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I've always packed meals for my roadtrips. I like the flexibility of being able to stop anywhere for lunch. I eat healthier. And now that I'm exploring the world in an EV, I can fuel up my body while I charge the car.

What I wasn't as crazy about was dealing with melting ice sloshing around in the cooler. Anyone who camps or roadtrips knows exactly what I'm talking about. Draining the cooler, keeping food separated from the melting ice, and constantly drying things off took a lot of the fun out of the project.

All of that changed with the BODEGAcooler Mini 12V Portable Freezer. I have the 9-quart model that fits easily in the boot of my VW and is easy to carry around to a picnic table or campsite.


The unit is cooled by a compressor positioned in the bottom that's powered by one of three ways: 1) 12V car outlet, 2) portable power station such as a Jackery 300 Plus, or 3) an AC adapter that you plug into a wall outlet. In normal cooling mode (Eco) it draws only 35 watts.

The temperature can be set on the unit itself or via the Bluetooth Smart Car Fridge app that enables you to monitor all cooler functions. The ideal temperature via my testing is 38 degrees F. Drinks are icy-cold and food stays fresh.

The BODEGAcooler Mini also includes a custom ice pack that fits in the lid. This helps reduce energy draw. The handle is sturdy making the unit easy to carry. And overall it's quite durable. I keep it in the back of the VW ID.4 and it's always ready to go when I plug it into the 12V car outlet in the boot area.

Note to ID.4 Owners: By default, the 12V outlet in the boot is only energized when the car is turned on. This isn't ideal for refrigerators that like constant flow of juice. VW engineers did design the option to send continuous power to the 12V outlet. You just have to reposition the fuse for that circuit from the top position to the bottom position. Here's a video that shows you how.

The capacity of the 9 quart is surprisingly big enough for two people for a day, or for a solo weekend trip. I keep drinks, sandwich fixin's, and other items that require refrigeration in the cooler, and then the bread and related staples in a separate food bag. If you need more storage, there are bigger coolers available. But they do become more cumbersome to lug around.

Bottom Line


The BODEGAcooler Mini 12V Portable Freezer is amazingly powerful for the little electricity it draws. I'm very impressed. And the fact that I no longer have to mess with ice for my roadtrips is a bonus. And if I do want to make ice, I can in the Bodega. It gets that cold! Highly recommended.

Use Coupon Code: DERRICKSTORY for a 10 percent discount.

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The Jackery Explorer 300 Plus Review - Power Your Roadtrips.

Note: The affiliate links in this article help support my research and writing. There is no additional charge to you the customer. Thank you for using those links.


My photography kit requires a constant flow of energy. Feeding those cameras, laptops, and flash units is easy enough at home - just plug them in and forget it. But road trips require a bit more planning.

And it's not just photography gear I have to power. There's a cooler for drinks and meals, LED lighting to illuminate the edges of the day, and personal electronics need attention too - iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad mini. All of these watts add up.

After testing a variety of electronic generators, I've settled on a couple to power my outdoor life. One of my favorites is the Jackery Explorer 300 Plus Portable Power Station ($299 before discounts).

Having been a fan of the previous generation, the Jackery Explorer 300 Portable Power Station ($279 before discounts), I think the newer model brings important improvements over its reliable predecessor.

OM1-300-Plus.jpeg Explorer 300 left side and Explorer 300 Plus right side charging an Olympus OM-1, 9 watts output.

On the inside, the 300 Plus uses the newer Lithium Iron Phosphate formula (LiFePO4) that increases battery life to 3,000 cycles compared to 500 cycles for the previous generation. Charging time is also faster, a mere 2 hours via AC outlet for 0-100 percent, compared to 4.5 hours for the Explorer 300.

The LED screen is updated on the 300 Plus providing a more dynamic, easier-to-read display for input, output, battery-level, WiFi, and Bluetooth. That's right, the latest model is compatible with the Jackery Mobile App that enables you to configure, monitor, and change settings in real-time via your phone. The 300 Plus also includes an integrated light.

iPhone-Bodega-300-Plus.jpg The Jackery 300 Plus in the boot of my VW ID.4 powering my Bodega portable refrigerator. The iPhone app helps me monitor levels, even when I'm not standing right there.

