Top 10 Portable Chargers 2019 | Solar Chargers & Power Banks For Backpacking - Outdoors Magic

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Top 10 Portable Chargers 2019 | Solar Chargers & Power Banks For Backpacking

We've got our pick of the top performing portable chargers and power banks rated and reviewed, plus an in-depth buyer's guide

In recent years, the rise of portable battery chargers or power banks has meant that heading into the great outdoors no longer means going off-grid. And being able to keep your devices charged even when you’re miles from the mains has some undeniable benefits. After all, a functioning phone can be a lifesaver in a genuine emergency.

We’ve tested ten power banks in a range of sizes and capacities – so whether you’re after a small, lightweight pocket pal or a rugged, heavy-duty hero, there should be something for you. This group test also includes three solar-powered chargers, which offer an alternative solution to the perennial power problem for adventurers planning to spend multiple days in the wilderness.

What To Look For When Buying A Portable Power Bank

Firstly, think about how much power you’re likely to need and how long you might be away from a power source. This will dictate what size power bank you need in terms of battery capacity, which is usually measured in milliamp hours (mAh).

To help you out, note that it typically takes 2,500 to 3,500mAh to charge a modern smartphone (though many factors can affect power consumption). Charging a GPS unit or digital camera is likely to consume a similar amount of power, while charging a head torch, smartwatch or GoPro will consume much less. High-powered devices like tablets and laptops are the biggest drain on battery capacity.

Put simply, the larger the rated capacity (in mAh), the more juice the power bank can store – though the trade-off is increased size and weight. So if you’re only carrying a smartphone on a day walk and just want a back-up power source, look for a pocket-sized battery charger. On the other hand, if you’re planning to spend multiple days in the wilderness carrying a number of different devices (like a GPS, phone, GoPro and digital camera), then you’re going to need one of the bigger power banks around (probably 20,000mAh+).

To power multiple devices effectively you’ll also need a power bank that supports simultaneous charging, i.e. one that has at least two or more outlet ports. Many of the latest models also offer features such as quick charging through high-speed USB or USB-C connectivity, as well as in-built technologies to prevent over-charging and optimise charging efficiency.

Also consider your environment. In damp, humid conditions or on expeditions you might need a waterproof and rugged power bank, which can cope with moisture or even complete immersion as well as bumps and knocks. If so, look for a product with a certified IP (International Protection) rating, which is usually expressed as two letters or numerals, e.g. IPX6 or IP67.This standard classifies the degree of protection provided against intrusion, dust, accidental contact and water.

“it typically takes 2,500 to 3,500mAh to charge a modern smartphone”

As well as being impact and water-resistant, power banks specifically designed for the great outdoors often have LED lights, so they can be used as torches. This can be a useful additional feature, as can power banks with integrated charging cables – so you don’t have to remember to bring separate cables with you.

Other devices have integrated or add-on solar panels, which offer the ability to top up the power using energy from the sun. Solar panels are becoming more efficient all the time, meaning that this is now a viable option for those planning to spend days or even weeks off-grid. Most solar panels trickle-charge a power bank over a period of several hours, but others can also be plugged directly into your device.

Tips To Get The Most From Your Power Bank

  • Fully charge all your devices before you head out – that way you can save your power bank’s juice for when you really need it
  • It takes more power to charge most devices from 0 to 50% than it does to charge from 50% to full, so top up your devices when they dip to 50% rather than letting them run right down
  • Unplug your device as soon as it is near full charge. Keeping a device plugged in so it is continually topping itself up to 100% can drain some power banks very quickly
  • Use the cables supplied with either your device or your power bank. Cheap, inferior cables increase resistance, which can increase battery drain and adversely affect charging speeds
  • For fastest charging speeds, use the highest-rated outlet on your power bank (for example, a 2.1A USB port will charge more quickly than a 1A USB)
  • Try not to use your devices while they are plugged in and charging from your power bank
  • Use your power bank regularly. Run a simple charge and discharge cycle once a month to help maintain the internal battery
  • Don’t let your power bank or your devices get cold. Low temperatures can reduce the speed at which a battery discharges. If you’re camping, wrap them in your clothes or even keep them in your sleeping bag so they stay warm

