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Venturesome Overland

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Dug out a few of my many poetry books. Going to start each day with a random reading. Let art and literature help keep us whole during these strange, strange days. My reading today is Neruda’s Keeping Quiet. Share something you love. 📚 #poemsforthepandemic #poetryforthepandemic #poetry #poems #literature #librarianlife #librarian #covid_19 #coronavirus #bewell #staywell #read #readinglife
Things are still pretty chilly here in Montana, but Spring has been breaking through from day to day. I found this little adventurer hitching a ride with #totothelandrover just the other day. Spring also means the desert is calling. Toto will get her first taste of Utah in the coming weeks, a place very close to our hearts. #defender #defender110 #best4x4byfar #landroverdefender #landroverphotoalbum #overland #ladybugs #utahoverland #montanaoverland #venturesomemore
Happy International Women’s Day to all the amazing women in my life, all over the world. #internationalwomensday #internationalwomensday2020 #feministasfuck #whorulestheworld #womenoverlandingtheworld #womenwhoexplore #sheexplores #kukonje #botswana #overland #overlandafrica #africaoverland
Today is my 111th birthday! Just kidding! I’m only one year old. 🎂 My name is Giada Katsana Tawana Motswana Letiahau. It means the Jade Kitten Lion Cub from Botswana. Letiahau is the name of my caretakers’ favorite place in the CKGR. I was born on the campus of the University of Botswana. When I was a little kitten a gentleman named Peter shared his lunch with me every day and taught me not to be afraid of people. I liked him so much I even let him pick me up. He let me sleep in his office when I was being bullied by bigger cats. An American lady fell in love with me at first sight when she saw me napping in a patch of sun outside her office building. She brought me food and played with me and turned on the water spigot so I could get a drink. She asked Peter if she could take me home and he said yes. She tricked me with some tuna fish one morning and stuffed me into a cat carrier, but don’t worry - I scratched her good. I met a vet who was nice, even though she stuck me with needles. She *did* get the fleas out of my ears, though, so it was ok. I lived at the vet for a month. They said I was very cute and cuddly, which is true, if I say so myself. In one year I have been in four countries and two US states. I took four plane rides, even one all by myself! I miss Peter but I feel happy here. I have a warm little house with big windows and lots of sun. My short caretaker has made up for stuffing me in that carrier by making me comfy nests all over the house. I sleep in the bed and walk on the table, which I’m not supposed to do, but I don’t ever get into trouble because I know how to roll on my back and act extra cute when I’m naughty. I know English and Setswana, but don’t follow orders in either language. My favorite things are my rubber ball and my tall caretaker. I like eating, wrestling with the rug, playing with my toy mice, looking at birds, watching other cats on TV, and “hunting” my caretakers. Sometimes I bite, but not hard (unless it’s the vet, in which case I draw blood). My birthday wish is that all cats everywhere have warm, happy homes and people who love them. ❤ #adoptdontshop #adventurecat #internationalcat #catsofinstagram

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Recent advances in battery technology have made remote and extended overland journeys safer, more accessible, and more comfortable. From vibration-resistant and leak-proof gel cell lead-acid units, to sophisticated dual-battery systems that will run a portable fridge nearly indefinitely, to flexible and light-weight solar panels that can send you and your vehicle far off the grid, the market is now awash in hundreds of different products that will keep those electrons flowing on the go.

Of course, as we continue to rely more and more on the devices that consume those electrons – the phones, GPS’s, cameras, drones, laptops, lights, compressors, pumps, and fridges – the demands and draw on our electrical systems only increase. It takes a lot of juice to keep all those batteries topped up and the beers icy cold.

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The Charge It! PP15 and user manual.

Last month, in my discussion on DIY tire repair, I linked to Jonathon Hanson’s article at Exploring Overland on the “two tool kits that will (almost) breakdown proof your vehicle”. Besides the tire repair kit, the other tool he includes is the 12 Volt Lithium battery microstarter.

When fully charged, these simple and compact devices can jump-start a dead vehicle battery in a matter of seconds, and they include handy accessory outlets for portable charging of all kinds of small electronics. There are plenty of microstarters on the market now, let’s take a look at just one of them.

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The Charge It! PP15 snug in its carry case.

Our new friend Lauren visited us in Gaborone a couple of weeks ago on her way to Maun to begin nine months of fieldwork studying human-elephant conflict in rural northern Botswana. In her checked luggage she stashed the microstarter I ordered before we had jetted off to Africa, but which had been delayed in delivery until after we left.

The Charge It! PP15 is a 15000 mAh battery pack with multiple outlet voltages, and boasting 400 Peak Amps / 270 Cranking Amps for jump starts. The manufacturer, Clore Automotive, claims that’s plenty of juice for starting most 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder vehicles. Available through Amazon, and other retail stores, I purchased my Charge It! online from Pelican Parts in Atlanta, GA where I had store credit. The PP15 is manufactured in China.

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I will!

The battery itself weighs in at a little over 3 pounds, and is about the size of an especially large Lonely Planet travel guide. The safety-yellow and black color scheme ensures good visibility, and the mostly smooth polycarbonate case is broken up by trapezoidal ridges that house robust allen head bolts.

