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Thread started 30 Nov 2011 (Wednesday) 08:12
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Lithium Ion Batteries and Extreme Cold. Good advice needed.

 
Wayland
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Nov 30, 2011 08:12 |  #1

I apologise if this topic has been covered before but I could only find the standard advice of keeping batteries warm and swapping them out which is what I normally do in winter conditions.

However, next March I am on an extended trip into Northern Norway, about 300km North of the Arctic Circle. Temperatures could easily drop to -40° (Centigrade or Farenheit, this is the point that they are the same.)

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We will be snow shoeing, bivouacking and using snow holes for sleeping. Battery charging facilities will simply not be an option and practically there is a limit to the number of batteries that I can permanently carry under my jacket.

Obviously the batteries perform better when they are warm but what I do not know is whether they actually lose charge when chilled or can I store some in my unheated sled/pulk and just bring a few up to heat each day, under my clothing, before swapping them over?

If anyone has had experience of this kind of situation I would greatly appreciate some advice.

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tomphot
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Nov 30, 2011 09:24 |  #2

In that situation, I've used one of those around the waist money pouches. The ones they suggest for travelers who are trying to hide their money while traveling. They make them that wear like a necklace.




  
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Wayland
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Nov 30, 2011 10:05 |  #3

I'm intending to carry about two dozen batteries at 50g a piece.

That works out at 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) hanging around my neck along with another kilogram of water and emergency rations.

It's just not practical to carry all of them, all the time.

I can put them in my sleeping bag overnight and I can try to insulate them to some extent on the sled but over a few days they will inevitably drop to the ambient temperature at some point so the question remains.

Will the batteries still retain their charge if allowed to chill, provided they are brought back up to temperature before use?

Actually, while we are on the subject, does anyone know if memory cards are affected by such cold temperatures?


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noisejammer
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Nov 30, 2011 13:36 as a reply to  @ Wayland's post |  #4

I can't answer your question directly but you can probably get some idea by cold-soaking a fully charged battery in the freezer for a week or two.... or move to Winnipeg and leave them outside for a couple of days. :)

I have noticed that the battery capacity of my 1D4 drops considerably at -10 to -15C, so you may need to keep several batteries warm and rotate them in and out of the camera. A hand warmer (running on lighter fuel) in an insulating polystyrene box might help you keep them warm without having to sacrifice body heat. Mylar space blankets can help keep the heat in.


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John ­ from ­ PA
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Nov 30, 2011 14:25 |  #5

On many CF card manufacturer's websites you can find some temperature specifications, for instance Sandisk states their "normal" cards will only work above 0 deg C (32 deg F). The Sandisk Extreme III is rated down to -25 deg C (-12 deg F). The Lexar Professional 133X CF is rated to 0 deg C. That doesn't mean however that at 0 deg it works and at -1 deg it craps out. There is some margin but minimal and it may vary from card to card. Likely at the rating temperature something like 90% of the cards tested work (or something similar). SD cards will work at lower temperatures than a CF card. This is because the CF card has a controller that is internal to the card and the SD card uses a controller that is in the camera. This is also why CF cards for a given size/speed cost more, often significantly, than an SD card.

Their are other issues as well and you need to look at the camera specs. One thing you might encounter is any LCD display may not work reliablly at temperature extremes. That includes the "viewer" display as well as any on top screen that provides "info".

I've worked at Prudhoe Bay Alaska (often -30 to -40 deg F) and the cameras I've used can be unreliable. I can't add much about the batteries as I always keep the extras in a cab of a truck that is left running 24 hours a day. Shut the truck off, it likely won't start after 6-8 hours!




  
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Wayland
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Nov 30, 2011 16:27 |  #6

I tried freezing a battery and it seemed to recover quite well, but my freezer only reaches -20°c so I wasn't sure how good a test that would be.

Likewise one of my CF cards seemed OK too but I may have to try some of the other cards as well.

I've often found manufacturers specs. a bit conservative, I guess they have an interest in selling you the bigger, better, faster models in most cases so I prefer solid experience where I can get it, so thank you for your replies.


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RTPVid
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Nov 30, 2011 16:46 |  #7

I would be more concerned about general failure of the camera electronics than whether the battery will recover from cold storage. By "general failure" I don't mean permanent failure. The camera will likely operate correctly again once it warms up. But I do mean you will need to take precautions to try to keep the entire camera and lens above the spec'ed low operating temperature while in use. There will be some margin, but the margin will not be uniform; IOW, the individual electronics components will stop operating properly at different extreme temperatures, so things could get flaky before they stop working altogether.


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OneJZsupra
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Dec 03, 2011 19:47 |  #8

Either that or get some hand warmers and rubber bands and wrap your batteries while your out and exposed to the cold temps.
http://www.amazon.com …armer-Pairs/dp/B0007ZF4PE (external link)

Thats what we used in the Artic


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Grimes
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Dec 04, 2011 00:55 |  #9

You can use those small, chemically powered hand warmers as mentioned above. I have heard they last a while, but I don't know how long you will be spending outside. A few should cover you for a good amount of time though.


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Wayland
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Dec 05, 2011 12:10 |  #10

The problem is that I will be out for about two weeks with no access to charging or warm shelter.

I think that I'll have to let the main store of batteries chill and bring a working set up to heat inside my clothing layers.

If I understand the advice I'm getting on some of the expedition forums properly it only seems to matter what temperature the battery is when it is discharging and some sources actually reckon that they store charge better when cold.


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Keyan
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Dec 05, 2011 14:56 |  #11

Off topic but for the record you are totally nuts. ;)

Which camera are you going to be using?

As others have said, the LCD is probably going to be useless, the liquid will start to freeze up and make the display either slow to refresh or completely unresponsive.

Have you considered using an extreme conditions point and shoot camera? There are several that are water/dust/shock/cold resistant out there now. I know their IQ is no where near a DSLR (I have one), but it might be something to consider as maybe a second camera, just in case your SLR becomes unusable.


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OneJZsupra
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Dec 05, 2011 15:51 |  #12

You can get little solar panels that will charge your batteries.


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Echo ­ Johnson
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Dec 05, 2011 15:57 |  #13

I never noticed my batteries losing charge in -40°C, but I never spent more than a few days at a time out in those temperatures. As you noted though, performance goes down in those temperatures, quite significantly. Warming them up under your clothes/in your sleeping bag should help somewhat with the performance, though they will of course cool off.

FWIW, I never had problems with Sandisk Ultra II SD or CF cards in the -25 - -40°C range.


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steve6690
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Dec 05, 2011 16:25 |  #14

Can you not get an off-camera battery pack and just keep it inside a layer of your clothing ?


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Jim_T
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Dec 05, 2011 21:20 |  #15

At -40C, you'll only have about 15 minutes of shooting.. As Keyan points out in his post above, the LCD will become very slow and if left out long enough it will be unresponsive.

I've shot at -32C... I had my old 10D out on a tripod for about 1/2 an hour. That was about it. The focus marks on the LCD display started flashing oddly and the AF in the lens I was using was starting to make a bad groaning sound as it moved.

But I had no problems with the battery :) Because it's internal, it's one of the last things to freeze.




  
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Lithium Ion Batteries and Extreme Cold. Good advice needed.
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