Batteries for Camping – Types, Charging and Storing.

Batteries are an important tool for off-grid living. Most of us are highly dependent on electricity for every day living. In a grid-down situation, the most common ways to still have electricity are carbon-fuel generators, solar generators and/or batteries. Generators are great as long as there is fuel – gasoline, propane, diesel, wood, etc. But when the fuels are gone the generators will sit idle.

Solar energy is wonderful as long as the sun shines. The best method for obtaining and using electricity for long-term, off-grid living is solar generation with battery storage. There is much written about large-capacity solar generator batteries and I am not going to go there.

I am going to talk about small, rechargeable batteries that are used in personal appliances like flashlights, head lamps, radios, lanterns etc. Typical sizes are AAA. AA, 9 Volt, C and D. The fewer sizes we have to deal with the better off we are. If one could use only AA & AAA with adapters for C & D, life is simpler and better.

Here is my personal experience and recommendations –

Battery Type

I have found that the best rechargeable AA, AAA batteries are Eneloop. I have used them for 4-5 years and never had one go bad. They can be recharged up to 2100 times and they maintain up to 70% of their charge after 10 years (when not it use).

Pricing on Amazon for AA is $2.60-$5.00 each depending on quantity. AAA pricing is $1.69 $2.08 each depending on quantity. There are many different packages at Amazon – LINK.

A good friend of mine, Grant Johnson, has done some extensive research on batteries and shared his findings with me:

I've bought and tested many different brands of rechargeable batteries and also scoured the internet for others who have done the same thing. One of the best long term tests of rechargeable AA cells I've relied upon is this one:
http://www.ultrasmartcharger.com/php...c.php?f=5&t=91

which shows that the japanese version of the eneloop cells can last for a good long time, even thousands of charge cycles... IF charged correctly. 

However, there are other threads on the link above that shows that the "XX" or "Pro" (Black 2550mah) model of eneloop have a much shorter cycle life compared to the standard (White 1900mAh) model of their cells. It's important to note that the higher the capacity of any brand of NiMH rechargeable batteries, the shorter it's cycle life will be. In other words if you want a battery to have a chance of lasting a 1000 cycles or more its capacity needs to be about 2000 mAh or less. Any cells that have a capacity of 2400 mAh or above will likely only last about 150-250 cycles... even the eneloop brand has this limitation. There are good uses and needs for higher capacity rechargeable cells just know that they will need replacing more frequently than the lower capacity cells. 

I have bought NiMh rechargeable cells from many different manufacturers over the last 10-15+ years and the brand I've had the best success with is eneloop. I've only had a couple eneloop cells fail over that time frame while just about every other brand I've bought (Energizer, Duracell, Tenergy, Powerizer, Harbor Freight, Titanium, BTY) and others have long since been scrapped or are underperforming compared to what they were brand new. 

There are actually other brands now that are rebranded "eneloop" cells, what that means is if the cells were made in Japan at the FDK Takasaki factory there you are likely to get a very good battery. The white and black Fujitsu rechargeable batteries are the factory brand that are identical to eneloop cells. Be aware though that after 2014 the eneloop brand was bought by Panasonic and even though the same FDK plant in Japan is making eneloop cells, not all eneloop cells being sold under the Panasonic name are made in the FDK factory in Japan. If you find an eneloop cell made in China it will not have the same long life and performance of the made in Japan version.

The AmazonBasics AA Rechargeable batteries are made in the FDK plant in Japan and have the performance of the 2nd generation of eneloop cells. That's not bad for a little less money.

Battery Charging

Not all chargers are equal. You can damage batteries using a poor quality charger.  I have used the La Crosse Technology BC1000 battery charger for several years and have no problems. It has the ability to charge, discharge, refresh, and test AA & AAA niCd and NiMH batteries. It automatically switches to trickle charge when charging is complete to ensure maximum battery capacity.

La Crosse Technology BC1000 Chager

It comes with -

* Adjustable nylon carrying tote bag 

Spacious inside double pockets

Webbed side sleeve for additional storage

Includes 4 AA & 4 AAA NiMH rechargeable (shrink-wrapped) batteries

AC power adapter

Front zippered kangaroo pouch includes individual pockets to carry included 4 C size 1.2v battery adapters which are included inside 4 D size adapters.

For 9 volt batteries, I researched and recommend this 9V smart charger. It includes 4 rechargeable 9V batteries.

Tenergy TN141 2 Bay 9V Smart Charger with 4 pcs 9V 250mah NiMH Rechargeable Batteries

It should be understood that these battery chargers run on AC. They must be plugged in to standard AC outlet. In an off-grid situation this would be via an inverter.

Battery Storage

A few basic principles that will help your batteries last longer:

Temperature – room temperature or lower. No need to put in the fridge or freezer

Plastic storage – original packaging is good

Keep dry. If high humidity, keep in an vapor proof container

Don’t let + / - ends touch

Store by age – keep older and newer batteries separated

Recharge periodically

I have found a battery organizer that has really helped me not only keep my batteries organized, but keeps them from touching each other. It is called Storacell. You can see from this picture how nice stored my AA & AAA batteries are. I just ordered some more Storacells for my 9 Volt and CR123 batteries. They shouldn't be floating around in my battery box. I like the idea of having different colors for the various sizes of batteries.  In this picture my AA battery holders are green and the AAA holders are clear. They come in red, green, yellow, black, clear, and moonshine glow in the dark.

Battery collection

When I swap out batteries, I put the discharged batteries with the pointy end up. That way I can easily identify which batteries need charging.

Batteries in Storacell

I highly recommend Storacell. The best price I have found is on their own website. The shipping on my latest order was $5.95. If you order 3 different types of products they give a 10% discount.

Here are my new holders for 123, C, and 9V.

Holders for C,9V, 123

 

I store all of the batteries and charger in this ammo box. It keeps everything in one location, keeps out humidity, and is easy to pick up and move.

Battery Box

Summary

Keep it simple: standardize on as few sizes as possible, i.e. AA & AAA.

Charge effectively: use a quality charger that will properly maintain your batteries.

Store properly: keep batteries organized by size and don’t let ends touch.

PS

I recently had to replace some batteries for my power tools. Batteries do wear out. Make sure you have sufficient, functional batteries for you power tools otherwise you will find yourself cutting and drilling the old-fashioned way.

Parting Suggestion - 10% off Rocket Stoven Combo, Deluxe Camp Sinks, Deluxe Tent Shower and Deluxe Off-Grid Laundry through end of October. Use discount code "fall sale".

One of the best ways to cook off-grid, outside is the Rocket Stoven Combo. Using just sticks and twigs for fuel, you can bake, boil and fry with this versatile stove that can be used in any weather. Watch how it works - Rocket Stoven Video.



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