Best portable chargers for travelers reviewed

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Shree Ravi

Looking for the best portable charger in 2018? Read the pros & cons and our picks for the best power bank including the factors to consider when you buy.

Portable chargers are great to have especially for travelers. It’s quite common to find yourself in scenarios where you have a phone, tablet or a laptop with a plug that’s different from the one you need in the country you just reached. Whilst travel adapters for chargers can help, they tend to be a pain to lug around, especially if you don’t travel internationally a lot.

Another common one for backpackers is that they can be inconvenienced by their phone using up a lot of battery whilst searching for signal in the backcountry. Portable chargers or power banks as they are commonly known can really help in these scenarios & much more. Hence, its a good idea to include them in your list of hiking gear. After deciding on buying a charger the next thing for you to do is to pick out the best portable charger. That’s where we come in.

Tip: Always drain your external battery completely before recharging, as this will help extend the efficiency & life of your device.

Our top 10 portable chargers including solar options

We have gathered a list of the top power banks in the market for you to choose from with a few eco-friendly solutions mentioned as well.

 

1. Anker PowerCore 10000

1. Anker PowerCore 10000

Strengths:

  • Extremely small & light
  • Excellent build quality
  • Value for Money
  • Highly durable

Weaknesses:

  • Capacity & speed not the highest

 

Features:

Capacity: 10000mAh Battery

Available in 2 colours

Weight: 180g

Size: 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches

Charging Ports: 1

Output: 2.4A

If you are after a reliable, high capacity and fast portable charger, then you the Anker PowerCore 10000 is a fantastic choice. This is also one of our favourites on the list due to its amazing build quality and durability. Anker is one of the top power bank brands and this device is a testament to that.

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So let’s cut the chase what most folks would like to know is how many times one can charge their iPhone or tablet. The aspect that makes this power bank so special is its size to capacity ratio. The fully charged device can charge your iPhone 6s about 3 and half times and your Samsung s7 about 2 times. For tablets like the iPad mini about 1 and a half times. The 2.4A is what you find on most fast chargers in the market as well.

This device has only one port though so you can’t charge multiple devices at the same time. It’s also worth noting that this power bank doesn’t support Qualcomm quick charges. Are you in the habit of dropping things frequently? Well not to worry, this portable charger can absorb almost any shock or impact. Its compact design was something we liked too. It’s quite ideal for going backpacking. Especially as every pound seems to matter. You can simply slip this into your pocket or backpack & forget about it.

2. Anker PowerCore+ mini, 3350mAh Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

2. Anker PowerCore+ mini, 3350mAh Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

Strengths:

  • Very economical
  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Very compact
  • Great build quality & customer service

Weaknesses:

  • Can only hold 1 charge (device dependant)
  • Unable to charge tablets beyond the halfway point
  • Marginally slow

Features:

Available in 5 colours (black, blue, pink, silver & gold)

Size:  3.7” x 0.9” x 0.9”

Weight: 3 ounces

Capacity: 3350mAh Battery

Charging Ports: 1

Output: 1A

For those who believe the best things come in little sizes, the Anker Powercore+ Mini might be the ideal fit. This lipstick-sized portable charger is highly compact, to say the least.

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Travelers who are not particularly travelling to places with unreliable power supplies but just want a temporary backup power source will find that the Powercore+ mini perfectly fits the bill. This is about as light as they come too, making it great to place in any carry-on or backpack. The build quality is excellent with a very compact interior design too. There is an indicator for the charge level along with a power switch, other than that there are not too many bells & whistles.

If you have the latest galaxy s7, the iPhone7 then this might not be enough for a full charge & can get you only 3 quarters of the way there. This is the trade-off for having such a small device. The 3350mAh battery is ideally suited for older devices as they have lesser capacities. Also, the output is just about 1A so it is not as quick as the 2 or 2.4A charger found on most devices on our list. Additionally, the efficiency can tend to decrease over time. This is common for all battery packs but since you are dealing with just 1 charge it could be a factor if you intend to use it very often.

3. Unifun 10400mAh Waterproof External Battery Power Bank Charger

3. Unifun 10400mAh Waterproof External Battery Power Bank Charger

Strengths:

  • Great value for money
  • Waterproof, shockproof & skid resistant.
  • Durable

Weaknesses:

  • The flaps for the USB could be made better

Features:

Size: 3” x 1.1” x 0.6”

Weight: 10.6 ounces

Capacity: 10400mAh

Charging Ports: 2

Torch Light

The Unifun is our choice for skiers, campers, hikers & anyone who is constantly immersing themselves in tough environments. This purpose made portable charger is ideal for the outdoors.

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It includes a flashlight like many others but unlike many others, the flashlight is large and very powerful. The weight, you might have guessed is slightly on the higher side but the capacity is correspondingly large which can prove very useful. You can easily hook it onto your belt strap as well instead of keeping it inside a backpack or rucksack. It’s water resistant as well which can work great for folks in rainy or snowy conditions.

