What do I do for Power on Extended Trips in the Field?

Ron Niebrugge Alaska, Ask Ron, Chugach, Miscellaneous, Travel 11 Comments

Camping in the Chuach National Forest, Alaska.

How do I handle the power needs for my digital camera and file storage on long trips away from electricity?  This was an ask Ron question brought up by two fellow blog’en photographer friends of mine Richard Wong and Gary Crabbe.  Both guys operate great blogs – blogs I read everyday, so if you have extra time, do check them out.  

It was a big concern back when I first went digital.  A 1 GB compact flash card cost $300 a piece, and the batteries for my Canon 1Ds were big and heavy, and didn’t seem to last very long.  With that setup, I was never away from electricity for more then 3 days, that was about the most I could manage.  I had 3 camera batteries and four 1 GB cards.  I was very selective when I photographed, taking more of a large format photographer approach.  In the evenings, I would edit and delete images in my tent.  I actually didn’t take a trip to Katmai because I didn’t know how to handle the power and storage needs, and with the type of wildlife photography you find in Katmai, you need a lot more of both.

Today it has almost become a non-issue.  I have two batteries for my 1Ds  III, they are small, light and last forever.  Likewise, compact flash is so much cheaper, that I can use it for storage.  I could easily go a week with my current gear.

I should add, even though I often take multi week trips in Alaska, it is rare for me to be away from electricity for more then 4 or 5 days at a time.  The rest of the time, I at least have access to my car or camper.  As long as I have access to a vehicle with a power point, I can charge anything.  I plug a 12V DC to AC Portable Inverter with DC Auto Power Outlet into the power point, and this gives me an outlet in which I can plug my camera battery charger, image storage device, or even my laptop into for charging.  Seem like I’m usually driving around with something plugged in and charging.

The above photo was from a “setup” camping trip.  Normally, I would never put my tent that close to a glacier feed river on a sunny summer day, but it sure made for a pretty setting.  🙂

Comments 11

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  2. Mmmm… flowers, green mountain sides, water of an unfrozen state, people in shorts, blue skies, warm light. Is this REALLY in Alaska? 🙂
    Great entry Ron & great shot. Power really has become less of an issue thanks to the new battery offerings and large capacity cards.
    What do you use for longer stays “in the wild” for image storage? I have an older Epson P2000, but I’m looking at upgrading.

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    Thanks Richard!

    Thanks Dave. Hard to believe we will be looking like that around here real soon.

    I use a PDX70. It is small and been very reliable so far – we even dropped it onto some pavement, and it still works great. It uses rechargeable AA batteries – you can use regular AA batteries if you need more battery life. It doesn’t display images like the Epson. I have had it for a few years which is a lifetime for digital products, so there are probably newer, or better versions. Mine is a 60 GB version – I’m sure they make bigger ones now.


  4. Hey Ron,

    That scene doesn’t look to me like it’s that far away from a power source. 🙂

    Great photo though.

    I’m with you, the power source issue isn’t as big a concern as it used to be. I have an old PDX70 as well, and almost never use it .. largely because if I’m on a ‘power free’ trip, in the wild, I’m probably not shooting a bazillion photos a day, like I might in Jasper or Yellowstone or Homer etc .. so even on a 2 week rafting trip thru the Wildlife Refuge in the arctic, I still get by with flash cards and 4 camera batteries. The PDx70 is something I’d really only use for backup nowadays.



  5. Post

    Hey thanks Carl, I was hoping you would chime in since you have lots of experience with taking camera gear on extended trip.


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    Hey thanks Carl,

    For a couple weeks in the middle of summer, this little area gets the best light anywhere around here – nice and low as it comes down the valley. The Velvia film also helps!


  7. Beautiful photo Ron. While in the Arctic Refuge solar power was a great option to trickle charge batteries. Of course that was back when battery performance on the Mark II bodies were shorter. In extreme cases 3-4 batteries would go a long way for Mark III bodies. Still you can’t beat solar as an option. Hmm I can’t seem to find the name of the flexible solar panel rolls used on my trip. I’ll get back to you on that.

  8. Good point Jim. I’ve been looking at trying out the Brunton solar panels for charging gear. They make SolarRolls and I’m interested in trying out the Solo series of battery storage packs.

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