back to article Ten... smartphone survival accessories

As the weather starts to improve and the knobbly knees of British sun seekers start gracing the public eye, weekends away untangling guy-ropes and blowing up inflatable mattresses draws close. But the organic world of planet Earth is no safe place for a man of modern comfort, and taking a survival kit with you specifically for …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Item 5 is incorrect IMO

    On two accounts. First; what if you need to charge several devices at the same time?

    Second; although I agree that it is important to keep your luggage to a minimum I think its even /more/ important to keep your battery powered devices healthy. Your charger is more than a simple power adapter. For example; charging your phone using an adapter is likely to provide better results than if you charge it using an USB port because unlike an USB power a charger doesn't provide a mere endless stream; it checks the status of the battery and usually changes the charging characteristics based on that.

    As such; I think you're much better of sticking with (several) charger(s) so that you can be sure that the charging is performed in the most optimal way.

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Item 5 is incorrect IMO

      Battery management is almost always done inside a consumer electronics device rather than inside the charger. I can't think of a single exception to this from the last ten years. The only real difference between a dedicated charger and a USB socket is the maximum current you can draw.

      1. petur

        Re: Item 5 is incorrect IMO

        If the current of the adapter is twice that of a usb port, it matters a lot....

        Of equal importance is wether the adapter follows the usb spec for chargers (data pins tied together) or the apple way (data pins at fixed offsets).

        Anyway, the first poster has a point when it comes to charging multiple devices - I have an adapter with multiple sockets + several extending cables. And I get them from DX at 1/10th of the price

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Item 5 is incorrect IMO

          The device will just draw the current it needs. It is too high a voltage that you must look out for!

          A dead-handy gadget is a universal Li-ion battery charger - adjust the pins to the + - terminals and voltage and polarity is determined automatically. Great if you have a camera and other toys besides your phone. Many also do AA AAA for your flashlight, plus USB socket. Good for group trips where at least someone will have mislaid some propriety camera charger! Hahnel makes mine and it works well, imagine that other makes do too.

  2. frank ly

    Item 3: HDMI output cable

    So you can use a HD display to share your day's 'wilderness experience'. I had to laugh at that one.

    1. Danny 14

      big battery

      The 7000 mah backup battery is a great idea. I have one I bought a similar one (trent) from amazon for £30. Fantatsic device. The rest are a bit meh.

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: big battery

        7000mAh is still pretty small. If you're wandering off for any length of time then you're better off with a proper 12V lead acid battery. They're not exactly pocket-sized but you get far more Watts per buck and per cubic centimetre. If they're used regularly I suspect they will have a better life time too.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: big battery

          Maybe someone can make a universal adaptor: 18v modular power tool system (Ryobi, Makita, Dewalt etc) to 5V USB?

          You might already have a compatible stereo, air compressor and florescent lamp...

          1. Some Beggar

            Re: big battery

            Those rechargable tool battery packs are generally just a plastic case with a bunch of standard li-ion cells inside. You can get 12V pumps, lamps, radios, ... pretty much anything electrical. 12V DC has been a standard supply for yonks. If you don't need the extra volts then I'm not sure what the advantage would be. I suppose a battery-powered chainsaw would be quicker than a machete in the event of zombie apocapypse.

        2. Steve Evans

          Re: big battery

          I do actually carry lead acid batteries for backup power, but they have wheels attached. I've added 5v supply USB sockets to both my car and motorcycle.

          If you're planning on sticking lead acid in your pocket, may I suggest you go for slightly smaller 6v instead, it makes the regulation down to a useful 5v somewhat easier and less wasteful. Oh, and make sure you get a sealed one, not vented (unless you don't like your jacket, trousers, rucksack or skin).

          As for life expectancy, standard lead acid, as used in a car/motorcycle, are designed to be continually topped up and don't like full charge/discharge cycles. For that you need a variation known as a leisure battery.

          1. Some Beggar
            Thumb Up

            Re: big battery

            ^ what Steve Evans said ^

            1. Sooty

              Re: big battery

              I got a solar powered charger that turned out to be a big battery as well, quite handy to pre-charge it and then use the solar to top it up while you are away.

              It was a lot cheaper than this one though.

      2. mangid

        Re: big battery

        Yep, the TeckNet iEP387 would appear to be identical to that (down to the ports the led indicators, and the power button). 25 of your english pounds on Amazone



  3. EddieD

    I want the biolite stove thingy

    I go camping a lot, and this looks like it could be useful - having looked at the website it's bigger than I thought, but I'll still be able to sling it in the car for those Highland holidays.

    Okay, I'm not going to get mobile reception, but at least I'll still be able to use my GPS

    Or even use play Angry Birds, given the weather I normally encounter up nort..

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: I want the biolite stove thingy

      I think you've highlighted the biggest issue with that biolite thing. If it's so big that you need to carry it around in a car then you're basically carrying a cute but inefficient electricity generator inside a box that's already fitted with its own far more efficient electricity generator.

      1. Cliff

        Re: I want the biolite stove thingy

        The biolite thingy - I like it, but I could imagine it being a pretty lousy trickle charge - probably good for a simple phone, but I know my Andriod probably uses juice at about the same rate as the device generates it.

