Our modern world is highly dependent on electronic devices. We rely on our computers, cell phones, GPSs and (at least for teens) hand-held video games. While we often go camping to escape some of the electronic tethers that tend to control our lives, there are also times we will want or even need to use them. All of these are marvelous inventions that provide wonderful capabilities, but they also require support, most importantly power and often cell tower or Internet access. Both electrical power and cell tower or Internet access are often scare in a camping environment. If you are car camping or in an RV you should have ready access to 12-volt battery power. Many RVs also have 120-volt generators. Inverters can convert 12 volt DC power from the battery in your car or RV to 120 volt power to run electronic gadgets. If you take your portable devices with you out on the trails, you may need to bring along some kind of auxiliary battery or charger to recharge them.
One of the most useful devices for campers is a GPS system or a cell phone with GPS. Being able to get turn-by-turn directions to where you’re going saves a lot of unintended detours and can avoid a lot of bad roads, traffic, and construction. Some GPS systems are even appropriate for off-road use, tracking your exact route and allowing you to reverse the route to get back to camp should you get disoriented or encounter poor visibility that would prevent you from using landmarks to find your way back.
CB radios and FMRS/GMRS walkie talkies can provide excellent short-range communications between vehicles in a convoy or between riders or hikers out on a trail. FMRS radios do not require a license. GMRS radios have some higher output channels that give you greater range but do required an FCC license. Some of the FMRS/GMRS channels overlap CB channels so you can use your CB base station in camp to monitor communications among members of your group out on the trail. That might be particularly important if someone needs assistance, such as mechanical problems or a medical emergency.
Portable electronic devices depend on reliable battery power. Hand-held CBs and walkie talkies may have rechargeable or replaceable batteries. You can usually remove rechargeable battery packs and replace them with ordinary batteries in a pinch. Always carry a good supply of replacement batteries for all your hand-held devices. Cell phones and GPSs usually have only rechargeable batteries so you will need a way to recharge them in camp. Many such devices these days use a USB charge cable that can be connected to a computer or 12-volt or 120-volt charger. 12-volt chargers plug into the cigarette lighter or 12-volt power receptacle on your vehicle or battery power pack. You can purchase pocket-sized auxiliary batter packs with USB connectors to recharge most GPSs, cell phones, etc if you need or want to carry extra power with you out on the trail. In camp you can use the 12-volt charger plugged into your vehicle. We have noticed that our cell phones charge faster using the 120-volt wall charger than with the 12-volt car charger so we usually use a small inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter to power the wall charger to charge our portable devices. One advantage to the car chargers are that they are fairly inexpensive. You can even get them at Dollar Tree, along with standard sync cables for Android phones (Lighting cables for iPhones are harder to find and more expensive).
Using high-quality replaceable batteries will usually give you the best performance and they will usually last longer than cheaper batteries. Alkaline batteries are usually better than standard batteries and newer lithium ion batteries can deliver even better performance, but in each case you pay for what you get. Because my backup batteries often sit around in my camp kit or motorhome for some time before getting used I tend to avoid buying high priced batteries that may be dead by the time I need them. instead, I stock up on inexpensive batteries at Dollar Tree or get them on coupon sales at Harbor Freight so I always have plenty on hand.
Portable power packs (rechargeable batteries) can be used to power or recharge cell phones and other small hand-held devices on the go. A attractive alternative that provides free power (one you pay for the charger!) is a solar battery charger. These use solar panels to charge your batteries using only sunlight. The only problems I’ve found with them are that 1) they tend to be a little pricey and 2) the are usually somewhat awkward to carry conveninently when hiking or trail riding. However, both the cost and the effort to bring them along may be well worth it to be able to recharge your devices in remote areas.
Because our excursions away from camp are usually measured in hours, not days, I don’t usually carry spare batteries with me out on the trail. I just check them before each outing and replace any that are getting low before we take off. If you are going to be back-packing or engaging in some other activity where you will be away from your base camp for more than a few hours you may want to carry spare batteries for your flashlights, lanterns, and your electronic devices. Solar LED lanterns are becoming a viable option for remote camping. Some even have USB ports to charge your cell phones or other small electronic devices. They are kind of the best of both worlds: efficient portable light that can be recharged for free anywhere you have sunlight. I wouldn’t recommend them for spelunking or cave diving! Just remember to take them out of your tent and put them out in the sun every day to recharge. LEDs low power demand means you get the most out of each charge. I've seen an LED lantern still bright for months after being left on in the barn all night. Do that with an ordinary incandescant type light and the battery would be long dead way before morning!