In addition to my camera gear and personal electronics, the Explorer 300 Plus powers the BODEGAcooler Mini 12V Portable Freezer P8 that only draws 35 watts of power when the compressor is running. And if I'm camping or stopped for lunch, I can pull out a Jackery solar panel and generate enough electricity to power the fridge and send the extra electricity to the Explorer 300 Plus.

If there's sun, I can power all of my camera gear, electronics, and the fridge indefinitely via the solar panel. Plus it's nice not having to worry about ice for the cooler.

Tech Specs for the Explorer 300 Plus

  • Capacity: 288Wh - Cell Chemistry: LiFePO4 - Cycle life: 3000 cycles to 80%+ capacity
  • Power - AC Output(x1): 120V, 60Hz, 300W (600W Peak) - USB-C Output(x2): 100W Max, 5V,3A (5V, 9V, 12V, 15V, 20V up to 5A) - USB-A Output(x1): 15W Max 5V,3A - Car Port(x1): 12V,10A - Bypass mode AC input/output: 100V-120V~60Hz, 300W Max - USB-C Output(x1): 15W Max 5V,3A - AC Input: 100V, 60Hz, 15A Max - DC Input: 12-27V,5A Max, 100W Max
  • Dimensions - Length: 9.1in (23cm) - Width: 6.1in (15.5cm) - Height: 6.6in (16.7cm) - Weight: 8.27lbs (3.75kg)
  • Charging Time - AC Adapter: 2 Hours - Car Adapter(12V): 5.5 Hours - Solar Panel: 9.5 Hours

Nice Touches with the Explorer 300 Plus

One thing that Jackery does with all of its products is keep you informed about the input and output levels. So when a solar panel is connected, you know the wattage being sent to the battery. And when you start using multiple outlets for your electronics, you can keep track of the total draw.

iPad-Zf-MBP-300-Plus.jpeg Watts Add Up! You wouldn't think that these personal devices would draw that much, but this trio results in 69 watts.

I also like the control I have via the mobile app. I can do little things like set the duration for the display, or turn on the auxiliary light. And I can also configure the Explorer 300 Plus battery parameters to extend its life.

IMG_1075.jpeg I don't have to babysit the recharging of the Explorer 300 Plus thanks to this setting. When it reaches 85 percent, it stops charging. If usage dips to 15 percent, it turns off.

Discount Code

If you want just the Explorer 300 Plus without the solar panel, use Discount Code: JADEAL to lower the price to $255.

Shipping is free. My experiences with customer service have been excellent. And the warranty is top-notch.

Beware however... once you start generating your own electricity, it becomes addictive. I'll cover more gear in upcoming articles.

Other Articles in This Series

Roadtripping With the BodegaCooler Mini Fridge/Freezer - A Review.

Note: The affiliate links in this article help support my research and writing. There is no additional charge to you the customer. Thank you for using those links.

solar-panel-ID424px.jpg Hanging a Jackery solar panel via bungee cords off the back of the ID.4 to power the Bodega refrigerator and refuel the Explorer 300 Plus.

I have a handsome Timex Intelligent Quartz chronograph that I wore for years before my first Apple Watch, and plan on owning for years to come. One month ago I had to retrieve it from my dresser drawer, take it to the shop, and get a new battery for it. It was going to be my companion for the next 30 days.


How I Ended Up Without an Apple Watch

I didn't plan on going retro. It just sort of happened. Theresa had bought my first Apple Watch, a Series 2, five years ago for a momentous birthday. With another big celebration on the horizon, she decided that it was time for me to update to a Series 7. No argument from me.

"They have a promotion going right now where you can trade in your current timepiece for a credit. Let's go to the store and do that," she said.

I picked out my new watch with a cool summer-flavored band. But when it came to get credit for my Series 2, we were informed that it was too old. No one wanted it. (But it still worked fine!)

