Batteries with usb charging ports?

moab90245

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I backpack with a solar charger, goalzero AA battery charger/battery bank (has usb power out), 18650 charger and a traditional battery bank. My devices run on AA, AAA and 18650's.

I am considering switching to 18650 and AA batteries with usb charging ports. So that I can ditch the goalzero and 18650 battery chargers and associated cabling. I'm not an ultralight hiker. But bulk and ounces add up. And I would like to trim these items out of my pack.

I would like to be able to charge these batteries directly from my solar panel or battery bank. And I would love to be able to use this:

Screenshot_20220413-061001_Chrome.jpg


So that I could charge a group of batteries at one time. Rather than babysitting the batteries as they charge individually.

What is the general consensus about batteries with usb charging ports? Their durability, time to charge and any other criteria that might concern my intended use? Are there any limitations to using the 4 to 1 cable above?
 

DRW

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I just got rid of all of mine. Gave my charger to my son (for the other batteries).

Every flash light I have now charges with a USB cable, without having to take the cell out of the light. All flashlights are USB C, and the two headlamps use a USB A to proprietary magnetic port, and that's close enough.

That cable may not support enough amps, you'll need to find out what gauge the wires are then lookup the capacity. Figure out what the cells need to charge, and does the solar provide enough for 4 at a time (and is it fast enough to meet your needs assuming good weather).
 

aznsx

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I use them, will continue to, have had no reasons not to, and would almost certainly use them for your application / situation. I mostly use standalone chargers at home, but about half the cells I buy have inboard USB charging so that I have that option to use (and do) when it is advantageous.

You'll need to consult manufacturer specs to determine charging current required from the USB power source and thus how many you can charge in parallel from a given source and using specific cabling. To give an example, here are some specs on some 18650s I often use, and you'll note they list 'charging current by USB port' at .8 Amps. A little basic math is required to stay within the limits of your supply / cabling.


Also, check the 'height' or length of the cells you're looking to buy and ensure they'll be appropriate for your device(s), as these are not typically the shortest cells out there.

You will predictably get some negative responses from some, but they are always largely theoretically valid but of little or no actual significance in practice (little better than a red herring). Sure, everything added can add to failure rate / decrease MTBF (duh), but I've never seen any statistical or specification data provided to quantify either, and believe both to be insignificant in actual practice. Some simply 'don't like them' personally, but don't let that deter you from using them if they are an advantage for your application.
 

Hooked on Fenix

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I've switched to USB-C charging either built into the light 18650 headlight (Nitecore HC60 v.2), 21700 flashlight (Nitecore MH10 v.2), or built into the battery (21700 battery for Nitecore E4K). Since my phone is micro usb charging, I also use the Nitecore high cri 80 lumen magnetic lantern/ 21700 battery/usb charger kit. Gives me a spare 21700 battery and makes me need to bring a charge cord for it and my phone. I'd try to phase out the AAs and AAAs entirely. Go with 18650. Possibly 21700. Maybe get a lightweight solar lantern like Luci Lux Pro or Base that you can do limited charging with and ditch the solar panel. Kind of depends on how much power you need if that is a possibility. For thruhikers, you'd often see them carry a lightweight Nitecore NU25 headlight, a couple 10 amp carbon fiber lithium ion Nitecore battery packs to charge their devices, and a 120 volt to usb wall adapter to charge up in towns. Not sure where you stand for trip duration or resupply options, but those will play into your decision making process.
 

Lynx_Arc

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+1 on going lithium ion 18650/21700 etc. There are lights with replaceable cells that offer built in charging that you could swap in depleted cells to charge them. I have a BTC-100 charger that is pretty compact but they do make a charger for about $10 not sure the brand but it uses 2 magnets to charge batteries with which would make it very compact for your purposes. I strongly recommend a car charger that supports fast charging for your phone and has USB ports to match cables for it that can double as power for other chargers. My BTC100 has both 12v and 5v micro usb inputs.
 

KITROBASKIN

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Be advised that some charging circuitry does not play well with solar charging directly without a buffer battery. See if you can test that before investing more in the system. Wondering what your solar panel is rated in terms of watts.
 

idleprocess

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Upside of integrated USB charging is the convenience since more or less everyone has a USB power supply or few sitting around. Downsides are that the charging circuits must be compact/cheap - thus of lower quality/versatility than a dedicated charger - and come at the expense of cell capacity or make the cell larger than spec.
 

