Going on a backpacking or camping trip once meant leaving all of your electronic devices behind in favor of escaping the hustle and bustle of modern life for a little while. Now days however, a smartphone has become a piece of mandatory gear even when traveling to remote corners of the globe. On top of that, it is not uncommon to carry GPS devices, headlamps, Bluetooth speakers, cameras, and other items with us on our outdoor adventures as they bring a level of comfort and convenience with them. The downside is that we also have to keep those gadgets charged while on the go, although thanks to improving battery technology that has become easier than ever.
In fact, there is now an amazing array of options for those looking to keep their devices charged while living off the grid for an extended period of time. These charging options come in the form of tiny battery packs designed to keep a mobile device operational for a few extra days to portable power stations that can power laptops, radios, and evens small appliances while on an extended expedition to some far flung destination.
Whether you’re heading out for an overnight camping trip or spending two months climbing Mt. Everest, there are power solutions to meet pretty much every need. Rugged, dependable, and packing plenty of power, these are our picks for the absolute best battery packs and portable power stations for use in the outdoors.
Compact, small, and easy to carry, USB battery packs have been around a long time and are used by millions of people to keep their smartphones charged on a daily basis. When shopping for a battery pack to use in the outdoors however, look for one that is durable, protected from the elements, and provides enough energy for the length of your outing.
Goal Zero’s line of portable battery packs was built from the ground up for use in the outdoors. Available in two models, the Venture 30 and Venture 70, both chargers offer dual 2.4-amp USB ports, built-in flashlights, and come with charging cables. The two Venture models are also surprisingly rugged, with the 30 receiving an IPX6 splash-proof rating against water, while the 70 is actually completely water, shock, and drop proof. The other major difference is in the capacity of the battery, with the smaller Venture 30 sporting a 7,800 mAh power cell, while the Venture 70 expands that capacity to 17,700 mAh instead. That makes the 30 perfect for weekend getaways, while the 70 is better suited for excursions lasting up to a week in length. And since both models are compatible with Goal Zero’s Nomad 7 solar panel they can be kept functioning even longer if necessary.
Rugged and durable, the Kodiak Plus 2.0 from Outdoor Tech has everything an outdoor enthusiast could ask for from a portable charger in a small compact package. The device is waterproof, dust proof, and shockproof, it comes with two USB ports (1-amp and 2.4-amp), and a 100-lumen flashlight built right in. The battery pack also features a 10,000 mAh capacity, which should be enough to get you through an extended weekend, with a little power left over to spare. Red LED lights serve as a fuel gauge, making it easy to determine just how much juice you have at any given time. And since it weighs just 10.1 ounces, you won’t add a lot f bulk to your backpack when carrying this with you on a hike.
When it comes to battery packs, sometimes you can find some high-quality deals from off-brands that you may not have heard of before. Such is the case with the Outxe Savage, a 20,000 mAh charger that ticks all of the boxes when it comes to outdoor power. The Savage’s case is water, crush, dust, and shockproof, and includes dual quick-charging USB ports for charging mobile devices. But this battery pack also features both USB-micro and USB-C in ports as well, allowing it to recharge its own large battery at a faster rate too. As with the other battery packs on this list, the Savage has a built-in flashlight, but unlike the others it also comes equipped with a small solar panel that allows it to collect energy on its own. That solar panel isn’t the fastest way to keep the battery charged, but it will add a bit of extra life over the course of a week or more that you’re in the field.
Portable power banks
Portable power banks tend to offer more features and higher battery capacities when compared to battery packs. Typically that provide more charging ports and often include an AC outlet, extending their functionality powering laptops and even some small appliances. The trade-off however is that they are also larger and heavier, taking up more room in your bag. But with enough power to keep you on the road for days at a time, they are a good option for the mobile professional and adventure traveler.
When it came time to redesign its venerable Sherpa 100 power bank, Goal Zero pulled out all of the stops. Like the previous model, the new Sherpa 100AC comes with two 2.4-amp standard USB ports, but rather than having to purchase a separate AC inverter, this version actually ships with an AC port already in place. On top of that, the Sherpa 100AC also features dual USB-C ports and has an integrated Qi charging pad built right into the top, allowing compatible devices to charge wirelessly and freeing up a port for use with other gadgets. With its 94.72 watt-hour (25,600 mAh) battery it can recharge most laptops up to two times and still have a bit of juice left over for other small gadgets too. An onboard OLED screen offers an easy way to monitor how much power is being pulled in and out, while a built-in solar charging port makes it easy to keep the device charged in remote places too.
