Patience isn’t a virtue we possess these days. We want our devices charged now, not when we get home. Thankfully, creative minds solved this dilemma by inventing the portable battery pack, a form of mobile power supply that restores the life of your smartphone, tablet, or other electronics on the fly.
Portable battery packs are especially important to campers who can’t afford to be out of their communication bubble for long, thus these packs are considered essential. Of course, today’s battery pack does more than just keep phones alive so keep in mind all of the items that will need charges when you camp when you go shopping.
Dark Energy Poseidon – Our Pick!
This slim, stealthy product sells out so fast, if you must own it, start searching now. Talk about impressive credentials: this tidy gadget is waterproof, shockproof and dustproof. The Poseidon is compatible with both the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 4, it’s made of military-grade materials and you possess 10,000 mAh (4-6x phone charges) of destruction-tested portable power that includes a built-in light.
The two charging ports deliver a total of 3.4 amps in output and Dark Energy didn’t skimp on extras. Use the ultra-durable Micro USB cable that’s wrapped in paracord and comes with a nylon strap and carabiner to charge everything under the sun – and we mean everything. That includes phones, cameras, Bluetooth speakers, GPS devices and anything chargeable that you can’t bear to leave home.
BioLite Campstove 2 Wood Burning Power Station
Having come from the dark side where Poseidon rules, the sight of this cheery yellow and silver BioLite innovation could intrigue you because it literally turns fire to power! Generate 3 watts of usable electricity, courtesy of the internal 2600 mAh battery. This second generation campstove delivers 50-percent more USB output power than the company’s original CampStove 1 thanks to upgraded thermoelectrics.
The Smart LED Dashboard reports fire strength, power output and fan speed settings in real time. Choose from 4 fan speed settings and you can boil 1 liter of water in 4.5 minutes when morning coffee must not wait. Stylistically, this tidy essential is fitted with a clever USB gooseneck that allows you to control light emitted and the aluminum legs fold up fast when it’s time to leave your idyllic setting.
SUAOKI Portable Power Station
Does the idea of having 10 charging ports within a unit that doesn’t cost a bundle excite you? This mug-size power station weighs less than 3 pounds, so you can trek long distances without feeling like a Sherpa. A lithium battery underpins this unit so your phone, pad, tablets, GPS, laptop, walkie-talkie and camera can all benefit from a variety of sources that include an AC 110v wall socket, SUAOKI 60W or 100W solar panel kit (not included) or 12V/24V car cigarette socket. All three cables are included.
Having received UL certification, the battery management system (BMS) enables voltage, temperature control and advanced safeguards, so your digital devices stay safe and the unit’s LED flashlights operate in two modes: strobe/normal and blackout/emergency. At full brightness, you can see 50 feet away and indicators warn you when your charge is low. A 24-month warrantee is included – but don’t get too enthusiastic. Availability is dicey, so you are going to search far and wide to find one of these gems.
Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station
If you happen to run into a mythical Yeti next time you camp, ask him for a loan to help you underwrite this portable power station because if you add up the cost of all three of the aforementioned products, you’ll still need another $75. What’s all of the excitement about? For starters, price hasn’t stopped avid campers from investing in this essential and giving it high ratings, based on positive experiences taking advantage of the 396Wh lead acid battery that can power up to 7 devices at once.
Thanks to the continuous surge pure-sine wave inverter, 2.1A USB ports and 120W 12V ports, this unit never met a device it couldn’t charge while you get the added assurance of backup power for small appliances, lights, and more. But if you want to harness the power of the sun, the solar panels are sold separately. Quiet, maintenance-free and engineered by experts, you receive the services of a highly-rated US-based customer service center if you should have issues with this pricey power station.
Anker PowerCore+ 26800PD 30W
This portable battery pack, like the Poseidon and SUAOKI, flies off shelves fast, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find one if you search hard enough. Why the popularity? You can interface this Anker produce a long list of devices that include Galaxy S10, IPhone XS, IPad, IPhone 4, IPhone 5, IPhone 11, IPhone 7, IPhone X, IPhone 11 Pro Max or IPhone 11 Pro. Anker claims that 50 million+ people rely upon this product.
