Tag Archives: electricity

What power bank, charge leads and plug I take with me depends on the number of days I am on trail

Gear talk: Smaller power banks, plugs and leads on trail

Nitecore F1 and F2 battery charger/power banks

Nitecore F1 and F2 battery charger/power banks

Small power banks/chargers

Like most hikers, Three Points of the Compass takes a number of electric devices when backpacking- phone, camera, LED light, occasionally an MP3 player. Other hikers may be carrying even more devices. Only three years ago I made the total switch to rechargeable headlamps, first to the Black Diamond ReVolt, that can run on either standard AAA or rechargeable AAA batteries that can be charged in the headlamp. Then I switched out to either the Olight H1R Nova, with proprietary rechargeable RCR123A battery, or the Nitecore NU25. The former is for longer winter hikes or where more night hiking is planned, while the NU25 is perfectly adequate for the remainder of the year.

The H1R Nova has a single rechargeable 3.7V 650mAh RCR123A battery. This has built in protection. A spare could be taken so as to swap out with ease. However I just take the one. Each battery weighs 18g

The H1R Nova has a single rechargeable 3.7V 650mAh RCR123A battery. This has built in protection. A spare can also be taken so as to swap out with ease. However I usually just take the one as the battery can be charged while in use. Each battery weighs 18g. Note the excellent build quality of this light and fitted rubber O ring to prevent water ingress

For shorter hikes where I am also carrying a power bank, I may carry either a Nitecore F1 battery charger or the double sized version- the F2. These will take many Lithium-Ion batteries including the 18650 batteries I favour. The F1 is a simple, minimalist charger with Micro USB in-port and USB out-port. It has a nifty little LED array that identifies the voltage of the battery inserted and informs degree of charge and the F1 allows through charging, so it is possible to charge the battery at the same time as charging a device.

Powerbank, charge lead and plug for short walks of a couple or more days.

Nitecore F1 power bank, charge lead and plug for short walks of a couple days

The Nitecore F1 charger weighs 34g including two ranger bands which hold a battery securely in place when in use though I often only take the one. The F1 is not the swiftest of chargers and is not suitable for a brief halt in town of an hour or two and expecting to quickly charge up, but is fine for an overnight stop where there is access to mains power for a few hours. There are a lot of these little battery chargers and power banks available and a little care needs to be taken when choosing one, do your research because a few are downright dangerous. The F1 is a great lightweight option for a day or few, however I feel that the F2 is more suited to longer treks as it gives a greater degree of flexibility and functionality.

Nitecore F2, with plug and charge lead

Nitecore F2, with plug and charge lead

The Nitecore F2 has 0.5A USB 3.0 Micro-B input and two USB outputs, giving 1x 2A or 2x1A. The F2 charger/power bank weighs 47g, 54g with two ranger bands. The little 170mm charge lead that comes with it weighs 12g but I normally carry a more robust longer lead.

Powerbank, charge leads and plug for walks of a week or more

F2 power bank, charge leads, plug and extra battery are sufficient for trails of a week or more, unless opportunity for charging presents additional problems, in which case extra cells could be carried

Depending on the length of trip, I often carry one, two or three Nitecore Lithium-Ion rechargeable 18650 batteries. 3.7V 12.6Wh. The 18650 batteries from Nitecore (and Olight that I have also used) are both built on the Panasonic NCR 18650B, with additional circuitry. The ones from Nitecore each weigh 48g and have built in PCB/IC protection (short circuit and battery overcharge protection and discharge protection circuits) so are a little longer than most other 18650 batteries being 68mm long instead of 65mm. Mine are the 3400mAh batteries which give the best size/weight/power ratio for rechargeable batteries. Though in truth they probably deliver no more than around 3200mAh. When not in use, or in the charger, I keep each 18650 battery in a 6.4g silicone sleeve. This removes the danger of any shorting out while packed. If you have any doubt as to the efficacy of 18650 batteries, it is worth noting that Tesla has been using Panasonic 18650 cells in their Models S and X cars since 2013. Their most common battery pack originally contained 7104 18650 cells, more recently 8256 cells.

Phone, mp3 player, headlight and power- Little was required

Electronics carried on the Icknield Way in 2017, there is an excess of charge leads here as three different electronic devices had three different connectors


Another good charger that can also act as a power bank and has attracted a lot of interest in recent years is the Miller ML-102. There have been a number of versions of this USB charger produced and some earlier models introduced a few faults, however at the time of writing (January 2020) the current version- the 32g ML-102 v9, seems to have reintroduced a reliable charger to the market place. However these will only work with unprotected 65mm long 18650 cells, it won’t accept the longer protected 18650 cells, so I cannot use this on trail with my favoured Nitecore batteries. Unprotected cells should not be left unattended when charging for obvious reasons.

Using the Nitecore F1 as an 18650 battery charger

Using the Nitecore F1 as an 18650 battery charger

Tiny Photon Freedom microlight is frequently attached to one of my packs zip pulls

Tiny Photon Freedom microlight is frequently attached to one of my packs zip pulls or my Z Packs chest pouch

In the eventuality that the battery/power bank does give up and all my 18650s are drained, I usually have just a little backup for light. I often carry two of the fantastic little LRI Photon Freedom Micro button lights. One has a red beam to preserve night vision, or to be just a little more discreet and less conspicuous if wild camping where I ought not. The other has a white beam. I have written elsewhere about these great little lights, but for just 10g each, including battery, you can’t go wrong with these. Spare button batteries are carried for any Photon carried (CR 2016 or 2032 depending on if white or red LED). I also have a light on my phone but better to keep a phone battery charged for emergency use. Finally, I have a minuscule USB LED light with dimmable facility that can be plugged into either my power bank or a room wall plug.

