UPDATED RECOMMENDATION FOR 2019!
Look online these days for a battery bank and you are overwhelmed by a ton of different brands, sizes, characteristics, and everything else you can imagine. You are headed backpacking so you decide to try to narrow it down to battery banks for backpacking and now you’re stuck with a bunch of camouflage gimmicks and not sure where to look. That’s where I come in, I will help you navigate through the sea of battery banks to find the one that is right for you while you’re out backpacking.
Terms commonly used
I’m going to take a minute to go through most of the terms that we will be concerned with for your battery bank. If you know this go ahead and skip down to the next sections.
- mAh – milliAmp hours, this is the energy stored in the battery bank.
- Specs will be given for the maximum mAh the bank may store, most will range from 3k mAh to upwards of 30k mAh.
- Input Voltage – Input will be in the form of either 5V or Quick Charge (QC) which is a variable voltage to charge quicker. The input is how you charge the battery bank.
- Output Voltage – Same as above but this is what will go to your device, not how your battery bank charges.
- Quick Charge – This is a technology that was developed to quickly charge USB devices, devices must be capable of handling this or it will use regular charging.
- You can check if your device is QC enabled by googling it or checking the manufacturer website.
- Weight – This one is obvious as weight is always important. The size in mAh is usually linearly related to its weight in most battery banks.
Wat are the requirements for you?
Now that you understand a bit of the characteristics of battery banks, lets get into what you need for your backpacking trip. It may be a bit hard to cover all of the scenarios but I will try to cover a majority of them. The average smart phone battery capacity is between 2000 mAh (iPhone 7) and 3000 mAh (Galaxy S8, HTC m10). You can for the most part ignore the inefficiencies of the battery banks so if you buy a 12k mAh and have a Samsung Galaxy S8 you can expect to get 4 charges out of it. You should side with caution on this though.
- How many days does your phone last by itself?
- This factor depends on a lot of things, and personal experience will be the best judge. I typically assume between 50% and 80% a day if using my phone for my guide as well.
- How long will you go without electricity?
- This is likely the most important question in determining battery size. If I expect to be in town every 3rd day for two hours, I would pick a different bank than if I were going out for 7 days with no towns.
- Take the average case, during worst case situations you can reduce your phone usage and most of the time you can use it as you wish.
- What is the duration of the trip?
- If you are going out for the weekend features such as Quick Charge won’t matter. You will be headed home and have electricity for a while. If you are planning a thru hike or any longer hike where you have to charge your battery bank on the go it is important to pick a battery bank with Quick Charge input capability.
Here is the thought process I would go through if I were picking a new battery bank for a thru hike of the Long Trail. I will be out for approximately 3 weeks so I will be going into towns with electricity but likely not for more than an occasional afternoon or spending the night somewhere. I can expect my phone to last 2 days without a charge, and I will be in town every 4th day. So I need to completely charge my phone once per time out, so I need at least my phone’s battery capacity which is 3k mAh. In addition to this I may only be in town for a few hours so I want a charger that has Quick Charge(QC) input. Quick charge output is standard these days, and if you have an iPhone it won’t matter either. I will want a battery bank between 3000 mAh and 5000 mAh for this trip.
After looking I couldn’t find an ideal option so the best I found in this range are the Anker Slim 5000 mAh and the Rav Power Luster Mini 3350 mAh. Neither of these have quick charge input but with small capacity it won’t matter much. When you get to 10,000 mAh and higher the charging time starts to get very long. Up to 10 to 20 hours.
Backpacking can be an expensive hobby, and these battery banks could be between $10 and $50. For a good battery bank you can expect to spend around $30 or more. My personal favorite brands in market for battery banks are Rav Power and Anker. You may be able to find cheaper ones but the battery cells used may be of lower quality, and put your phone at risk. Panasonic battery cells seem to be the best quality at this point. The weight of the cells corresponds the the total weight of the product pretty well so higher quality and density cells will provide an overall lighter battery pack.
What would I buy?
- For weekend trips, I would recommend the Rav Power Luster 3350 mAh. It is .2 ounces lighter than the Anker version. Product can be found on Amazon by clicking here.
- For very long trips, when you will spend around a week without electricity. I recommend the Rav Power 20,000 mAh. It has both QC input and output allowing you to charge quickly if you do get a few hours of electricity.
If you think you’ll be doing a mix of different lengths of trips. You don’t want a bunch of battery banks laying around this is the section for you. I find that the 10,000 mAh size is perfect for use in civilization, weekend trips, longer trips, and also thru hikes. It is a good balance between weight and functionality. The Anker 10000 PowerCore II weighs 7 ounces less than the Rav Power 20,000 mAh and 2 ounces more than the Rav Power 3,350 mAh. This makes it the best overall fit for most backpackers. The quick charge time is very useful in situations when you want to charge quickly.