One of the things you have to get used to when shooting with GoPro cameras is that they don’t have great battery life. It’s true of any of their models. There have been tweaks with some of the newer models to increase the size and capacity of the battery, but they’ve been fairly minor tweaks that are easily negated by upgraded power-hungry features. It’s less of an issue when shooting still images, but you’ll quickly run into this problem if you’re shooting video or time-lapse footage, especially if you’re making use of processor-intensive features like HyperSmooth video stabilization or TimeWarp. Even more so if you’re shooting with a wireless connection.
There are various ways to deal with it. The most obvious is that you can swap out batteries for a fully charged spare battery when they run out. But that’s not always convenient. The camera might be out of reach, you might not be able to stop what you’re doing to deal with it, or the action you want to capture lasts longer than the camera’s battery life (with no battery in the camera, the video recording will obviously stop and interrupt the footage).
And if you’re working in wet conditions, it’s a pain to switch out the battery every time it runs down and risk getting the camera’s insides wet.
It’s also not something you want to be doing with an outside time lapse or when mounting the camera somewhere inconvenient, like the front of a boat or kayak—exactly the kinds of situations that a GoPro otherwise excels at.
The 3BR X-PWR-H9 is marketed for the GoPro HERO9–it’s right there in the name (the “H9”). But the HERO9 and HERO10 share the same camera body design, and this will also work with the HERO10 Black.
Running GoPros with External Power
So a better option is to use external power. It’s easy to get much longer shooting with a GoPro by using external power. You can even shoot without the internal battery installed in a method call pass-through power. And that doesn’t have to mean tethered to a wall AC socket. You can use other USB power sources such as a car’s cigarette lighter attachment or, most conveniently, a USB power brick.
But the catch is that GoPros get their external power via USB, and to access that USB port, it has to be exposed to the outside. So when you connect external power with a USB cable via the USB port, the camera is no longer waterproof. That makes using external USB power impractical for damp conditions because it exposes the camera’s port and makes it very vulnerable to water damage. And by water damage, I don’t mean some ugly water stains—I mean that it’ll fry the camera’s electronics and turn it into a brick.
There have been attempts to provide a waterproof external power solution for previous GoPro models. The results have been a mixed bag and generally a bit disappointing.
3BR Powersports X-PWR-H9 for the HERO9 Black
I’ve been trying out a new solution designed specifically for the GoPro HERO9 Black. It’s an accessory called the X-PWR-H9, and it’s produced by a California company called 3BR Powersports. A reader tipped me off to it, so I ordered one to give it a try.
It’s basically an aluminum camera cage with a modified USB cable. So it allows you to connect an external USB power supply to the camera while adding protection against water and dust.
But right upfront, it’s important to be clear about what this is and what it isn’t.
Firstly, when using this kit, the camera will not be waterproof. 3BR Powersports says that it is rated for IP65. Which translates as very water- and dust- resistant but can’t be expected to keep the camera dry if you immerse it underwater.
But it is water-resistant. It is designed to protect against less intense water, such as rain, spray, or splashes. They use various descriptions of this—weatherproof, all-weather, and water-resistant, and “heavy rain and water washdown.” But they’re very clear that it is not waterproof and that submerging it will let water into the camera and cause damage.
Secondly, the X-PWR-H9 also doesn’t include an actual power source and doesn’t provide any water- or weather resistance for the power source. So you’ll need to tackle that end of the problem separately.
What the X-PWR-H9 does is maintain a good degree of water resistance for the camera while a USB cable is attached so that you can run your camera with external power in rain, snow, spray, and splashes.
This particular kit is compatible only with the GoPro HERO9 Black—that’s the “H9” bit at the end. It’s custom-designed to fit the shape of the HERO9 Black’s camera body and the position of the USB-C port on the camera. Those are both different from other GoPro models. So you can’t use this on a HERO8 Black, for instance, or the DJI Osmo Action, for that matter.
It is compatible with the GoPro MAX wide-angle lens when it’s on the HERO9 Black. The cutaway on the front of the camera is large enough to accommodate that lens attachment.
UPDATE: The X-PWR-H9 should also be compatible with the new GoPro HERO10 Black. Both cameras use the same camera body and have the same port layout. But I have not personally tested it on that camera.
I’ve been using it in heavy rain and found it to work well. It’s a very snug fit, which is a good thing, because that tight fit is what jams the cable’s collar against the camera to make the seal. The cable collar itself doesn’t attach in the same way that the HERO9’s compartment door usually does.