For any hike of a week or more I am usually carrying an Anker PowerCore II Slim 10 000mAh power bank. This weighs 209g, so is the heavier option but I swap out for this for one reason- convenience. With a charger that can only charge one (F1) or two (F2) 18650 batteries at a time, I would need to keep swapping batteries to keep them all charged. Not what I want to be doing. I want to be eating, drinking, washing and resting, not hovering over a charger. With the Anker, I can stop overnight somewhere, plug it in and leave it plugged in until fully charged.

Charge leads and plugs


Charge rate can be severely affected by the cable used. Both internal cable structure and length will alter the charge rate. Also, the quality of the end pins/plugs is of concern, the last thing you want is the end pulling off while on a hike. To ensure I don’t end up totally scuppered, I carry at least two USB/Micro USB charge leads with me. My main charge lead is usually a 900mm 28.4g USB / Micro USB Anker Powerline. This is a good quality charge lead made with Aramid fibre and double braided line. It will take a lot of the wear that charge leads are subject to.

If I have my iPod Nano mp3 player with me (I have no other Apple products), then I include a tiny little Micro USB/Lightning adaptor. It is only 20mm long and weighs 1.2g. However, it is much more likely I will be carrying my little SanDisc player. This has a built in rechargeable battery, the USB/Micro USB cables I am already packing will work with this.

Small adaptors mean that the number of cables carried can be kept to a minimum. The Micro USB/Lighting adaptor is 1.3g and the Micro USB/USB-C adaptor is 2.6g. Depending on which USB LED light is carried, these can be as little as a gram

Small adaptors mean that the number of cables carried can be kept to a minimum. The Micro USB/Lighting adaptor is 1.3g and the Micro USB/USB-C adaptor 2.6g. Depending on which USB LED light is carried, these can be as little as a gram. Three Points of the Compass carries the larger, touch sensitive LED light shown here that weighs just 3g

Other charge leads carried are a very short, silicone coated lead, just 67mm in length and 5g in weight made by Lifemall. Again, this is USB/Micro USB. It originally had a loop for hanging from a key chain but I removed that. Output is 2.4A maximum. Carrying this little extra charge lead means that I am not left bereft should the longer main lead give up the ghost. The very slight weight penalty is acceptable to me.

A rather nifty feature on the Olight H1R is the simple, magnetic tailcap to which the USB charge cable connects. This means that, if need be, the headlight can be charging while being worn. So if I am carrying the Olight headlamp rather than the Nitecore NU25, I also carry the magnetic Olight charge cable for the HR1 Nova head torch. This weighs 14.5g. The tail glows red when charging and switches to green when fully charged.

In the past, the necessity of carrying one particular charge lead has been a source of annoyance. My Olympus Tough TG-4 camera cannot be charged via normal Micro plug, instead, this requires the inclusion of a proprietary connector. This extra 700mm lead weighs 48.5g. However if I am carrying a camera these days, I am normally taking my Sony RX100v, which can be charged with the standard micro USB.

The 14g Olight charge lead is a handy little addition. It attaches magnetically firmly to the base of the Nova.

The 14g Olight charge lead is a handy little addition however it does mean an extra lead and extra weight to be carried. It attaches magnetically and firmly to the base of the Nova.

Folding Mu plugs

Folding Mu plugs- 14mm thick


Three Points of the Compass has a liking for the ingenious folding plugs from Mu (Greek for small or micro). It is not only weight that can be an issue in the pack, but bulk too. The 51.1g Mu Duo has double USB ports with a fixed split of 1.2A per port. Input: AC 100-240v, 50-60Hz. This accompanies me on shorter trips up to a week. For longer trips I have the 50.4g Mu Tablet, this has a single USB port with a DC 5V 2.4A outlet and AC 100-240V, 50-60Hz input. It may seem counter-intuitive to take a single outlet plug for longer trips but it is the higher, faster charge rate that I want then. Though of course, this is nothing compared to the newer connectors coming through as I write this. There is, for example, a Type-C connector Mu plug available.

The higher output single and dual port Mu both measure 73mm x 55mm x 14mm when folded, there is also a lower 1A output Mu that is a little smaller at 60mm x 55mm x 14mm. This is the open white one shown below.

Mu folding plug, plus international version that can have a number of different socket heads fitted

Mu folding plug, plus international version that can have different socket heads fitted

The above leads mean that I can be charging two 18650 batteries in the Nitecore F2, while simultaneously through charging my phone and Olight or camera. If I have the Nitecore F1, I will also have the double port Mu plug, so can charge a single 18650 battery and also the phone, Olight or camera from the second port.

Aulola folding USB adaptor is a cheaper alternative to Mu plugs

Aulola folding USB adaptor is a cheaper alternative to Mu plugs

Mu folding plugs are not cheap and I have used the cheap ‘n’ cheerful TH31 folding dual USB adaptor from Aulola in the past. This has a 5v 2A output, but that is split across the two ports. Slightly larger at 67mm x 49mm x 20mm, these weigh 57g.

I recognise that while I have been slowly bringing all my electronics in line with each other, utilising micro USB charge ports, the wave of change is sweeping by and I shall have to make a further change in the future to keep up as micro USB is eventually going to become obsolete.

The size of power bank carried on a hike, or rather the amount of mAh, is very much a personal choice and should be influenced by a number of circumstance- cost, weight, availability, bulk, number of electronic devices carried, opportunity for recharge, duration between said recharge opportunity etc.

Charging phone on trail with Nitecore F1 battery charger/power bank

Charging phone (literally) on trail with Nitecore F1 battery charger/power bank and mini charge lead

When Three Points of the Compass completed his 2000 mile hike across the UK in 2018, the lightweight Nitecore F1 was carried for the first 800 miles as there was opportunity to recharge every day or two, by the time Scotland was reached, with far less opportunity to charge a power bank, I had switched out to the larger 10 000 mAh Anker which was completely adequate for the remainder of my hike. The longest I went without opportunity for a partial recharge was five days.

