Options When You Encounter a Battery Shortage

How would you handle battery shortages?  With all the talk about supply chain disruptions, computer chips, food, labor and every other kind of shortage, do you think that it is possible that there might be battery shortages too?

There is already talk about big lithium-ion battery shortages used for vehicles.  But I’m talking about small batteries like AA and AAA batteries that many preppers use for their flashlights and other electronic devices.

One solution might be to use portable battery chargers to power USB devices.  I spoke about this on a recent Prepper Website LIVE on Small and Affordable Off-Grid Solutions for Power and Lights.  See the video at the bottom of this video.

I’ve used portable battery chargers for years.  And throughout the years, I have seen them get smaller but hold more capacity.  Some of these portable battery chargers can charge your smartphone 5-7 times.

What is a mAH?

Portable battery chargers are rated in milliamp hours (mAH).  1000 mAH equals 1 AMP.

There is a great mAH converter to hours over at https://convert-formula.com/mah-hours.  The website provides some examples of conversion.

The formula is (mAh)/(Amps*1000) = (hours). For example, if you have a 3000 mAh battery that runs at 0.2 Amps (0.2Amps = 200mA), then the time that the battery will last for is (3000)/(0.2*1000) = (3000)/(200)= 15 Hours.

If instead of the current you have voltage and watts, then the formula is (mAh*Volts)/(Watts*1000) = (hours). For example, if you have a 3000 mAh battery that runs at 5 Volts and 15 Watts, then the time that the battery will last for is (3000*5)/(15*1000) = 1 Hours.

Convert Formula

So when you are looking at USB devices, you will want to find out either the mAH draw or the Volts and Watts.  This is harder than you might think because that information isn’t usually included in online stores.  But if you can find it, you can calculate how long your portable battery charger can charge your USB device.

I’m not as worried about how many devices I can charge for how long.  I’m more interested in options to charge devices when the world is going sideways or there is a battery shortage.  So, I’ve looked at various USB devices that I can charge with the various portable battery chargers I have obtained throughout the years.

Portable Battery Chargers

Like I mentioned above, I have acquired many different portable battery banks throughout the years.  Two that I have recommended in the past aren’t even made any longer (see the EasyACC pictured).  However, the technology is getting better and more compact so there are better versions out there.

The portable battery charger that I carry in my backpack is the Anker PowerCore 20,100mAh Portable Charger Ultra High Capacity Power Bank.  It is a little big longer than my cellphone and easily fits in my jeans pocket if I need to carry it on me.  This battery costs around $46 on Amazon.  The documentation says it can charge the  “iPhone 8 almost seven times, the Galaxy S8 five times or the iPad mini 4 twice.”

Another portable battery charger that I own isn’t made any longer.  But another model on Amazon has great reviews.  The  36800mAh,3 USB Outputs Power Bank runs $31.95.  One of the main differences in the new models of battery chargers is that the input is usually a USB-C plug which does allow it to charge up faster. 

Also, I wanted to share the credit card style battery charger that I show in the picture.  This one was given to me at a technology conference.  This charger is a little thicker than a credit card.  But it is so small and light it could easily fit in your shirt pocket.  It might not contain as much power as the two chargers above, but it would provide enough power for you to charge your phone in an emergency.  If you are looking for a consumer version of this portable battery charger, you can look at the 6000mah Ultra Slim Built in Cables Power Bank, Card Size Built in USB C Cords Battery Pack for $29.  The cool thing about these small credit card size battery packs are that they usually have built in cables.

A picture of a credit card portable battery bank.
A picture of a credit card portable battery bank.
A picture of a credit card portable battery bank.
A picture of a credit card portable battery bank.
A picture of a credit card portable battery bank.

USB Devices Incase There Is A Battery Shortage

Ok. Let’s move on to the fun stuff, USB powered devices.  You’ll notice that there are a few different sections down below.  All of these items can be powered by your power bank in one way or another.  I say that because some receive direct power from the battery pack and others have built-in rechargeable batteries that are charged by the portable battery bank.

USB Lights

One of my favorite purchases is my USB Rechargeable LED Headlamp.  I’ve come to really like headlamps, even if you look funny wearing them!  They free up your hands so you don’t have to hold a flashlight or have someone hold a flashlight for you.

