How to Save Phone Battery Life in the Backcountry

Aer Parris

13 reviews with an average rating of 3.6 out of 5 stars
Person holding cellphone with map on it in front of green grass.

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 12 top tips, straight from Apple and Google, which should work with all models using up-to-date operating systems.

  1. 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°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.
  2. Update your phoneNo, 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.
  3. Use airplane modeWhen 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?
  4. Dim your screenAdjusting the brightness of your screen can have a huge effect on your phone’s battery life. The dimmer, the better.
  5. Turn on Low Power ModeLow Power Mode reduces screen brightness, optimizes performance and stops system animations. Apps won’t download content in the background either.
  6. Be smart about your battery usageNot 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.
  7. Switch off background activitySome 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.
  8. Fetch data manuallyThe more frequently your email or other data is “fetched,” the quicker your battery may drain.
  9. Stop location servicesYou can optimize your battery life by turning off location services in your apps.
  10. Turn off push notificationsStop your home screen or lock screen from lighting up every few minutes by turning off push notifications.
  11. Let your screen turn off soonerMost 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.
  12. Power up: If you’re planning a multiday adventure and think you’ll want to use your phone for directions or other functionality, consider bringing a portable power device. Learn how to find the portable power technology that’s best suited to your adventure.

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.