Staying Powered Up in Freezing Weather

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It should come as no surprise to anyone that cold weather results in diminished battery effectiveness. Unfortunately, you likely learned this from the experience of having a dead car battery on a bitter winter morning or just through the rapid decline of your smartphone’s battery as the temperate starts to drop. There are some steps you can take to help yourself—and your batteries—make it through brutal winter days.

Keep Batteries Warm

One of the simplest ways to improved battery performance in cold weather is simple: keep them warm. Going back to high school chemistry, your standard Li-ion battery pack experiences much lower efficiency when it gets cold. This means it could struggle to produce the proper voltage and appear to drop its charge much faster. An easy fix is to keep your batteries on your person and in your pockets. If you can keep them in a place closer to your body, the warmer they will be and hopefully provide better performance when in use. You can also use those common gel hand warmers or an electronic warmer to help out.

Celestron Elements FireCel+

Do Not Charge in Extreme Temps

While some may think it useful to have a USB battery pack to help charge your batteries when they drain outside in the cold, it can cause damage to the batteries. When a battery hits 0% in cold weather, it may not mean that it is truly dead, just that in the current temperature it can’t discharge the energy required to keep your device going. So, attempting to charge it may cause damage, since the battery isn’t fully drained. It likely won’t solve the problem, either. This explains why warming a battery or device can bring it back to life: it helps kickstart the reaction.

Cover Up

Wearing a coat keeps you warm and covering up your camera can do the same for it. A silicone cover or rain jacket can help minimize the impact of the cold, and function as something of a blanket to keep devices from getting too chilled, too quickly. Granted, it won’t do much to keep the temperature of the device from dropping, but blocking wind and, perhaps, better insulating it can help keep it warmer.

Ruggard RC-P8 Rain Cover for DSLR with Lens up to 8"

Bring Spares

Even when taking many precautions, you can’t beat the cold all the time. Having a few extra batteries on hand will be crucial for improving your shooting time. Another benefit of having extras on hand is that you can keep some warmed up in your pocket and switch them out. This way you can keep rotating batteries as they get chilled and squeeze the most juice out of every one.

Make Sure Everything is Charged Before the Shoot

On an average day, having a battery in the camera sitting at 70% isn’t a big deal. With a usual rate of shooting I should be more than fine to last another day or two before the battery level is uncomfortably low and, even then, I have extras lying around that should have enough juice. This is a bad practice when it gets cold. That 70% will drop way more quickly and result in dramatically shorter shooting times. Make sure to keep everything charged fully when the weather gets cold.

Alternative Power Sources

If you plan on shooting more intense projects out in the cold, it may be time to invest in alternative power sources. The easiest boost for cameras is a battery grip, which should effectively double your shooting time. Beyond that, AC adapters and external battery kits are the way to go. These can be more reliable than your standard battery pack, and can be stored away from the camera body, meaning you can keep them in a more protected location, perhaps with some hand warmers nearby.

Sony NPA-MQZ1K Multi Battery Adapter Kit

Do you have any of your own tips for keeping power going on the coldest days? Be sure to leave your thoughts and questions in the Comments section, below!

Be sure to check back on B&H Explora for more of Adventure Week: Winter Edition​—and don't forget to follow B&H on Twitter @BHPhotoVideo for up-to-the-minute #adventureweek news.

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