What's your battery system?

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What battery chemistry do you use? (check all that apply)

Alkaline
22
25%
Lithium primaries(non-rechargeable)
8
9%
NiMH
17
19%
NiMH (Low self discharge)
19
22%
Li-ion (standard form factors)
7
8%
Li-ion (specialized form factor)
9
10%
I use carbide
6
7%
Other (?)
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 88

What's your battery system?

Postby Tenzin Beck » Nov 10, 2009 6:05 pm

I was wondering what kind of of batteries most people here use, and what their system is for carrying and storing them.

Battery chemistry is the first major question (see poll). Alkalines are cheap and readily available, but their performance is less than stellar. Lithium primaries are far better, but they are significantly more expensive. However, my research seems to indicate that their total power is about three times more than Alkalines, so you should always buy them if their price is less than three times as much, so as to get the best $/joule ratio possible. NiMH and their low self discharge brothers have good total capacity, but the upfront cost of a charger and cells is high. Li-ion is the absolute best in terms of J/gram, but it has the significant disadvantages of usually having custom battery shapes, and risk of catastrophic failures resulting in fire and explosion.

I'm also interested in what people do to manage and store their batteries, as well as how many sets they typically take with them. I've only been on a couple of trips so far, and my current setup consists of leaving a backup sets of four AAs in a ziplock bags, which in turn goes in the same stuffsack I store my backup light in. This is suboptimal, since it makes getting to the batteries difficult, they roll around loosely, the bags are fragile, and it's difficult to see whether any given set is charged or empty. I currently use alkalines, but was planning on investing on a NiMH charger with LSD cells soon. I'm also considering sewing together some cordura battery pouches with a velcro clasp. They'd hold 4 or 8 AA cells side-by-side securely, and it would be easy to indicate the charge state of a cell by putting it in with the opposite polarity facing outwards. They would be compact and superdurable, but not waterproof (not that it really matters in New Mexico).
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby MUD » Nov 10, 2009 6:45 pm

Tenzin Beck wrote:I was wondering what kind of of batteries most people here use, and what their system is for carrying and storing them.


:big grin: My batteries are made from carbide. :tonguecheek:
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby pub » Nov 10, 2009 9:41 pm

Cavemud wrote: :big grin: My batteries are made from carbide. :tonguecheek:

:big grin: ...as in Union Carbide? :tonguecheek:
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby Chads93GT » Nov 10, 2009 9:45 pm

I carry 4 sets of spare duraloops in the smallest otter box they make. The otter box is JUST big enough to hold 16 batteries.

I use nothing but rechargeables.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby NZcaver » Nov 11, 2009 12:00 am

I'm a big fan of rechargeable AA's in most battery powered electronics. Specifically Rayovac Hybrid (low self discharge) NiMHs, but I'd be happy with Eneloops, Duraloops, etc too. Stay away from Energizer NiMHs! I use the LaCrosse BC-900 as my primary charger.

I was slightly reluctant to buy a Canon DSLR which uses proprietary Li-Ion packs, but there really wasn't any other option. I got a couple of spare (off brand) batteries which are cheaper, and seem to work OK. All my other cameras use AA's and so do most headlamps, flashlights, and other devices. Given the choice I still choose devices which use AA's over those which don't. AAA devices in particular have so little battery life they're a waste of time, in my opinion.

In my caving pack I carry an emergency set of 4 AA disposable Lithiums, sealed in a tiny plastic bag. Expensive but great for spares because they're lightweight and have a long shelf life. I carry spare NiMHs in other little bags or my camera box. I seldom buy alkalines or cave with them, but seem to accumulate a few when they come with new headlamps etc. They're fine for around the house.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby pub » Nov 11, 2009 4:14 am

Seriously, my batteries are the regular NiMH and Li-ion (camera); haven't seen the LSD cells in my area yet.

My minimum is a set of batteries the headlamp and a battery, SD card, lens cleaning solution & cloth for the camera in the smallest (2"tall x 3 1/2"wide x 4 1/2"deep) Lock&Lock container. Others in my group have larger Lock&Lock's for their camera, GPS, cellphones, etc. (Yes, cellphones, plural!)

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Lock&Lock HPL805 (Stateside price $3.00) or Lock&Lock Classics
Balincaguin comes from the Zambal phrase, "Bali lan caguing" meaning "house of bats."
This was the former name of the Municipality of Mabini, Pangasinan, when it was part of the Province of Zambales (of Mt. Pinatubo Volcano fame).
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby jharman2 » Nov 11, 2009 1:39 pm

Can you clarify what you mean by LiIon "standard" as opposed to "specialized" form factor? Is a 18650 cell a "standard" while a Lipo flat cell is "specialized"?