My intention all along was to leave it in the hands of Apple where it would be used or recycled responsibly. So we left the store without it, and with my gift in a clean white paper bag. Problem was, my birthday was a month away.

As we left the mall without anything on my wrist, I realized my miscalculation. (Hey... wait a minute!) That's where the Timex reenters the scene.

What I Missed Returning to Analog

At first it was fun to wear the Timex again. It's a flyback chronograph, so I can reset its stopwatch by just pressing a button and watching the fourth hand sweep back to the top. But it's a cumulative timer without any sort of warning. So I had to keep an eye on it when timing the chicken on the BBQ. After a few close calls, I opted for using the timer on my phone instead.

I became more lax about workouts without my cheerleader watch encouraging me to get off my butt and exercise. I mindlessly strayed out into UV 6 sunshine without sunblock, missed text messages and phone calls, and had to calculate tips in my head. I was a first-world-problems mess.

On the upside, I did catch the occasional approving nod from classic watch aficionados who didn't realize my handsome chronograph was actually a Timex.

Finally, My Birthday

Fast forward to Tuesday evening when I opened my birthday gift. There was my new Series 7 - a larger more legible watch face, new Blood Oxygen and ECG measurements, Apple Pay, weather, workouts, and yes, the timer. (It will even tell me when I fall down. Hope that doesn't happen.) Within 30 minutes I had everything set up just right.

Fortunately, I had only gained one pound during my digital hiatus. But a pound a month equals 6 more by year's end. Now I'm back on track. I closed all of my rings yesterday, applied sunblock at the appropriate time, and didn't burn the chicken. Life feels normal again.

I'm going to leave my handsome Timex on the nightstand for a while. I'm grateful for its service in my time of need. But I have to say, five years from now when I'm ready to turn in my Series 7, I'm going to make sure the new watch is on my wrist before I leave the store.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Both the Sands Expo and the Las Vegas Convention Center were filled with an incredible array of gadgets and tools. But after 3 days of exploring, my favorite discover is the SabineTek SmartMic+ ($159, available now).


This little audio powerhouse, about the size of a USB Flash drive, connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth and is capable of performing a number of truly useful tasks. And it does so with wonderful fidelity.

I can clip it to my shirt and record audio for podcasting and reporting, even in busy environments. The SmartMic does a great job of automatically balancing the volume of my voice with the ambient sound. You can still here the background, but it's at a pleasant level. You can listen for yourself by tuning in to the first part of my CES Report Podcast where I wore the mic to the Pepcom event at the Mirage Hotel.

If you want to record video interviews on the go, the SmartMic also proves wildly useful. Using the downloadable app (iOS and Android), you clip the mic to the person you're interviewing and press the video record button on the phone's app. The app records the audio and video of the subject (audio via the SmartMic), and the phone records the audio of the person asking the questions. Then it's all balanced together in the final video. Very clever. And it works great.

The SmartMic+ can also be used for vlogging, and with mirrorless cameras and DSLRs. And because it's so compact, you can have it with you always. Buy two SmartMics, and you can enable two-way mode where one mic serves as the input, and the other is the receiver.


The SmartMic+ kit is nicely packaged and includes accessories such as a sponge cover, headset, charging cable, fleece cover (for wind protection), and even a soft pouch. I've had fun testing it throughout the week here in Las Vegas. And it is the one discovery that I want to take home with me.

You can learn more and purchase the SmartMic+ now at the SabineTek site

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

CES 2020 Preview

CES Las Vegas is right around the corner, and I anticipate a good year at the show with many, many tech announcements. I'll have a full report from the event on Tuesday's TDS Photography Podcast. But let's take a moment first to ponder what I'll probably see at the show.


Here are some of the things that are on my radar.

  • New DSLR announcement from Nikon. Most likely the D780 full frame.
  • DJI has something up its sleeve that we will hear about.
  • Lots of 5G news from the mobile sector.
  • Electric bikes and scooters are really going to come into their own this year.
  • Smart homes are going to have to get secure, and that assurance will be their focus.
  • A ton of evolution in the automotive sector, from self-driving to all electric.
  • Folding phones to clever laptops and tablets.
  • Television news, of course.

