5 Best Portable Battery Packs for Camping & Backpacking of 2018
|Top Pick: Anker Astro E1 6700||
|$19.99||4.3 oz||6,700 mAh||3.8 x 1.7 x 0.9 in|
|Best for More Power: Anker PowerCore II 10000||
|$31.99||6.7 oz||10,000 mAh||3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in|
|Jackery Bolt 6000||
|$26.99||5.57 oz||6,000 mAh||4.3 x 1.9 x 0.9 in|
|Budget Buy: Puridea S2 10000||
|N/A||7.13 oz||10,000 mAh||6 x 2.9 x 0.4 in|
|$19.99||9.14 oz||10,000 mAh||4.4 x 3.2 x 0.9 in|
After poring over dozens of spec sheets, performing discharge tests, and using five lightweight power packs for over a month, we think the Anker Astro E1 6700 is the best portable battery pack for most campers and backpackers, particularly weekend warriors.
It packs enough power to charge a phone one and a half to two times and weighs a mere 4.3 oz. It’s also the smallest battery pack we tested. Anker markets it as “candy-bar sized” which isn’t too far off.
However, for some campers and backpackers the Astro won’t be enough. Those going on longer trips or taking multiple devices should look at the Anker PowerCore II 10000.
It weighs only a couple ounces more and has enough juice to fully charge a phone 2.5-3.5 times or a larger device like an iPad mini around one and a half times.
We only tested five battery packs, yet our month of testing shed insight on the dozens of other options out there and who they’re right for. Along with our reviews, we discuss who should get a battery pack with Qualcomm Quick Charge and important considerations when buying.
Let’s dive right in.
Top Pick: Anker Astro E1 6700
Most of the campers and backpackers we know are weekend warriors, and the Astro earned our Top Pick with them in mind.
At 6700 mAh capacity (4,121 mAh based on our discharge test) and only one output port, the Astro is a rather minimalist battery pack when it comes down to it.
Yet that is what makes it great for our purposes.
At 4.3 oz, It is one of the smallest and lightest battery packs for its capacity. It holds enough juice to charge a smartphone around 1.5-2 times — a perfect amount for 2-4 days of limited phone use.
Simply put, for most weekend warriors, the Astro is an affordable battery pack that gives you everything you need to keep your devices charged and nothing more.
Its max input charging speed of 1A leaves something to be desired though. This isn’t a huge issue unless you need to charge it constantly on your trip, such as when thru-hiking. Otherwise you can just recharge it once you get home.
While the Astro is our Top Pick, it isn’t perfect for every camper and backpacker. We spend the rest of this article discussing good alternatives, especially power packs with greater capacity.
If you’re looking for the opposite — a battery pack with less capacity — check out the Anker PowerCore+ Mini 3350. It’s a 3 oz “lipstick sized” pack that can give a smartphone about a half to a full charge.
Best for More Power: Anker PowerCore II 10000
When deciding which battery packs to test, I spent some time reading relevant threads in hiker forums and subreddits.
From that I learned the PowerCore II 10000 and the first-generation PowerCore 10000 are two of the most popular battery packs among ultralight backpackers.
It turns out the popularity is warranted. If you need more power this is the pack we recommend.
But it’s not just ideal for backpacking. It’s also a great portable power source for camping trips.
On a recent weekend climbing and camping trip to Sand Rock, Alabama, five friends and I used this power pack exclusively to charge our phones and Bluetooth speakers. It had more than enough power to handle all the different devices.
Indeed, the PowerCore II has the greatest capacity of all the battery packs we tested according to our discharge test.
Here are the discharge test results of the three battery packs with a stated 10,000 mAh capacity:
- Anker PowerCore II 10000: 6,518 mAh
- Puridea S2 10000: 6,352 mAh
- RAVPower 10000: 4,878 mAh
Anker lists the pack at 6.9 oz, but when we weighed it ourselves it clocked in at 6.7 oz. Its low weight and high capacity make it the best option in terms of power per ounce (mAh/oz).
The main drawback is the lone output port. You won’t be able to charge two devices simultaneously with this pack. While testing we rarely found ourselves needing two output ports, but we know this might be important to some of you.
Since older generation battery packs are constantly being discontinued, we tested the 10000 mAh model from the newer PowerCore II generation. The 10000 mAh model from the previous PowerCore generation, the Anker PowerCore 10000, is worth a close look as long as it’s still around. It’s slightly cheaper and lighter.
Campers and backpackers who need even more power (and output ports) should look at the packs in the PowerCore and PowerCore II line with greater capacity, such as the PowerCore 13000 and PowerCore 20100. We didn’t test them but they’re well reviewed around the web.