A USB powered headlamp.

Second on my list of devices is my Rechargeable Tactical Flashlight. This flashlight sports a 18650 – 5000 mAH battery.  I could easily charge this at home with my other 18650 charging adapters.  But this one allows me to charge it out away from home with my power bank.  The problem is that you can’t find it on Amazon any longer.  Something that might be an equivalent is the LED Tactical Flashlight Rechargeable (Battery Included), IPX6 Waterproof Flashlight.  This one runs $22.

A battery bank powered flashlight.

Lastly, I have two other devices that I can count on for lights. Sadly, I can’t find them any longer online. One is a reading light. I actually used this for church often since the stage is so dark. I wish I would have purchased more of this other option (pictured below) because I could dasiy-chain the Sunjack USB powered lightbulbs together and they were nice and bright.

Sunjack USB Lightbulbs
USB Powered Lightbulbs.

USB Fire

This has to be the coolest device on the list.  The Tesla ARC rechargeable lighter can be charged with a battery bank to always provide you with fire on the go.  I have several Tesla lighters, but my favorite is from Survival Frog.  The reason I like the Survival Frog Tesla the best is because the posts don’t get in the way of lighting materials.  My first Tesla had enough room for some twigs or paper.  But notice how the Survival Frog Tesla ARC isn’t surrounded by the posts.

The Survival Frog Tesla Lighter also has a built-in light and comes with fire tinder inside of paracord.  This lighter is also waterproof and very ruggedized. To get a better deal on multiple Survival Frog Tesla Lighters, visit this page. OR, you could buy this same one on Amazon for a 1/3 of the price!

USB Weather Radio

Yes, you can charge up this weather radio with a battery bank too.  But like some of the items above, you can’t find it anymore.  It sucks because this is a really good one.  An equivalent weather radio that can be powered by a portable battery bank is the Auto NOAA Weather Alert Radio, 5000mAh Hand Crank, Solar Emergency Radio, Portable Battery Operated, AM FM Shortwave Radio with Phone Charger, Flashlight, Reading Lamp for $43.  The issue is that there are only 2 reviews on this one.  I would watch this one for a while.

USB Fans

If you have an elderly person in your group, you might need an option to keep them cool.  If you don’t have anything else, you might want to use a battery bank powered fan.  I own two.  The first is directly powered by a battery bank – Thermaltake Mobile Fan II Adjustable Speed External USB Cooling Fan.

But I also own a camping fan with a built-in battery that can be powered by a power bank as well.  The Amacool 10000mAh Battery Operated Camping Fan with LED Light, sports a huge battery that will provided a lot of cool air for you or your loved one.  It also has built-in lights for your camping convivence.  At $34, you should really check this one out.

USB Batteries

Just when you thought you had seen everything, USB powered AA batteries are also available.  These AA 1450 mAH batteries are available from Survival Frog and can plug directly into your battery bank to charge.

Speaking of batteries, I recently purchased an Eneloop starter set.  This one comes with 12 AA (2000 mAH) and 4 AAA (800 mAH) batteries.  The starter set comes with C and D adapters.

I’ve been using Eneloop batteries for years.  They hold up well for my kids gaming controls. If there is a battery shortage, you can bet I’m going to purchase more of these if they are available.

Charging Your Battery Banks

One of the questions that might come up is, what do you use to charge your battery banks when they run out of juice?  In a grid-up situation, you would just use your regular electrical plugs at home.  This will always charge your battery banks the fastest.  Note, the bigger your portable battery banks, the longer it will take to charge them.

In a grid-down scenario, you would have to use a bigger battery bank like the Ecoflow River or the Ecoflow Delta.  These can all be recharged with solar panels.  You could also build your own solar charger/battery backup, like Mic talks about in the video below. Another option would be to charge your battery banks while you are using your generator to run items at home. But that is temporary until your fuel runs out.  For sustainability, I like anything with solar panels.

Another thing to remember is that putting power back into your battery banks could take a while.  These are big batteries and you need to consider that while you are recharging them.  That is why you should top them off as often as you can in a grid-down situation.

Will We See a Battery Shortage?