As one of the U.S.’s leading charging brands, take advantage of 3 ports and colossal capacity (26800mAh) capable of juicing up most phones over 7 times before the unit must be re-powered. In fact, Anker claims that recharge time is three times faster than competitor products. Get the USB-C wall charger, Micro USB cable, USB-C to USB-C cable and keep everything contained in a travel pouch. A lighting cable isn’t included, but you get 18 months of worry-free customer service. Oh, and you won’t pay a fortune for this battery pack once you track one down.
Goal Zero Venture 70 Power Bank
Slide this Goal Zero unit to the top of your “must-have” camping gear list to keep cameras, tablets and other small devices up and running in a wide variety of weather circumstances. Light and portable, get all of the smart charging technology you seek without having to sell the farm, and this product optimizes output to match what’s plugged in while preventing overcharging. You only get access to 2 uniform USB ports given its size, but what you lose in ports you gain in performance.
The waterproof and dustproof case is so tenacious, drop it into a puddle and it will still keep performing thanks to military-grade material. When fully charged, the lithium ion battery can illuminate headlamps (10-20 charges); POV cameras (10 charges); smartphones (5-6 charges) and tablets (2 charges). If you intend to let the sun take care of your recharge needs at your wilderness campsite, add a solar panel to your shopping cart. Weighing 1 pound and measuring 6-inches long, this tidy product isn’t hard to find, so no lengthy shopping expedition required.
Goal Zero Boulder 50
Are you an environmentally-responsible camper? Do you yell at people who don’t KP wilderness areas? Put this 50-watt monocrystalline solar panel on your birthday gift list and join legions of devoted brand fans paying homage to Mother Earth. The technology isn’t complicated. The anodized aluminum frame holds a segment of sleek tempered glass and the entire unit weighs just 12.4 pounds. Generously sized at 21.75 x 26.75 x 1.75, you get a lot of surface soaking up rays every time you set it up and no worries about rain since this unit is weatherproof.
Enhance your solar charging capacity by interfacing it with additional units. The Boulder is available in 100, 100BC and 200BC options. Get a 1-year limited warranty with this earth-friendly product manufactured by a company with a sunny reputation for quality, and even a child can set one up. Goal Zero extols the virtues of plug and play simplicity. You simply set the solar panel in the direct sun, plug the connector into a Goal Zero Yeti or Sherpa and turn the recharging work over to the universe.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
The time is now if you have been mulling the purchase of this Jackery power station because the price is relatively affordable and an updated version that just hit the market could cost you twice as much. But no worries about whether the Explorer 240 won’t check off all of the boxes you require at your destination. Marketed as the quintessential outdoors battery pack for camping, travel and emergencies, this 200-watt/110 volt unit measures 5.19 x 9.05 x 7.67 inches and weighs just a little over 6.5 pounds.
Jackery’s corporate goal is “providing outdoor green power solutions for explorers,” and it succeeds on multiple fronts. The quiet generator produces eco-friendly clean power that originates within the lithium ion battery pack. Power up your laptop, mini-cooler, drone and outdoor electronics via 1 AC outlet, 2 USB-A ports and 1 DC car port. You also get the AC adapter and car charger cable plus a user guide. Want to go solar? Add a Jackery Solar Saga 60W/100W unit (sold separately)that protects sensitive devices while highjacking the sun’s power.
OUTXE Waterproof Solar Power Bank
No need to search far and wide to get your hands on this small, affordable solar power bank because OUTXE is doing a Herculean job of keeping retailers and distributors stocked with units that costs less than any of the other products on this list. Get a port boost with this little gem: it has 4A Dual input ports (Type C and Micro USB) and it can be super-charged in 6 hours. Certified IPX7 waterproof, this OUTXE is also dust-proof, shock-resistant and non-slip thanks to military-grade materials.
If you drop or bump it, no need to freak out; it’s designed to take abuse. The company claims you can recharge your devices “4X faster than normal ones.” The solar panel may be small but it’s mighty and ready to come to your aid and the environment’s. Featuring 20000mAh high capacity, you could go a week without recharging it, the company says. According to OUTXE, this product could survive “having a bear chew on it” — though they don’t provide evidence supporting that claim!
