How to Keep Your Electronics Charged While Backpacking

I can’t remember the last camping or backpacking trip I went on without my phone.

And I’d wager I’m not in the minority. Phones and other devices have become all but pack essentials.

While convenient, all this trail tech creates its own problem: making sure your devices don’t die.

The good news is this isn’t a difficult problem to solve. This article covers everything you need to know.

It all boils down to being familiar with the two main ways you can keep your electronics charged while backpacking:

  1. Reduce power consumption
  2. Pack the gear needed to charge your device on the trail

Let’s look at both in turn.

Part 1: Reduce Power Consumption with These 5 Easy Steps

You probably know most of these steps already, so let’s speed through.

1. Put Your Device on Airplane Mode

My old iPhone 5s normally lasts just half a day. On airplane mode it can last a weekend.

Phones aren’t the only devices with airplane mode. My Kindle has it too. Check which of yours do and keep it enabled as much as possible.

The downside to airplane mode is that you won’t be able to access the internet or receive communications from other devices.

But hey, you’re in the backcountry — don’t you want to unplug a little?

Airplane mode

Turning your phone on airplane mode is a simple way to extend its battery life.

2. Turn Your Screen Brightness Down

Whether using a Kindle, phone, or tablet, turning the brightness down is another simple way to extend your device’s battery life.

Some devices will automatically adjust their screen brightness based on the light conditions around you. You may want to disable this feature (known as “Auto-Brightness” on iOS) so that the screen brightness remains at the level you set.

3. Take Fewer Photos & Videos

I get it — you’re camping or backpacking in a beautiful location and you want to take lots of photos and videos. Pics or it didn’t happen, am I right?

Don’t stop taking photos and videos. Just be more selective about what you choose to photograph and record and when to use your device at all for that matter. (If you’re anything like me, you get home and promptly delete 80% of them anyway.)

That way, you can get shots from every day of your trip — not just the first.

4. Turn Your Device on Low Power Mode

Better yet, turn it off completely when you aren’t using it. Spend some time communing with nature and all that jazz.

5. Keep Your Device Near Room Temperature

Temperatures higher than 95° F (35° C) can permanently damage your device’s battery capacity. And you’ll experience much shorter battery life in cold temperatures.

62° to 72° F (16° to 22° C) is the ideal temperature range in which to keep your devices.

You might have to sleep with your devices to keep them warm overnight.

Sleeping with my battery pack to keep it warm

To preserve battery power, consider sleeping with your electronic devices to keep them warm at night.

Part 2: Pack the Gear Needed to Charge Your Device on the Trail

Extending battery life can only get you so far. At a certain point, you’ll need a back-up power source and some related accessories to recharge your dead devices.

Here are the items you’ll need.

1. Lightweight Battery Pack

For devices such as phones with rechargeable internal batteries, the standard power source among backpackers is a lightweight battery pack.

Anker Astro E1 6700 mAh portable battery pack

The Anker Astro E1 6700 is a good battery pack that weighs only 4.3 oz.

There are dozens of options out there but after recently testing five of the best I’ll personally be packing the 4.3-ounce Anker Astro E1 6700 for short trips and the 6.7-ounce Anker PowerCore II 10000 for longer trips or when I have to charge multiple devices.

Check out our article on the best lightweight battery packs for camping and backpacking for even more battery pack recommendations and some in-depth reviews.

For devices without rechargeable internal batteries such as many backpacking flashlights and headlamps, just find out what kind of batteries yours takes and pack some spares.

2. Short Charging Cables for Your Battery Pack & Devices

All the battery packs I’ve tested require a micro USB cable to charge, which you’ll need to pack if you plan to charge your battery pack at some point during your trip.

(Battery packs usually come packaged with a free cable, though at 1-2 feet these might be too long for weight-conscious backpackers.)

Also don’t forget to pick up or pack short Lightning or USB C cables if that’s what your devices use.

3. Lightweight Wall Charger (If You’ll Be Charging Your Devices in Town)

Thru-hikers will also need to take a lightweight wall charger so they can charge their devices while in town.

If you consistently need to charge multiple devices a good multi-port charger will save you hours every time you charge.

Some Battery Packs Come with These Accessories Built-in

Don’t want to fuss with a battery pack and charging cables and a wall charger?

Some battery packs have a built-in charging cable, wall charger, or both. They tend to be heavier and pricier, but — when you factor in the cables and/or wall chargers you’re not buying and packing — their weights and prices become more competitive.

Here are some to consider:

Remember that built-in cables are for output only. If your battery pack doesn’t have a built-in wall charger you’ll still need to pack a cable if you need to charge the battery pack itself.

What about Quick Charge?

Qualcomm Quick Charge logo

Look for the Qualcomm Quick Charge logo to know if the device you’re interested in buying has Quick Charge.

Qualcomm Quick Charge is a technology available in some battery packs (and other devices) that can drastically reduce their charging time.

A Quick Charge set-up could be worth it if you constantly need to charge your battery pack quickly — such as during short stops in trail towns.

But it’s unnecessary if you don’t mind your devices charging at a slower rate and you never need to charge your battery pack quickly.

The ideal Quick Charge battery pack has Quick Charge input and output, but forced to choose we’d sooner have it on the input end. Your wall adapter and charging cable must also be Quick Charge compatible.

According to thru-hiking vlogger Neemor, here is a good Quick Charge compatible set-up:

What about Solar Chargers?

Fun fact:

Solar chargers are one of the pieces of gear most commonly sent home by AT thru-hikers.

Why?

They’re heavy and they don’t work well in the wilderness.

In the desert or other environments without tree coverage they’ll work better. But they tend to be pricier and heavier than battery packs.

My two cents: a battery pack is less hassle. But there is an argument for using solar chargers in certain situations.

About the Author:

Alex is the owner and editor of 99Boulders and has been testing and reviewing outdoor gear since 2015. He just got back into climbing after wrist surgery, so when he's not working on the site he can be found at the climbing gym training hard to regain all the strength he lost while injured.