TraditionalMountaineering Logo - representing the shared 
companionship of the Climb

Home | Information | Photos | Calendar | News | Seminars | Experiences | Questions | Updates | Books | Conditions | Links | Search

  Search this site!
Read more:

Lithium batteries recommended for GPS backcountry use

I received a recommendation from a reader, for the use of Lithium batteries in a GPS receiver and I rejected the suggestion out of ignorance based on my out-dated knowledge.

I said that Lithium batteries were expensive and the only value of Lithium batteries was that they had a longer shelf life than regular batteries. And I said that Lithium batteries were not recommended by Garmin! I had called Tech Support at Garmin and I was told that Lithium batteries were not recommended by Garmin because, out of the box, they might have higher voltages. I passed along this warning as well, to my new friend.

He wrote back, "then why do the new Garmin GPS Units have set-up settings for Alkaline, NI-ME and Lithium batteries?" I quickly checked my new eTrex Venture HC and there it was: THREE different battery settings!

Was I a victim of my own concept, that "He who knows naught knows not that he knows naught"?


Here is the rest of the story

NI-MH Rechargeable Batteries?
I had recently been fast-forwarded into the use of NI-MH rechargeable batteries in my GPS by another Tech Support person at Garmin.
On his advice, I went right down to our local Fred-Meyer big-box store. The clerk showed me the NI-HM charger with several AA and AAA batteries in a package for about $19.00. I asked about the same set up offered for $30.00 and $40.00 by other brands. He said I was welcome to pay more, but the $19.00 charger and four batteries worked great for him.

My wife and I had been using a lot of AAA and AA alkaline batteries for mice, FRS radios, clocks, GPS receivers and more. "The new NI-ME rechargeable batteries will save us allot! And we will never run out of fresh batteries!" That is what we thought! Read on!

I have been replacing my GPS batteries before every trip. The rechargeable batteries are great for this. I use my GPS almost every day. I have lots of experience with my GPS. I have lots of partially discharged AA batteries for my flash light and for the proper recycling bin.

I download new waypoints and tracks between trips so that my GPS is always clear. I just use the default numbers, (001), (002) then name the waypoint in my Map Tech Terrain Navigator or National Geographic Topo computer programs. I keep all the waypoints together by using the same first letter or two of the waypoint such as NS for North Sister so as to re-load them for my next adventure on the peak. I use the track feature on my GPS Unit so as to place the actual track traveled on my digital maps as well as the waypoints. Here is an example.

However, I checked the NI-MH batteries after charging and found they never reached 1.5 volts. Back to Garmin! Another Tech noted that the three settings for batteries was related to the meter that warns users when the batteries are getting low. (If the GPS unit stops working, due to low batteries, the information is saved by the remaining voltage in the worn out batteries. If the batteries are removed, the information stays due to the residual voltage retained in the device.) The new tech stated that I would get the best service from Lithium batteries!

Lithium Batteries Recommended!
Lithium batteries have recently become very available. If Fred Meyer (Kroger) has them, everyone has them. I purchased a pack of AA Lithium batteries at Fred Meyer big box store. Yes they are a little more than the cost of Duracell Coppertop Alkaline batteries; or Ultralast MI-MH rechargeable batteries.

What are the stated Lithium advantages?
1. Energizer Lithium's weigh 33% less than their Alkaline!
This is big to me. I count every ounce. I now carry two backup Energizer Lithium batteries in my backpack/daypack/summit pack.
2. Energizer Lithium's may last longer in "high tech devices! Energizer statements do refer specifically to "Digital Cameras"
3. Energizer Lithium's perform well in extreme temperatures "40 degrees to 140 degrees". This is very big!

Bonus Admonition: Keep your batteries warm:
Several people who became lost in the storms of winter recently have experienced failure of their GPS receivers and cell phones. I believe this is because they kept the device in an outside Gore-Tex pocket. Here is my suggestion:

Keep your cell phone and GPS in a pants pocket near your femoral artery. When you need to use it, hold it in a gloved hand that has a chemical hand warmer next to your palm. Don't carry these devices in an outer pocket of your Gore-Tex shell. Climbers recently lost on Mount Hood are an example.