I'll start my reporting on Sunday night, Jan. 5. The podcast will publish on Monday night, Jan. 6. Stay tuned!

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

The DJI OSMO Pocket ($350) debuted before CES with much fanfare and discussion. The petite, 3-axis gimble, 4K movie camera fits nicely in a top shirt pocket, but packs an incredible amount of imaging power in its svelt frame. It's not perfect, but by any reasonable measure, it is a breakthrough device.

DJI OSMO Pocket - Front

Highlight features include:

  • Gimbal Camera with 1/2.3" CMOS Sensor
  • Compact 4.1 oz, 4.8" High Design
  • Up to 4K Video at 60 fps, up to 100 Mb/s
  • Connects to Smartphone via Mimo App
  • 12MP JPEG or DNG Raw Still Photos
  • Includes Lightning & USB Type-C Adapters
  • Optional Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Monitoring
  • POV, ActiveTrack & FaceTrack Modes
  • Standard Time-Lapse & Motionlapse
  • NightShot & Panoramic Modes

The functions that I was most interested in were video recording (1080p and 4K), SloMo capture, timelapse, panorama, and audio recording. Because I've been using a DJI Spark for over a year, I felt like I already knew the OSMO when I first fired it up. They are indeed cousins from the same family.

Initial Setup

And like a DJI drone, the initial introduction might test your patience. Instead of powering up and recording a video, you must first endure a mildly tedious setup process where you register the device with your DJI account. All I have to say is you will get through it, and don't let it deter you from your goal of embracing the OSMO. Do plan on 10-15 minutes before you can actually get to work.

Using as a Standalone Device


There are two basic ways to use the OSMO Pocket: as a standalone device and connected to your smartphone. I began my journey using it as a standalone, walking through the press events at CES. It must have been quite a sight seeing a tall man strolling through the crowds with this petite device in his hand. As you will witness from the movie, no one seemed to care. The OSMO Pocket is too cute to be intimating.

With a little practice, I learned to shorten my stride providing even smoother capture. The gimble is terrific, in spite of the cameraman, and viewing the footage creates a real sense of presence. At this point, I was already hooked.

In standalone mode, you have a 1-inch screen to serve as the monitor. It's helpful for initial setup. Swipe right-to-left to configure the video settings, swipe up to initiate any of the special features such as ActiveTrack, and swipe down for the settings menu. When you've recorded the footage, swipe left-to-right for playback. It's that simple to operate.

But the real key to using the OSMO in motion is to set it up, then use your eyes to make the movie. Once I centered the screen on the scene that I wanted to record, I only checked it sporadically during capture, instead concentrating on holding the device steady as I moved through the crowd. With a little practice, this technique can produce very intimate moments. It's a little like becoming at one with the universe.

Working with a Connected Smartphone

When I did need to be more involved with the settings, such as working outside in contrasty light, I connected the OSMO Pocket to my iPhone X. This also requires downloading the DJI Mimo app. Again, controlling my Spark with the iPhone made the transition to the Mimo app quite comfortable. (The OSMO Pocket is both iOS and Android compatible, each with their own interchangeable connectors.)


Adding the iPhone X to the mix not only gave me a bigger screen to work with, but better controls for exposure and gimble operation. Plus reviewing the video is quite nice, and you can even save and publish at this point if you wish.

The Mimo app can also stitch your panoramas and produce the timelapse videos you've captured. If you want to build your own panos, such as with Lightroom, the individual files are the microSD card in the OSMO.

Night Photography and Slow Motion Capture

Since I was in Las Vegas, I decided to really push the envelope and record night video in slow motion mode. The OSMO Pocket has a tiny 1/2.3" CMOS Sensor, so this seemed like a challenging test.

I'll let you judge for yourself by viewing the following movie. Clearly, the footage isn't theater quality, but it's impressive if you stop and think that all I've done is pull this little device out of my pocket, hold it in my hand, and record.

