If you read my previous post, you'll know that I'm starting a series of blogs where I'll be talking about some of the specific equipment I use for birding, and why. This is the second part in the series, the first can be found here.
In today's blog, as the title states, I'll be covering batteries, chargers and apps. At the outset, I'll make it clear that I am against the use of disposable batteries. The reasons for this should be pretty obvious but the reason I mention it is that it's not the sole reason I use rechargeables only; I use them because they save space. Well, for me anyway. I also think it's worth mentioning because some of you will read the word 'rechargeable' and stop right there. Yes, there are some crap brands and copies out there, and yes, the early days of the rechargeable battery industry weren't inspiring for many to persevere for long, but I'm here to tell you that things have come a long way, and if you make the small effort to research, or to spend a little extra cash, you won't look back - if I stuck with it, it's worth it. Especially if you're a traveller looking to reduce those pounds in your luggage. Not convinced? Consider that I have had some rechargeable AA and AAA batteries that I have had for 9 years, and they're still going!
I thought that might keep you reading. It's true, some batteries are rated to last up to 2,000 charges and over. I haven't counted how many times I've charged my longest-lasting batteries but I can tell you they've all seen at least a few hundred charges. The key? Good quality batteries and (even more importantly) a good quality charger. The picture above is of the most-common brand/type I have - Eneloops, but there are several other goodies out there - I believe amazonbasics and the more expensive Energizer range are right up there.
But what about the math(s)?
Well, even if you look at the 'expensive' options, like Eneloop Pros, $20 will buy you a pack of 4 AA batteries. A pack of 48 amazonbasic non-rechargeables will cost you around $15. Even if you assume you'll never get 2,000 charges out of them, you only need to use the rechargeables 17 times* to get your money back.
Rechargeables - $20 ÷ 4 = $5 per battery
Non-rechargeables - $15 ÷ 48 = $0.31 per battery
$5 ÷ $0.31 = 16.12
Throw in whatever you want for the increase in your electricity bill, the rechargeables will win. Throw in the cost of the charger too!
And let's not forget about the space you can save in your luggage!
A NOTE on batteries and space-saving: Not only will choosing a multi-battery charger (see below) save you space, but selecting devices to travel with that use the same batteries will save you space.
A good charger is everything when it comes to making the transition to, and staying with, rechargeable batteries. Especially for travellers.
The one pictured above - the Nitecore i2 - is exactly that. As are those made by LaCrosse (like the BC-900), and the larger (4-battery) version of the above - the Nitecore i4.
Not only are these so-called smart chargers, that are designed to get the best life out of your batteries, they have several other useful features.
In the case of the i2 and i4, they charge multiple types of battery - 16 types, if I remember correctly!
In the case of the Lacrosse range, they have features like 'refresh' and 'test', as well as the ability to adjust current, so as to not overload batteries but to also allow for that rapid charge when you need it. Rapid-charging is something you want to steer clear of if you want to get the best life out of your batteries, but we all need it sometimes!
Perhaps the best feature of the Nitecore range, however, is the ability to connect the charger to a standard wall outlet AND a 12V/24V plug in a vehicle!
Don't muck about with the free or practically free chargers in the aisle at checkout, buy quality, you won't regret it.
No, I'm not paid to say any of this, and yes, this is sounding a little like an advertisement,rather than a blog but you get the point and you know why you're here!
This won't be an extensive write-up on all apps I think are useful for birding; there are far too many apps out there, several of which are useful for birding. In time, I'll create a page that contains a long list of apps that can be updated and added to - especially useful if I start delving into which birding apps are best for each region or country. For now, I'll start with a few..
Digital navigation and mapping systems have been around for a while, and they've certainly changed things for travelling birders, both independent and otherwise. Yes, a lot of clients like to stay on top of details like location and distance-to-next-location on tours - even though they don't need to. Maybe some just don't trust me. Ahem. Spin-offs of digital mapping systems in the birding world go well beyond finding your way to sites, however, as the applications in birding in general are boundless. Accuracy and ease in recording sightings locations and the ability to easily take elevation readings being just two major examples. But what about portability of such apps and software? And that big question, what about data and connections? Good news is, there are plenty of so-called 'offline map' apps out there - and they can be loaded onto devices like your phone! No more clunky Garmin or TomTom devices, just the phone you already have in your gear.
Ok, sounding like an advertisement again. It's only because I get pretty excited to 'teach' others about this sort of stuff. Heaven knows I do it a lot on my tours.
Back to maps.me. This great app can be downloaded on to your phone - Apple/Android - for free. That's the first plus. It gets better, though. All the maps you download thereafter are for free too! And we're not talking about low-resolution, data-poor maps, we're talking maps with incredible detail (just remember to keep zooming in for more detail). The best part? Once you download a map for a country or region, you don't need to be connected to the internet or a phone signal to navigate, take waypoints, read elevation, and so much more. Sharing? So much easier than you think.
Let's put this into a birding example...
Your mates went on a birding trip to Peru. They had the sense to download maps.me and to download the maps for Peru. During the trip, they saw loads of great birds, and, despite all the excitement, they created waypoints on the app for each great bird - regardless of the fact that they had no cellular signal or internet at the time. Their wonderful sightings inspired you to go to Peru to check it out for yourself. You download maps.me and the Peru maps. Now all they have to do is connect to you briefly via Whatsapp or email, tap their screens a few times, and hit 'send', and you now have one or all of the waypoints (locations) for all the great birds they saw. And good coffee shops - probably the second most-shared waypoints in my world.
While in Peru, you use their waypoints to find all the great birds they did, but you want to find more. Thing is, so many birds on the mountain slopes live in specific elevational ranges. Fine, open the app, tap your location, and your elevation is displayed. I could go on, point is, very applicable to birding.
And no, you don't have to worry about being an old fart, and not understanding your way around these things, they're very intuitive, and you cannot share your banking details or make your phone explode by doing something wrong on the app. Please do try it - a few of my fellow guides still write out paragraphs and pages of directions to get me to a tree with a nest in it, when using an app would save hours of our lives. Not to mention that 'turn left at the peeing dog' is not useful.
If you found this blog, or the previous one, interesting/useful, check out my next blog, where I'll cover more of my recommendations for birding equipment..