Alt-En Power Cabat Battery Pack

By Brian T

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a company to review a new rechargeable battery for my Delorme PN-40. If you know anything about the PN-40, one of the downfalls is the battery life. A local company from Colorado Springs, Colorado named Alt-En Power Solutions makes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack called the Cabat.  http://www.rechargeable-lithium-batteries.com
Alt-En Power Cabat Battery Pack

The battery pack is just a hair bit larger than 2 double A’s. It measures 2 inches (5 cm) long, 1 and 1/8 inches (2.9 cm)  wide and 9/16ths inches (1.4 cm) thick. It weighs in at 1.5 ounces (42 grams).Estimates on the Alt-En Power Solutions web site show the PN-40 having 12-14 hours run time. That estimate is almost double any of the standard double A’s or rechargeable that I have used. I have not actually timed it down to the minute, but my preliminary estimates have it running at roughly 14 hours. I used it on two different days for about 7 hours a day. In between these times, it sat for a few weeks, which also drains some of the battery to keep the internal clock running on the PN-40.

Beside the longer run time, the other thing I like about this battery pack is it can be charged while loaded in the PN-40. The less I have to dissemble something the better in my opinion. Initially I had to charge the battery pack for about 2 hours. There are some quirks with this unit and the company does a great job explaining them on their web site and in literature shipped with the units.

To charge the unit, do the following:
Power up the PN-40.  Wait for bootup.  Connect USB cable and plug charger in wall.  Wait for bat indicator on SAT page to say charging.  Turn PN off.  Display should still show marching charge bars.  Bars stop when full charged.

That’s simple enough so long as you install the batteries right. I am man hear me roar! I don’t need any stinking instructions. Step one says: Observe polarity PLUS and MINUS when installing.

Well unlike normal batteries, this pack only has one “open end” per say. Those contacts need to match up with the “+” and “-“ signs on the PN unit. I had it upside down to begin with. OOPs! See the picture below, line up the plus to the plus and so forth….

The other cool thing about this battery pack is the green pull tab. This allows me to remove the batteries very easily. They fit snug, which is nice, and having an easy way to pull them out is a nice touch.

From the website, it lists several ways to charge the Cabat. The most reliable though is through a wall charger.  “Computer 5V power and car supplied power can vary quite a bit. These are fine for charging your CabBat, but they may, or may not, take longer than the other types of chargers.

The CabBat needs no maintenance, lithium-ion does not have battery memory.
You can charge the battery often and recharge it with only partial discharge.
If you are heading to the field, feel free to top it off, the chemistry actually lasts longer with partial charges and discharges.”
Another quirk the folks at Alt En Power Solutions recommend when installing the batteries is to remove the plastic ribs/foam on the back cover of the PN-40.
From their instructions “Snug fit. This pack fits better into the PN devices if you remove the white foam pieces from the back cover (NOT the black gasket.) this is not mandatory. But if using the device where it could become submerged in water, we recommend modifying the back cover to remove the plastic ribs that contact the pack as well. This will ensure the PN remains waterproof. See our website for further instructions of this process.”
I have some reservations about removing these back pieces though. The Cabat is a hair bit larger that regular batteries. If I have to switch to regular AA’s will they still fit snug in the battery compartment? I do not think I will cut these. The unit seems to close up fine with out removing these.
Finally the last item they discuss in the instructions is the firmware on the PN 40 itself.
From the instructions “As of November 2010, DeLorme firmware does not support the battery discharge profile for the CabBat. When your PN device indicates less than 100% battery while using the CabBat, it is time to charge it. The battery life indicator will go from 85% to “off” in a short period of time.”
When they say a short period of time, they mean it. The unit powered off in about 5 mins.
Overall I really like this unit. I like that I can install the batteries and charge them inside the unit. I REALLY like the battery life. I am more of a dayhiker. Sometimes I am out longer than 6 hours, especially while fishing. This battery pack with its 12-14 hour battery life will be great for me.
Some other things I would like to check out over the course of these reports are to get an exact measure of the charge time, measure the run time, and measure the run time while using a CPU intensive screen such as the imagery or map page.

I am moving across country in the next few weeks, so I will use it on my drive through 6 states. Since I am leaving Colorado, I will not have great cold weather to try out the battery pack in, so I will simulate this effect by placing it in my freezer and seeing how it reacts to the cold.

BT

 

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