        BUT that's not the reason I just pre-ordered one... it also uses the leccy it makes to squirt air into the burning chamber to make fuel burning much more efficient and hotter, dramatically less soot (which is from incomplete combustion) and just more *efficient* darnit!

    2. Full Mental Jacket

      Re: I want the biolite stove thingy

      Your going to want some heat-proof and longer cables too. The phones in the video are scarily close to the flames, melting marshmellows, boiling water etc!

      1. Full Mental Jacket

        Re: I want the biolite stove thingy

        You're* dammit...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I want the biolite stove thingy

          damnit* damnit...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The battery pack is the killer item - I have 7,000mAh unit I got from Amazon for £24 in P&P - best purchase I have ever made. Has two full-sized USB ports so can charge two devices at a time and no need for any bespoke cables. Brilliant.

  5. Bodestone

    Where's the Spiderpodium?

    GorillaPod may all well and good but not nearly as versatile as the Spiderpodium

  6. Some Beggar

    Femto cells??

    Those femtocells are to provide cheapo indoor roaming for SoHo use so that people can use their mobiles rather than a cordless phone and so that the network gets some small-scale frequency re-use in areas with a concentration of users. They operate at such low power that they barely cover the area of an urban garden. They're also only licensed for use within the coverage area of the provider since they re-use its spectrum allocation. They ensure this by communicating with the existing cell network so if you take one out of range and switch it on it will simply refuse to work.

    Can I throw a few more baffled question marks in here? Thanks.


    1. Fuzz

      Re: Femto cells??

      The suresignal cells from vodafone are tied to a postcode and will only work in that postcode.

      Even if you could just plug it in anywhere and have it work, if there's a 1Mb broadband connection that you can use and no mobile reception then I'm guessing there's also going to be a phone line.

      This has got to be the worst survival accessory going.

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: Femto cells??

        Ah, the Vodafone Femto, their way of getting you to pay for a fancy box, plug it into the broadband you pay for, and then deduct minutes/bill you for the time you spend using the connection you have provided yourself.

      2. Jeff Antram

        Re: Femto cells??

        O2 tell me that my boostbox femtocell is "location locked to postcode" too.

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: Femto cells??

          Perhaps it's for people who go camping in their own back garden.

    2. Mark Allen

      Re: Femto cells??

      Vodaphone sure signal - if you change your router, they are get you to reply to an email to confirm you are still at the same address. Don't know how much deeper that goes as many IP Addresses don't resolve to a geographic location but only to your ISP's home base.

      There are much better options - Orange support UMA which is found in Blackberries and some Android phones. This lets me use anyone's wireless network who shares a password with me. Ideal when I am working in a client's basement (or even my own home that only gets 3G coverage in the front window).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bought a Phillips Li-Ion battery a few years back. Surprisingly i've hardly used it - it's much rarer than I'm away from any sort of power supply (either 12V or 240V) than I thought and its bulkier and heavier than a charger.

    Multi cable is good - one of those plus iPhone charger is a seriously compact combo and one less thing to remember/lose.

    Tumi thing you don't really explain - 2 high power USB ports AND a socket is pretty useful. Claimed 2.1A charge - wonder if it will deliver that to a single USB port (ie enough to charge an iPad) and, more to the point, whether Apple devices will give it the thumbs up (much weirdness there - my iPad charger wont charge my iPod classic).

    I hope it's a bit stronger than the single usb OR single socket version i've had for a few years.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      iPod chargers were weird.

      They used to actually communicate with the charger to determine the charge rate, presumably so Apple could charge more for their chargers.

      They now follow the standard - shorted data pins means no data, so eat as much power as you want.

      That multi cable looks great - captive adapters are a great idea, usually the tip you need gets lost.

      A Tumi is a Peruvian knife used for human sacrifices, so it might put ideas into peoples' heads when stuck in the back of beyond...

  8. Andy
    Thumb Down

    useless vodafone sure signal..

    i had one of those useless things as did my grandad. utter waste of money and tbh vodafone would be better spending the money they robbed from me on improving their crap coverage of 3g

  9. Anonymous John

    My local shopping centre has a coin operated machine with a shedload of cables that will recharge mobes in 5 minutes. I hate to think how much heat that must generate.

    1. Steve Evans


      If that's a full charge in 5 minutes, you'll be lucky if you battery (or phone) survives for long.

      If your phone has a 2000mAh battery, and it gets charged in 5 minutes, that means (in a perfect, 100% transfer world) the average current being pushed through the cable, power socket, circuit board tracks and battery is 40 amps!

      A standard charger is between 0.5 and 1 amp, so I think it's safe to say 40 amps is way outside the normal operating range and the likelihood of something melting is quite high.

      1. handle

        Re: Nasty!

        It won't charge the phone in 5 minutes - it will give it 5 minutes'-worth of charge.

        1. Anonymous John

          Re: Nasty!

          Brainfart on my part. It takes 10 minutes to charge your phone up to 1/3. Doubtless much less if you have a smartphone. Whatever, I won't be using it.