Electronics carried on my five month 2018 hike. A larger 10 000 mAh power bank was carried for the final 1000 miles

Electronics carried on my five month 2018 hike. The large 10 000 mAh Anker power bank shown was carried for the final 1000 miles

Nitecore NU25 headlamp

Gear talk: The Nitecore NU25- a quick mod

Three Points of the Compass has used a few headlamps  on trail over the years. The one that is currently in favour is the Nitecore NU25. Available in black, yellow or white, I have the bright yellow lamp. All the better for being found as light fades.

Nitecore NU25 is a rechargeable headlamp. The port is beneath the lamp and covered from the elements when not in use

Nitecore NU25 is a rechargeable headlamp. The port is beneath the lamp and covered from the elements when not being charged

It is a great headlamp. It has a built in 610 mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery. Separate buttons for white or red light and has decent Cree XP-G2 S3 LED fitted.

Weather resistance is fairly good at IP66, this is helped by a flippable rubber covering to the micro-USB charge port. Beside  the two intensities of red light, there are varying white light, maxing out at 360 lumen. More stats can be seen here.

Nitecore NU25 with stock headband

Nitecore NU25 with stock headband

All that said, there is one big fault with the light. The headband is total overkill for such a lightweight headlamp. The light weighs 28g. the headband a further 25g. There is a quite well known modification that replaces the, admittedly very good, headband with a simpler set-up. For any that are unaware of this, I show it here.

Rear matrix of Nirecore NU25

Rear matrix of Nirecore NU25

The headlamp will tilt up to 60° from the curved head support. This aids its correct alignment when night walking, or when simply sitting on the tent floor at night. The headband simply slips out of the rear of this folding head support. This shows that it is made up of a number of small holes, just right for slipping thin shock cord or bungee through.


The makings of a lighter headband

The makings of a lighter headband

A few minutes on eBay located a number of sellers of both shockcord and cord locks. Just a few quid secured 10m of 2mm cord (more than I am ever likely to require), plus a wee baggie of double cord locks. Each of these weighs just 1.2g. Together with a pair of scissors and a lighter, is all that is required for the modification.


The modded headlamp

The modded headlamp

I looped two lengths of 2mm shockcord through the rear matrix. You can see how in the associated image. One running through the top, the other through the bottom. The bottom cord was then tied back on to the top cord with a running slip knot. Then trimmed and ends closed with a lighter. The top cord is long enough to pass behind my head with a little extra for adjustment if required to be worn over a beenie or similar. I ran the two ends through the toggle and tied them off together, trimmed the ends and sealed with the lighter again.

The whole job took less than five minutes to complete. The modified lamp with replacement head cord, now weighs 34g. So has knocked off 19g with no loss in function. It is less bulky, is comfortable to wear, doesn’t slip and is adjustable. A win win…


Modified Nitecore NU25 is comfortable to wear and easily adjusted

Modified Nitecore NU25 is comfortable to wear and easily adjusted



Tiny 3-LED lights with USB connector

Gear talk: A few grams here, a few grams there… in search of the perfect USB LED light

Over the past few years there have been a number of sweet little LED lights appearing on the market that can be plugged directly into a USB port. None are expensive and some of these, with their incredible light weight and minute proportions are perfect for slipping into a backpacking electronics bag.

There are also larger versions that come with a flexible bendable silicone body that suit plugging into laptops etc. but these are far too heavy for inclusion in a lightweight backpacking set-up. Some people use the ones with silicone bodies for task or mood lighting, others as night lights. The smaller ones that I am looking at here, are more suited to being included in an electronics gear bag, to be infrequently pulled out and used in a tent for reading, low lighting for orientation in a hostel or bunkhouse, or, in an emergency, for use on the trail at night when just about everything else has failed, though I wouldn’t recommend that.

I have recently been looking at the really small LED lights that are available with USB connectors. None of them are more than a handful of grams and every one is of quite tiny dimensions. Different configurations of LEDs are available, one, two, three, four, six and more LEDs can be mounted on a small mount board with different arrays of simply circuitry. Not all LEDs are created equal. As well as the amount of practical light that is emitted (brightness), also of importance to the hiker should be the type of light- cool or warm, and how much current the light is taking up. Most of these little lights are made in China and it can be difficult for the layman, i.e. me, to get the exact specifications of each product.

Plastic enclosed 3 LED light, plugged into the USB port of a powerbank, in use

Plastic enclosed 3 x LED light, plugged into the USB port of a powerbank, in use. The plastic surround to the light spreads the light a little further to the sides and slightly behind

Plastic enclosed 3 LED USB light

Plastic enclosed 3 x LED USB light. This only weighs 7.4g which includes the easily lost 1.3g cap

I have occasionally used little plastic three-LED lights with USB connector at night within my tent while backpacking. They measure 58mm x 18mm x 8mm and are almost totally encased in plastic, with a removable, and easily losable, clear plastic cap over the USB connector. Drawing 5 volts at 1.5W, even though they only weigh 7.4g, I still felt this was a weight that could be shaved and eventually excluded them, using either my headtorch or a red or white Photon Freedom Micro button light from LRI.


LED lights for plugging into USB ports come in a variety of configurations with differing brightness and function. Their small size and weight make them ideal for travelling and backpacking

LED lights for plugging into USB ports come in a variety of configurations with differing brightness and function. Their small size and weight make them ideal for travelling and backpacking

While the encapsulated LED does have a degree of protection from knocks and just a tad of protection from water splashes etc, the plastic surround does increase the potential of overheating. But this is probably only likely to be a problem if used for longer periods than the average hiker is going to use them for. I don’t think these are in any way suited to night hiking, instead being more useful to see around the confines of a tent or similar. Yes, I could continue to use a headtorch, but these little LED lights spread their light well and have quite useful moderate brightness, hence my re-exploring the lighter options.