All my caving lights (save Petzl Tikka) use 2,3 or 4 18650 Liion cells.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby YuccaPatrol » Nov 11, 2009 2:46 pm

I try to standardize my outdoor electronics to use AA batteries only so that I can swap batteries from one device to another in pinch if my spares have run out. I only use rechargeables, and these days I prefer the eneloops/duraloops over my theoretically higher capacity NiMH's.

The exception to this is my Serv-Light which requires rechargeable lithium battery packs.

Lithium primaries, even ones bought at low prices online, are still too expensive for my taste and I really don't like to use disposables when there is a better option. I was lucky to be given 100 primarly lithium CR123's that had been used for a medical application in which a new battery is used every time even though they don't get much use in that application. I use these only for single cell applications because of the dangers/risks of using multiple primary lithiums that are not all at the same capacity (insert "BOOM" here).

Alkaline batteries are just downright terrible in my opinion. They cost a lot over the long run, have a tendency to leak and destroy electronics, and simply do not perform as well as quality NiMH batteries.

My NiMH batteries are charged on a MAHA C-9000 charger which has the capability of analyzing batteries to ensure that the ones I take into a cave are not defective or dying.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby NZcaver » Nov 11, 2009 3:39 pm

YuccaPatrol wrote:Alkaline batteries are just downright terrible in my opinion. They cost a lot over the long run, have a tendency to leak and destroy electronics, and simply do not perform as well as quality NiMH batteries.

That's a good point about the leak factor. I've never really connected the dots before, but virtually every leak/corrode problem I've seen with AA's has been with alkalines left in devices. And a couple of really old NiCads once or twice.

More good reasons to dismiss Mr Walter Lipton's ramblings in the NSS News about alkalines being superior to those 'unreliable rechargeables' for caving. :roll:
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby captnemo » Nov 11, 2009 4:09 pm

I use whatever I have handy for my lights :) usually alkaline. Now for flash units and camera I'm a little more picky- using nimh as they tend to have a fairly fast recycly time in my flashes.
NZcaver wrote:I was slightly reluctant to buy a Canon DSLR which uses proprietary Li-Ion packs, but there really wasn't any other option. I got a couple of spare (off brand) batteries which are cheaper, and seem to work OK. All my other cameras use AA's and so do most headlamps, flashlights, and other devices. Given the choice I still choose devices which use AA's over those which don't. AAA devices in particular have so little battery life they're a waste of time, in my opinion.


Have you looked at the battery grip for your DSLR? Most canon slr's have an optional battery grip which not only allows for using two batteries at once (less battery swapping in the middle of a trip) but they also allow the use of AA's. I have that as well as two different cameras that use the same Li-Ion packs so I carry several anyway.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby NZcaver » Nov 11, 2009 10:12 pm

captnemo wrote:Have you looked at the battery grip for your DSLR? Most canon slr's have an optional battery grip which not only allows for using two batteries at once (less battery swapping in the middle of a trip) but they also allow the use of AA's. I have that as well as two different cameras that use the same Li-Ion packs so I carry several anyway.

Yeah, I looked into that. It's an accessory I may choose to get in the future, but the 40D is pretty big and heavy on it's own without the external battery housing! Not as big as the 1D, but big enough. I think most folks get the battery grip when using the camera for continuous studio work or outdoor portraits. I'm more of a landscape guy. I heard that Nikon makes battery housing for 2 CR123 cells which fits their DSLRs in place of the standard rechargeable Li Ion. Not sure if anyone has a version of this to fit the Canon, but it sounds like a pretty good idea for a backcountry backup.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby Tenzin Beck » Nov 11, 2009 11:05 pm

jharman2 wrote:Can you clarify what you mean by LiIon "standard" as opposed to "specialized" form factor? Is a 18650 cell a "standard" while a Lipo flat cell is "specialized"?
All my caving lights (save Petzl Tikka) use 2,3 or 4 18650 Liion cells.
That's exactly it. 18650 you can drop in, while a brick-shaped cell is usually specialty designed for whatever hardware it runs.

I've pretty much settled on getting some LSD NiMH cells by now. Costo just dropped a coupon in the mail advertising $5 off Duracell NiMH cells and charger packs, which sounds pretty attractive. However, it looks like they're the less good "Black top" NiMH cells rather than Duraloops, and I can't find any information on the charger either on Candlepowerforums or the Duracell site. Ideally, I'd like to buy the LaCross BC-900 charger and a bunch of Eneloops, but that's a $60 upfront cost that would take a long time to pay off.

