Sometimes it occurs to me that our hobby of traveling by motorcycle is very strange. It creates problems that not too many other people need to solve, except for other moto-travellers, and especially moto-campers. For example, we often camp at fairly primitive campsites that do not have electricity. This is fine for previous generations lacking an excess of electronic gadgets, but we find the moto-travelling experience enhanced by having a GPS, two cell phones, two cameras, helmet communicators, and sometimes an entire laptop and even an e-reader or two, all of which need electricity to charge their batteries.
The GPS charges from its mount installed on the bike, so its battery life is never a concern unless we take it hiking. The other gadgets, however, were not designed to charge from a vehicle supplying 12VDC. They require both 5VDC (like cell phones and anything else that charges from USB), and 120VAC.
Therefore, Kevin’s bike is usually running some variant of this:
This version is for the DRZ. The plug on the left connects to the battery tender plug already installed on the bike. The black box in the middle is a mini-inverter that supplies both 120VAC, and a couple of USB plugs (5VDC). Plugged into the inverter 120VAC output is a power splitter (behind the white battery charger), so that we can plug in several devices.
We also have one of these:
These are pretty ubiquitous now, and I have another one in my car plugged into the ciggarette lighter (yeah, my car has one of those, its from 2007), so I can charge my cell phone in the car if needed. With the entire assembly plugged into the bike, we can now charge several USB and 120VAC devices while going down the road.
The battery charger is the latest addition, in response to acquiring helmet communicators. (Maybe I’ll post about that later, but being able to talk to each other while riding is AWESOME. Our Sena SMH10 units are fantastic, the batteries last forever and a day, and I have no idea why we’ve been riding all these years without them. Even Kevin thinks they’re 100% worth the extra trouble to have them along).
Basically, the radios (communicators, the small oblong shaped things on the right in the upper pic), aren’t designed to be charged while riding (for obvious reasons). We could disconnect them from the their mounts on our helmets and charge them for a an hour during the day, but then we wouldn’t be able to use them. Charging from the bike only works when the engine is running (unless you want to drain the bike battery), so charging the communicators at the end of the day with no other power source would mean we’d have to idle the bike until the units charged. That doesn’t make any sense, so Kevin added those re-chargeable AA batteries. The batteries charge during the day, and they’ve proven to be enough to fully charge both radios in the evening in camp. Done.
Admittedly, its a lot easier when we camp somewhere with power and can just plug in our stuff to an RV outlet. Also, there are more compact, all-in-one devices on the market designed for this sort of thing, but we already had this stuff. Its just nice that all of our devices can stay charged, even when we’re out in the woods.