With people about to embark on the Pyrenees HRP trek for another summer, this article addresses the most common question I am asked about the expedition: how can I charge my camera and mobile phone? Here are my top tips for keeping your electricals on full charge:
It is a nice idea, to be free of all connections with the outside world whilst in the mountains. Isn’t that what we used to do?
The great danger with carrying and relying on devices is that they remove us from the present moment of being in the wilderness. We immediatley have a need to use them and to think about how to keep them charged and operational. “My phone is out of battery” is one of the universal panic cries of modern life.
However, for most people, a phone and a camera are minimal essentials.Here are some considerations for keeping yourself fully charged on the Pyrenees HRP.
Understand your Route
The first tip is to be very clear on your route plan in advance and to know what facilities are available at each stop.
The HRP is a high and wild route, especially in Andorra and northern Catalunya. Unlike the GR10 and GR11 trails, you will be geared up for bivouac, not for gîtes and refuges.
Charging at Campsites and Refuges
Note that many refuges rely on solar energy and have no facilities for charging. Campsites are the best option.
Commercial campsites and gîtes provide the most obvious source of mains electricity to charge mobile phones and camera batteries. Most campsites have hookups and electric points in the washrooms. If not, then reception will usually oblige, but be prepared to tip them a Euro for the privilege.
Since everybody wants to do the same, put a coloured spot or other identifying mark on each of your batteries so you can identify yours.
Using Solar Energy
Even in the Parc National, you might go seven or eight days without an opportunity to charge batteries. Therefore an alternative such as a solar is recommended.
I carried a Freeloader Pro solar charger from solartechnology.co.uk. The Freeloader is a solar-chargeable battery which you charge during the day by attaching it to the top of your pack and unload into your device overnight.
Note that Freeloader was not sufficient, in my experience, to charge camera batteries. It worked brilliantly for the phone, provided both were kept topped up. If either Freeloader or the phone became depleted, it was impossible, even in Pyrenean sunlight, to regather enough charge.
Freeloader can be charged from the mains or by USB. There are also optional larger solar panels available, which would accelerate the charging process.
Using your Phone
Provided you keep your phone topped up, recharging with Freeloader will work well.
- Therefore, do not keep your phone turned on. Turn it on only when you need to use it. Signal is often weak, so the device will use battery power constantly searching.
- Turn off the GPS and roaming unless you need them. Both use battery power continuously.
- Take care that the device doesn’t switch itself on in your pack. My HTC Wildfire had a poorly designed on-off switch.
Using your Camera
I found that my Sony NEX camera, shooting conservatively, got through a battery every three days. By that reckoning, a nine to ten day stretch between campsites was the maximum I could get out of three batteries.
Again, turn the camera off after use and minimise review time on the LCD screen, and use the viewfinder, if you have one, rather than live view.
Most standard battery chargers for cameras weigh only a few grams, but do make sure to have the correct lead with a European two-pin plug.