Mini LED lights can be plugged into any USB port, here, one is in use combined with my Nitecore F1

Mini LED lights can be plugged into any USB port, here, a three LED warm light is in use combined with my Nitecore F1

A hard bright white is emitted from this two sided LED light

A cold bright white is emitted from this two sided LED light. It will work well to give a low current draw flood light within the confines of a tent or bothy

There is also a minuscule double-sided LED variant of the plastic encapsulated LED light to be purchased. This is a pretty tough little option that draws very little current and is an excellent option for anyone that wishes to include one of these lights but is worried about exposed circuitry on a more minimalist board. It cost less than a pound and weighs 5.2g, including the easily lost 1g cap. Measuring 42mm x 18mm x 8mm, this light will flood an area with light and works well with one of the lightweight lantern diffusers available, such as the 7g crush-able one made by Montbell.

This light is fitted with a single 5730 LED on each side. Illumination is 7500 kelvin cold white light. This is bright and quite harsh, you wouldn’t like to look straight at the light by any means.This USB LED light has a single LED on each side which cannot be directed in any effective manner. It will work well to give low current draw flood light within the confines of a tent or bothie

This USB LED light has a single LED on each side which cannot be directed in any effective manner. Other, slightly lighter LED lights with USB connectors can be purchased that have no plastic covering to them and LEDs on only one side of the circuit board..

Luffy 3-LED USB light

Luffy 3 x LED USB light.

The little three-LED light from Luffy cost me a grand total of 12 pence on eBay, including postage and packing. You can’t even send an empty envelope by Royal Mail for 12 pence, someone explain that to me. This little light measures 30mm x 12mm x 3mm and weighs just 1.5g, which is just about the same weight as the plastic cap of the previously mentioned LED light.

It is advertised as being fitted with three 2825 (but more probably 2835) SMD LED chips (Surface-Mount Device Light Emitting Diode). The small dimensions of these LEDs are only too apparent when compared with those shown below, however it is the current drawn that mostly defines the brightness. This LED light has~80 lumens and works at 0.5W, ~5V with a ~40mA current draw. The LEDs emit 6000K xenon cold white light, I will cover types of white light later in this post.

All of these little lights are advertised as being suitable for hanging from a keychain or similar but I reckon they are too fragile for this. In common with many such LED lights, the three x LED Luffy light has everything mounted on one side of the board, a plain back being exhibited on the reverse and the light can only be inserted into a USB one way, so is not reversible.

Some of these little LED lights are truly minute. While I could find virtually no specification to the two shown below, they are of even smaller dimensions than the Luffy; each weighing just 1.2g and measuring 29mm x 12mm x 3mm. I don’t think you can get any smaller than these lights while still being practical. All I know of the specs to this light is that it is, again, fitted with three-2835 LEDs, emitting a 6000k cold white light. These lights are advertised as drawing a lower current than the Luffy versions- 0.2W ~5V.

Anonymous manufacture. Tiny 3-LED USB light with single sided contacts

Anonymous manufacture. Tiny 3 x LED USB light with single sided contacts

For very little additional expense, and with the addition of a bit of extra circuitry, you can have exactly the same type of light but with contacts on each side of the board and a reversible capability. i.e., they can be plugged into a USB connector in one of two orientations. It is worth considering that with a totally open board on these lights, that if including more circuitry, there is more to be potentially damaged on the trail. I do think the usefulness of being able to put a LED light, in either orientation, into a plug or wall USB point outweighs the increased risk of damage to the extra circuits. If simply plugging one of these lights into a power bank, then two sided contacts is an irrelevance.

3 LED dual contact reversible USB light

3 x LED dual contact reversible USB light

The additional circuitry adds a minuscule weight to the double-sided contact LED lights. They now come in at a whopping 2.2g! Still small, each measures 31mm x 12mm  x 3mm. They are apparently RoHS compliant, which doesn’t appear to be difficult to attain for such a product but is, nonetheless, good to hear.

As usual, there is little information to be found on these lights. The one shown is fitted with three-LED (possibly 5730 SMD). The warm LEDs are powered by 0.5W, ~5V and these LEDs emit around 55-60 lumen.

The addition of contacts on each side of a circuit board means that lights can be turned either inward, to face the wall, or outward to provide greater light

The addition of contacts on each side of a circuit board means that lights can be turned either inward, to face away or toward the wall, or outward to provide greater light. This a dual contact 3 x LED warm light

The Soshine six-LED Power ‘Night Lights’ I purchased include still further complex circuitry. Again, perhaps more to go wrong, but it makes these lights far more practical to use. Each has a small amount of touch sensitive circuitry (capacitive touch sensor) on the reverse, also another set of connectors which again means that each LED light can be inserted in any orientation into a USB port, i.e. pointing either way, which is more useful in a practical context. These were substantially more expensive than the simple Luffy lights but still no more than around a quid each, and I have seen them even cheaper. These measure 42mm x 12mm  x 3mm and weigh 3g each.

6-LED USB lights, with dimmer function, with warm and cold lights

6 x LED USB lights, with dimmer function, with warm and cold white lights. Additional USB connectors on the reverse means that each light is reversible

These lights are advertised as being RoHS compliant. They are also CE Certified. Do note that none of these little mini LED lights are in any way encased and are therefore not waterproof and are more susceptible to damage. Lightly touching the back turns them on/off and can also dim or brighten the lights to any degree between lower and upper limits.

