Extracting the most out of your battery in sub zero temperatures

Yes, many amongst us are in to reaching out to far flung places, away from the trappings of civilization and its outreach. In these sojourns we like to freeze moments and thoughts that our senses encounter and for this we turn to the modern day gadgets be it camera gear, e note pad, smart phones or kindle. These instruments help the individual in recording his thought or visuals for the sake of posterity as well as sharing amongst his social circle. However, the one common interlock for all the above is the requirement of electrical power needed to ensure that the gadgets are juiced and powered up while we need them.

I faced this issue and still continue to face them every time i am out , though have worked out my own remedial measures and thought of sharing them out here .

In to this requirement are injected batteries which are given a shot in the arm by the usage of mobile power banks. Power banks comprise of a special battery in a predetermined case with circuit to control the power flow. They are able to store electrical power which can be used at a later frame of time. They come in a variety of shape and capacity. However, it is to be remembered that over a period of time they do lose the stored charge owing to environment and wear n tear over age.

A bit of technical talk here I feel is appropriate:

The power banks are rated in terms of mAh rating which basically denotes the capacity of power flow over time. So what kind of a capacity does one procure. For this let me take my own example; the model that I use in Anker Astro ES 16000 mAh. This is used to charge following: –

(a)          My smart phone which has a battery rating of 3000 mAh.

(b)          Go Pro battery which has a battery rating of 1160 mAh.


Table courtesy: easyacc.com

Hence as can be seen the rating of power bank decides how many times it can charge a device before expending fully. In my case for a week-long trip in the wild I use the following combination to extract the maximum output

  • Android smart phone charging: 03 times
  • Go Pro battery charging: 05 times

Additionally, the following factors also affect and are to be taken into consideration: –

  • The USB charging port to be compatible and enabled for 2.0 Amp, this is known as “optimal or speed charging”.
  • Generally, Li Polymer cells are preferred as the battery inside a power bank because they can hold charge much better than Lithium ion

So now coming back to the main theme of the article, how to we ensure the availability of power for our gadgets in extreme low temperatures, because at low temperatures, the power banks are under pressure to perform. The reason is because at lower temperatures, the internal resistance increases and more of the battery power stored inside in form of chemical energy is used to push the electrical charge into the gadget being charged thereby reducing the charging capacity of the power bank itself substantially.

A drop of 10 °C (18 °F) can cause your battery life to deplete by as much as half, meaning that in very cold climates we will soon find ourselves running out of power

The following are my recommendations in enhancing the use of the power banks as well as the battery being charged. Please note that the DSLR camera batteries (Li ion) like the LP Ep-6 N (1865 mAh) from canon cannot be charged using a power bank.

However, having said that these are designed to last much longer and hence the mandatory rule is to carry sufficient numbers however the trick is to enhance their capacity to perform and overcome the handicap of extreme cold temperatures.Please read on :-

1.       Camera batteries are best stored at low temperatures; they retain their original charge very well. Hence the spare batteries are to be kept stored in a pouch inside the camera bag.

2.       Camera batteries perform well, only when they are warmed up just prior to use, hence they are to be kept next to the body in order to absorb the body heat prior to fitment into the camera body.

3.       Cameras need to be tuned a bit when operating in extreme cold temperatures to extend the battery use:

  •        Turn off display screen.
  •        Minimize picture preview to around 01 sec.
  •        Turn off constant focus, so that the internal motor usage reduces.
  •         Stop deleting and checking pictures constantly.
  •         Switch off when not in use between breaks.

4.       The camera bodies are metal based and hence suffer from extreme drop in temperatures resulting in reduction of the battery temperature and also faster depletion. Usage of body warmers for the camera when not in use helps to maintain temperature levels.

5.       Use body warmers to keep the power bank at optimal temperature especially one hour prior to using it for recharging a device.

6.        In the night I keep the cameras as well all my devices inside my sleeping bag wrapped in layers thereby protecting all of them from extreme drop in night time temperatures.

7.       During day time, in case one is using the mobile phone and go pro keep them next to the body for eg. Inside the mid layer to ensure that they are maintained at an elevated temperature.

8.       In case not using a particular device, just switch them off. Also turn the phone to flight mode to inhibit all data consuming processes which run in the background.

9.      Use original batteries, this is my personal opinion though especially for the Go Pro units. All carry minimum three go pro batteries for uninterrupted footage. Go Pro Bacpac does not work in extreme low temperatures.


Review of the Anker Astro E5 Power bank : https://traveldreams.live/2015/07/23/review-anker-astro-e5-16000-mah-2nd-gen-portable-charger/

17 Replies to “Extracting the most out of your battery in sub zero temperatures”

  1. Wow…so far I have not traveled to sub zero temperatures so it never occurred to me to consider this fact. But now that you bring it up, and I do have some plans to visit some such places in future where I will be in a sub zero climate, I can see how useful this piece of information is going to be. Bookmarking your post for future reference.

  2. So many valuable tips for situations that almost every traveler should have experienced! However, let me add one point to your list: don’t put your power banks in your check-in luggage – I did that once and afterwards it was gone, security removed it…

  3. That’s why my phone’s battery drains faster when I’m outside! Thanks for all the tips. I should keep my phone warm and comfy starting tomorrow. Winters here in Canada are harsh (but lovely).

  4. I have never thought on these lines, since i have notv been to a sub-zero place after i bought my SLR or have been travel blogging. I am sharing this post on my Facebook page (fb/katchutravels) for my readers! Good one! for every 10 degree dip, 50% charge goes away was an eye opener!

  5. This is quite a useful post for frequent travelers and I wonder why not many people write about it. Not just at subzero temps but also at normal temps. I have been to cold destinations multiple times and I have always followed some of your tips to retain the batteries for longer.

  6. Great tips Sumit. I have been to sun zero temperatures for brief durations but this will surely help when you are spending lot of time in such conditions. Thankfully, I keep the spare battery near the body, switch off camera between use as a habit !

  7. Your tips are quite useful, I’m so thankful that I read them. I noticed that my battery gets drained easily and now I know why. I haven’t been storing it well and I didn’t know the camera settings have something to do with it. Now I know what to do, in doing so I can prolong my battery life.

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