Recharge Your Batteries

I’m always looking for new ways to be useful on set. Anticipating the needs of the cast and crew is the best way to keep your job, and get hired in the future.

So, when a fellow PA suggested I keep a portable phone charger in your ditty, I thought to myself: “Duh! Why didn’t you think of that before?”

If you’re on stage, there’s probably a million places to plug in your phone, except… you’re on set. You shouldn’t be using your phone. You can probably plug your phone in at the AD trailer, but that limits your mobility, which is kind of the point of a cell phone. I can think of at least a dozen times when my phone was out of juice, and I was nowhere near a place that I could charge it.

An office PA might have less use for a portable charger… unless she’s on a run, when you’re expected to be using your phone all the time. A cigarette lighter adapter can be useful if your car doesn’t come with a USB plug, but you might find yourself in a circumstance where your car shouldn’t be running.

Those are all reasons a portable phone charger would be useful to you. But that’s not the point. The point is to make yourself useful to others. When the producer’s phone dies, and you’re the one with the immediate solution, he will remember your name.1

Turns out, there are a lot of different external battery packs. So, I did a little research, and I’m passing it on to you, dear TAPA reader.

The two numbers to pay attention to are the capacity (measured in mAh) and the output (measured in A, so that’s not confusing at all).

It seems to take about 2,000-3,000mAh to charge an average cell phone. That’s why I’d recommend something in the 10,000mAh range; remember, you’re not going to charge just your phone. (On this same subject, it’s handy to get a charger with more than one USB outlet.)

For the output, you absolutely want a battery pack that is at least 2.0A, per outlet. This (basically) measures how fast it will charge your phone. 1.0A is common, but is slow as molasses. The price difference is negligible, but the speed difference is noticeable.

(Don’t worry about getting a pack with too high of an output. Smart phones have a way of regulating that, so they don’t explode.)

One of the best deals I found was this 11,000 mAh USB battery charger, because it also comes with a bunch of cords and adapters for most any kind of phone. Again, you may have an iPhone, but the lead actor might have an Android.

Personally, I bought this 10000mAh charger, because it also has a solar panel. Solar panels charge incredibly slowly, it’s true. I go hiking a lot, and in an emergency, it will still power your phone (and its GPS, hopefully).

If you’ve found a better portable charger, let me know in the comments.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. For at least a week.
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7 Responses

  1. I have an Anker Astro E4 ( The Astro line comes in many capacities (measured in milliamp hours, or mAh. They all output at least 2 amps, some up to 4A.) The one I linked to is 13,000 mAh, and will charge an iPhone 6 five times. If you have money to burn, this battery: is 25,600 mAh, has 3 USB ports, and will fully charge a dead iPad Air twice, or an iPhone 6 TEN TIMES! They both have flashlights, too!

    The E4 was the best purchase I’ve made in a while. I’ve made many talent and producers happy when I saved their dying phones.

  2. External battery chargers on set are lifesavers.

    And, I was actually JUST looking at a solar-powered phone charger but was skeptical… how long does it take to charge fully?

    1. It will never charge fully by solar power. I don’t remember the specs, but the solar panel is very slow. You still need to plug the battery into the wall to totally fill it up (i.e. 3 or 4 full phone charges).

      The solar panel slows down the rate you’re using the energy, for sure, but its main purpose is for emergencies.

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