I often find myself wondering just how long I can record 4K video before my GoPro’s internal battery runs out. I’ve pushed the limits many times on multi-day hikes, bike rides, and camping trips, only to have my footage cut short by an unexpected GoPro shutdown. Lugging around spare batteries helps, but it still left me yearning for a true long-term external power solution.
After years of trial and error testing different methods and accessories, I finally discovered the versatility of the pass-through power feature on GoPros. By providing continuous power to your GoPro from an external USB battery pack, power brick, or other source, you can remove the internal battery and extend recording time indefinitely!
In this article, I’ll walk you through everything I’ve learned about powering a GoPro for extended periods using external battery power – including how to set it up properly, accessories that make it easier, and some troubleshooting tips in case you run into issues like I did.
What GoPro Cameras Work with External Power?
The good news is that nearly all of the current generation GoPro camera models are compatible with pass-through power directly from an external USB source:
- HERO10 Black
- HERO9 Black
- HERO8 Black
- HERO7 Black
- HERO6 Black
- HERO5 Black
- HERO (2018)
As long as your camera has a USB-C or micro USB port, you can provide continuous power to the GoPro without needing the internal battery installed. This is thanks to advancements in recent models that allow the cameras to turn on and function normally without drawing any power from the internal battery.
I’ve successfully run HERO7 through HERO10 models with external batteries, power banks, and AC adapters for hours without any issues.
Why Use External Power for Long Recordings?
There are a few key advantages I’ve found when powering my GoPros from an external USB power source:
- Extend recording duration – By removing the limitation of battery life, you can record continuously for as long as your memory card or other factors allow. This is perfect for super long timelapses.
- Reduce camera weight – Less battery weight makes your GoPro setup lighter for mounting on drones, bikes, bodies, etc. Every gram counts on long adventures.
- Power accessibility – External USB power sources are widely available these days (more on suitable options below). You can easily recharge a portable USB battery pack in the car, at campsites, or using solar panels.
Using external GoPro batteries does come with some tradeoffs though…
Considerations When Using External GoPro Power
While external USB power works great most of the time, there are some limitations to be aware of:
Accessing the USB port means compromising the waterproof capabilities of your GoPro. Depending on the model and housing, the camera may lose its ability to be fully submerged.
- For wet or dusty conditions, consider a water-resistant USB pass-through housing like GoPro’s official one or third-party options. Just don’t expect full underwater protection.
- Certain aluminum cage mounts have integrated USB cables that maintain weather-resistance very well.
Unreliable Auto Power On/Off
I highly recommend leaving the internal battery installed as a failsafe. Some users report that when external power is disrupted unexpectedly, the camera won’t resume recording automatically when power is restored. The internal battery helps avoid this issue.
Inconsistent External Battery Performance
Not all USB power banks and bricks deliver consistent power to the GoPro, especially in cold weather. Using recommended external battery packs and the recommended memory cards helps increase reliability.
I once had footage corrupted on a long timelapse because my cheap power bank couldn’t provide steady power overnight in near-freezing temps. Lesson learned!
Tips for Powering a GoPro Externally Long-Term
After learning the hard way, I now have a bulletproof external power setup that works every time. Here are my top tips for running a GoPro off USB power successfully:
Calculate Your Power Needs
- Estimate your total recording duration and planned recording modes/resolutions. Higher video settings use more power.
- For timelapses, do test recordings to determine the average file size per image. This allows you to calculate memory card capacity accurately.
- In cold weather, expect 25-50% less runtime from USB batteries.
Choose external USB batteries with at least 125% of the capacity needed given those variables. Having spare backup batteries helps too!
Use Quality High Capacity SD Cards
Higher capacity microSD cards up to 128GB are affordable these days, but GoPro cameras are very picky about which card models they work properly with. I strongly recommend using these proven, reliable cards in your GoPro:
GoPro even recommends the 64GB SanDisk Extreme specifically. Stay away from cheap random-branded cards, which often have compatibility issues. They can corrupt footage or fail to record.
Connect USB Accessories Securely
The microUSB and USB-C ports on GoPros are quite fragile. It’s easy to break them off accidentally when connecting accessories frequently.
- Avoid tugging or straining the ports
- Use right-angle adapter cables when possible
- Apply a tiny dab of strong glue around the port edges as added strain relief
I used hot glue on my HERO5 Black’s microUSB after breakage, and it has held up fine despite frequent use ever since.
Try Automating Power Cycling
To avoid overheating and filesystem errors during very long recordings, you can automatically power cycle the GoPro using a specialized timer device.
The CamDo Intervalometer works great for this by allowing you to script a custom on/off sequence. Just make sure to use the recommended memory cards above, as cheaper cards often don’t work properly with such solutions.
Cycling the power every few hours provides a clean restart that reduces unexpected issues considerably.
Label All Your Accessories!
When testing various GoPro accessories and troubleshooting problems, it becomes critical to keep everything organized for each camera.
I use Sharpie to label every battery, memory card, cable, and mount with its matching camera. This avoids mixing up components between camera #1, #2, etc.
If Camera 1 has issues, I can methodically swap each part with Camera 2 to isolate the problem. Numbering with a Sharpie is a lifesaver!
Still Have Questions?
Here are answers to some common questions I get about using external USB power with GoPro cameras:
What external battery can power a GoPro for over 10 hours?
For continuous long-term power, I recommend the Anker PowerCore 26K or RavPower 26M. Both have huge 26,000mAh capacity and can reliably power a GoPro for 10+ hours in most conditions.
How much memory needed for very long GoPro timelapses?
Using test clips, calculate your GoPro’s average photo file size. For example, 7MB per image. If capturing one image per minute for 30 total hours, that’s 1,800 photos. At 7MB each, you would need 1,800 x 7MB = 12,600MB, or a minimum of a 64GB microSD card. Going with 128GB gives plenty of margin.
What warnings appear if a GoPro loses external power?
Once your GoPro has powered on fully using the USB power source, you’ll see a “No Batt” icon if external power is lost. The screen also indicates when external power is connected. Newer cameras can turn back on automatically when USB power is restored.
Can a GoPro be waterproof with external power connected?
Unfortunately no – accessing the USB port prevents true waterproofing. But the GoPro water-resistant USB pass-through housings allow wet/dusty use. Just avoid submerging them. For full underwater use, an internal battery is still required.
How to troubleshoot random GoPro shutdowns on external power?
If the camera works fine with the internal battery alone, start narrowing down whether the issue is the memory card, power bank, power cable, or other accessories. Try less aggressive auto power-cycling settings. Fully recharging the external battery can help too. Checking the USB power bank voltage/amperage with a multimeter tests if it’s providing suitable power.
I hope this guide helps you unlock the amazing potential of continuous long-recording on your GoPro through external USB power sources. Let me know if you have any other questions – I’m always happy to help fellow GoPro enthusiasts!
Safe travels and happy shooting!