My camera batteries went away during our recent snow camping trip. Other folks were smarter than I and contributed their pictures.

It is really silly to just take one cell phone. Every person who hikes with you should care his/her own cell phone, turned off, in a pants pocket. My cell phone weighs 4 oz. and fits in my pants pocket.

My Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS weighs just 5.3 oz. and fits in the other pants pocket. Try that with your $800 GPS Map 6000!

We still use the rechargeable batteries around the house. Alkaline batteries are OK in the summer. I use Lithium batteries in the three colder seasons.




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

Read more . . .
Lessons learned from the latest lost Mt. Hood climbers
SPOT Satellite Messenger "PLB" reviewed and recommended
How do GSM mobile phones assist mountaineering and backcountry rescues?
Clinic on Real Survival Strategies and Staying Found with Map, Compass and GPS together
What do you carry in your winter day and summit pack?
Why is the GSM digital cell phone best for backcountry and mountaineering?
What is a PLB or Personal Locator Beacon?
Why are "Snow Caves" dangerous?
Why are "Space Blankets" dangerous?
Why are "Emergency Kits" dangerous?
How can you avoid Hypothermia?
Missing climbers on Mount Hood, one dies of exposure, two believed killed in fall
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Olympic Champion Rulon Gardner lost on snowmobile!
Lost Olympic hockey player looses feet to cold injury

Expert skier lost five days near resort in North Cascades without map, compass, gps or cell phone
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
How can you learn the skills of snow camping?   Prospectus

Lost and Found
Three climbers missing on Mt. Hood, all perish
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Longacre Expeditions teen group rescued from the snowdrifts above Todd Lake
Lost climber hikes 6.5 miles from South Sister Trail to Elk Lake
Hiking couple lost three nights in San Jacinto Wilderness find abandoned gear
Expert skier lost five days in North Cascades without Essentials, map and compass
Climber disappears on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Hiker lost five days in freezing weather on Mount Hood
Professor and son elude search and rescue volunteers
Found person becomes lost and eludes rescuers for five days
Teens, lost on South Sister, use cell phone with Search and Rescue
Lost man walks 27 miles to the highway from Elk Lake Oregon
Snowboarder Found After Week in Wilderness
Searchers rescue hiker at Smith Rock, find lost climbers on North Sister
Girl Found In Lane County After Lost On Hiking Trip
Search and rescue finds young girls lost from family group
Portland athlete lost on Mt. Hood
Rescues after the recent snows
Novice couple lost in the woods
Broken Top remains confirmed as missing climber
Ollalie Trail - OSU Trip - Lost, No Map, Inadequate Clothing

 Your Essential Light Day Pack
What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?

 Carboration and Hydration
Is running the Western States 100 part of "traditional mountaineering"?
What's wrong with GORP?    Answers to the quiz!
Why do I need to count carbohydrate calories?
What should I know about having a big freeze-dried dinner?
What about carbo-ration and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

  About Alpine Mountaineering:
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

  Our Leader's Guidelines:
  Our Volunteer Leader Guidelines
  Sign-in Agreements, Waivers and Prospectus     This pdf form will need to be signed by you at the trail head
  Sample Prospectus    Make sure every leader tells you what the group is going to do; print a copy for your "responsible person"
  Participant Information Form    This pdf form can be printed and mailed or handed to the Leader if requested or required
  Emergency and Incident Report Form    Copy and print this form. Carry two copies with your Essentials 
  Participant and Group First Aid Kit   
Print this form. Make up your own first aid essentials (kits) 

  About our World Wide Website:

  Map, Compass and GPS
Map, compass and GPS navigation training Noodle in The Badlands
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Searching for the perfect gift
Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
Z21 covers Geocaching
Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
The art of not getting lost
Geocaching: the thrill of the hunt!
GPS in the news
A GPS and other outdoor gadgets make prized gifts
Wanna play?  Maps show you the way
Cooking the "navigation noodle"