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On-the-go chargers

CHERYL TEVIS 12/05/2012 @ 1:25pm Cheryl has been an editor at Successful Farming since 1979.

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is a painfully fresh memory for many, and the prospect of winter storm power outages looms large for others. The need to stay connected to electronic devices – cell phones, tablets, laptops, e-readers, and GPS systems – is top of mind this season.

For farmers who often work alone far from home base, a dead phone battery not only is an inconvenience but also a risk factor in the case of an emergency.

Fortunately, there are more wireless options today than ever before.

Cell phones

An increasing number of products today offer the convenience of charging multiple small electronic devices. The PowerBar 4200 ($79.95) from Fatcat holds enough battery power to charge a mobile phone, smartphone, or iPod twice. Plug it into your device, and charge it in a computer bag or pocket.

Handcranking chargers are a solution for smartphones, digital and video cameras, handheld radios, and GPS navigation. K-TOR Pocket Socket Hand Crank is portable, affordable ($60), and easy to use. It has 10 watts of power (120 volts).

Another option for cell phones and small devices is the PowerMat 3X ($77.70). It uses induction technology, transferring electricity from the charger to a maximum of three devices through magnetic fields. It has an internal battery. Adding a Powercube makes it compatible with older flip phones or lesser-known smartphones. Duracell also has a 24-hour wireless charging Powermat ($100).

Laptops

If you need to charge larger electronic devices on-the-go, one option is a Powerbag Backpack 3000 ($139.99). It features a built-in charger and connectors. It can be used to charge smartphones, e-readers, tablets, and laptops.

Similar products called juice packs ($100 or less) feature protective cases for smartphones or tablets.

To power your laptop computer during an outage, you'll need something stronger, like a power inverter. An inverter converts DC power from a vehicle battery into AC juice. Shop solutions at Batteries Plus, Radio Shack and computer stores.

Backup batteries

Portable backup battery chargers, such as ZAGG Sparq, offer several full charges for your mobile devices. This backup battery is available in 1220, 3100, or 6000 volts. The 6000 can charge multiple cell phones, or a cell phone and a tablet ($39.99 to $99.99).

Solar battery chargers ($50 to $200) are a renewable choice.

Recharging times vary from one hour to several hours for a full charge. Goal Zero ($160) sells three different types of solar-powered chargers for cell phones, tablets, and laptops.

Go to eBay for a less expensive option. In the search field, type USB Emergency AA Battery Charger for Mobile Phone ($4 or less). Then in the search field, type USB Charger Cable. Look for a very short USB cable with the proper connector for your phone (around $2). Buy a couple dozen AA alkaline batteries. Then leave your phone plugged to the battery charger to stay charged.

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