I recently picked up several Personal Battery Caddies so I thought I would write up a review.
These are spare battery holders that come in a variety of styles with prices in the $5 to $14 range. Available colors are Moonshine (GID), Crystal Clear, Caution Yellow, Orange, Venetian Red, Military (OD) Green, and Tuxedo Black. Here is a list of the styles and the cells they will hold:
Original: 4AAA, 12 AA, 2 C, and a single 9V
A9 pack: 4AAA, 8 AA, and a single 9V
DC pack: 2 C and 2 D
12 pack: 12 AA
Slim line: 6 versions, one for each cell size
- 6 AAA
- 4 AA
- 4 CR123
- 4 9v
- 4 C
- 4 D
Overall, I found the quality on these to be very good and about what I expected when I placed the order. I got the Original, A9, and 12 pack; plus the Slim Line in AAA, AA, and CR123 sizes. I got an assortment of colors, including GID. Although I don’t have a wide variety of GID items, these seem to charge from ambient room light better than most items I have experience with. They are among the brightest I’ve seen and seemed to dim fairly slowly. I did not attempt any “run time” tests with the GID holders.
Slim line CR123, 12 pack A9, Slim line AAA
The plastic is very stiff with just a little give. The edges are all nicely rounded with no sharp corners or other protrusions, with the exception of the hanging hook on the Original. This was especially important during the 2 nights I carried the Slim Line AAA in my pants pocket at work. I never once felt it poke my leg through the pocket like some other battery holders I have tried. It also never scratched my hand when reaching into the pocket for other items. BTW, the Slim Lines are just that: SLIM. The holder only adds about 1.8mm around all sides of the cells. I customized a 6AAA holder down to 3AAA size, since that’s as many cells as I normally carry, and I barely noticed it in my pocket.
Each individual cell is retained in the holder by a small tab. The photos on the website show this tab bending fairly far when the cell is being removed. Seeing this when I ordered, I was concerned that it might break off with continued use. In actuality, the tab barely moves, only flexing very slightly (measured at about 0.5mm). I no longer am really concerned about it breaking off, but only time will tell for sure. I think they exaggerated the movement for the website pictures to show how it works. Although the tab is small, it does a good job of retaining the cells firmly. The tab is also well rounded and the cells can be inserted and removed fairly easily with no damage to the outer wrapping of the cell. However, if rechargables are being used, the wrapping might eventually start to show wear due to the tab rubbing along the side as the cell is inserted and removed.
As advertised, the holders do a good job of protecting the ends of the cells from inadvertent contact which might result in a short. The top end with the retention tab is deep enough to prevent contact with the positive nipple. And the bottom ends of the holders have a hole in them for the positive nipple, so you can put the cells in either way. The only holder where this recess is not completely surrounded by plastic is on the AAA cell holders. On the AAA, it’s only a half circle in the plastic, the other half is open. Due to the small size, a full ring of plastic around the positive contact when it’s on the bottom would be so big that it would prevent you from pushing the cell up to remove it from the holder. Although there is a slightly higher chance that a piece of metal might short 2 adjacent AAA cells on the bottom end, the top ends are so well recessed that completing the short circuit at that end would be nearly impossible.
One improvement I would really like to see in these would be to offer individual cell holders that could be linked together to form customized packs that hold the exact number and combination of cells needed. My needs never seem to exactly match what’s offered by any company. I did give this feedback to the manufacturers, maybe there’s hope for the future. In the meantime, as I mentioned earlier, I just shortened the 6AAA unit by chopping out one of the middle chambers to make a 3AAA holder and a 2AAA holder. When all else fails, whip out the Dremel tool.
Now for the (somewhat) bad news. I decided to abuse one of the AA slim line holders to see what would happen. I fully loaded it up with four AA cells and gave it a drop test from exactly 4 ft. onto solid concrete. Not just once; but 6 times, once on each side. The holder fell fairly straight so it hit pretty much dead on each edge. The first 2 drops onto the wide flat sides did not noticeable damage, not even any noticeable scuffs. Although the shock when they hit did pop a couple cells out of the holders, but they were also undamaged. The next 2 drops were on the top and bottom sides. Contrary to my expectations after the first 2 tests, none of the cells were ejected from the holder. Some cells were partially ejected but the retaining tab rubbing along the side prevented them from coming all the way out. There was a little bit of scuffing along the outer rim of the top and bottom edges, but still very minor. I was expecting to see more than this after just a single drop onto concrete. On the 5th drop, this time on the narrow edge where the full weight of all 4 cells is impacting on just the rounded edge of a single cell chamber, there was finally some real damage.
The entire bottom of one cell chamber popped off.
The cell can now slide all the way through the holder. The 6th and final drop on the opposite narrow side was uneventful. In the end, although the holder was damaged enough to interfere with it’s function, I was pleasantly surprised by the durability of this $5 product. The surprisingly solid “THUNK” on the first drop made me expect much worse. The fact that no appreciable damage was done until the 5th drop, and which did not get any worse on the 6th one, shows these holders to be fairly robust. I intend to just chop off the broken cell chamber and make this into a 2 or 3 cell holder, whichever I end up needing.
Personally, I found these to be a very well designed and manufactured product. But they are not indestructible, as the drop test proved. My only real issue is that none of the current offerings EXACTLY match my personal needs as to number and combination of cells, but I know I’m just being picky. I think the product does exactly what is promised on the website and these are a very good value. This is made even better because they offer a 10% discount on 3 or more items and free shipping on orders over $50. I particularly like the Slim Line holders and will be ordering more as needed.
Update 7/5/07: County Comm now has the AA and CR123 versions available here.
Update 1/1/08: A HUGE selection is now available from LightHound.com.