There’s nothing worse than watching the setting sun reflect in a small mountain lake, miles from civilization, and not having any juice left in the camera.

Here’s a few tips on making your camera battery last longer while hiking or backpacking, without degrading image quality.

Solar charging camera

Solar charging the camera on Donahue Pass.

Go Solar

Of course – Goal Zero makes some great portable solar charging solutions for photographers and their cameras.  The Switch 10 alone as a portable battery pack will offer limited power, but when paired up with the Nomad 7 it’s unlimited.

Just make sure that the camera is covered in shade.  You can easily fry the electronics if you leave it out in the sun next to the solar charger.

This will only really work with constant, direct sunlight – don’t expect it to charge in the shade of trees or clouds.

Turn off Auto Focus Assist

You know that little light that turns on when you press the shutter halfway?  That’s the autofocus illuminator and it’s supposed to help the autofocus work its magic in dark scenes.  It’s probably not going to do you much good during daytime landscapes.  Turn it off if you can.

Manual Focus

If you’re confident in your manual focusing abilities, use it.  Let your fingers do the work instead of the servo motor.  If you do need autofocus…

Single Shot Autofocus

Ensure this mode is set unless you’re doing fast-action sports (unlikely on the trail).  When you press the shutter halfway, the autofocus will lock there.  Other focus modes such as Continuous will continually move the servo motor, costing precious milliamps.

Camera ReviewTurn off Auto Review

Take your picture and move on!  If you’re tempted by the Auto Review feature you’ll keep wanting to go back and review the pictures you just took.  Battery = dead.

Image Stabilization

The motors that keep the lenses or sensors stabilized use up a little bit of energy.  If you’re shooting with a fast shutter speed during daylight hours, there’s really no reason to use this handy feature.  Actually, if you’re using a tripod, you should have it off anyways.

WiFi & GPS

WiFiGPSWhat kind of antennas does your camera have?  Many have WiFi and a lot have GPS.  Switch your camera to Airplane Mode if you can, or manually turn off these energy-hogging features.

The GPS is a nice feature to have, but not when you’re concerned about battery life.  I always just carry a Rite in the Rain notepad and pen to annotate where my pictures are taken, and also take pictures of whatever trail signs I might pass so that I can later interpolate my position along the trail when doing descriptions.

Be Disciplined with the Shutter

Don’t press the shutter button, not even halfway, until you’re happy with your composition and ready to make the picture.

Flash

Flash OFFDoes your camera automatically fire a flash for fill light?  Unnecessary if you’re shooting landscapes on the trail, so turn the flash off.  Some cameras will sense a sharp difference in contrast or “think” you’re taking a picture of a person and fire the flash when it’s not needed.

Dim the LCD

If you need the LCD to compose your shots (for cameras without optical viewfinders), turn it to the lowest setting that you can.  This may be impractical on bright days.

No Video!

Do I really need to explain this?  Each frame, thirty to sixty per second, is a picture that needs to be processed and written to the memory card.  Holy smokes there goes your battery.

Battery Storage

Keep ’em warm.  In cold climates you should be keeping your camera as close to the outside temperature as possible to prevent condensation and fogging, but your batteries should be swaddled in warm clothing.  Keep the spares warm, and keep the one you’re shooting with in your pocket when you’re not shooting.

Wasabi BatteriesRation Your Usage

Approximately how many pictures can you take with one charge?  330?  Ok, and how many days do you plan to be on the trail?  Ten?

Subtract ten percent from your expected battery life as a reserve (you always want to save a little for the summit, right?).  Ten percent of 330 is about 30, so that gives us 300 shots for our ten days.  Now doing the math, 300/10 is 30 shots per day.  That’s all you get!

Carry a spare battery and double that.  Two spare batteries?  Now you get 90 in a day.

Carry Extra Batteries

Speaking of spare batteries…Wasabi Power makes affordable batteries and chargers that last as long as their brand-name counterparts, but for a fraction of the price.  Buy a few and stuff them in your pack.  If you know you’ll pass electricity at some point, you might be able to get away with carrying fewer batteries and a charger.

Even with a solar charger I still have a spare battery.  Wasabi’s packs have never let me down for both my GoPro and Sony.

What’d I miss?

Is there anything you do to make your camera batteries last longer on the trail, vacation, or whatever else you’re doing far from the grid?

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