ENKEEO Power Station
Add one more power station to your “hard to find/out of stock/not currently available list”: this Enkeeo. If you can find one, you’ll get lots of power courtesy of the 110-volt lithium backup battery pack and a company promise to keep everything requiring a charge operational. At 11 watts, 4 pounds and measuring 8.3 x 3.6 x 7.4 inches, this manufacturer extolls sales points that include “No fuel, no fumes, no noise.” But you do get ports; 7 of them: 2 AC outlets, 3 USB and 2 DC jacks.
This backup battery pack takes 7 hours to reach capacity when plugged in to a wall outlet and if you add a 50W or 100W solar panel to your shopping cart, you can enlist the sun to help recharge. Alternately, go from zero to fully charged by driving 10 hours to your campsite by plugging this unit into your car port. Enkeeo says that their power station won’t overcharge, short circuit or overheat. The price isn’t bad either – but remember, availability could be an issue.
PRYMAX Portable Power Station
Are you weary of reading “this power station is hard to find”? Apologies, camping fan, but this one is also back ordered at multiple online and retail stores but as long as your searching for other products on our list, you may as well add this one to the mix. This Prymax is a highly-rated powerhouse delivering 300 watts/110 volts of energy stuffed into an 8.5 x 7 x 5 inches case. The large-capacity lithium battery is robust enough to revive your smartphone 40 times or keep your camping ‘fridge or a 32-inch TV operating for 5+ hours each.
Ports? Prymax didn’t skimp: you get 2 AC output ports, 3 DC ports, 2 USB ports, 1, type-C quick charge port and a cigarette lighter port. Safety assurances offered by the company include the inclusion of 2 pure — not modified — sine wave AC outlets that care for the most sensitive devices you own. The built-in cooling fan is quiet and automatically turns on if the unit overheats. Weighing just over 7.5 pounds, the flashlight feature delivers an SOS signal should you and your power station run amok!
Nekteck 21W Solar Charger
This uniquely designed solar charger could remind you of a large wallet or a passport case and it’s affordable. At just 18 ounces and measuring 6.3 x 1.06 x 11.1 inches, this Nekteck stands ready to work with the sun to make sure devices remain viable via 3 high-efficiency solar monocrystalline panels and you get microchip support that supports electronic devices plugged into the unit’s USB ports. Fast charge 2 phones simultaneously and safely since this product is designed not to overheat.
When you fold this solar charger down, it’s so small, you could tote it in a large pocket if you don’t use the attachment hook to keep it safe and handy. Made of durable canvas that has been precision stitched for outdoor challenges, the PET polymer cover guarantees IPX4 waterproof level protection and this charger also comes with both a Micro USB cable and a user manual. In other words, this low-cost charger is an ideal buy if you’re just getting into harnessing solar power on your outings.
Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Solar Recharging Kit
This lightweight, 5-watt panel unit gives you solar collection capability needed to charge your phone anywhere the sun shines, say folks at Goal Zero, and you can believe them since this company is among the best in the industry. Set up is a breeze. The built-in kickstand clicks into place with a flick of the wrist and the unit can be positioned at multiple angles, so no matter where the sun goes, your Sherpa 50 will grab rays to power up
Rugged and durable, this comparably inexpensive gear does a great job over the long haul but bear in mind the fact that all you get is the basic solar charging unit. The list of add-ons you’ll want to add to your shopping cart could elevate your tidy purchase into one that elevates the cost into the price range of several alternatives within this review.
Types of Portable Chargers
Sometimes, it takes a girl to get to the heart of a matter, so we turn to Alyssa Mertes for the succinct and easy-to-understand scoop on portable charger types you’re likely to encounter on today’s market.
1. Car chargers enable you to use the power of your car battery to revive electronics as long as you’ve got the proper cable to do the job. This is often a camper’s fallback when the sun won’t cooperate and the solar panels you prefer using let you down.
2. Wall power adapters require an electrical outlet to get your devices up to speed. If your camping style is close to glamping and you are able to bring a wall along, you’re good to go.
3. Multi-charger cables feature USB ports. Some of the products featured in this review are loaded with them and you’ll find various port types and configurations in the mix.
