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First Timer Question: Charging

Excited about my first RAGBRAI this year and am spending a lot of time, energy and money getting prepared. How do 20,000 people manage to charge all their devices? Cell phones, watches, bike computers, tent lanterns, etc. Lots of options based on camping gear. Do you all recommend portable batteries, solar panels? Or are there ample opportunities?

11 Replies

jwsknk, March 5, 2019 at 7:38 am

Yes, yes, and take the charging cable with you everywhere you eat, you just might find an empty outlet. esp if you go to a church to eat supper


KenH, March 5, 2019 at 7:46 am

If you go with a charter they will have a charging station of some kind, usually powered by a small, quiet Honda generator. Teams and clubs generally have them too, the smallest ones may not. Check in advance. There may be charging stations set up in pass through towns and at the nightly expo site in the overnight towns. Otherwise every publicly available power outlet will have a collection of devices attached to it sometimes with a stupendously daisy-chained network of power strips!


kicks9, March 5, 2019 at 9:34 am

Everything Ken said is right on. I usually take a solar charger, and a battery that I can plug USB devices into. You find a way. Your phone may eat a lot of power trying to get a signal. Might ride with it on airplane mode then look for the wifi truck when you want to get up to date.


Cory Rood, March 5, 2019 at 9:36 am

Last year we signed up with this company:

They will be set up at the opening Expo on Saturday. You collect your battery pack and then can exchange it every day for a fully charged unit. Last year they were always with Mr. Pork Chop and the Iowa Beer Bus(not the Craft Beer Tent) When you are done you get to keep the battery pack. the pack was enough to keep my wife’s phone, my phone and our Garmin 820 charged.


Brady Bisgard, March 5, 2019 at 11:33 am

You can buy a large charger on Amazon for about $40. I have one that charges my Apple Watch and phone about 4 times each. You just will need to charge it once on the trip.


jdeutmeyer, March 5, 2019 at 2:48 pm

There is a company called Blackburn that makes a compact but light weight camping lantern with built in rechargeable lithium battery and a back up alkaline battery compartment. The device has 2 USB ports that can charge your phones. If the lithium battery runs out you can use disposable AAA batteries to charge your phone. This device has been a blessing I have used the past 2 years. It runs about $70. . I agree with the other comment about using airplane mode when you are not anticipating needing the phone.


SFC JKL 2, March 5, 2019 at 11:17 pm

It might seem crazy now, but it works. When you see someone in a lawn chair as you are riding along, stop and ask them if they’ll plug your phone in for you. About any business will do it for you too. I also carry a battery in case of emergency. I’ll also point out texting usually works in places where your phone doesn’t because of the crowd.


william Abel, March 6, 2019 at 8:28 am

Also put your cellphone on airplane mode when riding all day it help save the battery life


Alan_50501, March 6, 2019 at 2:19 pm

I have a pocket juice battery I carry with us its capacity is 12000 nah..can get a couple good charges out of it…and when it does die or get low just plug it in to a wall outlet…if you let it get really low it does take some time to get full again


bugs11, March 6, 2019 at 3:44 pm

You can charge your devices pretty much anywhere, anytime.

Last year I met a RAGBRAI virgin from Chicago on the first day that needed to charge their phone. We were in some small town in western Iowa and there was an old bookshelf someone had put on a street corner with a bunch of strip plugins; lots of phones plugged in and charging. I told her to just plug her charger and phone in and leave it – go get something to eat and drink, it’ll be there when you get back. She looked at me like I was crazy. I told her the phone will be perfectly safe. We ended up walking around together chatting, got a bite to eat, had a drink, and then went back to the book shelf. She was all “My phone had better be there.” No worries, it was. I saw her later in the week and she told me how she had been leaving her phone at different places to charge throughout week, schools, YMCA, strangers porches, etc…

I take a portable battery pack and charge my phone off of that overnight. I get about 3-4 charges out of the battery pack. I charge the battery pack on someone’s porch or garage (with the owners permission of course) about midweek near where I’m camping for that night.


mcpartla, March 10, 2019 at 4:19 pm

I was concerned about recharging my new e-bike on the ride and was told there is normally a recharging station near the free water at each pass through town and to just ask if it is not obvious. I expect my bike will go the full distance each day on a single charge but to be sure I’ll carry my recharger and stop after the halfway point or at lunch and recharge.


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