Lithium Batteries Have Juice

If you find yourself lugging around lots of AA or AAA batteries to power your digital camera or other electronics, you might consider buying the lithium kind. They weigh 30 percent less than standard alkaline batteries and last five to seven times longer. Fewer, lighter batteries make for smaller, lighter bags.

Besides, the regular alkaline batteries that you can buy just about anywhere don’t work all that well in digital cameras. They drain very quickly because they are not suited to the alternating high- and low-current demands of digital cameras. Alkalines are best for low-draw devices like radios. And running through a lot of disposable batteries rapidly is not friendly to the environment or your wallet.

That’s why I sometimes travel with a few sets of rechargeable batteries and a small charger  on extended trips. It’s the most cost-effective way to go. But the charger, small though it is, still weighs too much when I’m trying to travel light.

Batteries Which brings us back to lithium batteries. They’re expensive – about $10 for a four-pack. (Though I’ve seen them on sale now and then for $7.50 or $8.) But even at $10 it’s like paying $2 for four standard AA batteries, considering that the lithiums last at least five times as long.

I gave the kid four lithium batteries because she had no room for a charger in the suitcase she packed for her six-week trip to Spain. A month later, her digital camera is still going strong.

The husband uses rechargeable nickel metal hydrid (NiMH) AA batteries in his digital camera, but he keeps a pack of lithiums in the glove compartment in case the rechargeables run out of juice. This is precisely the approach recommended by Consumer Reports and on the DPfwiw (Digital Photography, for what it’s worth) website, which has an exhaustive but easy-to-understand rundown of how batteries perform in digital cameras.

The article points out several other upsides to lithium AAs, including a shelf life of up to 10 years and excellent performance at extreme temperatures.

You can buy lithium batteries in most drugstores. You’ll usually find them in the same rack with the alkaline batteries, but sometimes they are kept at the photo counter. You can also buy them online.

An aside – there has been some concern lately about the potential fire hazards that various kinds of batteries can pose on airplanes. The Department of Transportation does not allow cargo shipments of non-rechargeable lithium batteries on passenger flights, but passengers may carry them. The DOT is also asking passengers not to carry loose batteries of any kind and to keep packaged batteries in carry-on bags, not checked luggage. Here’s the advisory.


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