Looking at specs alone can mislead you when it comes to the Jackery Bolt.
Here’s what I mean:
The Bolt weighs 5.57 oz and has a capacity of 6000 mAh (4,063 mAh based on our discharge test).
The Anker Astro E1 weighs 4.3 oz and has a capacity of 6700 mAh (4,121 mAh according to our discharge test). It also isn’t as bulky and retails for $7 less at the time of publishing.
The Astro is the obvious choice, right? It’s lighter, smaller, cheaper, and has greater capacity.
Not so fast.
For an apples-to-apples comparison, you have to take into account the Bolt’s built-in features:
- Micro USB cable
- Lightning cable
(Not to mention that the Bolt has a faster input charging speed and can charge three devices at once.)
If you brought along your own cables and light, at the very least (assuming you buy the shortest possible cables and the lightest possible flashlight or headlamp) that’s an extra 1.5-2 oz of weight.
That would make your charging ‘system’ with the Astro slightly heavier. You’d also end up spending more overall.
All this plus the fact that the Bolt with its built-in cables is just less hassle and you have a battery pack that is certainly the right choice for some.
However, the Bolt isn’t perfect and we actually don’t think it’s better than the Astro for most backpackers. While the built-in light is nice, it can’t replace a good backpacking flashlight or headlamp. It’s too dim, too limited in functionality for most purposes — like the flashlight on your phone.
Though it can charge three devices at once, assuming you’re charging devices like smartphones it doesn’t have enough capacity to provide more than a partial charge to each.
For the backpacker who only needs to charge their phone, and prefers to pack a good headlamp or flashlight, the Bolt is overbuilt.
I’ll finish by saying that towards the end of my month of using these five battery packs in daily life the Bolt became the one I used almost exclusively. It sounds minor, but not having to carry around extra cables made all the difference. If you want one battery pack that you can use on the trail and in your daily life, we recommend the Bolt.
Budget Buy: Puridea S2 10000
When deciding which battery packs to test, we combed through plenty of spec sheets and product pages, paying special attention to price, weight, and stated capacity.
The S2 stood out as a potential budget-friendly option with a stated capacity of 10,000 mAh and a competitive weight of 7.13 oz.
Like many products from these obscure brands that mostly sell on Amazon, the S2’s price fluctuates constantly. As long as it doesn’t creep too high the S2 is worth a look.
We want to make sure you’re aware of the drawbacks upfront. So let’s start with the negatives.
The S2 has some fake positive reviews which is never reassuring. While I’ve used it for over a month without problems, some reviewers (hopefully some of the reliable ones?) have reported that the pack has died after a couple weeks or months. Rest assured we’ll update this review if ours dies prematurely.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the positives.
While it doesn’t look like it from the photos, the S2 is actually the second least bulky battery pack (in cubic inches) we tested, behind the Astro. It’s surprisingly slim, just under half an inch tall.
In our discharge tests we recorded an average capacity of 6,352 mAh. That was second only to the 6,518 mAh of the PowerCore II and roughly 1500 mAh greater than the RAVPower 10000.
Unlike the PowerCore II, the S2 has dual output ports so you can charge two devices at once. For a change of pace, it also has plenty of color options.
Considering the price we paid and the results from our testing, we think the S2 is a good choice — but only for those on a budget.
The only thing we liked about the RAVPower was its price.
As for dislikes, it’s the heaviest (9.14 oz) and bulkiest option on the list by quite a bit. That’s never a good title to hold in the world of camping and backpacking gear.
The results of our discharge test with the RAVPower were also uninspiring.
The RAVPower had an average capacity of 4,878 mAh. That’s more in line with the capacities of the Astro E1 6700 and Bolt 6000 than the other battery packs with stated capacities of 10,000 mAh.
The RAVPower does have two output ports, but so does the Puridea S2. In other words, we don’t see any good reason to pick this pack over any of the other options.
Here are the best portable power packs for camping and backpacking:
- Anker Astro E1 6700
- Anker PowerCore II 10000
- Jackery Bolt 6000
- Puridea S2 10000
- RAVPower 10000
What about Battery Packs with Qualcomm Quick Charge?
The ideal Quick Charge battery pack has Quick Charge input and output, but forced to choose we would pick a battery pack with just Quick Charge input over one with just Quick Charge output.
We’d rather shorten the time we spend waiting in town for our battery pack to charge than the time it takes to recharge our devices while hiking.