The idea of storing batteries in a tupperware-type container or specialty hard case is a good one, and is pretty much the only way to guarantee waterproofness. I might have to give it a try, but it seems like it'd be more bulky than needed, and the cells would still rattle around. Hmm... Do you guys think something like this pouch, only homemade and vertical-loading would be a good idea? What if I made one to hold 8 cells? If I were to make them durable, and sell at a reasonable price, would people buy them?
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby pub » Nov 12, 2009 12:27 am

I took “standard” meaning single cells usually cylindrical in shape and “specialized” as multi-celled battery packs usually encased in various shapes to fit the appliance they power; in both cases they can be dropped in.

Bulkiness is no problem considering the amount of stuff you can store in a 2” tall container. Yup, waterproofness is the main consideration for caves in the tropics; very few are dry caves here.

Since batteries are usually used in sets I bundle them with rubber bands and fill the empty spaces with rags or towels, which I use to dry my hands before I handle my camera; no problem with rattling batteries with this setup.

It’s easy to tell the used battery-sets because I bundle the fresh sets with all +ve pointing the same way and the spent sets with the +ve in opposing directions; the battery-set on the lid in the photo above needs charging.

At least the Lock&Lock’s have a substantial rubber seal in their lids and at fraction the cost of Otter’s or Pelican’s, which are hard to get here.

It's interesting that even with early numbers alkalines are winning at the poll.
Balincaguin comes from the Zambal phrase, "Bali lan caguing" meaning "house of bats."
This was the former name of the Municipality of Mabini, Pangasinan, when it was part of the Province of Zambales (of Mt. Pinatubo Volcano fame).
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby JR-Orion » Nov 12, 2009 2:37 pm

Our digital camera came with free (and probably not so great) AAs and a charger. Worked OK but when we got a Wii, I decided to get serious about batteries. Picked up a La Crosse Tech BC900 and a bunch of Eneloops. So I was fairly well setup on batteries when I took up caving. My flashlights (Princeston Tec) came with alkalines included, so I'll use them for now, but once they get low I'll be on all NiMH slow self discharge bats. Helmet light has been nothing but Eneloops since I started this hobby.
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Re: What's your battery system?

Postby harrym » Nov 13, 2009 11:40 pm

I use a mix of batteries and light sources:
1 electric LED light with a Lithium batteries
1 electric LED light with Alkaline batteries
1 carbide light

If I may borrow from the cave diving community.... You want your backup light to work when you need it to work. That's why cave divers typically use rechargable NiMH batteries for their primary lights but disposable Alkaline batteries for their backup lights.

Alkaline batteries are relatively inexpensive, so you can frequently retire the old batteries and put in fresh batteries without a lot of financial pain. That way you know that you'll always have light when you need light. And, since they're cheap, you can carry a lot of spare Alkaline batteries.

Rechargable batteries become unreliable after multiple cycles of charging and discharging. At some point you just don't know how long they will last. Disposable alkaline batteries are extremely reliable and have a fairly predictable and consistent burn time. This makes them the perfect backup light battery, and it's why cave divers trust their lives to disposable alkaline batteries.

Usually I use a Lithium-powered LED for my primary light. It's bright, powerful, long-lasting and not subject to the cold. I could use anything long-lasting for my primary. I used to have the old heavy lead-acid battery/Tag light. Now I am happy that I spent the bucks for a good Lithium light because it's 20 times lighter.

Finally, I use carbide for a 3rd source (if I'm not using carbide as my primary). A small carbide light and a small canister of carbide can provide light and warmth for a long, long time in case I get stuck in the cave. There's also a small pad to sit on and a space blanket. I can sit on the pad with the carbide light between my legs and wrap myself in a space blanket to contain the heat.

I also use carbide for cave diving.

(Just kidding, threw that in there to see if you were paying attention.)

As far as storage is concerned, I keep everything inside of a dry bag in my caving pack. This keeps everything inside of pack totally dry. I bought a dry bag that fits nicely inside of my caving pack, then pack everything into the dry bag. My batteries are kept in small nylon zippered pouches that I got from Wunderwear and Howie. Since they're kept in the dry bag, I don't have to worry about my batteries getting wet. I don't have to worry about anything getting wet.

Additionally the dry bag can serve as flotation if I need it.

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Last edited by harrym on Nov 14, 2009 3:36 am, edited 2 times in total.
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