Boasting a 75 watt-hour (20,800 mAh) battery and a durable metal case, the Jackery PowerBar 77 is a surprisingly compact power bank that includes a lot of handy features. For instance, not only does it come with a built-in AC power port for recharging laptops and powering other large devices, it also includes a standard USB port, a Quick Charge 3.0 port, and a USB-C port too. A handy LED screen located below the on-off button indicates the remaining amount of power at all times too, keeping users well informed of just how much juice they have left.
The aptly named MyCharge Portable Power Outlet is yet another power bank that comes equipped with an onboard AC port for powering laptops and other devices on the go. This high-capacity battery pack also sports two USB-A ports and a USB-C port as well, allowing it to simultaneously charge up to four devices from its 20,000 mAh lithium-ion battery. A rugged, rubberized case protects this charger from the elements, which helps to make it a good choice for use in the outdoors. Other nice features include pass-through charging capabilities, rapid recharging of the internal battery using an included adapter, and the ability for the Portable Power Outlet to maintain its charge for up to a year, even while in storage.
Portable power stations
The largest and heaviest of the outdoor charging solutions, portable power stations are truly in a class all their own. The battery capacities on these devices are generally so high that they can’t legally be carried onboard an aircraft without getting permission from the airlines first. Equipped with numerous charging ports – including both AC and DC outlets – plus multiple ways to recharge the power station itself, these devices are the ultimate in portable backcountry power. While they have gotten lighter and smaller over the years, they still work best in a base camp situation where they aren’t being moved around too much. A fully-charged power station is capable of keeping your gadgets functioning for weeks at a time, and when compared to gas-powered generators they are quieter and more eco-friendly, putting off no noxious fumes. Add in an efficient solar panel and you could have a clean power source that can last you indefinitely.
Despite its durable case and plethora of ports, the Jackery Explorer 240 manages to remain compact and relatively lightweight, weighing in at just 6.6 pounds. It comes equipped with both an AC and DC port for powering larger items, as well as two standards 2.4-Amp USB ports for charging smaller devices like smartphones, tablets, drones, and cameras. The portable power station’s 240 watt-hour (67,000 mAh) battery can be recharged using an included AC adapter while at home, a DC adapter in the car, or an optional 50-watt solar panel too. The onboard LCD screen come in handy when monitoring power in and out, while a built-in handle makes it easier to carry the Explorer 240 to and from the campsite.
With its 500 watt-hour (137,700 mAh) battery, the Suaoki G500 is built for those who truly need plenty of power no matter where they go. It features dual USB-A Quick Charing 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, a 12-volt DC car port, two standard 12-volt DC ports, and two 300-watt AC outlets. In other words, if you have electronic equipment that you need to be able to keep charged anywhere, this portable power station has you covered. At 22 pounds, it isn’t the most portable piece of gear you’ll take with you into the outdoors, but its durable case will help keep it well protected from snow, rain, dust, and wind. Throw in the ability to recharge using solar energy, an LCD screen for monitoring power usage, and a built-in handle for lugging it around and you get a power station that provides a lot of performance at a solid price point.
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For the ultimate in outdoor portable power we turn to Goal Zero once again. The company’s Yeti 1400 Lithium power station offers a battery so robust that it can recharge a smartphone more than 70 times and a laptop more than 20 times. It can even power a refrigerator for over 23 hours or a 32-inch LCD television for 14 hours. The Yeti 1400’s twin AC outlets put out enough juice to operate small power tools, serving up a steady supply of clean energy. All told, there are ten ports on this power station, including two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, a separate USB-C PD (power delivery) port, two 6mm DC ports, and a 12-volt DC car port. Onboard wi-fi functionality allows users to monitor and control power output using a mobile app (iOS/Android) on their smartphone or tablet, and as you would expect from Goal Zero, solar compatibility is baked right in. At 43.7 pounds in weight, this isn’t a power station that you’ll take with you backpacking, but for car camping, overlanding, or base camp situations, it can provide plenty of power for a large team of people. Still, if you need yet more more, Goal Zero offers the Yeti 3000 Lithium as well.
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