4. Powerbanks are the motherlode; portable units that Alyssa calls power bricks. These products are so versatile, they’re not limited to USB operations; some handle anything you throw their way including USB and electrical charging.
Why are solar panels not on Alyssa’s list? Because, say the BatteryUniversity.com folks, “A solar charging system is not complete without a charge controller” which takes the energy from the panels and converts it to voltage. Technically, these aren’t considered portable chargers.
How much money will you pay for your battery pack?
Though a couple of products on this list are so sophisticated and versatile, you’ll spend as much on one as you would on a trendy appliance, the average price of these units runs between $100 and $150. A couple of the units on our list cost under $80. You get what you pay for and if you’re not planning to charge up an RV full of appliances and devices at the same time, you should be able to find one that suits your budget and your needs.
Count on this advice from the folks at AdaFruit.com who want to simplify novice’s understanding of why some units cost so much and others so little. “Price is pretty much proportional to power-density (you pay more for higher density) and proportional to power capacity (you pay more for more capacity). The more power you want in a smaller, lighter package the more you will have to pay.”
The importance of power output
Experts in the field of portable battery packs recommend asking this question before you buy your unit: “what are you hoping to charge, and how many times?” After all, the more energy a device sucks up, the more often it requires recharging – especially if you like to power up a bunch of things at the same time.
How to assess power output for your unique needs? Check the capacity of the battery in your device(s). As long as the portable charger you pick exceeds that number, you’re in good shape, say TripSavvy bloggers. That stated, sophisticated energy eaters like the latest iPad Pro, for example, will require you to look for the highest-capacity products on the market if you intend to take one of these or a comparable product on your outings.
A neophyte’s guide to capacity
What’s capacity? It’s the amount of energy that a battery is capable of storing, say bloggers writing for AdaFruit.com. This number is usually expressed in watt-hours that represent the voltage a battery is capable of providing over a specific period of time before it’s depleted.
One of the most important determinants of a battery’s capacity is the type of battery installed in the pack. Whether it’s alkaline, lithium, lead acid or any of the long list of batteries currently on the market, the internal chemistry within the product you choose will determine that unit’s ability to continue to function over time.
Size matters – but so does weight
You probably compared weights and sizes of battery packs in this review and once you determine which suits your budget and how much you are willing to carry on your next camping adventure, use weight and size as the next factor on your elimination list. From around 8 ounces to over 8 pounds (and that’s only the products in this review), your need for power could determine both size and weight based on your camping style.
If you’re a one-rucksack camper with no desire to charge anything but your phone, you’ll obviously be able to get away with the smallest options on this list. On the other hand, if you intend to power up a raft of appliances and devices that will be in continual need of re-charges, putting that 8-pounder into your vehicle probably makes the most sense.
The durability factor
Because battery packs are engineered to be exposed to all sorts of weather conditions and face the potential of being tossed around with other gear, battery packs are almost always encased in materials that will neither interfere with the job they are designed to do nor the mechanical and electrical interfaces with which components come into contact. Woodbank Communications Ltd. experts say that, “Injection-molded plastics are used to provide more precision packs,” which is why so many types of plastics are used in the production of battery packs.
The use of plastics minimizes cost, weight and size, and the durability this material is capable of delivering is further enhanced by insert moldings “in which the interconnection strips and terminals are molded into the plastic parts to eliminate both materials and assembly costs.” Further, plastic does a great job of encapsulating and protecting small components, add the battery experts at Woodbank.
Should you worry about your battery pack frying your devices?
The answer is yes. We asked Ken Colburn at WTopNews.com to explain this possibility. He recalled that when exploding battery stories began to circulate, “this was actually a good thing.” Publicity forced the public to become more aware of serious issues related to these essentials. The potential for catching fire as a direct result of overheating lies at the bottom of this controversy, which got the attention of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Among the concerns you should keep at the forefront of your brain are making sure not to charge devices that have been exposed to hot sun until they cool down, using the wrong charger to re-power your devices (e.g., too much energy passes through the battery during the charging process), and the occasional replacement of a generic charger that proves incompatible with the items you intend to recharge. This issue is being addressed more often thanks to demands made by consumers who are sick of spending a fortune on devices only to watch them meet untimely deaths.