Equipment Tips and Tricks: Recharge Your Batteries

Equipment Tips and Tricks: Recharge Your Batteries

In this episode of Equipment Tips and Tricks, I talk about recharging your batteries. I talk about hybrid rechargeable batteries, smart chargers, and show off a neat piece of kit for storing them.

Equipment Mentioned in this Video

Full Transcript of the Video

Hey there Portland NETs and everyone else interested in community emergency response equipment tips and tricks—my name is Taylor. I’m a volunteer with the Kenton-Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Emergency Team in North Portland Oregon. Today I’m talking about recharging your batteries.

A lot of us are using rechargeable batteries in our kit. These Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries are all over the place. Supermarkets and connivence stores as well as big-box your regular electronic retailers. So, what’s the person to buy?

Well, the batteries you want to buy if you’re looking for rechargeables are going to be Nickel-metal Hydride. There might be some Lithium cells out there on the market, but by-common, you will find NiMH or Nickel-metal Hydride batteries.

Now, specifically, you should be thinking about picking up the versions that are marketed as hybrid batteries. These have a different chemical structure which allows them to retain their charge while they’re just sitting there on the shelf for quite a long time.

The most known brand of these are called Eneloop. That’s their logo! Although you’ll find others, such as these Rayovac Hybrids, on the market. You can go online and find all sorts of reviews. In the end, it’s the shelf-stableness of them that you’re going for. They’ll kind of sit there with their charge for a good couple of months. Unlike normal Nickel-metal hydride rechargeable which will deplete very quickly sitting on a shelf. So that’s the batteries you want.

Now, how do you store them? Well, I love these little carriers. They’re kind of on the spendy side, but so convenient. And what really makes them nice for rechargeables is that you can use them to determine, at a glance, whether that rechargeable is charged or depleted. How I do this is I store them with the positive terminal down if they’re charged. And when they’re depleted, you just flip it the other way and at a glance, you can quickly see which of your batteries are good to go and which you need to replace.

Of course, there are lots of different to store your batteries –whatever works for you. Just make sure you’re not contacting them so they create a short circuit and y’know, blow up or something.

The last thing you’re going to need is a charger. Again, lots of chargers on the market. What you want to look for is a smart charger. Something that can really detect the voltage on that battery and condition it over time to make it last as long as it can.

So this is one such variety. This is made by LaCrosse. There are lots of different models out there. Basically a smart charger is always going to have some sort of screen to tell you what’s going on with the charger. You’ll be able to see that, perhaps the current — how much current is being put into the battery at any time. Slower is better. Fast chargers are not as good. And you might be able to set it to be a refresh or recharge mode, which will completely drain the battery and then charge it all the way back up to get it’s maximum potential.

So, again: Hybrid batteries. A good way to store them. And a smart charger.

Choosing rechargeable batteries for your emergency kit is a personal choice. I prefer to use rechargeables on the things that I use on a constant basis such as my headlamp or that I have sitting around for radio usage or something to that effect. In my actual emergency kit — the one that’s in the garage kind of stored away—I have just regular alkaline batteries sitting there. And that way I don’t have to worry about them going bad for tens of years, rather than just in a couple of months. Also, alkaline batteries a lot less expensive so I can have a larger supply sitting there, without needing to invest in so heavily in the rechargeable batteries.

If you have anything to add about this topic, head on over to YouTube—that’s where we’ve got the comments—of course you can subscribe there as well. And as always, Portland, keep Portland prepared at I’ll catch you next time.

Equipment Tips and Tricks: Listen to your Radio

Equipment Tips and Tricks: Listen to your Radio

In this episode of Equipment Tips and Tricks, I share my preferred set-up to get audio from the radio into my ear. It allows me to operate the radio without interfering with whatever I’m working on and without compromising the ability to hear the environment around me.

Equipment Mentioned in this Video

Full transcript of the video:

Hey there Portland NET and everyone else interested in community emergency response equipment tips and tricks.

My name is Taylor. I’m a volunteer with the Kenton/Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Emergency Team in North Portland, Oregon. I’m talking about listening to your radio or, more specifically, how to get the audio from the radio into your ear where it’s most effective.

Right, so I’ve got the two radios I deploy with:My ham radio, Baofeng portable (er, handheld) and my Motorola Talkabout FRS/GMRS. The one thing these two radios have in common is that their speakers… not so great.

These speakers will work fine in a controlled environment, such as this studio, your house, inside of a car… But as soon as you get and you’re deploying to something—people are talking, sirens are happening, whatever else is going on in your environment—you’re quickly going to have this audio drowned out.

Furthermore, you put the radio down on your hip or somewhere out of the way and the speaker’s pointed in the wrong direction. So, we need a method to get the speaker audio closer and ideally into our ear.

Lots of different solutions for this. I’m going to describe the one that works best for me. And it starts with what’s called a speaker microphone, or speaker mic. And it looks like this. Really inexpensive on Amazon, we’ll pop some links for it over on if you’re interested in getting a direct link.

But basically, this is an extension cord for the speaker and microphone on your radio. Plug it into your radio and you’ll hook this wherever you want. Now keep in mind that the plugs on here are proprietary to the radio. This is a 2-prong plug for Baofeng and Kenwood, but there’s lots of different varieties. And I can’t plug this into my Talkabout FRS radio — I need a different speaker mic. That’s the way things are.

So we’ll put this into our radio and we’ll hook this wherever we want. These vests actually have a neat loop like this and you can put the radio there if you want. I prefer it here, right in front of my shirt. Some people hook it to their backpack straps. The problem with that is that if you take off your backpack to get into the gear: radio goes all over the place.

Now this is an effective extension cord for the speaker and microphone, but it’s still not in our ear. Which means it can still get drowned out pretty readily. So, the bottom of this speaker microphone has a 3.5 millimeter jack or 1/8 inch jack for a listen-only headset. It basically says: use this for the microphone, take the speaker and put it somewhere else.

Now for that, I prefer an earpiece something along the lines. This is what’s called an acoustic tube listen-only earpiece. This is the acoustic tube, this clear part. It doesn’t need to be clear—that just makes you look like a secret agent.

And on the end of it, you can have any sort of ear attachment. So they make ones that go into your ear, they make foam earplug versions. This one is called an open-ear insert. It’s open because it allows audio from around you. All of the ambient noise of what’s going on to still get into your ear as well as injecting your radio audio.

It’s also nice because it puts the speaker for this down here. Which means the whole earpiece part is very lightweight. This is super comfortable to wear all day. And you can route this other end of it however you want. Down into your collared shirt, whatever.

So that’s the setup I prefer to use. As always, use what works best for you and test your equipment out. Get all your gear on, go walk around the neighborhood, go on an exercise with your team, whatever it takes to make sure your stuff is going to work in a real emergency.

As always: keep Portland prepared at If you want to add to this conversation or tell us what gear you like to use, head on over to YouTube we’ve got the comments there and, while there, you can also subscribe to the rest of these videos and get them as they come in.

Thanks for watching, we’ll catch you next time!