Vlogging and Audio

Some of the harshest criticism of the OSMO Pocket comes from the very audience it was designed for: video bloggers. Triple-tap the right button, and the camera lens whips around pointing directly at the operator. Press the record button, and start talking.

The mic port is on the back side of the OSMO, so it's clearly there for field reports. I recorded my spot with car traffic in the background so you could get a feel for the dialog in normal outdoor settings. (I haven't enhanced any of the clips in any way.)

And just to be brutal, I set the OSMO Pocket to 4K capture. I thought it handled both the audio and video quite well, and is definitely usable for individual field reports. See what you think.

Bottom Line

The DJI OSMO Pocket is a perfect device for those who want to capture the world while moving through it. You can easily add your own commentary, suplement the reporting with 12MP still images, panoramas, and timelapse clips.

I don't see it as a device for two-person interviews and more sophisticated reporting. The OSMO Pocket is for individuals, sharing their thoughts and their view of the universe. And as such, I consider it a breakthrough device, especially for $350.

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The DJI OSMO Pocket has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

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5 Takeaways from Day 1, CES 2019

The doors opened at Las Vegas Convention Center and the people flowed through them to experience the first day of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. After exploring both the North and Central Halls, here 5 takeaways from my adventure.


Automotive is Cool


Transportation is indeed getting exciting. Automotive technology is sophisticated and seems to entering a new golden age. And it's not just cars as we know them, but versatile robotic devices that can transport people and cargo in a variety of situations.

Polaroid and Kodak Refuse to Give Up


3-D Printing, instant photography, clever projectors, and a variety of fun imaging tools filled both booths. To be honest, they were a couple of the most fun places to hang out.

Full Frame Mirrorless is Just Too Big


I got a good look at the Panasonic S2, spent time in the Sony booth, checked out Nikon, and visited Canon. Most lenses for full frame mirrorless, especially the zooms, are just to dang big and heavy. In terms of size and weight, it feels like DSLRs all over again.

Sony Puts Pro Support on Display


Among all the glitz and glamor in the Sony booth, there was the Pro Support team working on cameras. Not sure whose they were, but the message was clear that Sony wants to be a player with professionals.

CES is Fun


There's a reason why the halls are crowded. CES is a fun event. It's thought-provoking, entertaining, and sometimes just plain whacky. But it's a treat for the senses, and it provides some insight into the direction of consumer technology for the year ahead.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

CES 2019 for media launched on Sunday with a series of press events capped off with CES Unveiled in the evening. This was our first opportunity to get a feel for the direction of this year's event.

CES Unveiled

The first thing that I was aware of was the increased security. Badges have ID photos, plus there were bag checks, metal detectors, and lots of eyes on the scene. It was handled well and didn't cause any major delays, but it certainly was noticeable.


Vloggers are everywhere. Interviews and video reports were underway in every direction. The crush of press means that practically every vendor will at some point be on camera.

CES Unveiled

In terms of the products themselves, health is definitely a theme for 2019. Devices to help you sleep better, monitor your vital signs, and improve your well being were abundant. Home automation and security are also ongoing themes. So far, not a lot happening in photography, but the week is young. And I think once the actual show starts, we're going to see a lot of activity in the automotive space.

Stay tuned for more to come. Day two of the media event promises to be a busy one.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

I haven't updated my iPhone X to iOS 12.1 yet because it includes the controversial battery performance feature for 2017 handsets. At some point I will update, but not until I've thought about this a bit more.


My understanding from Tim Cook and Apple was that the advanced hardware in the iPhone X would not require iOS battery performance management. Based on what we see in iOS 12.1, that isn't the case.


All of this may be moot for me anyway. A year ago, I decided to learn more about taking care of my iPhone battery, using the new handset as a fresh start for a different approach. In the article, A New Way to Charge My Smartphone, I outlined the basic changes I was making. Essentially, I no longer leave the phone plugged-in at night, opting instead to top it off during the day when it's around 50 percent.

In part, this became easier thanks to the Samsung Qi Certified Wireless Charger Pad I keep on my desk at the studio. I just plop the iPhone X on it, and refreshing the battery is easier than ever.


