Smartphones and how to get your battery to last...

Aug 13, 2019
Smartphones and how to get your battery to last...
I'm sure I'm not the only one to bring your cell phone into the backcountry. Depending on which device you have it can be both a very good GPS, to know exactly where you're at, and a very good camera, to get those amazing pictures of your experience.
I've been invited on a 7 or 8 day trip. It's going to be a challenge bringing everything I want and keeping pack weight down.
I don't want my phone battery to die at any time out there. I want to use it quite a bit. External battery packs are frickin bricks of assorted sizes! I have a solar panel that I have yet to use, don't know how reliable it is.
You guys got any tips for keeping a phone charged at all times on a long trip while wanting to use it quite a bit?
I have the Galaxy S23 Ultra, it's a good device...the battery seems to dissipate pretty fast, even in airplane mode.
Can anything else be turned off in the background to lose battery life slower? I just want my GPS and my camera....but I WANT my GPS and camera!
10000mAH brick should be more than sufficient if you are taking photos and occasionally checking gps. Your phone can use GPS in Airplane Mode. YMMV.

Best is to check the mAH of the phone, write down how much % you lose in a day of hiking, this figuring out how many full charges you need to carry for a 8 day trip, then extrapolate that to battery size. Will take some experimentation on your part.

Sent from my Pixel 6a using Tapatalk
Yeah, the 10000mAH brick is only 6.5 oz and can fully recharge a new iPhone 14 plus twice and still have leftover to charge a headlamp. If you're only using the phone for airplane mode GPS navigation and photos, that'll be more than enough power.

The only tips I can think of are to keep the screen brightness as low as is reasonable and keep the phone in your sleeping bag with you overnight so it doesn't get too cold.
Both androids and iPhones have various power saving modes, learn to use those. The most extreme android one shuts down background apps, however, so recording your route won’t work
(but also you'll almost certainly want a small battery pack)
When I'm hiking, I use my iPhone to record GPS tracks and to take pictures. I always activate low-power mode and airplane mode, and if I'm really worried about battery life, I dim the screen to its minimum level. I've also found that I can significantly extend the phone's battery life by keeping apps open for as little time as possible. For example, after I take a few pictures, I immediately force-close the camera app.

I've also disabled my iPhone's "raise to wake" feature, as I think it was causing the phone's screen to activate inadvertently while I was in motion.
+1 on the 10000mAH plus the other advice given.

I tried a solar panel - but it was too temperamental and too big of a hassle for me.
Mine lasts for probably 6 days on airplane mode while being used to take pictures. I usually don't bring a charging block unless I've got my inreach as well and am going to be out 3 or more nights.
Bag the solar panel... Joey had one to charge camera batteries and gave up on it... Pain
this is all a pain but when you consider that a phone replaces a spare headlamp, a watch, some maps, a dedicated GPS unit, a camera, a book, and probably a couple other things -- it's a great tradeoff.

so I think summary is: power saving mode + airplane mode + careful usage + small external battery. that's what I do and it's a lovely improvement over the old days
I had the same experience Bob. I wanted it to work as I do a lot of southern Utah trips with a lot of direct sun, but it just became a hassle and unreliable.

I agree @regehr. Have to admit I love having my phone while backpacking because of all the things you mentioned..... plus being able to download a show to watch before I fall asleep- especially in winter time with the long nights!
I keep my phone in airplane & lower power mode. I try to keep GPS usage to a minimum, but i use my camera for photo & video a lot.

I can get through about 3 days with no power source, use an anker 10k power bank for 5-6 day trips, sometimes i'll bring two of those if i'm out 7+ days. I sometimes use that for my headlamp or the little pump for my air mattress as well. I tried a solar panel on a few trips, it wound up being more of a hassle than it was worth.
We have a solar panel and it has worked fine, so maybe it depends on the type.
We have a solar panel and it has worked fine, so maybe it depends on the type.
I'm sure it does -- can you link to the model?

the thing that made this sort of difficult to think about for me is that a lot of the tiny hiking solar panels have an integrated battery, which confuses the issue. how much charge is coming from the panel and how much because the battery started off charged? only a really long trip would answer this.
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My p6 lasts 5 days in airplane mode, no Bluetooth, used as a primary camera these days. Run Avenza for navigation but mostly to occasionally check positions on off trail sections. Mini 2 lasts a week but I don't track anything. No need for backup power.
Both androids and iPhones have various power saving modes, learn to use those. The most extreme android one shuts down background apps, however, so recording your route won’t work
This. I use the extreme battery saver mode on my Android (Pixel 6a) with only Backcountry Navigator and Audible opted out. The camera is opted out by default. On my recent 4-day trip I returned to the trailhead with ~40% battery left. If I were hiking alone, however, I would have used more battery from listening to audiobooks. I don't using route tracking, but I do mark occasional waypoints for points of interest if there's a chance I will return.

Adding that if the nights are cold, I throw my electronics in the foot of my sleeping bag at night to prevent temp-related battery drain.
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Most have covered the main points. I also have an s23 ultra. It's battery has seemed phenomenal to me coming from a 6 year old phone. I'm airplane mode the whole time and I use the GPS sparingly (I don't track...I think that eats battery pretty fast). Pictures, reading at night, some navigation, that's usually how I use mine. I had a quick two night trip recently and battery was still around 70% by the end of the trip. Good luck.
So much for my earlier comments about the solar panel working fine. On our recent trip, it was frustrating to me that on a bright, sunny day while hiking for hours on the wide open Lizard Head Plateau I had the panel attached to the back of my pack but because we were hiking south the panel wasn't getting a lot of direct sunlight and the charging wasn't great. By the time we got into camp, it was later afternoon and the sun was low enough that the charging wasn't great then either. My power bank was pretty low (I took too many videos...) so for the rest of the trip I was very careful about turning off my phone when not in use, not listening to podcasts at night, etc. Clearly those are first world problems, really not a big deal, but I was remembering this thread and thinking about how differently I felt about the solar panel this time than in the past.