The exterior is tough and is great for surviving impacts. You can charge most devices about 3 to 5 times on one full charge. The Unifun is another that makes use of the lithium polymer core which offers great savings in terms of weight. Like many in the market, you can easily use the device up to 1000 charging cycles. This charger can come in really handy as your phone does tend to use up battery trying in to re-establish signal in the backcountry. Overall, the Unifun is most definitely our pick for the ardent adventurer.

4. Power Banks RAVPower Portable Charger

4. Power Banks RAVPower Portable Charger

Strengths:

  • Massive battery capacity
  • Battery life indicator is handy
  • Charge multiple devices at the same time

Weaknesses:

  • A bit expensive & bulky
  • Can take a while for the battery pack charge to reach full

Features:

Size: 6.81 x 3.19 x 0.87 inches

Weight: ~ 1 pound

Capacity: 26800mAh Battery

Charging Ports: 3

Combined total output: 5.5A

#Charge your iPhone 7 or Galaxy 7 fully over 6 times. Previous models can be charged about 9 times.

Looking to get away from it all for a while but at the same time would like to keep your devices powered up? Then this monster battery pack is perfect for travellers.

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The RAVPower sure can hold a lot of power. It gets a lot of simple things right as well. We liked the charge indicator which might seem like an inconsequential thing but is extremely useful. Unlike many others, you can see how much battery you have used up at all times. This 28000mAh battery ensures the device is bulkier than an iPhone in itself which might not be ideal for day hikes but can work for long term backpackers & travelers.

The iSmart technology present also regulates how the charge flows to that all devices are charged in an optimal manner. This is a desirable trait in any power bank with multiple outputs. The auto shut off feature is also handy in the event of damage or short circuiting. The RAVPower does have a few short falls. The trade-off for having such a large battery is the charging time it takes for the battery pack itself. This can range from 12-24 hours depending upon whether you use a 2.4A or 1A charger. Nonetheless, a good choice for those looking for a portable charger with an enormous capacity.

5. Solar Charger,Dizaul 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank

5. Solar Charger,Dizaul 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank

Strengths:

  • Made of eco-friendly silicone
  • Waterproof

Weaknesses:

  • Speed of recharging & discharging is slow
  • Needs to constantly be in the sun.

Features:

Available in 4 colours

Size: 14.3cm x 7.5cm x 1.5cm

Weight: 4 ounces

Charging Ports: 2

Flashlight

Capacity: 5000mAh battery

2x 1A output

First up, who says all eco-friendly products are costly?! This waterproof solar power bank by Dizaul will leave you pleasantly surprised. It has all the usual bells & whistles like indicators & a flashlight. It was lighter than we expected which was a welcome feature.

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The waterproof feature is not something that’s common amongst chargers and is great to have especially if you decide to go on a cruise or on a fishing trip. Unlike the Anker solar charger which we will touch on later, this one is a battery pack and can store the charge it gathers.

The not so good traits are more related to the speed to charge a device and the time it takes to charge itself with the help of the sun. This travel charger really needs proper exposure to sunlight for the charging process to be at optimum which means you might have to wait north of 8 hours for a full charge. The 5000mAh battery ensures you can charge most phones about 2 times fully. The output ports to the phone are 1A and it’s much slower than the others on our list. In other words, it can take about 4-6ish hours to charge your phone fully. Overall, a very economical option & environmentally friendly option for those in scenarios where they get a lot of sun and don’t mind the recharge pace.

6. ZeroLemon ToughJuice 30000mAh

6. ZeroLemon ToughJuice 30000mAh

Strengths:

  • Many output ports including the new USB type-C
  • Enormous Battery Capacity
  • Can handle tough conditions & impact
  • Dust covers for USB slots

Weaknesses:

  • Very heavy & bulky
  • Can take a while to charge if USB-C is not used for charging

 Features:

Size: 7.07” x 3.61” x 1.3”

Weight: 21.1 ounces

Capacity: 30000mAh

Charging Ports: 5

Total output: 7A (3 – 1A ports, 1 - 2A Ports, 1 USB – Type C – 2.5A Port)

We move onto the ToughJuice by ZeroLemon which is a true monster battery pack ideal for campers & backpackers in need of power for a lengthy period.

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The first question you may have might be related to its portable. Yes, the device is slightly on the heavier & bulky side but is still portable. It will easily fit into a purse or a backpack which makes it an excellent choice for a group of campers. There is an LED indicator & dust covers for each slot which was something we liked very much. Another aspect that will please folks is the price. The value for money aspect is quite good when compared to most power banks in the market today.