Biolite Charge 20

Price: £40
Weight: 166g
Capacity: 5,200mAh
Dimensions (L x W x D): 108 x 44 x 20mm

The smallest power bank on test, the Biolite Charge 20 weighs under 200g and slides easily into a pocket. It has a 5,200mAh capacity – enough for about two smartphone charges. It is easy to operate and there’s just a single button that lights up a four-LED indicator telling you how much juice is left. There’s one micro-USB input and one 2.1A USB output, offering fairly swift charging. The stainless steel housing is sleek and durable, while a flip-top lid helps to protect the ports from dirt and moisture. The Charge 20 has an IPX6 rating, offering resistance to rain and spills. It is supplied with its own charging cable.

Pros: Lightweight, compact and durable. Just slip it into a pocket and head out into the hills for peace of mind, knowing you can keep your phone alive throughout the day.
Cons: Single outlet port and limited battery capacity means this little guy reaches his limits when it comes to charging bigger devices.

Goalzero Venture 70

Price: £136.95
Weight: 485g
Capacity: 17,700mAh
Dimensions (L x W x D): 170 x 103 x 29mm

The Goal Zero Venture 70 is a seriously rugged, waterproof power bank with an IP67 rating. It has a fairly generous 17,700mAh capacity – enough to charge a smartphone five times (though the manufacturer quotes up to six charges). The two high-speed 2.4A USB outputs can charge two devices simultaneously.

The Venture 70 also has a smart charge feature that can identify different devices in order to apply the fastest charging profile possible, without the risk of overheating or overcharging. It also allows pass-through charging – that is, you can safely charge devices from the power bank even when it’s plugged into the mains. We also liked the built-in 65-lumen LED torch, which has two brightness settings and three strobe modes, including SOS.

Pros: Packed with useful features and some sophisticated internal tech, while the extremely rugged, waterproof housing with integrated cables makes the Venture 70 a very practical option for the great outdoors.
Cons: It’s the heaviest power bank in this round-up, and also the most expensive. If you really want to get the best out of the product you’ll need to read the instruction manual to learn how to initiate the smart charge sequence whenever you plug in a device for the first time.

Zendure A6PB

Price: £80
Weight: 392g
Capacity: 20,100mAh
Dimensions (L x W x D): 168 x 85 x 28mm

The Zendure’s A6PB cutting-edge power bank is equipped with USB-C and 3.0A USB outlet ports for rapid charging of two devices simultaneously. It has a generous 20,100mAh capacity, enough to fully charge an iPhone X 5½ times. We found that real-world performance matched the manufacturer’s claims. It also offers pass-through charging. Auto-detection means that devices start to charge as soon as they are plugged in, and adaptive charging automatically adjusts the output to charge your device at optimum speed. The A6PD also has in-built protection against short circuits, power surges, overheating and overcharging. It comes with a protective cloth pouch and USB cable.

Pros: With the quickest charge times of any power bank in this round-up, the A6PD is ideal for those with the latest devices who need their juice fast.
Cons: Although housed in an extremely rugged composite case, this power bank does not carry an IP rating and is not waterproof.

GP Batteries M-Series MP15MA

Price: £34.99
Weight: 347g
Capacity: 15,000mAh
Dimensions (L x W x D): 140 x 75 x 24mm

With USB-C and twin 2.4A USB outputs, the GP Batteries M-series power bank supports the latest devices and offers speedy charging. You can charge up to three devices simultaneously and the 15,000mAh capacity gives a real-world performance of about four to five smartphone charges (though the manufacturer quotes six). It’s very simple and easy to use – a single button with four LED indicator lights and device auto-detection means you can just plug in and go. It is supplied with a 2-in-1 micro-USB and USB-C cable.

Pros: Striking a good balance between capacity, weight and size, this is a versatile all-rounder at a competitive price. For us, it’s the best value option in this test. The triple outlet ports are very useful, while USB-C input/output supports the latest devices and permits rapid mains charging.
Cons: Though the case features anti-slip rubber coated edges that may help to absorb minor impacts, the power bank does not carry an IP rating. Nor is it supplied with a protective pouch.

