Charging your Genium via USB - Tested on tour

Making use of the sunny days to power my microprocessor knee.
Making use of the sunny days to power my microprocessor knee.

Charging Your Genium Via USB - Tested On Tour

This is a game-changer for active amputees. Honestly. The possibility to charge my micro-processor knee from a power bank finally takes away the - in my exes rather annoying - limitation of needing to be near an electricity outlet every four to five days. Because even if I am somewhere near a socket, charging my leg is not always as straightforward as you might think. I have spent many weeks on numerous campgrounds and still found it hard to charge my leg regularly. But these days are over now.


Yes, with the Genium, I always managed somehow as the battery itself gives me about four to five days of active use thus giving me longer charging cycles. But with my prior leg, the C-Leg, things were more complicated. This leg needed to be charged every second night. And while we almost always had electricity somewhere on the respective campground, we normally preferred simple sites and stayed in the more remote and isolated parts of them. Read: Far away from any electricity access point. So this meant long nights reading in the shower cubicle while the leg is charging, leaving the leg with people in the caravan section of the campsites, or doing the regular 'an hour here, an hour there' charging while hopping into a coffee place, a train station, and the like. 


The Essentials: The USB Charger And A Power Bank

But these days are over. Thanks to the USB charger from OttoBock. The charger works great (Full disclosure: I was given this charger for free by OttoBock. They even provided me with an extra charging head which is normally not included in the new USB charger). In combination with my power bank, I can charge my leg about two times. That gives me just about 15 days of active use. Out of a single power bank . An off-the-shelf regular power bank (make sure you get a good one with a high capacity). Take two of these and you can be out there in the middle of nowhere for almost a month. Great! 


The Advanced Set-Up: Add A Solar Panel

Yes, I know, told you about this charging option already back in January when I first used it. So why do I bring it up again here on the blog? Well... because things just got better. Better as in unlimited power while out in mother nature.

For my recent canoe trip in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, I added a 7w solar panel into the equation. The ideas was that during the day the panel charges the power bank. And during the night, the power bank charges my leg, the camera, and phone. Three simple and more or less affordable components - a small foldable solar panel, a power bank, and the USB-charger - are all it takes. They weigh in at less than a kilogram, are relatively small in size in fit in a backpack, and allow me to be completely independent and far away from any electricity outlet for weeks at a time.


My Impressions So Far

I tested the solar panel/power bank/charger combo now on two occasions. And the experiences so far are really positive.

It worked amazingly well during the canoe trip. We managed to power the leg as well as all the other electronic devices without accessing the grid. We had plenty of sun and it was normally enough to charge the power bank in the morning and evening hours near the tent. And if more batteries cried for assistance, we just hooked up a panel in the canoe during the day and fed the electricity straight into our equipment. All in all a great solution.


But...things worked not so well during my hiking trip in June. Back then I had to push the limits. Five days of overcast weather with little sunny spells in between when the sun didn't have enough power to actually charge the power bank. So once the power was empty I needed to schedule a stop on a town to recharge the leg and the power bank from the grid.

That experience taught me that relying on just one power bank is not enough. Take two and have one of them strictly for the leg or other emergency equipment while the other is for cameras and the like. If you think two batterie packs is too heavy, you need to be really disciplined.


But even with these mixed experiences, the USB-charger in combination with a small solar panel is a game-changer for me. A waterproof leg that can be charged on the road. That is all I need. It allows me to finally do whatever I want. Yes, I will further refine the set-up and play around with power banks and charging routines. And yes, I still need to see how this works in winter. But I am optimistic I will make it work in one way or another so that I can be out on the trail for days and in any season.


Find Out More

For more information about the USB charger, please talk to your prosthetist. And soon there will be a short YouTube video explaining the set-up and how I use it!


Post by Bjoern Eser, the creator of The Active Amputee.


Further Reading

Choosing the right prosthesis


Most lower limb amputees know this problem: Finding the right prosthetic knee is not an easy task. For most of us it means working out the right compromise between our day to day needs, our spare time interests and our ambitions for the next couple of years on the one hand and our health insurance plan and financial means on the other hand. This in itself is already rather complex. Things get even more complicated if we take into account that even the best of knees can only unfold its full potential if mounted under a well-fitting socket, combined with a good foot that suits our activity level. Read more

Hiking as an above knee amputee


I love being outdoors. Always have. And this love for being physically active in the great outdoors did not change when I became an amputee. Being out in the hills far away from any assistance if the need arises can be a scary thought. At the same time and if done right it can be an immensely rewarding experience that helps to develop new skills and increase confidence. Read more

The day that changed my life


My story started a while back when I was 15 years old. And although the cancer diagnosis from back then has little relevance for my life today, those days have had an immense impact on me - also in a positive way. Those days have shaped me and made me who I am today. From one day to the next my life changed completely. Suddenly nothing was as it used to be. Read more