The whole idea for this topic came about after a conversation with someone who owns an online store and information he received from his distributors. Time will tell if there really will be a battery shortage. But once thing is for sure. if there is a battery shortage, you can count on the price of batteries to go up until people start panicking and the supply goes dry. If you can add some options to your powered preparedness, it might be smart to do so.

Do you have any USB powered devices or gadgets?  If so, please share them below in the comments section.


11 thoughts on “Options When You Encounter a Battery Shortage”

  1. Hi Todd, I have followed you for a couple years now! You are, among many other things, not just a writer and the owner of Prepper Website. You are a school teacher and Pastor as well! (I really love some of your sermons) My question to you is do YOU ever run out of energy?! You have been truly blessed with more energy than most people! Just wanted to say thanks for all of the information you have given over the years.
    God Bless and stay safe…

    1. Thanks for the comment Bill. I don’t have a life…LOL. I also consider it a ministry in a way and feel I’m supposed to do this. I won’t lie, there are some times when it gets hard.

      God bless.


  2. Debra Jacobs

    So how long should I run my fridge and freezer off the generator for?
    like how long on and how long off, say 2hours on the generator and 2hours off?? to keep the cold or frozen

    1. Debra,

      When we did this, we did it every 2 hours and that seemed to work. Of course, the amount you have in your freezer is going to make a difference. The more you have in there, the colder it will stay. But I would also keep a refrigerator thermometer in there and check it when you are about to start it up again to make sure it is staying cold.

      In a pro-longed scenario, ultimately, the idea is to eat everything in the fridge and freezer first.

      I hope that helps.


  3. Big Ken

    There are many items that can be charged by USB nowadays, you just scratched the surface. I have been using most of these for a few years, as I live in hurricane country. In addition to the items you mentioned, you can also get lanterns. Black and Decker makes a USB rechargeable drill (strong enough to drill holes up to 3/8″ in most wood, or 1/8″ in softer metals). There are many good fan options out there, I am a fan of OPolar. Hearing aids/listening devices, gooseneck clamp-on desk lamps, small essential oil diffusers (only good enough for a small room). Other items I have not tried yet – rechargeable camp showers, and water pumps (could be useful to get that water out of those drums in a more controlled manner [I use hand pumps and siphon hoses] ). For all my eneloops, (for everything else battery powered), I use a Xtar VC4 charger, which runs off USB. It charges a bit slower than a 120v option, but gets the job done on NiMH and lithium batteries.
    For all this, I have used Anker and Aukey 30000mAh power banks. I recharge those using fold-up solar panels. Get the larger 20 watt or above ones (28watt is perfect), you can charge more devices faster on clear days, and still charge slowly on overcast days, even through a window if it’s raining. Always charge the power bank, and then charge everything else from the power bank. The sun going behind clouds changes output voltage/amperage, which can mess with some electronics, but doesn’t affect battery banks.

    1. Ken,

      Thanks for the tip on the Xtar VC4 charger. What solar panel do you have? Are you happy with it?


      1. Big Ken

        I have a few. A BlitzWolf 20w, which is decent for the price. A X-Dragon which is either 20 or 24w, it doesn’t say and I forget. And an Aukey 28w, which charges 2 USB items at 2.4A (in good sun). Really, they’ll all get the job done on a good day, but the more powerful panels do it faster with less sun. I have been eyeing a X-Dragon 70w panel, which can also charge laptops and car batteries, but I’ve been focusing on food storage more lately because of the drought/heatwave/locusts/mice/inflation. The Aukey and X-Dragon are noticeably better built than the BlitzWolf. I’m very satisfied with the Aukey, partly because of the power upgrade from my other panels. As long as some sun is coming through the clouds, it will continue to charge. I forgot to mention using an USB meter, which looks a bit like a flash drive and will let you know the volts and charge rate of your devices, great for troubleshooting and helping you position your panels for optimum charging. Sometimes a small change in panel angle increases charge rate dramatically (like a small adjustment to a solar oven can make a big difference).

  4. Dick Powell

    Investigate making your own dry cell batterys, there are lots of ways and combinations of simple, easy to get, cheap materials that will generate enough electrikery to power small appliances, and when teamed with a supercapacitor, give storeage as well, and totally off grid and renewable from junk.

    1. Dick, do you have some reputable links that you can drop here? That would be great.


  5. Thanks for the information and recommendations from all of you.

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