The downside is clearly its weight especially if you are individual or don’t travel too often. The higher capacity battery means it can take a long time to charge fully but the upside is that the USB-C slots do tend to charge the device a lot faster. Despite its ability to handle the rough conditions and dust, it is not waterproof. This would be a neat trait to have we thought to make it a truly complete portable charger for camping groups.

7. Poweradd Slim 2 Most Compact 5000mAh External Battery

7. Poweradd Slim 2 Most Compact 5000mAh External Battery

Strengths:

  • Size & Portability
  • Great customer Service

Weaknesses:

  • Can charge only 1 device
  • Some durability issues.

Features:

Available in 4 colours

Size: 3.9” x 1.3” x 1.2”

Weight: 4.3 ounces

Capacity: 5000mAh Battery

Charging Ports: 1

Output: 2.1A

Poweradd is another popular power bank brand. The poweradd is a neat alternative to the Anker. With a 5000mAh battery, you can charge most phones twice, except the newer ones with larger battery capacities.

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Its size is just marginally bigger than Anker mini which makes it one of the top most portable battery packs on the list. The charging speed is pretty quick but the device can charge only one device at a time. Tablets can be charged but not completely as well. When you are out & about in the wilderness this would indeed be a great device to have.

Some users have reported durability issues with the device after constant usage for many months. However, Poweradd have great customer service which certainly makes this product one to have. You can typically charge your phone in about 2-3 hours. Charging the power bank itself will take closer to 4 but is highly dependent upon the charger you use. This device also comes with a nice thick cable that is quite flexible meaning you can fold in & place it in your backpack with confidence.

8. Anker 21W Dual USB Solar Charger

8. Anker 21W Dual USB Solar Charger

Strengths:

  • Extremely light
  • Eco-friendly & sustainable
  • Can be attached to your backpack for charging on the go

Weaknesses:

  • A bit pricey
  • Not very effective during cloudy conditions
  • No energy is stored

Features:

Weight: 14.7oz

Size:
11.1 x 6.3 inches when folded

16.4 x 11 inches when open

Charging Ports: 2

Output 2.4A ~ 3A in direct sunlight

There are indeed many solar chargers out there in the market but the reason this Anker makes our list is thanks to its efficiency. This 3-panel design is an extremely sustainable eco-friendly option for many travelers.

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The speed is also quite good with a total 2.4 to 3A output in the sun which is excellent considering no electricity or power socket is needed. We liked that the PET plastic faced solar panels were very durable and can fold into any backpack quite comfortably. The steel holes come in pretty handy as you can attach the device to your backpack when you are on the move. The pouch also does a good job of holding your phones & tablets.

Like most products in the market, this however, has its trade-offs. Whilst it is extremely lightweight, the surface area is large, hence it can be a bit big to fold and transport. Also as the name suggests you are required to be in direct sunlight for fast charging to take place. If you are camping for many days and have bad weather this might help you out too much. This, however, is just 1 scenario. Whilst this is a portable charger it does not however, store charge like a traditional battery pack. For those who are looking to go eco-friendly and don’t mind spending the extra buck then the 21W solar charger is a great option.

9. DULLA M50000 Portable Power Bank

9. DULLA M50000 Portable Power Bank

Strengths:

  • Sleek aesthetics
  • Good price

Weaknesses:

  • A bit large for one’s pocket
  • Not the fastest charger in the market

Features:

Available in 3 colours (Black, Gold, Rose gold)

Size: 6.1 L x 3.1 W x 0.5 H inches

Weight: 8.96 ounces

Capacity: 12000mAh Battery

Total 4A output

Charging ports: 2

We now come to the sexiest travel charger on our list. An iPhone7 can be charged about 5 times and a Galaxy s7 about 3 times thanks to the 12000mAh battery. The weight to capacity ratio is one of the best in the market which makes it all the more attractive in our opinion.

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A neat feature included is a flashlight which can be pretty handy when you are out and about. There are indicator lights unlike the ones on some Anker models. The Dulla also has a polymer battery instead of a Lithium Ion battery found on most phones & chargers. This helps them keep the weight down a lot better.

The major downsides in our opinion are primarily related to the charging speed on offer & the bulky size. While it is slim and sleek it is almost as long as a nexus 7 tablet which can make it a bit hard to carry around comfortably. The charging speed is not quite as fast as most 2.4A output external batteries. The sluggish charging is also reported by other users when charging two devices. Nonetheless, if you are okay with the length of the device it’s a great travel charger for one to have.

 

10. Qualcomm Power Bank

10. Qualcomm Power Bank

Strengths:

  • Quick charging speed
  • Lightweight for its capacity

Weaknesses:

  • Produces some noise after prolonged usage for months

Features:

Size: 5.5” x 4.3x x 1.4”

Weight: 7.2 ounces

Capacity: 10400mAh

Charging Ports: 1

Output range: 1.35 to 2A depending upon the device

One of the few power banks that have a great weight to capacity ratio making. The quick charge capability works with most branded devices in the market today.

