Best Portable Battery Chargers for Camping & Hiking 2017

Camping kit used to comprise of little more than your tent and your Swiss Army knife. Today’s modern backpacker tends to pack more computing power than they used to land a man on the moon. (Or did they?)

Phones, cameras, and even handheld GPS devices are all extremely helpful but they all have one problem. They run on batteries that will need recharging. And in the woods or on the mountain you would have noticed that there is a distinct absence of power outlets.

If you’re heading outdoors with your electronic gadgets then you’re either going to need a really long extension cord or a portable way to recharge those batteries.

When climbing Kilimanjaro, or trekking to Everest Base Camp, the cold conditions at altitude rapidly deplete even the largest capacity battery. 

We’ve put together some reviews of the best portable battery chargers for camping and backpacking so you can keep your gear charged up and alive.

Best Portable Battery Chargers Reviews


If you tend to be tough on your gear then you’ll like this portable charger.

portable chargers

Dark Energy claim it’s virtually indestructible with it exceeding the Military 810-G drop test. It has a capacity of 10,000mAh which is enough to provide 3-6 charges for your smart phone.

It has two charging ports so you can charge two devices simultaneously. It puts out enough current to charge just about every device short of a laptop and the current output is enough to fast charge an iPhone 7.

In spite of the high capacity and its tough construction the charger is pretty thin. We really liked the 20-foot charging cable it comes with as they’ve protected the cable in paracord.

If you have a tendency to drop stuff on rocks or in water then this is the best portable charger for the money.

Check out this video:​

What We Like

  • Military grade durability and completely waterproof, shockproof, dustproof IP68 housing - you'll have a tough time destroying it, however clumsy you are
  • Dual charging ports delivering total of 3.4A
  • 10,000mAh capacity delivers 3-6 phone charges
  • Built-in light so no need to fumble in the dark to charge your devices
  • Comes supplied with a 20’ paracord micro-USB charging cable that even your dog would have trouble chewing through
  • Compact and light for its capacity
  • Solar chargeable

What We Don't Like

  • High price tag
  • You'll need to buy the solar panels separately

Goal Zero make great folding solar panels that are super portable and perfect for camping.

They also make some great power accessories to go with these panels like the Goal Zero 30 power bank. This charger is built for the outdoors. It’s encased in a rugged IP68 rated housing making it completely waterproof.

It delivers high-speed charging via dual 4.8A USB ports so you can charge two devices at the same time. It also has an integrated micro-USB cable to charge devices like cameras that use these connectors.

The battery packs in a respectable 29Wh delivering a 3.7V output with a 7800mAh capacity. When the charger is flat you can connect it to a solar panel or a USB port.

If you use the Nomad 7 solar panel it takes around 9 hours in full sun to charge fully and about 4 hours from a 2A USB source.

Charge it up before leaving home and you’ll have enough power for a few phone and camera charges.

It costs more than other similar capacity chargers but its rugged build, waterproofing and integrated cables make it worth it.

What We Like

  • Rugged, waterproof IP68 rated housing means you won't break it!
  • Integrated cables mean you don’t have to pack separate cables for your devices
  • 7800mAh capacity allows for 2 or 3 smartphone charging cycles
  • Can charge two devices simultaneously

What We Don't Like

  • Pricey for this capacity
  • You have to buy the solar panels separately

This great looking camp stove uses the excess heat generated from the burning twigs and wood to generate electricity.

We were really impressed with the first generation of the CampStove charger and now it’s even better. It now outputs 50% more power and comes with an integrated 2600mAh battery and LED flexlite so you can keep an eye on your cooking.

While you’re boiling some water for coffee or heating up some food you can plug your phone into the USB charging port.

If you don’t plug anything into the port then it charges the internal battery so that you can use that power later even when the stove isn’t burning.

It’ll put out up to 3W which is fine for charging a smartphone if you’re patient.

You’re basically charging your phone battery with twigs while you roast marshmallows. It doesn’t get cooler than that.

What We Like

  • Turns renewable biomass like twigs, pinecones and wood pellets into electricity
  • Works well as a small camping stove
  • Shape and fans allow for very efficient burning
  • Cooks food while charging your phone

What We Don't Like

  • Only outputs up to 3W so it’s not going to fast-charge anything

In this kit Goal Zero have paired their updated Nomad 7 solar panel with the Guide 10 Plus charger.

The solar panel puts out 7W with a maximum 1.4A output current under ideal sunlight conditions. The Guide 10 Plus recharger has a capacity of 11Wh or 2300mAh at 4.8V.

The low output current is only really suitable for smaller electronics so don’t expect it to charge bigger camera batteries or tablets.

With some good sun and a bit of patience it will charge your phone, GPS and rechargeable AA and AAA batteries just fine.

It’s best to plug the recharger into the panel and then charge your device from the recharger rather than plugging straight into the solar panel if you want more consistent charging.

The light weight and portability is what really makes this a good product.

