Since a lot of the gadgets I lug into the backcountry require energy to operate, I made a decision to sacrifice a tiny bit of my light weight for some batteries that are a little lighter on the wallet than in my pack. I’ve found that the money saved is well worth the few extra grams.
The first big purchase I made was a pack of Sanyo Eneloop AA and AAA batteries. They got the highest ratings of any rechargeable NiMH batteries on Amazon when I bought them, and I’ve been perfectly happy with them for the past two years now. I bought both AA and AAA so I could use them in my GPS, headlamp, and a few other gadgets around the house, but I mostly only use them for my GPS now.
The performance of the Eneloop NiMH batteries has been very comparable to standard alkaline batteries, which, for me, means they’re great for gadgets that don’t have a heavy battery drain. With my Garmin eTrex, I get a pretty reliable 25 hours of run time with a pair of the Eneloops, which is exactly in line with the manufacturer specs.
I’ve also tried the more powerful Energizer Lithium Advanced AA batteries, which are more powerful and expensive. They got 42 hours of run time, and the weight is considerably different. One lithium AA weighs 0.5 ounces, while one Eneloop is 0.9 ounces– almost double. But the cost is the winning point here. I’ve drained the Eneloops dozens of times over the past few years, which would have run me into hundreds of dollars and a small sized garbage bag full of drained lithium batteries. Even carrying two spare pairs of Eneloops for a week-long trip, an extra quarter pound, is worth that money savings for me.
On the other hand, when I tried to use the Eneloop AAA batteries in my Petzl Tikka XP2 headlamp, they worked just okay. I only tried them in winter, which isn’t a great testing condition for any batteries other than lithium, but it still convinced me to try something different– the Petzl Core battery, which is a rechargeable lithium power pack for several of Petzl’s Tikka headlamps.
The Core, while not quite as powerful as a trio of Energizer Lithium AAA batteries, and more expensive than the Eneloops, is a pretty great middle ground. It’s powerful enough to go several days at normal evening use, or a few days with some night hiking. I used one Core battery for the first three weeks of my NOLS course this summer, before the battery died and I switched to a set of lithiums. It recharges with a USB cable, so it’s easy to travel with. The weight is about 0.2 ounces more than the lithium AAA batteries, which isn’t a bad loss. And, best of all, it gives plenty of power without eating up my money by buying lithium AAA batteries.
I used to swear by my Petzl e+Lite, which weighs only 1.2 ounces, for all summer backpacking, but the batteries for that don’t last very long and they’re expensive. The Tikka XP2 with the Core weighs more than double, at 2.9 ounces, but that’s also worth it to me. On long backpacking trips, like the AT or PCT, I could even get away without buying batteries for the headlamp over the course of the entire trip, just carrying the extra cable (0.5 ounces) to charge the headlamp from the same block charger that the iPhone uses.
My friend, Jeremy, has heard Petzl is discontinuing the Core, which annoys the heck out of me. I guess I’ll have to buy an extra one soon, just in case.
If you’re interested in either the Core or the Eneloops, these are the best prices I’ve found for both (these are affiliate links, so if you buy from them, I get a little something out of the deal). Enjoy!
Petzl Accu CORE Battery from Campmor
Sanyo Eneloop Batteries from Amazon