The Universal Adapter Carport charger shown sealed and open but empty. This battery-pack is a portable 12-volt power source weighing about 10 ounces when loaded.
In an age where portable electronic devices are starting to play a more significant role in backcountry travel whether strictly for pleasure, aids to navigation, journaling, or communications they all have one serious drawback: they require power. More and more of these devices rely solely on proprietary rechargeable battery technology so you do not have the option of merely swapping batteries in and out. Therefore, having a reliable way to recharge your devices has become more important and it is likely that this ztrend will continue.
Their are two basic approaches to this issue: solar chargers and battery-pack chargers. Solar charger have the singular advantage of access to a nearly inexhaustible energy supply from the Sun. But that energy source is fickle and solar cells are notorious for only working in optimal or near optimal conditions. Battery-pack chargers provide a steady reliable source of power, but once the batteries in the pack are depleted you will not be able to recharge anything and you will be carrying useless dead weight. Which road you travel will be influenced by what you need to recharge and how often you expect to have to do it.
Universal Adapter is entering this market with a nifty battery-pack based charger. At first glance it seems like a rather hefty object to take along on a trip as it is designed to hold 8 AA size batteries. The pack becomes a 12 volt power supply from which you can plug a car charger to recharge your electronic gizmos. With the use of high capacity batteries, they recommend using 2300 milliamp hour or higher, the Carport charger can recharge most cell phones 3 to 5 times, PDAs and iPods 2 to 3 times, and perhaps most important to the backcountry travelers GPS units 2 to 3 times.
The unit is made of PC/ABS plastics and appears to be durable. It weighs 2.8 ounces without batteries. Batteries vary in weight with alkaline batteries weighing the most, followed by NiMH,, and lithium batteries being the lightest. A quick and dirty calculation suggest that the Carport charger would weigh approximately 9.4 ounces when filled with 8 NiMH batteries.
Is the Carport a viable alternative? For many trips it could well be. I have taken solar chargers on trips that while lighter also did not provide a reliable source of power to recharge the devices I had with me. Bringing extra batteries was not practical since even the after-market non-branded version would have cost in excess of $60. While I do not know if the Carport would have worked, none of us has had a chance to test one yet, if it does it would certainly have been worth it on medium length trip from 5 to 15 days in length.
Features and Specifications
- A portable 12-volt power supply that can be used to recharge portable electronics such as iPods, GPS receivers, PDAs, and cell phones.
- Weighs 2.8 ounces without batteries.
- Uses 8 AA batteries.
- Mates with a car charger to recharge your portable devices.
- Can fully charge most cell phones 3 to 5 times; PDAs, iPods, and GPS receivers 2 to 3 times.
- WOrks with non-rechargeable and rechargeable batteries; 2300 MAh capacity or high are recommended.