Little information is supplied with the two lights I purchased. These are six-LED (possibly 5730 SMD). They run at ~0.6W, ~5V. Brightness is around 110 – 150 lumen when on maximum. But do note that cooler whites will emit slightly more lumen than warmer white. Why did I buy two lights and not one? Because I wanted to compare the warmth of the light emitted.

This 2.3g LED light is fitted with light sensitive circuitry that causes it to switch on as daylight fades. The 5v 0.5W light has three LEDs emitting 3200 kelvin. However I feel this is the least suited of LED lights for backpacking use

This 2.3g LED USB light is fitted with light sensitive circuitry that causes it to switch on as daylight fades. The 5v 0.5W warm light has three LEDs emitting 3200K. I feel this is the least suited of LED lights for backpacking use

There is also a light sensitive version available, measuring only 32mm x 12mm x 4mm, however I exclude this light from any final choice I would make as I think application for this facility  is extremely limited in the back-country.

Colour temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). A warmer white light would be around 2700K to 3500K. A natural white light is between 4000K and 5000K. A cooler white would be around 5000K and upwards to around 6500K. Note that this is not a measure of brightness, which is measured in lumen. The two 6 -LED lights I purchased emit different temperatures of light, one is warm, the other cool  (warm around 3200K and cool around 5000K) . Despite a cool white being more akin to daylight, my personal preference is for the warm light as it is less harsh. If using an LED light in the confines of a tent, I think warm light is gentler on the eyes and appreciated more over longer periods of use, causing less eyestrain. This is why fire can be so relaxing or soporific, a candle flame is around 1850K.

Two 6-LED lights plugged into a two-port Mu wall plug. These are on their lowest brightness. The lights can be switched on and off, or brightness changed, by lightly touching the back of the LED

Two 6 x LED lights plugged into a two-port Mu wall plug. These are on their lowest brightness. These lights can be switched on and off, or brightness changed, by lightly touching the back of the LED. Warm white light at top, cold white below

There is a, hard to find, version of this light available with six-LEDS, three being warm, three being cold light and you can choose and switch between them. If I were really struggling for a reason to use this- warm light helps to relax us, preparing the mind to sleep. Cool white on the other hand, is more useful for when we want to be alert. So perhaps if rising before dawn, a cool white may help us to prepare for the day, encouraging alertness. Am I convinced on this as a reason for including both types of white light? Perhaps not.

These LED lights can be plugged straight into a USB wall socket, or USB plug such as the folding Mu plugs I use when backpacking and travelling, or, alternatively, straight into a powerbank. Their draw is so low that they may not suit all powerbanks, some of which fail to recognise them. I have also seen some LED lights that will plug into a phone’s headphone jack or mini USB connector but not only do they seem to be much heavier alternatives but I feel you may as well use the torch app/facility if using your phone for light.

Some LED lights can get warm after extended use. Here, I have allowed 6 LEDs to light for an hour and then pinched it between finger and thumb, despite being very warm to the touch, it is not uncomfortably hot

Some LED lights can get warm after extended use. Here, I have allowed 6 x 5730 LEDs to light for an hour and then pinched the board between finger and thumb. Despite being very warm to the touch, it is not uncomfortably hot

Due to the lack of any decent heat sink, some users have reported problems with the LEDS heating up over time, this is certainly far less of a problem with the smallest and dimmable versions which are drawing less power. Personally, I am averse to leaving any of these examples on throughout the night, and certainly never unattended. Even though they are often advertised as ‘Night Lights’, I would be loathe to use them as such around the home.

I haven’t looked at every type of mini USB LED light available. There are some with larger 5050 LED chips on the market for example. But this post has probably been sufficient to whet your appetite, or bore you to tears!

It probably isn’t possible to get much smaller than these little lights while retaining any degree of actual practical functionality. If made any smaller they would be too fiddly to handle. There are also LED lights that can plug into Micro USB ports. I am sure brighter LEDs will make their way onto the little circuit boards eventually but for the confines of a tent, hostel, bunkroom or similar, I am not sure that is required. Newer and more efficient LEDs that draw a lower current, possibly. In the meantime, I have slipped one of the 3g dimmable LED lights, with double sided contacts, in to my electronics gear bag that accompanies me on backpacking trips.


Gear talk: Fixating on the small stuff- an Every Day Carry

OK, time to fess up. This post has got very little to do with hiking. I never, ever, carry the stuff I am chatting about here on any hike. It is bulky, heavy and other than one or two of the contents, mostly of little practical use on any backpacking trip.

What it is, is an example of what I am prone to do. Which is plan. Learn from my mistakes and inaction and be better prepared for repeated events in the future. I have been like this since I was a nipper.

Every day I go to work I have a pack slung over my shoulder. For the great majority of my time I work in London, but I always have a torch, screwdriver set, multi tool, water bottle and any number of other items in various pockets of my battered urban commuting 35lt pack from The North Face. Also, being in England, I have a waterproof  packed, every single day of the year…

The Vanquest EDC SLim Maximizer pouch that Three Points of the Compass carries on every work day and trips away from the house by car

The Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer pouch that Three Points of the Compass carries on every work day and trips away from the house by car

Recently I have been pulling much of my oddments together into one of the fantastic Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer Organisers. I have also added a few recent purchases and am now content that my Every Day Carry (EDC) has the tools and other equipment that have not only proved themselves of use to me over the years, but now also give me a little more practicality and usefulness. I can put many of the contents to use most weeks, and on occasion most weekdays. It can get slung in the car for trips away and visits to my Mum where there may be the odd task that requires completing, as her battered old red biscuit tin under the sink with its even older selection of poor tools isn’t quite cutting it these days.

I have packed a lot into my EDC. Not only can I carry out a number of repairs, alteration, fixing or general ‘handyman’ tasks that require attention, but I also carry a modicum of First Aid items and small selection of hygiene products that will see me through the very occasional unexpected overnight stay.