Here are some well-reviewed, lightweight Quick Charge battery packs to consider:
- RAVPower Slim 10000 (QC input & output; 6.8 oz)
- Anker PowerCore+ 10050 (QC input & output; 8.3 oz)
- Anker PowerCore Speed 20000 (QC input & output; 12.6 oz)
Don’t forget to pick up any related accessories. Your wall charger and charging cable also need to be Quick Charge compatible to get the benefits on the input end.
And on the output end, your devices need to be Quick Charge compatible as well, otherwise they will charge at their standard speed. This is another reason why we’d prefer just QC input over just QC output.
(Here’s the official list of Quick Charge compatible devices in case your not sure if yours is.)
Do You Actually Need a Quick Charge Set-up?
Clearly a Quick Charge set-up is the more expensive route. This begs the question:
Which campers and backpackers would benefit most from a Quick Charge set-up?
Thru-hikers need to recharge their battery pack when in town. A Quick Charge set-up could shorten each stop in town by hours.
Weekend warriors on the other hand won’t benefit as much from Quick Charge. A single charge of a battery pack will last most of their trips. They most likely won’t be stopping in town during the trip either.
Of course, Quick Charge output can charge your devices much quicker assuming they’re Quick Charge compatible. That would benefit both thru-hikers and weekend warriors alike.
How to Choose the Right Battery Pack for Your Needs
Beyond the ever-present considerations of weight and bulk, here is what to take into account when picking out a battery pack for camping or backpacking.
To estimate how much capacity you need, take into account the devices you’ll be taking, the number of times you’ll be charging each, and their battery capacity.
Calculate the total capacity you’ll need in mAh, then pick a battery pack with a stated capacity roughly 1.5x greater since in real-world conditions battery packs aren’t perfectly efficient.
For example, let’s say I’ll be taking my iPhone 5s and Kindle Paperwhite on a 4-day backpacking trip.
Here is the battery capacity of each:
- iPhone 5s: 1570 mAh
- Kindle Paperwhite: 1420 mAh
I estimate I’ll need to charge my phone three times and my Kindle once. That works out to the following:
(1570 mAh * 3 charges) + (1420 mAh * 1 charge) = 6,130 mAh
The batteries that performed best in our discharge test discharged on average about two-thirds of their stated capacity, so to calculate how much stated capacity I need my battery pack to have I’d do the following:
6,130 mAh * 1.5 = 9,195 mAh
In this example I’d pick a battery pack with a stated capacity of 9,000-10,000 mAh.
Number of Ports
Pick up a battery pack with enough ports to charge as many devices as you’ll need to charge at once.
Input & Output Charging Speed
This one’s straightforward:
The faster you need your devices and battery pack to charge, the faster should be your battery pack’s input and output rates.
At one end of the spectrum is 1A, the lowest we saw, which is quite slow. Quick Charge is on the other end of the spectrum and lives up to its name.
Manufacturers will list the input and output charging speeds on their product pages. Unlike capacity, these tend to accurately reflect real-world performance.
Miscellaneous Features (Beyond Quick Charge)
We didn’t view any miscellaneous battery pack features as critical. They could tip the scale for you one way or the other though.
- Built-in cables
- Built-in flashlight
- Built-in wall charger
How We Tested
We used a USB power meter and USB load tester to perform two discharge tests on each battery pack to measure capacity. Battery capacity depends on discharge speed, so we tested every battery at a constant output of 1 amp.
Here are our averaged results:
- Anker Astro E1 6700: 4,121 mAh
- Anker PowerCore II 10000: 6,518 mAh
- Jackery Bolt 6000: 4,063 mAh
- Puridea S2 10000: 6,352 mAh
- RAVPower 10000: 4,878 mAh
Because of our crude instrumentation, take these results with a grain of salt.
Important Specs & Ratios
We weighed and measured the battery packs and calculated two important ratios for each:
- mAh/oz — power per ounce
- mAh/$ — power per dollar
These value and weight efficiency ratios as well as the absolute weight were weighted heavily in our scoring.
We took these battery packs with us to Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in north Georgia and Cherokee Rock Village in northeast Alabama to test them in the field.
We planned to field test them for a week but realized quickly that capacity and the specs and ratios mentioned above were most important. What’s more, using these battery packs on the trail and at camp didn’t much alter our thoughts on them. We cut the field testing short after four days.
Usually the results from our field testing are heavily weighted in our scoring. This time they weren’t.
We also used the battery packs in daily life over the course of a month to charge everything we could — phones, Kindles, speakers, Bluetooth headphones, and so on. Each went through multiple recharge and discharge cycles.