Outdoor Tech Kodiak Plus 2.0

Price: £59.99
Weight: 290g
Capacity: 10,000mAh
Dimensions (L x W x D): 123 x 88 x 28mm

Thanks to its IPX7 rating, this power bank by Outdoor Tech can be submerged in 3ft of water for up to 30 minutes. That makes it well-suited to the most demanding conditions. It also has a built-in 100-lumen torch with three light settings – another useful feature for the great outdoors. The design is compact and relatively lightweight, while the 10,000mAh capacity gives you real-world performance of a little over three full smartphone charges. However, although there are two USB outlet ports, only one of these supports high-speed charging, and the Kodiak Plus 2.0 does not have charge-through capability.

Pros: Very rugged construction and simple operation. We also like the bright LED flashlight for use around camp.
Cons: While the 2.4A USB output is speedy, the slower 1.0A port is sluggish compared to the multiple high-speed charging options of other power banks here.

Anker Powercore 20100

Price: £34.99
Weight: 353g
Capacity: 20,100mAh
Dimensions (L x W x D): 173 x 67 x 26mm

This slim-line power bank has two 2.4A USB outputs for high-speed charging, augmented by Anker’s PowerIQ smart charge and voltage boost technology, which identifies your device and adjusts voltage output accordingly, while also compensating for cable resistance. It’s all intended to deliver the fastest possible charging speed, even when charging two devices simultaneously.

Real world performance was very good. The large 20,100mAh capacity gives five to seven smartphone charges, depending on the model. The Powercore 20100 also has built-in protection from power surges and short circuits. It comes with a micro USB cable and a travel pouch.

Pros: Slim design, simple to use and good performance. High battery capacity and competitively priced too.
Cons: We wish it had a USB-C port. The only other real drawback is that the plastic case is not IP-rated against impact or moisture, meaning it’s not as tough as some other power banks we tested. Basically, don’t drop it or let it get wet!

Ravpower Xtreme RP-PB41

Price: £36.99
Weight: 459g
Capacity: 26,800mAh
Dimensions (L x W x D): 178 x 85 x 27mm

This Ravpower Xtreme power bank boasts triple 2.4A USB ports so you can charge three devices simultaneously at high speed. An impressive array of built-in technology protects against overheating, overcharging, short circuits and power surges, as well as automatically adjusting charge output and voltage for optimum charging speeds. It’s incredibly simple to use, with a single button that displays a four-LED power indicator to let you know how much juice you have left – not that you’re likely to run out, given the whopping 26,800mAh battery capacity. That gives you nine full charges for the iPhone X, which is impressive. It is supplied with a micro-USB cable and a travel pouch.

Pros: Huge battery capacity, multiple outlets, high-speed charging, easy to use and very well-priced.
Cons: Inevitably, this power bank is fairly heavy. We also wish it had a USB-C port – though the latest 26800mAh Ravpower model (the PB058) has added this feature. Our only other negative is that this power bank isn’t IP-rated, so it isn’t as tough as some.

WakaWaka Power+ With Solar Panel And Link

Price: Power+ £49.99, Solar panel and link £79.99
Weight: Power+ 165g, Solar panel and link 751g
Capacity: Power+ 3,000mAh, Solar panel and link max 10W output
Dimensions (L x W x D): Power+ 125 x 83 x 21mm, Solar panel (folded) 170 x 170 x 28mm

A compact and lightweight power bank with an integrated solar panel that can fully recharge its 3,000mAh internal battery in 12-18 hours of sunlight. The WakaWaka Power+ has a single 2.1A USB output and a micro-USB input (so you can charge it from the mains too). In addition, the Power+ has a 70-lumen LED torch with four brightness settings and SOS mode. The 3,000mAh capacity gives you about 200 hours of light or one full smartphone charge, and charging speed is fairly swift. The power bank has a swivelling base that enables you to place it at almost any angle, ideal for positioning it as a camp lantern or adjusting the solar panel to ensure it is in direct sunlight.