These fasteners presumably keep the unit in one piece, and I had to muster some will power to pull an allen wrench out of my sweaty fist to prevent myself from peeking inside. Maybe once the PP15 has reached the end of its service life, I’ll crack it open.

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Chrome allen heads also offer convenient traction for effecting a solid grip on the battery pack.

Included with the battery pack are sturdy and thickly-wired, if somewhat short, alligator-style battery clamps that plug into a dedicated “reverse polarity-proof” outlet on the end of the unit.

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The vehicle battery clamps.

Other power outlet cables include a 12V/10A cigarette-style plug, and a Cerberus-headed USB adapter that offers outlets for 5V/2A charging: the old 30 pin Apple cable, Apple Lightning, and Micro USB. The PP15 also offers a 19V/3.5A port for charging PC laptops, but the adapters for this outlet are sold separately, and do not include connectors for MacBook.

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The outlet adapters included with the PP15.

Charging-wise, the PP15’s Li Ion battery can be rejuvenated via its 14V/1A input through two different options – a 12V DC cigarette adapter or a standard 110V AC wall plug.

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Charge the Charge It!

The PP15’s microprocessor includes a raft of built-in safety features that protect both the battery and your devices, including over- and under-voltage protection, short circuit and reverse polarity protection, and a low voltage override, among others.

A simple, and easy to interpret three-LED cluster around the power button keeps you up-to-date on the charge status of the unit. Three blue lights indicate a full charge, two – 60%, one – 30%, one LED flashing – time to recharge. The LEDs change behavior and color to indicate various faults and protection triggers, as well as during the jump start procedure.

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Fully charged.

A final feature to highlight is the LED flashlight embedded in the end of the battery pack. Press and hold the power button for three seconds and the light offers three different settings: one constant light, and two different flashing states.

This sucker is bright – almost too much to look at directly – but its utility is a bit suspect given the heft and awkward shape of the battery pack. An everyday carry kind of flashlight it’s not, but in a nighttime emergency all those lumens would likely come in handy.

The PP15’s carrying case keeps the battery pack and all the accessories neatly and securely cinched down. While not exceptionally well-padded, it does feel pretty tough and fairly weatherproof with its rubber exterior coating.

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Carrying case fits under a car seat easily.

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Fate has not yet furnished me with a dead vehicle battery to test the jump starting capabilities of the PP15, but a 30-hour power outage in Gaborone recently did offer the chance to put the microcharger through its paces.

With my MacBook Pro’s battery running at 8%, and the wall outlets dead, I needed some juice. Lacking an adapter designed to plug the laptop into the Charge It! directly, I snagged my 80 Watt continuous AC power inverter from the Pajero, plugged it into the PP15’s cigarette style 12V DC adapter and started charging.

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Lotta devices in series here.

Starting with 100% capacity in the PP15, running the inverter and charging the Mac’s battery while I continued to work on various projects, the Charge It! managed to bump the computer’s charge up to 68% in 45 minutes before finally conking out.

That’s not bad given the simultaneous heavy draw of the power inverter and the Mac at the same time. It ran almost completely cool during the entire operation. Once the power came back on, the PP15 recharged fully from empty via the 110V AC wall plug in a little over two hours.

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Multi-tasking tools like this microcharger are the kinds of devices that should be in every overlander or remote traveler’s quiver.

It can save your bacon in an emergency by jump starting a dead battery without the help of a second vehicle (and, by turns, potentially save the actual bacon sitting in your portable fridge). But it can also keep you connected and entertained by charging your small devices, which are the kind of simple, yet pleasant conveniences that make travel more fun.

As we use the PP15 more over the next year or so, I’ll continue to review its performance right here on mtdrift.

2 comments on “Gear Preview: Charge It! PP15 Microstarter and Power Pack

  1. Any update on the longevity of this jump box? Im in the market for a new one and looking at it.

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    1. Hi Stanley! That’s a great question, and I should get a full-length post prepared for a long-term review of the ChargeIt.

      Since you’re in the market right now, here’s my quick impression:

      We’ve had this Li-ion battery pack now for almost two years, and it has saved our bacon on numerous occasions. We struggled for several months with a mystery electrical problem that was killing the battery in our Mitsubishi Pajero (3.5L V6, gasoline). So, there were many days when I had to use the ChargeIt pack to jump the battery several times in a short succession. It worked perfectly every single time, up to 10 times in a row with out a new charge.

      It also holds that charge very well when it’s just sitting sitting in the car for months at a time – no issues there, for sure. We’ve used it during long-term power outages in the house to charge our phones, iPads, and Kindles. Since those barely draw any current, that isn’t too taxing on the ChargeIt, but it held charge pretty impressively.

      Complaints? Two pretty minor ones, and one that is yet to be determined: (1) I don’t really like the smooth and slippery plastic casing. Frankly, it’s hard to hang onto. (2) The three-light battery status indicator I wish had more granularity. So, when it moves from two out of three lights to one out of three lights, it’s hard to tell what its actual status is. Give me six lights, at least, or, an actual voltage readout. (3) And, the big one: the battery, like many of these second-tier L-I jump packs is starting to bulge and swell – not much, but it is noticeable. So far, it hasn’t affected any of the battery’s performance as far as I can tell, but generally that spells bad news down the line.

      Hope that helps! Overall, I would buy another one of these when this one finally gives up. It’s been a very, very reliable companion.

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