Timothybil

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I'm not going to get into the whole USB charging on an individual cell except to say my personal feelings agree with ledbetter.
My two cents worth is that I agree you should use your solar panel to charge a power bank, then use the power bank to feed whatever charging method you decide on. I personally would have two power banks so that one could be charging while the other is serving as a power source.
 

sim1tti

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...they do make a charger for about $10 not sure the brand but it uses 2 magnets to charge batteries with which would make it very compact for your purposes...
Olight makes a charger like that (or at least they did). Works great. I believe some other brands have picked up the baton, or torch (two puns!).

I'm not a fan of the batteries with integrated charging ports. They seem to have less capacity, be prone to failure, and devices are finicky with them vs. than their conventional counterparts.

My go-to combo for hiking trips has been that Olight charger, a Fenix ARE-D1, and however many 18650s/21700s the trip may call for. Charges my phone, gps, and any Ni-Mh AAs. The ARE-D1 also has very fast 2amp charging. It will get an 18650 from empty to full in 90 minutes. More versitile, faster, lighter, and cheaper than most battery banks.
 

Lynx_Arc

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Olight makes a charger like that (or at least they did). Works great. I believe some other brands have picked up the baton, or torch (two puns!).

I'm not a fan of the batteries with integrated charging ports. They seem to have less capacity, be prone to failure, and devices are finicky with them vs. than their conventional counterparts.

My go-to combo for hiking trips has been that Olight charger, a Fenix ARE-D1, and however many 18650s/21700s the trip may call for. Charges my phone, gps, and any Ni-Mh AAs. The ARE-D1 also has very fast 2amp charging. It will get an 18650 from empty to full in 90 minutes. More versitile, faster, lighter, and cheaper than most battery banks.
Yes, the Opus BTC100 does about 1.6A but does have a power bank function using lithium ion and having an LCD display is nice but I did mod it to get the voltage more accurate on charging as some tend to undercharge batteries a little.
 

AdventureBoi

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Olight makes a charger like that (or at least they did). Works great. I believe some other brands have picked up the baton, or torch (two puns!).

I'm not a fan of the batteries with integrated charging ports. They seem to have less capacity, be prone to failure, and devices are finicky with them vs. than their conventional counterparts.

My go-to combo for hiking trips has been that Olight charger, a Fenix ARE-D1, and however many 18650s/21700s the trip may call for. Charges my phone, gps, and any Ni-Mh AAs. The ARE-D1 also has very fast 2amp charging. It will get an 18650 from empty to full in 90 minutes. More versitile, faster, lighter, and cheaper than most battery banks.
I can only charge about 20-30% on my Phone (with a 4500mAh battery), then it stops working. Are my 18650 cells too old or is that normal?
 

idleprocess

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I can only charge about 20-30% on my Phone (with a 4500mAh battery), then it stops working. Are my 18650 cells too old or is that normal?
Charging a battery with a battery will always involve loss. In the case of charging a phone, you'll have loss in the charger boosting ~3.6V to USB 5V then loss in the charge controller bucking 5V USB to ~4.2V.
 

turbodog

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I backpack with a solar charger, goalzero AA battery charger/battery bank (has usb power out), 18650 charger and a traditional battery bank. My devices run on AA, AAA and 18650's.

I am considering switching to 18650 and AA batteries with usb charging ports. So that I can ditch the goalzero and 18650 battery chargers and associated cabling. I'm not an ultralight hiker. But bulk and ounces add up. And I would like to trim these items out of my pack.

I would like to be able to charge these batteries directly from my solar panel or battery bank. And I would love to be able to use this:

View attachment 26536

So that I could charge a group of batteries at one time. Rather than babysitting the batteries as they charge individually.

What is the general consensus about batteries with usb charging ports? Their durability, time to charge and any other criteria that might concern my intended use? Are there any limitations to using the 4 to 1 cable above?