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This external battery is also made up of original LG batteries which are much more reliable & safe. Again you can charge most devices about 3-4 times depending upon the size of the battery. It does have only one output port so you can only charge multiple devices linearly.

This device, unlike other chargers, is capable of pass-through charging but it’s not recommended to do so as the battery life can get severely depleted over time. Older models are generally not supported for quick charge 2.0 meaning they can take almost twice the amount of time to be charged. Nonetheless, it’s still much faster than a conventional charger.

 

 

Factors to consider when buying the best portable charger – Buying Guide

One can have many questions with regards to power banks & many of the factors at times can be very subjective but nonetheless, have to be considered. Many of these factors are highly dependent upon how the power bank itself works so let’s touch on that 1st.

A picture of a phone connected to one of the best external batteries.

How does a power bank work?

The ideal scenario is to go for something that is light but has a large capacity also. Determining the capacity can be tricky business. This is purely related to how power banks work. The external casing will typically display a wattage rating as well as the more commonly thrown around mAh rating.

For instance, if you decided that you need an external battery for your tablet & phone you might want to go for a battery with a higher mAH. So how high must you go? Well, a common method we find people doing is to divide the mAh rating on the power bank by the mAh on your phone or tablet. This, however, can be inaccurate. If your phone has a 3300mAh battery and if you own a 10000mAh power bank then it might indicate that you can charge your phone fully 3 times. This, in reality, is not the case.

Thanks to energy losses during operation a battery can sometimes function with only 85% efficiency. A standard USB works at 5V, portable chargers & phones batteries are at an average of 3.6 to 3.7V so the voltage has to be converted twice and there can be losses depending upon the quality of the USB cable too. The operating range of a phone’s voltage can go from 4.3V (full energy) to 3V (drained), hence the 3.7 average. First, the voltage from the power bank is stepped up to the standard voltage on the USB cable then it’s again reduced to 4.3 or lower to match the voltage on the phone battery. The circuitry for these changes is complex and how well it is made can very well determine who much loss there is. Hence, for the aforementioned example you might be able to charge your phone 2.7 or 2.9 times instead of 3, depending upon how well built the device is.

Now that you somewhat have an understanding of the working of the portable chargers we can look at the factors you need to consider when you buy.

An image showing the best portable charger connected to multiple devices on a desk

Capacity & Weight: These two quality requirements can be very subjective based on the requirements of the person. Ideally look for a lightweight option with a high capacity. The following can be good choices for the scenarios mentioned.

If you have just 1 device to charge from time to time – 3000 to 5000mAh

If you have just 1 device & are heading into the backcountry for many days – 5 to 10000mAh

If you are a group heading out for camping – 25000mAh+

If you are travelling with multiple devices – 10000 to 15000mAh

The weight is an important factor in determining the portability as well. Always check whether airlines allow batteries above a certain capacity if you do decide to opt for the 25000+ range. Almost all countries are okay but there are a few exceptions as we are dealing with a lot of charge.

Speed: Portable phone chargers with an output of 2.4A instead of 1A are always quicker. Even though the advertised amps (A) are 2.4 & 1A the actual Amps are always slightly lower and the charging speed is device dependent. Sometimes it can be better to have an external battery with just 1 output of 2.4A instead of two ports with 1A output as the single port can charge your device much quicker.

An image of a solar charger being used by a backpacker in the woods

Quality: When power is involved so is a lot of heat, hence a good portable charger needs to be a safe one as well. During our explanation of how the power bank works, we explained some of the voltage changes & other things, all these cause the device to heat. Other issues that can arise are related to the charging voltages & power variance especially when connected to an unreliable power source. Often time’s travelers can face unreliable power sources in many developing countries. Look for chargers that have over voltage protection, short circuit protection, overcharge & discharge protection. Heat also needs to be insulated well by the charger. A good charger does not overheat when used over an extended period of time.

Other features: Pass through charging is one that is sought after. This is useful in a scenario where both your phone & charger run out of power at the same time. One can charge the external battery from a wall socket and the phone from the external battery. This is, however, unavailable in most devices.

Flashlights are a good option for those who like to trek in the backcountry a lot. Devices that are well padded like the Unifun are great options in the same scenario as well. It’s important to remember aesthetics are not everything as most high functioning ones that get the job done look fairly ordinary. Things like hooks for attachment to backpacks & charge level indicators are nice features to look for as well.

 

Sources:

http://www.instructables.com/id/PowerBanks-How-It-Works/

http://www.wikihow.com/Charge-a-Power-Bank

http://www.phonearena.com/news/Heres-why-power-banks-arent-as-big-as-they-seem-to-be_id67153

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