How to power your gear where there is no power

Power your gear

Tips for the power (hungry) traveler

Remote locations means power must be brought inI love traveling into extremely remote areas on assignment. There’s something about filming in the amazon rain forest, photographing a hidden monastery in a desert wadi or shooting video on a snow-covered airstrip in the Himalayan foothills, that recharges my creativity. On the flip side none of these places have electrical power. That can mean packing in extra batteries or figuring out a way of generating power to run all of your digital devices – from laptops to light meters, from cameras to cell phones.

Solar power your gear

Power a GoPro all day (and longer) with a GoalZero Sherpa 50When I go far off the grid, I rely on solar energy to supply all of my power needs in a portable, yet powerful package. The solar panel I travel with folds up to the size of a paper back book and can charge my  GoalZero Yeti 150 solar generator in about 8 hours of sunshine. This package ran a 2 week documentary film shoot in the peruvian jungle, keeping all my gear charged – including my MacBook Pro I used to download and back up my footage.

Backup power

Since that trip I carry the smaller GoalZero’s Sherpa 50 in each one of my bags. These little battery/inverters can power a GoPro (or two) on a multi-day time-lapse, top off my laptop or charge a couple of batteries (or devices) in the field.

Power tips

Here’s a few tips when planning your next off-the-grid production:

  1. Test your setup at home. In Peru I had planned to use a MacBook Air to download my cards, but found out while testing my set up that it’s USB ports did not provide enough power to run my bus powered ioSafe hard drives. Not something you want to discover when you’re 16 hours from the nearest power grid.
  2. Make sure you have all necessary cables to connect to your power source. You’re not gonna find a USB micro charging cable in the mountains. I keep this Swiss Army USB charger in my bags.
  3. Take some time to research. My color meter and one of my microphones require a 9V battery. I can leave the 9V charger at home, by using these 9V USB rechargeable battery. Yup – you can charge these from any USB power port.
  4. Get the biggest battery. Just one BlueShape USA battery can power my complete video rig; camera, viewfinder, monitor and an LED light. Best of all, instead of wrangling the power requirements of these 4 devices separately, I need just one outlet to recharge it.

For more travel tips check out 7 tips to keep your gear working on the road.


This blog post was first published on the American Society of Media Photographer’s Strictly Business blog. 

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