I use 2 of these in a malkoff


1693851223058.png


The charge circuit gets a little warm during charging, but they are great so far. Feel very solidly made. Note, the malkoff needed a button top, otherwise I would go flat top. Additionally, you can adjust for cell length in it by unscrewing the tailcap a little.

If your light will accept longer cells (some of the zebralights are made for this) then you are good.
 

AdventureBoi

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Charging a battery with a battery will always involve loss. In the case of charging a phone, you'll have loss in the charger boosting ~3.6V to USB 5V then loss in the charge controller bucking 5V USB to ~4.2V.
I tried with a TrustFire TR19650. But thinking back when i got it, it might be a knockoff.
Right now my phone charges with a lgabhg21865 and it looks wayy better! Even amount of loosing voltage and getting phone charge.

Which brings me to the next questioin, what 18650 cells are good for a) headlamps and b) to use as a powerbank. Are there any threats open? Didn't find one.
 

idleprocess

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... has a well-deserved poor reputation due to performance claims that are physically impossible (ala 9000mAh 18650) and often well below average cells.

Which brings me to the next questioin, what 18650 cells are good for a) headlamps and b) to use as a powerbank.
Quality OEMs for 18650s in no specific order:
  • Molicel
  • LG
  • Samsung
  • Panasonic/Sanyo
  • Sony
Specific models will depend on whether you need high energy density or high power. 3500mAh is about the best energy density available (Panasonic/Sanyo NCR18650GA) while 35A peak discharge is about the best power density available (Molicel P28A).

Other brands are less reputable in my limited experience. Some brands such as Vapcell, Efest, Xtar, Keepower, various flashlight OEMs do not make cells at all but instead re-wrap OEM cells - some are good others not so much so.

Note that li-ion cells are industrial goods intended to be used as components in finished goods (complete with BMS), thus not intended for sale to consumers. As such quality OEMs do not produce protected nor button top cells - those are the realm of re-wrap operations.
 

AdventureBoi

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Oh, I see!

I have a multimeter and the Fenix ARE-D1, is there a way to test my cells other then Voltage? They all start with good voltage but some drop of faster.


I honestly don't know what is needed more. I guess endurance, as my Nitecote HC 68 won't need that much power, same as the Fenix ARE-D1?

I don't need button top cells in terms of form factor. But I read that all flat top cells are unprotected? Is that true? I think it would be good to carry protected cells in my headlamp?

Thanks for all the information!
 

Stress_Test

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For what it's worth, I've recently bought some of the Streamlight 18650 cells with the integrated charger (USB-micro) to go along with a Polytac-X that I gave as a gift.

I put some cycles on the cells to ensure everything looked ok first. The charger seems to work fine, about 5 hours if the cell is empty, so it's not a high rate.

The only oddity I noticed was that a couple of the cells would show 4.22 volts right off the charger. That's higher than I've seen before on other cells, but still within spec. (my old XTAR charger never goes above 4.20)

One or two of the cells seemed to stay at 4.20v for a few days without dropping, while a few others would go down to about 4.18v fairly quickly. To be fair, I recently got some new Panasonic cells (via Orbronic) that do the same thing.

I don't know what source Streamlight uses for their cells, but I'd have more confidence in their product than other "overseas" flashlight brand labeled cells.
 

idleprocess

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I have a multimeter and the Fenix ARE-D1, is there a way to test my cells other then Voltage? They all start with good voltage but some drop of faster.
A charger that shows cell voltage will give you a decent idea of where the cell is at in terms of charge. The HC68 also looks to have a means of displaying voltage per the manual.

I guess endurance, as my Nitecote HC 68 won't need that much power
HC68 specifies the NL2935HP cell - a button-top 3.5Ah / 8A cell. This current rating is somewhat more demanding than some high-density cells can provide but not difficult to locate.

I don't need button top cells in terms of form factor. But I read that all flat top cells are unprotected? Is that true? I think it would be good to carry protected cells in my headlamp?
I don't know that a flat-top cell will work - the only view of the interior I was able to find quickly from this review on BLF suggests there's basic physical reverse polarity protection so you're apt to want button tops. The choice to use protected cells or not depends on how the light handles the li-ion voltage range and whether you use the inbuilt charging - both may depend on a cell protection circuit to limit over-discharge and over-charge.
 
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