To boost the capability, you can also add a separate folding solar panel with a max 10W output. It connects to the Power+ via a link box, which also has a second USB port so you can charge another device simultaneously. Setup is simpler than it sounds, and the Power+’s LED indicators tell you how much juice it has left as well as how effectively it is charging from the sun.

Pros: It has a useful LED light and enough juice to give your smartphone a full charge. When coupled with the separate solar panel and link, its capabilities are drastically increased for off-grid trips. The 10W panel has a bigger output than any other solar charger we tested.
Cons: The Power+ is obviously limited by its small 3,000mAh capacity, though WakaWaka also sell 5,000 and 10,000mAh power banks that are compatible with the solar panel and link. However, the key drawbacks of the system are cost and weight. Though it has a big 10W output, the solar panel is heavy, while the total cost of the Power+, solar panel and link is nearly £130. And like all solar-powered systems, you’re obviously reliant on several hours of sunshine to get optimum results – though the panel itself delivers solid performance.

Freeloader Sixer Plus Supercharger Solar Panel

Price: Sixer £69.99, Supercharger £49.99 (or buy together as the Off Grid Adventurer bundle for £110)
Weight: Sixer 250g, Supercharger 311g
Capacity: Sixer 6,000mAh, Supercharger max 5W output
Dimensions (L x W x D): Sixer 134 x 83 x 30mm, Supercharger 275 x 180 x 15mm

Another compact and relatively lightweight power bank with an integrated solar panel that can fully recharge its 6,000mAh internal battery in 28 hours of sunlight. However, with the Supercharger solar panel attached, charge time is reduced to around 8 hours, or 6 hours if all the solar panels are in direct sunlight. The Freeloader Sixer has a 2.1A USB output as well as integrated micro-USB and lightning cables, enabling up to three devices to be charged simultaneously.

Pros: Easy to use thanks to the LCD screen’s clear icons that indicate remaining battery life and when charging is active from mains or solar power. We liked the integrated charging cables too. The 5W Supercharger solar panel is impressively thin and light, and comes with Velcro straps to attach it to a rucksack. The solar cells are efficient enough to charge even in overcast conditions. That makes the system a good option for off-grid adventurers – provided you’ll see some sun.
Cons: The integrated support stand used to position the Sixer is flimsy and snapped on test. Though marketed as impact- and water-resistant, it does not carry an IP-rating. It does have a rubberised cover to help protect against damage, but this needs to be removed to use the integrated charging cables.

Powertraveller Extreme Solar – Best In Test

Price: £115
Weight: Extreme 280g, Solar panel 284g
Capacity: Extreme 12,000mAh, Solar panel max 5W output
Dimensions (L x W x D): Extreme 140 x 78 x 28mm, Solar panel (folded) 275 x 180 x 15mm

This combination battery and solar charger kit consists of two components; a 12,000mAh capacity power bank and a separate folding solar panel of clamshell design that delivers a max output of 5W. The power bank has a 2.0A USB output as well as a USB-C port and, uniquely among the power banks in this test, a 12V DC outlet. This makes the Powertraveller a versatile option for charging multiple devices quickly, from SLR cameras and GPS devices to the latest smartphones. It’s housed in a tough, rugged, waterproof case with an IP65 rating, meaning it is dust-proof and waterproof (though not immersible). The power bank also supports pass-through charging and is supplied with an array of cables to fit various devices.

The solar panel is compact and lightweight. It unfolds to 210 degrees and will charge in low light conditions. Charging is indicated by a flashing LED light – green for optimum charging, red for lower-quality conditions. Handily it also comes with a Velcro strap that enables you to attach the panel to a rucksack.

Pros: Very versatile thanks to multiple outlets, including USB-C and a 12V DC output. Decent battery capacity gives up to five full smartphone charges. This is also the toughest solar charger on test, making it our preferred option for multi-day wilderness trips.
Cons: Few drawbacks other than the standard proviso that applies to all solar-powered products – you’re obviously reliant on several hours of decent sunshine to get good performance. However, even when used as a standard power bank the Powertraveller performs extremely well.

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