The version I’m using has a 48-inch cable. The length of the cable you choose will be determined by where and how you plan to use it. I chose a longer cable for the flexibility of being able to use it in various different scenarios.
I’ve found it to work well. Despite the heavy, sustained downpours of storms, the time-lapse shooting has kept on going uninterrupted, and there has been no sign of leaking in the camera.
The cage is strong and hasn’t shown any signs of issues. And because of the way it’s designed, with cutouts for the microphone and buttons and back screen, you can continue using the camera as normal. The front is also back behind the lens port, so there are no vignetting issues. The cage design also allows water to drain away from around the camera, so it doesn’t pool inside and create long-term moisture issues.
It doesn’t solve the related issue of how to keep the power source dry, but there are plenty of creative ways to tackle that. In my case, I’ve used it with an AC wall adapter, with the power outlet protected under an overhang and the camera exposed outside of it. I’ve also used it with a USB power brick loaded in a small Pelican case (with a small DIY hole I’ve cut into it and sealed to allow the cable to pass through).
What’s in the Box?
It comes with an aluminum cage and a modified USB-C cable.
When you order, you’re given a choice of the length of the cable you want. The choices are: 9, 18, 36, 48, or 66 inches. For the most part, it’s a standard USB-C cable. But they’ve fused a sealing plate to the end that connects to the camera. It’s that plate that gets jammed in between the frame and the camera to create the seal. In other words, you can’t just switch it out with another standard USB-C cable and still maintain the water resistance. If your cable gets damaged, you need to order a replacement from 3BRPowerSports.
There’s also a screw included. Not a standard GoPro screw—it’s a regular machine screw you might find at the local hardware store. I was confused by this at first. But it serves two purposes. One is that you can use it for fishing out the camera’s swing-out mounting point if they’re folded in the frame. There’s nothing special about this particular type of screw; you could just as easily use anything else like a pen, pliers, screwdriver, piece of wire, or a stick. Since you already have a GoPro on hand and presumably a mount, using a standard GoPro mount screw will also work.
The second, more important, use is for mounting the camera. Because the cage’s bottom plate extends down below the camera, it doesn’t leave enough space for a regular GoPro screw’s grip (there are exceptions, and you can get extra-long screws that might work). So you can use the supplied machine screw (with a screwdriver) to tighten onto the mount.
Things Worth Knowing
When shooting in and around water, it’s a good idea to lock the back screen to prevent unintentional “touches.” While the touch screen sort of works when it’s wet (but not underwater), water droplets can also register as touches and do some pretty wacky things.
There’s nothing about this kit that interferes with the *wireless** capabilities of the camera. So you can continue to control and review the camera via the GoPro Quik app.
When inserting the camera into the frame, make sure that the mounting legs (or fingers) are folded up. It won’t go in the frame with them down.
As with any water seal on any camera, it’s a good idea to check the condition of the seal before use. Things like grit and dust, or any damage to the rubber, will risk a break in the seal and a leak that could be catastrophic for the camera.
Recently, GoPro has come out with an official accessory with much the same purpose: a USB Pass-Through Door for the HERO9 Black (it’s the same model for the HERO10 Black). The idea is similar–to provide a weather-resistant way to connect external power to your GoPro.
But in this case, it’s a more targeted approach. There’s no cage mount–it’s a replacement door for that clips onto the camera. A USB-C cable is connected to the door. It allows for pass-through power, which means you can power the camera without an internal battery, thus reducing weight.
The cable for GoPro’s USB Pass-Through Door for the HERO9 Black is 4.5 feet / 1.37 meters long. There’s no option for choosing different lengths. If you need something longer, I’ve had good results DIY’ing a USB extension cable with the join covered with waterproof marine-grade heat-shrink tubing, but your mileage might vary.
I hope to post a more detailed review of the USB Pass-Through Door for the HERO9 Black soon.
You can find a several other USB cable pass-through side doors on Amazon and eBay. Most of those do not have a water seal and are not designed to keep water out or be weather-resistant.
Where to Buy It
You can buy the X-PWR-H9 directly from 3BRPowerSports.com, and that’s where I bought mine.
But I’ve also noticed more recently that 3BRPowerSports has started selling through Amazon, which might be a more convenient option. And they seem to be offering the different kits with different lengths of cable there.
Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2022-05-24 at 00:38. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.