a week. Last tour:
    - camera, rechargeable Li Ion batteries, carried five but I think I could have gotten by with three.
    - android tablet (7 inch), usually it was turned off but used it where I had wifi for e-mail and weather.
    - tail lights (2), 2 AAA batteries.
    - headlight (for bike), but never used it since my tour was mostly in June. 3AAA batteries.
    - headlamp (for my head), 3 AAA batteries.
    - GPS, Garmin Vista black and white, 2 AA batteries. This was where most of my battery charging was.
    - cell phone, old flip phone, dedicated charger, does not use USB. I left it off the entire trip.

    My tablet, I occasionally plugged into an outlet if I was in a restaurant that had an empty table near an outlet when I arrived. Most of my wifi access was in restaurants. Have no data plan.

    The photo of an outlet at a empty campsite that was near the hiker biker site I was in I had:
    - one AA and AAA recharger loaded up with AA batteries.
    - USB charger, my tablet (not shown) was plugged into it.
    - Li Ion charger, it also had a USB charger port on it. This was charging my camera battery.
    - 3 into 1 adapter that allowed me to plug all of these things into one outlet.

    20IMGP1167.jpg

    I have a dynohub on a 26 inch wheel, but on that tour I used a 700c bike, thus could not use the dynohub to charge on the road.

    For my dynohub, I have soldered up a USB charger, parts were under $10. Have not used it enough to know about long term reliability, but so far it works nice. I think it absurd that people charge over $100 for USB chargers for dynohubs. But it is a tiny market, no economics of scale.
    Last edited by Tourist in MSN; 12-17-14 at 10:35 AM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
    Who needs rechargeable devices?...
    are you asking NEED or WANT? most of these electronical devices are
    unnecessary. i kinda look forward to throwing my cell phone in the sock
    drawer for a couple months, and only having intertubes access once a
    week or so.

    okay, i do take along a small digital camera, runs on 2 rechargeable AA's.
    the charge will last several weeks, enough for several hundred pictures.

  14. #14
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    A few thoughts on that...

    1. A smart phone does a great job of lumping together all of the functions of a number of devices in a light compact device.
    2. Some phones have replaceable batteries that are pretty light, small, and can be found cheaply if you don't buy from the phone manufacturer.
    3. Power wallets can be had pretty cheaply and will charge the phone several times on a charge.
    4. Smartphone battery life can very long if you use the phone in a way that maximizes it. Turn off the features you aren't using or better yet turn the phone off altogether except when using it. Definitely don't leave the cellular phone functions on in places where it will be searching for a signal, that kills batteries fast.
    5. You are on vacation, you don't need to be taking calls. Use the phone only for outgoing calls and keep them brief, keep the phone function off the rest of the time and the batteries will last FAR longer. Limit your calls to checking in with family once a day or even once every few days. Better yet check in with an email or text message most days
    6. If you don't want to spring for a phone plan, many smart phones can be used as a WiFi device, even making voice calls with Skype. This is true for both android and iPhone platforms. WiFi is getting more and more available so this option is getting more practical. Picking up a used smart phone cheap is pretty easy these days.

  15. #15
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
    are you asking NEED or WANT? most of these electronical devices are
    unnecessary.
    Bike touring is pretty much unnecessary too. Why travel at all! Far simpler to just stay put! And a sock drawer? What a luxury. If you only had 1 pair of socks and kept things really simple and minimal you wouldn't need a whole drawer just for your socks!

  16. #16
    Senior Member mtnbud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    If you don't want to spring for a phone plan, many smart phones can be used as a WiFi device, even making voice calls with Skype. This is true for both android and iPhone platforms. WiFi is getting more and more available so this option is getting more practical. Picking up a used smart phone cheap is pretty easy these days.
    I am doing just that. I bought an unlocked 5" andriod 4.2 smart phone and loaded it with appropriate apps. I have no phone service for the phone. I'm trying out the free magicjack app and am finding the calling out quality very good when WiFi is available.

    The phones battery drains fairly quickly if the screen in on for a long period of time for games or reading, but it last fine if only turned on when needed. I bought a 5000 mAh battery with a solar charger and that'll get me by in the summer months.
    “If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out”

  17. #17
    Garlic
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    To the OP--it's obvious you're going to get more than a few opinions on this. Everyone has his or her own traveling style and packs accordingly. I lean toward the fewer electronics approach--there's little I enjoy on a bike tour more than getting away from the phone. As a result, I carry no chargers and no spare batteries--nothing's that important that can't wait until I can buy them at a store. But not everyone sees it that way. There are bloggers and professional photographers and those who keep a business and/or family supported while on tour. And there are information addicts as well, I guess. You choose the trip you want/need, and gear up (or down) for it.

  18. #18
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
    I lean toward the fewer electronics approach--there's little I enjoy on a bike tour more than getting away from the phone.
    That makes sense, but I have a bit different take on it.