What We Like

  • Charges a smartphone in 1 hour
  • AA/AAA battery charger powered by solar or USB port
  • Supplied with 4 x AA rechargeable batteries
  • Built-in LED lights
  • Panel folds up into size of a small tablet and is really light
  • Comes as a complete set with solar panel and charger

What We Don't Like

  • All 4 batteries need to be in charger for it to charge
  • Only really suitable for small electronic devices

This is more of an emergency power source than the kind of thing you’d pack for a power source if you’re going to be away for a day or two.

Turning the handle drives a generator inside the device and it puts out about 10W of power at 120V with a standard US outlet interface. If you have a charger that you would normally plug into a wall socket then this is perfect.

 If you want to use this to charge your electronic devices directly then you’ll need something like this AC to DC USB Charger ​which will convert the AC output.

It’s a great option if you’re going to be away for a while and don’t want to have to rely on good sun for your solar panel to do the job.

You’ll have to wind the crank in 3 minute shifts and then give your hands a break or maybe get the kids involved.

What We Like

  • Solid, strong construction
  • Free energy! Well, almost.
  • Really compact so it takes up very little space in your pack

What We Don't Like

  • Takes a lot of effort
  • Would have preferred a DC output

If you need to charge more than just your phone and you want a few charging cycles then this power bank is a good choice.

With a capacity of 20,100mAh it will provide a lot more charging cycles than other similarly priced power banks will.

It’s IP67 rated so it will survive pretty much any conditions you experience on your trip, including being submerged in water.

It has dual outputs with the higher current output delivering up to 2.4A and the other getting up to 1.5A. It has a built-in integrated flashlight that is bright enough that you can leave your regular flashlight at home.

It isn’t solar compatible though so you’ll have to charge it before leaving home. This is a solidly built device with plenty of capacity and it comes with an 18 month warranty.

What We Like

  • 20,100mAh capacity is higher than most other power banks
  • Waterproof, dustproof, shockproof
  • Rubberized housing makes it easy to hold and is skid resistant
  • Bright integrated flashlight
  • Dual charging outputs

What We Don't Like

  • At just over 1 lb it’s pretty heavy
  • Not chargeable via solar panel

Eskimo Power have taken a solidly built power bank and added a small high efficiency solar panel onto the one side.

The power bank has a capacity of 12,000mAh which is good for a good few phone charging cycles. It has a two-in-one charging cable with lightning and micro USB connectors.

Charge it fully at home and you’ve got a recharging source when you’re outdoors. The solar panel is pretty small so it charges the internal battery really slowly but it’s better than nothing when you’re all out of power and miles from a power outlet.

Hang it on the outside of your backpack and it’ll trickle charge that battery all day to extend the amount of devices you can charge during your trip.

It’s built really tough and will take a beating. If you want a well priced recharging solution for your camera, phone or GPS then this is a solid choice.

What We Like

  • Solar panel integrated into power bank housing
  • Easy to hang on outside of backpack using supplied carabiner clip or velcro cable tie
  • Waterproof, Shockproof and Dustproof
  • Can charge two devices simultaneously

What We Don't Like

  • Solar panel is small so it takes a long time to charge power bank

If you’re hiking with a serious camera, tablet or laptop then the normal power banks aren’t going to be up to your charging requirements.

With this bundle Goal Zero combine a 50W solar panel with the Sherpa 50 recharger that will charge pretty much any electronic device you would normally take hiking or camping.

The included inverter will output 120V AC via a standard outlet so you can plug your laptop charger straight into it.

It also has a 12V DC output for charging your phone, GPS or camera. The recharger has a 50Wh capacity so you’ll get plenty of charges from it.

The 50W solar panel allows you to top up that capacity every time you setup camp.

What We Like

  • 50W solar panel folds nicely and is pretty light
  • Supplied with inverter that outputs 120V AC
  • 12V DC output is strong enough to charge larger devices like tablets

What We Don't Like

  • Too heavy and bulky for light backpacking
  • Not enough output current to charge Macbook Pro
  • Pricey bit of kit

If you’re expecting plenty of sun and will be stopping for a few hours during daylight hours then this is a great portable charging option.

This high-efficiency solar panel outputs up to 24W, weighs just over 26 ounces and folds up into a thin, compact form factor that fits easily into your pack.

It doesn’t have a built-in battery so you’re going to need sun to get your charging done. It has 3 smart charging outputs that allow you to charge up to 3 devices simultaneously.

The output current is high enough to charge most devices and the stainless hooks make it easy to hang from your tent, a tree or even your backpack while walking.

Combine this folding solar panel with a good power bank and you’ll have plenty of power.

What We Like

  • Folds easily into a compact size
  • Will output up to 24W and a maximum of 4.8A (up to 2.4A per port)
  • Can charge three devices simultaneously
  • 4 hooks make it easy to hang solar panel on tent or backpack
  • Intelligent adaptive smart charging circuitry adapts to your device for fastest charging
  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like

  • No internal battery so you can only charge your device when there’s sunlight

At 21W this folding solar panel puts out enough power for most smartphones and cameras and folds into a very compact and lightweight size.