      2. Rob - Denmark

        Re: Nasty!

        "If that's a full charge in 5 minutes, you'll be lucky if you battery (or phone) survives for long."

        The charger can't force the phone to charge faster than it's build for. Electronics in the phone takes care of that, so it'll drain 1 Ah (probably), no matter how many Ah the charger is able to deliver.

        5 minutes will NOT give a full charge.

  10. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Top ten smartphone survival accessories…

    … that are available from Amazon via our partner program.

    Cynical? moi?

    1. handle

      Re: Top ten smartphone survival accessories…

      They have to make money somehow even though 95% of their readership is savvy enough to know about Adblock...

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Top ten smartphone survival accessories…

        No Adblock here. However, no Flash either, so the annoying adverts stay away anyway, the others I don't mind, and may even find useful (although I don't think I'm likely to want to chat to whatever her name is in Russia - WTF!)

    2. Some Beggar

      Re: Top ten smartphone survival accessories…

      I'm not sure this is a secret any more, is it?

      Nobody here is paying a subscription. They've got to pay for their bloggers' peanuts somehow.

  11. sproot


    Given that they need a bb connection to work, is it just me that finds it weird Vodafone don't just provide a VoIP gateway and a client for smartphones?

    I know that wouldn't work for archaic mobiles, but they're nearly all Nokias and can probably get a signal anywhere anyway.

  12. bob 46


    I often go bacpacking for several days, and use ViewRanger (fantastic OS mapping software) on my Desire for navigation (I carry paper map and a compass too just in case)

    My problem is that the battery won't last long enough. Ideally I would like a lightweight, flexible solar panel I can drape on the back of my rucksack that is capable of charging faster than the phone batter will drain (about 0.5 - 1 W would do I think)

    There are solutions which come close, but as yet I can't see anything that fits perfectly.

    Note, when backpacking, every ounce counts, so ideally the weight should be no more than that of the phone itself. Anyone know any product to fil this?

    1. handle

      Re: Backpacking

      Solar panels produce remarkably little power unless in ideal conditions, so if you buy something on a claim of a particular output you're likely to be disappointed. I imagine for it to be any use it'll have to be sunny and you'll have to be pointing it at the sun - not that easy on a rucksack if it's on your back.

      1. bob 46

        Re: Backpacking

        I know this is generally the case, but I have seen flexible solar panels for sale (Google Flexcell) which put out about 7W for a panel about 35 x 70 cm. That wouldn't be too big to put on a backpack, and if it gives 7W in ideal conditions,maybe it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect 0.5 - 1W on a cloudy day. Don't know how much it weighs, and it produces 12v, but wondered if anyone know of something similar which will charge a phone

    2. Some Beggar

      Re: Backpacking

      If you are backpacking then a more reliable source of energy is the inefficiency of walking and carrying stuff. We tend to bounce up and down as we walk. If you have a few kilos on your back and you bounce it up and down then you've got a few watts of power being wasted. I have no idea if anybody has built a practical way to harvest it but you can buy sneakers that harvest a trickle of energy from just walking so it can't be beyond the wit of man boffins.

  13. Parax

    USB Host Cable

    £3 from amazon, and the only accessory I've really needed. I might get myself an HDMI adapter for the phone though.. or maybe not my Transformer already has HDMI.

  14. Aldous

    i must be the luddite i keep being called

    doesn't having to carry ten tons of extra crap to run a smartphone show that they are useless for taking hiking/camping? can't you be without them for a day or two?

    i have an old 3 skypephone phone for work and ride motorbikes, i've been caught in massive rain storms where the pocket it was in has filled with water and it still worked (although initially only on loud speaker). if you need a "survival" phone surely its best to have something thats battery life is measured in days not hours and only makes phone calls? same goes with GPS get a dedicated unit with far superior battery life.

    But the real thing making me feel stranges is that the above two options are far cheaper then a smartphone+battery pack+portable fisson reactor. why try to make one thing do so many cruicial jobs when for a slight weight penelty (not including all the extra battery packs etc) your in a much better situation.

    besides your fscking camping/hiking why do you need to play angry birds and farmville in the great outdoors

    1. bob 46

      Re: i must be the luddite i keep being called

      hmm.. currently I carry a spare battery. Weighs about 30g. My Garmin weighs a lot more than my phone, and the battery life isn't much better. Don't have any games on my phone any more, sometimes read on it though. So, smartphone + spare battery + waterproof case = less weight than Garmin + paperback.

  15. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Almost paid too much!

    I was about to buy number 6 from amazon for £55 before i spotted this

    It's exactly the same thing, much better reviews, thinner, same parts and battery capacity...less than half the price!

    Think you missed this one Reg

  16. AOD

    Tumi alternative

    A (probably cheaper) alternative to the Tumi can be found here:

    The specs claim it will charge USB devices at 5V up to 1A so you may be able to get away with charging an iPad with this (I'll try this with the wife's iPad when she's not looking)...

    Nuke icon in case the experiment doesn't pan out...

  17. chriswakey

    "OneCable Sync and Charge" ... "And it's only a tenner."

    Price listed underneath = £35

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