    I hate talking on the phone. Even at home, I typically only answer it if it is my daughter or wife. That said it can be a very handy device. My being away is much better tolerated by my wife if I stay in touch. That means one text message, email, or short call per day and it is a very small price to pay for keeping the peace. My wife is much more supportive of my sometimes lengthy absences if I take that minute or so a day to stay in touch.

    If I need to find a part, look up services or maps, make a reservation, or even call in an emergency, my smart phone is always there. It can be sitting there powered off and not intruding in my life at all 99.9% of the time if I want. If I choose to use it, it can be used as an mp3 player, audio book reader, ebook reader, camera, or a host of other things, but it can also just sit in my bags weighing only a few ounces, taking up almost no space, and not intruding in my life in any way. Getting away from it is as simple as leaving it powered off. It only intrudes in your life as much as you let it. I love to have it for those times when I want it, but leave it stowed and powered of the large majority of the time.

    Most days the phone is powered on 10 minutes or less per day. Usually the only days it is on much more is if I choose to leave it on for the camera, to use turn by turn directions, or listen to an audiobook (all with the phone part off).

    I especially like being able to have things like ebook field guides on my phone. They are heavy enough that I'd never carry paper ones, but if I want to look up a plant species, bird, other critter, tree, or geological formation, the guidebook is there taking up no space and weighing nothing on my phone.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
    Honestly, few of us need anything electrical when we're touring. Postcards, pencil and paper, fuel, and you can survive a long time.

    What do you want with a smartphone? laptop? camera? Is it worth it to pfutz around with batteries?

    If it is, how much pfutzing do you want to do? You can turn off a smartphone when you're riding, and make it last quite a few days between evening calls home. Of course, then you need to find a way to recharge -- library, motel, diner, etc. all make recharging possible.
    If you stop watching lamestream media and start reading the real news you will see the entire globe is on the threshold right now of WWIII. With all the nuclear weapons floating around just fire a few of those puppies off and all your electronics will be worthless anyways. Get use to the pencil, paper and paper maps. Get use to not always being in contact with your loved ones, heck they may be dead anyways from the nuclear radiation.

  20. #20
    nun
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    A smartphone is great because it does so many things: phone, camera, email, web surfing, music player, blogging..........

    You can power it in lots of ways: dynamo; solar cells; or just use an external battery. I can recharge my iPhone 5 times from the external battery I carry and I will also plug in when I stop for lunch or stay in a motel.

    All my other electronics....basically lights work off AAAs.

    PS when I was in Iceland I used wifi exclusively and managed to blog email etc without trouble of an international data plan.
    Last edited by nun; 12-17-14 at 09:43 AM.

  21. #21
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I still wonder why a Dynamo , squeeze to charge or turn a folding crank , Phone, has not been used.
    Its already done for emergency radio-flashlights .
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-17-14 at 10:43 AM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member jrickards's Avatar
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    My touring plans for the next few years would not be very extensive so I could carry a bit more electronics on these shorter trips (a week or less during summer months). I regularly write in a journal so I could easily continue with that but I do want my camera (point and click, nothing big). I would put my phone on flight mode while riding and check for texts when stopped for breaks and regular mode after the day's ride.
    Yeah, I've been thinking about it and I've come to the conclusion that being an adult isn't going to work for me.

  23. #23
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    I mentioned above in post 12 that I like to use a tablet (or smartphone) to get weather reports. I am surprised that nobody else has mentioned that.

    Attachment 423463

    Different topic:

    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    ...
    1. If you don't want to spring for a phone plan, many smart phones can be used as a WiFi device, even making voice calls with Skype. This is true for both android and iPhone platforms. WiFi is getting more and more available so this option is getting more practical. Picking up a used smart phone cheap is pretty easy these days.
    I do the same, although I still carry my vintage flip phone for when I do not have wifi and have to make a call.

    For wifi calling on my Android tablet I use Groove IP Lite. That app used to work with Google Voice, but Google did something to disable it, now Groove IP Lite works with Ring To which supplies your new phone number. Only problem with using a 7 inch tablet as your phone is that it is really huge to hold to the side of your head. It took me a bit of work to get the Audio/Echo settings right, but once I did that I had great sound quality. I only use my cell phone when I do not have wifi.

  24. #24
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    I carry a Macbook Air. I use the copious battery life on that (9 hours plus) to charge my lights and phone. I work from the laptop when I have an outlet, and use it as a battery when I'm more remote.

    I find that when batteries die, my brain keeps working at full power, and that's always enough.
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  25. #25
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikenh View Post
    If you stop watching lamestream media and start reading the real news you will see the entire globe is on the threshold right now of WWIII. With all the nuclear weapons floating around just fire a few of those puppies off and all your electronics will be worthless anyways. Get use to the pencil, paper and paper maps. Get use to not always being in contact with your loved ones, heck they may be dead anyways from the nuclear radiation.
    So, um, that's great, Uncle Ken. Um...you want to pass me the gravy? So...how about those Broncos?
    Last edited by cyccommute; 12-17-14 at 11:33 AM.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

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