Vanquest EDC Maximizer with contents installed

Vanquest EDC Maximizer with contents installed

Hygiene and First Aid

I have included a minimum of hygiene equipment for the occasional and unexpected overnight stop. Two of the great little compressed towels are incorporated. These can be used with the mini dropper bottle of Dr. Bronners Castille soap. This is a very concentrated and versatile soap that I can also use for shaving, brushing teeth or washing out clothes. A small compact Avid razor is included. These are of a very thin profile and I wish they were still made as I have few left. The mirror is one of the mini Star Flash acrylic mirrors (in a baggie to prevent scratches) and the toothbrush is a two-part affair from Muji. I also carry a small dropper bottle of hand sanitizer. For convenience, I have this more easily available and packed outside of the wash kit.

My First Aid kit is basic, a few band aids, dressings, tape, a couple of alcohol wipes, nitrile gloves and a little medication: Ibuprofen and Piriton. There are a few extra meds in my ‘midget’ EDC kit that I also carry. This is so very heavily based on that devised by The Urban Prepper that I need not show it here. Though I do also include 5m of 1mm spectra cord, different meds, a razor blade, emergency cufflinks (yes, really) and a couple of other items in my ‘Altoids’ tin in addition to his list.


Electronics in my Vanquest EDC are limited but useful. I have included a high quality Micro/USB charge cable, folding Mu USB plug. The 200mm long Innergie charge and sync cable is very adaptable. This will fit USB to Micro/Mini/30 pin Apple, I also have a Lightning adaptor on the end. Spare batteries carried are two CR2016 and two CR2032. All of this is in an especially tough and waterproof baggie. Two torches and a flood light are carried- the Thrunite T14 Penlight takes two AAA batteries (fitted), has a Cree XP-G2 LED  and delivers four forms of light:

  • Firefly (0.3 lumens for up to 137 hours)
  • Low (24 lumens for up to 12 hours)
  • High (252 lumens for up to 51 minutes)
  • Strobe (252 lumens for up to 90 minutes)

As back up to this, the Photon Freedom Micro belies its diminutive dimensions. While it can deliver any strength of light from dim through to its maximum 5 lumens, the almost indestructible body holds two CR2016 or one CR2032 batteries. and will run for up to eighteen hours. Also in the kit are two AAA batteries stored in AAA to AA cell converters.

These will also fit the Lil Larry Nebo floodlight. This is handy piece of kit that will provide task lighting. It has a magnetic base so can be used for changing tyres or during power outage. While in its full length it takes three AAA batteries (fitted), it can also have a section of its length removed so that just two AAA batteries can be utilised. In full configuration it provides:

  • High (250 lumens for up to 3 hours
  • Low (95 lumens for up to 10 hours)
  • Red Hazard flasher (for up to 10 hours)

    The contents of my EDC kit. It is pretty much stuffed to the gills

    The contents of my EDC kit. It is pretty much stuffed to the gills

Leatherman Raptor shears

The Leatherman Raptors are tough enough to cut a penny into quarters

The Leatherman Raptors are tough enough to cut a penny into quarters and the strap cutter is quickly and easily bought into use when required

These are an amazing piece of kit and really well made. Invariably they get used most as simply a better set of scissors than those on the Leatherman Charge carried in my EDC. However the 320HC stainless steel blades on these shears will cut through just about anything I may encounter- clothes, leather, webbing, straps etc. The tiny serrations on one blade really grip well and prevent items sliding out of the blades. There is a carbide glass breaker for auto glass windows in the base and a seat belt cutter that is easily deployed yet remains locked away until required. Obviously this can be more often used simply as a box cutter. There is handy little ring cutter placed discretely and un-noticed under the handle too. I seldom require the 5cm ruler and have never used the oxygen tank wrench incorporated. One of the best features of these 163g shears though, apart from their high quality, is their ability to swiftly fold away, or open, easily, with simple little lock buttons. They do come with a holster for First Responders, but I don’t include that in my kit. Instead I have it fixed to a mini carabiner hanging from the Maximiser pouch key fob and keep it in place, nested against my Leatherman bit extender, with one of the rare earth magnets in my kit.

Bit, driver and drill system

This kit has a complete and highly adaptable system. It mostly involves the excellent Leatherman Charge. Mine is one of the older models. Most frequently tasks will utilise the bit holder in the Leatherman Charge, possibly with the Leatherman Bit Driver Extender, extended still further if necessary with 1/4″ hex extender. Or the 1/4″ extender can be used just with the Victorinox Bitwrench. I can also use one of my three drill bits in any combination here. While it takes a little time, I have drilled clean through 2 inches of wood with the 6mm drill bit attached to the Leatherman Charge.

The Gator adapter will fit a wide range shapes of head- nuts, screws, bolts, rings, hooks etc.

The Gator adaptor will fit a wide range shapes of head- nuts, screws, bolts, rings, hooks etc.

The majority of the bits included in my EDC are the ingenious flat, double ended, Leatheman Bits plus a couple of extras. In total there are 44 bits in my EDC, plus four tiny Phillips and flat head mini bits. Two sockets are also included. A dedicated 10mm head/ 1/4″ hex drive, while the Gator socket adaptor grip will fit heads from 7mm-19mm.

With the contents of my EDC I can loosen and tighten most common and uncommon screw heads, bolts and nuts from 1mm to 19mm. While Torx head bits are included, what I am looking for, to eventually include, are some 4mm micro bits for Security Torx heads. As an aid to this capability, a small adjustable spanner or the (smallest available) Knipex water pump pliers can be pulled from the kit. The pliers have recently replaced the small set of mole grips I used to carry.

