If you’re looking for the best portable charger or USB battery pack and you want something that’s durable enough for outdoor adventures, travel, and the Vanlife, here’s our top picks for keeping your phone, laptop, GPS, and lights charged up.
The two things you need to consider when choosing the right USB battery packs are how much power you’ll need, and how much size and weight will fit in your pack or pocket. Basically, the more items you’re charging or powering with it, the more outlets you’ll need and higher mAh (milliamp/hour) rating you want.
How we chose these battery packs
Our top five picks based on our own experience with these models and brands. We’ve tested them and often talk with the people behind these brands, so we trust the gear. We factored in rugged construction, weight, size, power output, and types of connections (a high-output USB-C port is key for bigger devices).
These are the chargers that will work when you need them to, often holding a charge for months, making them perfect backups during power outages, too. There are cheaper alternatives out there, but when it comes to battery packs, reliability and safety beat saving a few bucks. Speaking of prices, many of these are routinely discounted or have “coupon codes” available on Amazon, so check the prices on a couple models if you’re on the fence. Here’s our top picks, listed from smallest to largest…
Best USB Charger Battery Packs in 2021
For day hikes where you just need a little top off, or those days when you head out only to find you forgot to charge your phone overnight, the Power Boost Mini is perfect. It’s small enough to fit in most backpack’s hipbelt pockets, and weighs practically nothing. We’ve had the same Mophie charger for more than five years and it’s never let us down.
At the campsite, if you need to spread multiple USB-powered lights around a larger area, you’ll want several small, affordable power banks. These come in 2,400 and 5,600mAh versions, range from just $13-$18, giving you an easy way to add light wherever you want it without breaking the bank. Fair warning, these models are no longer in Mophie’s current product line, but they’re still available on Amazon, and until they’re sold out, these are some of the smallest power packs you can get…and you can’t beat the price.
We’ve thrown the MyCharge Adventure in our packs for countless hikes and bikepacking trips because it’s rugged as heck, water-resistant, and packs plenty of power. They make larger 10,500 and 21,100 mAh versions, too, but this 6,700mAh is a bit more compact.
It has two USB ports so you can share your juice, or charge your phone while also powering lights back at camp. Bonus points for having an included carabiner, power button, and battery indicator lights so you know how much power it has left. MSRP is $30.
Anker is a top rated brand we’ve trusted for years for cables, power adapters, and more with our own cameras, laptops, smartphones, and…well, basically everything. This is one of the smallest 10,000 mAh battery packs on the market, and that’s a TON of juice that’ll fully charge from dead any phone or tablet. Or GPS, satellite communicator, whatever.
At camp, it’ll power the biggest lighting setups…as long as you can daisy chain the lights since this battery pack only has a single USB outlet. It comes in black, blue, and white, also, but the red one is a lot easier to spot if you drop it somewhere around camp. Prices vary by color, from about $25 to $34.
If you’re working in the wild and need to keep your laptop charged up, too, this one’s for you. It has a fast-charging USB-C outlet optimized for laptops, plus two USB-A ports for everything else. It has a huge 20,000mAh power store with 63W of output, so it’s capable of charging a modern laptop (I used it to keep my battery level constant for 90 minutes of Photoshop editing on a Macbook Pro). That high output will also fast charge most mobile devices, helping you top off quickly in a pinch.
There’s even a digital readout showing the percentage power left, so there’s no guessing. This one’s overkill for a day hike, but perfect for anyone who’s now working remote and off grid, or bigger campsites with lots of lights running off it. Dimensions are just larger than most plus-sized smartphones, but it’s slim enough to tuck into a frame bag if you’re bikepacking or hiking for several days and need a big but easily packable power source. MSRP is $79.99.
GOAL ZERO SHERPA 100AC
When you need to power all the things –and we do mean ALL the things– the Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC is the best choice for basecamp. It has two USB-C, two USB-A, Qi wireless charging, and a standard two-prong A/C power outlet. Both USB-C ports pump out 60W of fast charging power, enough to keep a Macbook Pro humming along. And with 25,600mAh total power, they say it’s enough to fully charge a 13″ model twice.
