Electrical Outlets : Need More In Less Space?

Web: www.stevenfrischling.com — E-Mail: fish@fishfoto.com

15/03/08 – Electrical Outlets : Need More In Less Space?

As photographers we always need more electrical outlets. We need to plug in our laptop, mobile phone, battery chargers, iPod, etc etc. When packing light the surge bars and outlet splitters always seem to suck up space.

I have most of my electrical devices knocked down to three items I need to plug in on a regular basis. These three items include
– Apple MacBook
– Canon 1D battery charger
– Mobile Phone Charger (Motorola Razr & Blackberry 8700 use same charger)

I hate wasting space in my bags. If I can save an inch and an ounce I want to save an inch and an ounce. To eliminate the need for a large surge bar I started to use the US$1.97 three way splitters you can find at any hardware store (technically they are called “Polarized – Single Receptacle to 3 Outlets” or “Rubber Polarized Triple Adapter”). These little items are often overlooked. Many people look at them with their two-prong outlet and dismiss them. I used to think this way until I started thinking about Japan. What does Japan have to do with electrical outlets? Well in Japan the electrical outlets are the same as they are in North America (the continent I call home), except they are two prong only. No grounding third-pin in the Japanese outlets. I did some tests with my gear and found that if I used a three prong plug, and pulled out the grounding pin, I had no problems.

This playing around with my plugs let me buy, and mutilate, a series of US$1.97 three-way splitters. When I buy a new splitter I figure out the depth of the grounding-pin in my plugs and cut away a hole in the splitter. It is not pretty, it is not precise, but it does not need to be pretty or precise. I make sure the 3rd pin touches the plastic/rubber of the splitter so it does not come into contact with metal, and to allow me to use all three outlets in the splitter.

By using these small devices I am able to carry an item about the same size as two 9volt batteries taped together (slightly larger, but not really) that gives me three fully usable outlets, while taking up virtually no space in my bag.

Below I have posted a few photos of one of my three-way splitters. It is shown from the top, the front, the notch cut in one side, and with a 3-prong plug inserted into it.

Happy Flying!

–Click Images To Enlarge Them–


  1. […] When I travel I always carry a simple item, which costs less than US$2.00, which instantly gives me access to three outlets.   This item is a multi-outlet splitter three way splitters you can find at any hardware store (technically they are called “Polarized – Single Receptacle to 3 Outlets” or “Rubber Polarized Triple Adapter”).    I wrote about using and modifying these back in March of 2008 in this post: 15/03/08 – Electrical Outlets: Need More In Less Space? […]


  1. Your solutions seems to accommodate only a single three-prong plug. Does this mean you pull out (or cutoff) the ground pin from all plugs exept one?

  2. For the most part I only travel one three pronged electrical plug, that belongs to my Macbook.

    The chargers for my 1D batteries (soon to be 5D batteries); Motorola Razr/Blackberry 8700; AA Batteries; iPod (normally I charge my iPod off my MacBook) are all 2 pronged plugs.

    For the most part I find most plugs for the tools I use are two pronged. The Apple power supply can also be configured with a shorter 2-prong plug, but I tend to prefer the longer 3-prong plug to give me more room to move around with my laptop.

    This is why I modify the 3-outlet splitter to accommodate a single 3-prong plug. To use three 3-prong plugs you need a full surge bar, or a wider/longer three outlet grounded 3-outlet splitter.

    I have these outlet splitters as well, but find they take more space and are more awkward to pack with the two outlet prongs off the pack of a straight rectangle shape of the outlets. I have a habit of bending those prongs.

    Hopefully this explanation makes sense and answers your question.


  3. Have you though of getting a USB charger for your phone? I always carry a USB charger that I plug into my notebook which eliminates multiple chargers (I also have one for my ipod).

    The other tool I have used is the IGO or Kensington chargers that have splitters for a computer and a second device (which means you can use the USB ports on your computer for a 3rd device) which gets you down to one plug if not 2.

  4. Brian

    I used iGo chargers for years. At this time to my knowledge there is no iGo tip for Apple MacBook/MacBook Pro laptops.

    I loved my iGo with my PowerBooks though!

    I do not use a USB Phone charger as it slows down the laptop’s charging. I prefer to maximize each electronic devices charging time in my limited time sitting still.

    Happy Flying!


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