Now, before we begin, we want to be clear: We don’t endorse being glued to your phone in the great outdoors. In fact, we think time spent in nature provides the perfect excuse for taking a break from the trappings of modern life. However, we have to admit that sometimes our smartphones can be a helpful tool in the backcountry.
If you’re using your phone for directions, maps or even entertainment in the wild, you need to know how to preserve that battery life so you can stay out there for longer. These are the top tips, straight from Apple and Google, which should work with all models using up-to-date operating systems.
Avoid extreme temperatures
Extreme temperatures can play a role in draining your phone's battery in the backcountry, and can even destroy your phone permanently, according to Apple. For iPhones, you’ll get the best battery life in temperatures that range from 62 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. (According to our source at Google, Android devices vary by model.) We pack our phones deep in our packs in hot weather, and near our bodies—and in our sleeping bags at night—in cold weather.
Update your phone
No, no one likes to update their operating system, but it does make a difference when it comes to battery life. Updates can mean new features that help you save battery life. On Android phones, for example, a feature called Adaptive Battery learns your usage habits and prioritizes battery for the apps you use the most.
iPhone: Plug your device into a power source and go to Settings > General > Software Update.
Android: Open your Settings app. Tap System > Advanced > System update.
Use airplane mode
When you have no cell coverage or a low signal, your battery may be used up searching for a signal. Simply switching your phone into airplane mode will help. You won’t be able to make or receive calls, but you don’t want to in the backcountry, do you?
iPhone: Open your Control Center and tap the Airplane Mode icon.
Android: Open your Settings app. Tap Network & internet and turn Airplane Mode on.
Dim your screen
Adjusting the brightness of your screen can have a huge effect on your phone’s battery life. The dimmer, the better.
iPhone: To dim, open the Control Center and drag the brightness slider to the bottom. Or, have your phone automatically adjust based on ambient lighting conditions by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations, and set Auto-Brightness to On.
Android: To set your screen’s brightness, swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen, then move the slider left. To have your screen’s brightness automatically adjust to the light around you, open Settings, tap Display > Adaptive brightness, and turn on Adaptive brightness.
Turn on Low Power Mode
Low Power Mode reduces screen brightness, optimizes performance and stops system animations. Apps won’t download content in the background either.
iPhone: Enable it by going to Settings > Battery. Your phone lets you know when your battery level is at 20 percent or 10 percent, and lets you turn on this mode with one tap.
Android: Swipe down from the top of the screen. Tap Battery Saver.
Be smart about your battery usage
Not all apps are created the same. Some can suck the life out of your phone. But before you start deleting, check out which apps are the worst culprits.
iPhone: Go to Settings > Battery to see usage.
Android: Open Settings app. Tap Battery > More > Battery usage. It is recommended to keep Battery optimization on.
Switch off background activity
Some apps use your battery while you are using other apps. You can turn off the feature that allows apps to refresh in the background. However, this does mean that your apps won’t check if new content is available for you to view when you launch the app or download updates.
iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and select Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi & Cellular Data or Off, depending on what you want (we suggest Off for backcountry usage).
Android: Go to Settings > Battery > More > Battery usage. Tap an app with high battery usage and turn on Background restriction.
Fetch data manually
The more frequently your email or other data is “fetched,” the quicker your battery may drain.
iPhone: Head to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and tap Manually.
Android (according to our source at Google): Go to Settings, tap on your account (e.g., Gmail), and tap on Account sync. You can decide which apps you want to sync and refresh data automatically.
Stop location services
You can optimize your battery life by turning off location services in your apps.
iPhone: Turn off Location Services in Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
Android: Open your Settings app. Tap Security & location > Location and turn Use location off.
Turn off push notifications
Stop your home screen or lock screen from lighting up every few minutes by turning off push notifications.
iPhone: Go to Settings > Notifications and tap your app and set Allow Notifications to Off.
Android: Open Settings. Tap Apps & notifications > Notifications > On lock screen > Don’t show notifications at all.
Let your screen turn off sooner
Most phones auto-lock the screen after only one minute. However, you can set your screen to turn off after an even shorter period of time, helping to preserve your battery.
iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Auto-Lock and set the interval to a short time, like 30 seconds.
Android: Settings vary by device. For more information, contact your device manufacturer.
If you’re planning a multiday adventure and think you’ll want to use your phone for directions or other functionality, we suggest these three products.
Weight: 4.6 ounces
Charge on-the-go with a built-in micro-USB and Lightning cables.
Weight: 5.4 ounces
Offering up to 24 hours of additional battery life, this device helps keep you connected wherever you roam.
Weight: 12.8 ounces
Power up your USB devices with the help of the sun.
Editor’s note: Remember that taking your phone into the backcountry doesn’t guarantee safety or connectivity; your phone will only work within cell signal range.