1/4" hex drive drill bits can be used in a number of configurations

1/4″ hex drive drill bits can be used in a number of configurations

Solkoa Grip-S handles

Solkoa Grip-S handles with 24" flexible wire saw fitted

Solkoa Grip-S handles with 130mm wood saw blade fitted

Separated Solkoa Grip-S handles with 24" flexible wire saw fitted

Separated Solkoa Grip-S handles with 28″ flexible wire saw fitted

Though expensive, the hard anodised 6061 aluminium Solkoa Grip-S handles (there are two, joined together) are very useful. Not only can any standard flexible wire saw be fixed in using the set screws in each handle, and I include a 28″ wire saw in this EDC kit, but the handles can also take any round or hexagonal drive tool, up to 1/4″  diameter. A two ended flat/Phillips head bit is stored in the handle and the two handles are quickly separated by loosening one of the set screws with the flat screwdriver on the Gerber Shard pry bar. Any universal saw blade can be fitted into the Grip-S handles. I could have included a couple of the small jigsaw blades, which fit, but instead included two larger 130mm blades. One for wood (and nails) the other for metal.

Other items

I won’t go into detail on every item as reading from the list below they really are self-explanatory. There is an emergency twenty pound note secreted in the rear of the notebook. Tape measure gets used frequently. The titanium short-handled spoon is a ‘must have’, nappy pins can be used for hanging washing to dry and a thousand other uses, as can the paper clips and bobby pins. The lengths of wire can be bent into hooks for retrieving items or combined with the rare earth magnets to similar purpose. I would add a sachet of Sugru but it goes off too quickly if stored out of the fridge.

Item Description Notes
Pouch Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer
Combination padlock TSA compliant
Adjustable spanner Small- 100mm. Jaws open to 13mm Unknown make
Pliers Knipex Cobra water pump pliers. Grips up to 27mm wide


Model 87 01 125. The ‘125’ in the model number refers to their length
Leatherman Raptor- Folding medical shears 420HC stainless steel scissors, strap cutter, ruler (1.9″/50mm), oxygen tank wrench, ring cutter, carbide tip glass breaker
Leatherman Charge Ti  multitool Titanium scales. needlenose pliers, regular pliers, hard wire cutters, wire cutters, crimper, wire stripper, S30V knife blade, 420HC serrated knife with cutting hook, saw, scissors, 8″/19cm ruler, can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, diamond coated file, large bit driver (double ended 1/8″ / 3/32″ flat screwdriver bit fitted), small bit driver (small, double ended flat/Phillips screwdriver bit fitted), medium flat screwdriver. Pocket clip fitted  


Leatherman bit driver extension Fits into bit driver of Leatherman Charge, other end accepts Leatherman bits and 1/4″ hex bits 10mm socket is stowed attached to end of driver
1/4″ extension piece 75mm, magnetic
Victorinox Bitwrench 1/4″ hex drive VICBW
23 double ended Leatherman bits – Hex 3/32″ ; 5/64″
– Hex 1/16″ ; .050″
– Square bit #2 ; #3
– Square bit #1 ; pozi #3- Pozi#1; pozi#2
– Torx #10 ; #15
– Torx #20 ; #25
– Torx #27 ; #30
– Phillips #0 ; #3
– Phillips #1 ; #2- Phillips #1-2; screwdriver 3/16″
– Screwdrivers 3/32″ ; 1/8″
– Screwdrivers 5/32″ ; 3/16″
– Screwdrivers 7/32″ ; 1/4″
– Hex 1.5mm ; 2mm
– Hex 2.5mm ; 3mm
– Hex 4mm ; 5mm
– Hex 6mm ; 1/4″
– Hex 7/32″ ; 3/16″
– Hex 5/32 ; 9/64″
– Hex 1/8″ ; 7/64″
2 x – Phillips; flat tip eyeglasses screwdriver
In two Leatherman bit holders with one mini bit and one double ended bit in the Leatherman Charge.

46 bit options, though a couple are duplicated.

Wolfteeth universal gator socket adapter,with 1/4″ drive adapter Fits 7mm – 19mm sockets. Also fits various nuts, screws, hooks, bolt heads, broken taps and knobs
Socket- 10mm head/ 1/4″ hex drive A common size
Gerber Shard pry bar In addition to pry, has Phillips head, two flat screwdrivers, wire stripper and bottle opener
Solkoa Grip-S handles 2 x hard anodised handles with set screws joined together over double ended Phillips/flat head screwdriver Will hold any round or hexagonal, up to 1/4″ head, tool or any standard flexible wire saw
28″ flexible wire saw (in baggie) For use with Grip-S handles
Stanley 152mm wood saw blade For use with Grip-S handles Model STA21192
Stanley 152mm metal saw blade For use with Grip-S handles Model STA22132
Retractable steel razor With snap off stainless steel blades
Excel aluminium handle Handle has adjustable jaws. Inside handle are six various mini file needles and an additional sewing awl Model 70001
Hex drive drill bits- 6mm, 4mm,2mm For use with either Grip-S handles, Leatherman Charge or 1/4″ drive turn key
1/4″ plastic turn key
Double ended steel craft tool Arrow point and spatula end
2m steel tape measure Muji Code: 8215607
1m x 16swg tin plated copper wire
1m x plastic wrapped 12swg steel wire Use with magnets for retrieving lost screws, keys etc.
4 x small rare earth magnets Three stored attached to the bit holder and one attached to the bit extender keep tools in place in the pouch
Small tin with slide top Contents:

2 x stainless steel M6 hex bolt, nut, washer

3 x zinc plated wood screw

2 x small countersunk brass woodscrew

2 x rawlplug

2 x nails

1 x small, 1 x large stainless steel screw eye

1 x stainless steel split ring

2 x nappy pin
1 x paper clip

1 x medium paper clip (insulated)

1 x small paper clip

2 x bobby pins
1 x binder clip
Anker Powerline USB/Micro 3′ braided cable. Very tough double-braided Aramid exterior and toughened Aramid fiber core
Mu folding USB plug Single USB outlet. 1amp There are two USB oulet Mu plugs available, this is sufficient for my needs
Photon Freedom Micro Button torch
Thrunite T14 Penlight Cree XP-G2 LED

Firefly: 0.3 lumens, 137hours
Low: 24 lumens, 12hours
High: 252 lumens, 51minutes
Strobe: 252 lumens, 90 minutes

With 2 x Alkaline AAA (Duracell Plus Power).