So now, a year later, how did my grand experiment work? It appears quite well. I checked my Battery Health (Settings > Battery > Battery Health) to see that my Maximum Capacity is at 97 percent. It also reads that the battery can support normal peak performance. Great news!

My "new way" to recharge my phone has become second nature. How big of an impact on my battery health does this approach have? There's no way for me to know without running a side-by-side test. But after a year of rigorous use, I'm happy with 97 percent.

It will be interesting to see what battery health is in November of 2019.

As for the update to iOS 12.1. I'm going to sit tight for just a little while to see if Apple responds to the criticism about adding performance management for its 2017 handsets. Through future updates, they may add further enhancements to the tool that might make it a bit more appealing. My understanding is that I can turn it off if I wish. But something a bit more refined other than a binary "on or off" approach would be even better.

One final note on the iPhone X - Over the last year, it has performed very well. Battery life is excellent, and I seldom find myself below 25 percent. The camera is wonderful, as is its overall responsiveness. I really like it.

If I can continue to maintain good battery health with this handset, I can see me using it for quite a long time. And in this era of disposable devices, that would make me very happy.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Think about the things that you might want from a portable power pack while on a roadtrip. A unit light enough to toss in your bag while on hike would be good. A powerful flashlight is always helpful on the road. But what if you returned to your car only to discover that the battery was dead because you left a light on? Wouldn't if be nice if your power pack was robust enough to jump the car? Meet the Cobra JumPack CPP 9000.

P7066255-JumPack-cables-1024.jpg The jumper cables plug into a special port on the JumPack. They can be left in the car while you carry the basic unit with you while on foot.

I know it sounds crazy, but it works. When the cables are connected to the JumPack, it has a 200 Amp starting current, with a 400 Amp peak current that can jump start most cars multiple times on a single charge. It uses a 7500 mAh Lithium-Cobalt battery and special circuitry to get this job done.

Yet, the JumPack is not much bigger than my iPhone X and weighs less than a pound. So I can carry it with me to power up my USB devices.

P7066267-JumPack-size.jpg The unit is light enough and compact enough to fit in your backpack or gear bag. Here it is next to my iPhone X.

For refueling USB devices, such as smartphones and tablets with the with the 5-Volt/9-Volt output port. All you have to do is plug the phone's USB cable into the JumPack, and it automatically starts charging it. You can use the device while it's connected to the power pack.

P7066249-JumPack-iphone-charge-v2.jpg Charging the iPhone X via the JumPack's 5-Volt/9-Volt port.

There's plenty of safety built-in as well. The JumPack is built to be compliant with safety standard UL 2743. Even when you're jumping the car, everything is protected via its cutoff circuitry. To jump a vehicle, connect the cables to the battery, then connect the JumPack. You'll first see a red LED indicating that it's verifying the connections. Then the light will turn yellow while it's transferring power to the battery. Finally, when the LED turns green, you can start the ignition.

P7066251-JumPack-ports.jpg Input and output ports, plus the LED flashlight.

The 500 lumen, high-intensity flashlight features strobe and SOS functions for emergency assistance. Hold the green button for 3 seconds to turn on the lamp, then cycle through the different functions by pressing the green button. The flashlight does work while you're charging a USB device, so both functions can be tapped simultaneously.

The JumPack includes a mini-USB cable that you can use for recharging the unit via any USB charger. In my testing, it took about 3 hours to refresh the JumPack from 25 percent to full charge, using an Apple 10 watt USB charger. The JumPack will hold its juice for 8 months. So it you have it stored in an emergency kit, I would top it off twice a year.

P7066268-JumPack-in-bag.jpg The JumPack kit includes the power unit, USB cable, jumper cables, and a bag that holds everything.

The Cobra JumPack CPP 9000 is available directly from the Cobra website for $129. It's powerful enough to start a V8 engine, motorcycle, or boat. And it's light enough to slide into your camera bag. I'll definitely have it with me on my next roadtrip.

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The JumPack has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting

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