There’s even a port for plugging in Goal Zero’s folding solar panels, letting you (slowly) charge it up from the sun if you’re really getting off the grid. Dimensions are 7.5″ x 1″ x 5.7″, weight is 2.0lbs, so it’s probably best for groups where you can split the load…or just leaving it at camp to recharge while you, um, recharge. MSRP is $299.
One more thing to consider…
At some point, you have to charge your battery pack so it can keep charging things. For that, we strongly recommend the Nekteck USB-C 4-Port 72W Charger. It has one high-power 60W USB-C output, is great if for bigger battery packs like the Eggtronic and Goal Zero that have a USB-C in/out. This is key, because the small wall plug that you typically use for your phone is not delivering nearly as much power, so it can take half a day to fully recharge a big battery pack.
What makes this Nekteck charger the top pick is that it’ll pump out 5W of power if you’re using only one of the USB-A ports, which is a lot for that type of cable…and, unfortunately for now, most smaller battery packs are still charged by a micro-USB that plugs into USB-A ports. The Nekteck plugs into a regular wall outlet, so you’ll need access to one of those, but we keep one of these in our travel kits at all times because the multiple ports make it easy to top everything off if we do stop at a hotel or coffee shop for a bit. Also, it’s really affordable (about $26), and has provided years of reliable charging for us all over the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much power does it take to charge an iPhone? A laptop?
The smallest battery pack in this bunch will give you about half a charge on a typical smartphone. A 6,400mAh pack will give you about 20 extra hours of use on an iPhone X, about equivalent to a full charge plus a bit. A 20,000mAh pack will fill up most laptops, or just keep them running at the current charge level for an hour or more.
How big of a battery pack do I need?
If you want to fully charge a phone, you want at least 6,400mAh per device. Dedicated GPS devices, like a tracker or cycling computer, will draw less power, but with bigger packs only costing a little more, our advice is to buy the most powerful pack that you are willing to carry with you.
The other consideration is how many devices you need to charge simultaneously. Bigger portable USB chargers usually have two or more ports, so you can charge more than one thing at a time…or power lights and your phone.
Should I just keep my phone plugged in all the time?
No. You might think it’s best to just keep your device plugged into it to keep it topped off, but that is the least efficient way to use a battery pack. The most efficient, which will deliver the most amount of available power to your device is to let it run low, then plug it in and let it charge all the way up. Of course, these battery packs work fine either way, but if you need to make the most of it, drain, then charge.
With the Goal Zero, should I charge with the two-prong outlet, or USB port?
Definitely use the USB ports whenever you can. The batteries are all DC, or “Direct Current”, so sending that same type of current to your DC phone/GPS/camera battery is the most efficient use of its power. Wall outlets are AC, or “Alternating Current”, and converting from DC to AC takes energy, and then that wall plug or power pack uses energy to re-convert back into DC to charge your device’s battery. So, you’re losing energy twice in that transaction. But if all you have is a wall charger, like for some DSLRs or older computers that don’t charge through USB-C, it’s great to at least have some way of keeping them running.
Can I take these battery packs on an airplane?
Yes. These recommended battery packs are all fully enclosed, self-contained Lithium Ion battery packs that are safe for air travel in your carry-on luggage. We wouldn’t ever put one of these (or any of our electronics!) in our checked luggage, though, just to be on the safe side.
What brand power bank is best?
Any of these listed here are good, reputable brands that have been in business for years and have excellent ratings. These are also the brands that we have tested and trust with our own devices. Buying no-name, cheap battery packs means you might end up with underpowered, underperforming packs that won’t deliver the power you thought you were paying for. You might find that some colors or sizes are out of stock when you’re checking the prices, but if you stick to these brands, you’ll end up with a high quality, durable portable USB battery pack.