One cell reversed to prevent accidental discharge

Lil Larry Nebo- floodlight Magnetic base, C.O.B. LED chip technology

High: 250 lumen, 3 hours

Low: 95 lumen, 10 hours

Red hazard flasher:  10 hours

3 X Alkaline AAA (NEBO). One cell reversed. Light can be reduced in length with just 2 AAA batteries but I keep mine full length
2 x Li-ion Duracell AAA batteries Stored in Sodial AAA to AA battery cell converters
2 x CR2016 batteries
2 X CR2032 batteries
Sharpie pen, stainless steel Black, refillable, 0.4mm fine point Model 1849740
Zebra F701 ball pen, stainless steel Black medium Model 44970
Faber Castell Perfect Pencil With eraser and integrated extender/sharpener
Backpocket Journal Tomoe River Edition From Curnow Bookbinding & Leatherwork
£20 Stored in back of notebook (above)
5m x 550 paracord In quick deploy hank
2 x velcro cable ties
6″ Nite Ize Gear Tie
2 x 400mm cable tie

1 x 150mm cable tie

These are threaded into the lining of the pouch interior
2 x mini-biner
1m gaffer tape Flat wound onto silicone release paper
Sewing kit 2m black Gütermann Sew-All  thread

1 x large black button, 2 x small white buttons


2 x No. 7 embroidery/crewel needles

1 x No. 18 chenille needle

1 x Microtex 60/8 machine needle (for use with Excel handle)

Stored in SD card case
Spoon Small, Sea to Summit, hard anodised alloy
Mini Bic lighter With 1m electricians tape wound on to it Has quick release mini  zip tie on it to prevent accidental discharge of gas
Hand sanitiser Alcohol free  In mini dropper bottle
Hygiene kit Mirror (mini StarFlash), Razors (Avid, fold flat), 20ml Dr Bronner’s liquid soap in mini dropper bottle, folding toothbrush, 2 x compressed travel towels All in 130mm x 120mm Aloksac
Uncle Bills Sliver Gripper Tweezers With holder
Fox 40 Micro whistle
Shelby mini tin opener
First Aid kit 2 x alcohol wipes, 2 x plasters (silver), 1 strip ‘cut to size’ plaster (10cm), 1 x dressing (small), 1 x Melolin dressing (5cm x 5cm), 4 x 45cm strips Leukotape, 30cm x 1cm zinc oxide tape, 30cm x 2.5cm Transpore tape, 4 x Ibuprofen, 7 x Piriton.

1 pair Nitrile gloves

All in baggies




“More power”

Jeremy Clarkson

While I am no Luddite, I have never tended to carry much in the way of electrical equipment with me on hikes. An ipod usually goes unlistened, camera battery is supplemented by a spare battery. I have broken more Kindles than I am happy with and until recently, a simple pay-as-you-go mobile has been sufficient to carry as emergency back-up, never required thankfully. I don’t carry a SPOT device but may reconsider this decision.

However I do realise that I am in a period of transition. I am looking at purchasing a new Android phone, I have my eye on a particular ruggedised one. While I will continue to put my faith in map and compass, I am certainly looking to also start using Viewranger or similar. The phone I am considering can be charged via mini USB.

Another small change I recently made was in choice of headlight. I now have the superb Black Diamond ReVolt. This can run on three AAA batteries, alternatively it can be recharged via mini USB as can the Kindle.

There is a pattern emerging, that of devices that can be charged via USB. It was time to look at power banks. The interesting Brunton Core doesn’t seem to have permeated the market sufficiently well to make it a viable option. Solar chargers just don’t cut it in the gloomy UK. Likewise, putting all my faith in a wood burning BioLite stove would be equally as daft.

I could have gone down the traditional route (traditional!) and simply purchased the latest, greatest external battery power bank, the Ankers seem to be what everyone is raving about. However these also need to be recharged at some point, there remaining the requirement to hook them up to someone’s plug point. Not something most tents come supplied with. So I remained on the lookout for an alternative.

That was when I came across an intriguing project on Kickstarter. Launched by German geniuses  eXelleron Inc. in January 2015, the Kraftwerk mini fuel cell looks as though it may provide what I am after. It converts lighter gas into electricity. Weight and size are easily comparable to battery packs. Kraftwerk weighs 160g empty and 200g full. It is filled in three seconds from one of the small lighter-gas cylinders you can buy in just about any supermarket and other shops. A single charge is advertised as providing enough power to charge an iphone 11 times. I have done the math and if I am right a charged Kraftwerk will provide enough power to recharge a 2600mAh 3.7v battery 5.8 times, optimum conditions I realise. Or in other words, an 8oz gas bottle providing 32.7 charges of the same battery. Enough to separate me from the grid for a while.

Each cell measures 3.94″ x 2.95″ x 1.18″ and has a single USB outlet. There are loads of other stats and I am sure that there will be faults that remove some of the gloss. Likewise, the next generations will also likely provide more power with more ports, but nonetheless, I am sufficiently intrigued by the project to have become a backer. Even though it means that I won’t get my own ‘Pioneers’ edition delivered until February 2016.

I am only one of over 10,000 backers, the project is funded so will proceed, there is only a week to go, I am just a tad excited…