The two outputs can be used simultaneously but will only output a maximum of 2A each. That’s plenty for most devices and it charges really fast.

It’s really light and the small form factor and mounting rings make it ideal for hanging off the back of your backpack.

The panels are waterproof but the USB charging connectors aren’t. If you’re going to use it on your backpack then make sure the connectors are safely inside.

Just remember that it has no power storage so you’re going to need a power bank or hope for sun when charging your devices directly.

What We Like

  • 21W output from a compact folding solar panel
  • Dual outputs for simultaneous charging of two devices
  • Very light, durable and flexible construction
  • Mounting holes allow for easy hanging
  • Cheaper than similar competing products

What We Don't Like

  • No internal battery so you can only charge when the sun is shining

Portable Battery Charging Buying Guide

The portable options that you have for recharging your devices come in these two main categories:

Portable battery bank, power bank or battery recharger  

It’s referred to by any one of these terms and is essentially a high capacity battery with outputs that allow you to connect a device so that you can charge it.

You would charge it fully from a power outlet at home and that way you’ve got power when you’re outdoors. Once the battery in the power bank is depleted you’ll need another source to recharge it.

If you plan to charge it from a solar panel then make sure the power bank supports this. Not all are solar chargeable.

Solar panel

Solar panels for camping and hiking will normally make use of thin film solar cells which contain no glass. This allows them to be flexible, light and easily incorporated into a folding form factor.

They generally have no battery storage incorporated into them which means they’re only going to charge your device when there’s decent sun.

The output can also vary as clouds move across the sun. Because of this, they work better as a charger for your power bank than charging your phone or camera directly.

For optimum charging connect the power bank to the solar panel and then connect your device to the output of the power bank.

​Others

Besides the two categories above you then also get hand crank type chargers and heat converters like the ones we reviewed above.

These are fine in a pinch and are novel ideas but for reliable charging of more than just a smartphone you’re better off with a decent solar panel and power bank.

Important Considerations

Power Output 

Do a "power budget" and make sure that the power you’ll be getting from your recharger is sufficient to charge your device.

This means understanding the voltage that your recharger outputs as well as the maximum current it can output.

If it only puts out 5V and your device needs 12V to charge then you’re out of luck.

Also, some devices like tablets and higher capacity camera batteries have higher voltage and current requirements than smaller smartphones and GPS devices may have.

Capacity

So your recharger has enough voltage and current to charge your other devices but how long can it do this for?

Will it be able to recharge your phone once, twice or three times? The capacity of a power bank is given either in Wh (Watt hours) or in mAh (milli amp hours).

Without getting too technical, this just tells you how much current it can supply for how long. As with a lot of things, more is better.

If you’re comparing similar devices then use this figure to get an idea of which one will give you more charging cycles.

The specs on the battery that your phone or device uses will normally quote a battery capacity in mAh. If you divide this figure into the quoted capacity of the power bank then you get a rough idea of how many charging cycles you can expect.

Interfaces 

Most rechargeable electronic devices these days use either USB or miniUSB interfaces to charge.

When purchasing a charger make sure that the connectors it uses match the connectors that your device uses.

Some rechargers will have integrated cables and others will require that you use the charging cable your device came with.

Physical Size 

The words “portable” or “compact” are very subjective terms.

Just because a device is described as portable doesn’t mean that it’s going to fit into that last spot you’ve got left in your backpack.

Check the physical dimensions of the device and don’t just rely on how big it looks in the pictures.

Weight 

Higher battery capacity and power output come at a cost. Increased weight.

Check the weight of the device and add this to your weight budget. If you’re going to be away for a longer time then the added weight may be justified.

If you’re only going to be out for a day or two then buy a smaller capacity device to save a few ounces and dollars.

Our Favorite

We love the Dark Energy Poseidon power bank. We can be pretty tough on our gear sometimes but this device is just about indestructible.

It doesn’t have the highest battery capacity we’ve seen but it’s plenty enough for 3-6 phone charging cycles while not taking up too much space in your pack.

Since the military uses these then we were pretty confident it might just survive one of our camping trips.​

Best for Budget

If you’re just looking to keep your phone battery topped up then the Eskimo Power Solar Phone Charger / Battery Bank is a good budget option.

The solar panel is too small to do much more than trickle charge but hey, every bit helps. It’s not exactly small or pretty but it’ll charge just about any phone and is well priced.

Conclusion

Hiking and backpacking has become far more convenient, safer and rewarding due to the electronic devices available to us.

Being able to find your way easily or make a phone call could even be the difference between life and death. Because of this, buying the best portable battery charger for camping or hiking is more than just a novelty.

It’s worth investing in something rugged, waterproof and that has a capacity sufficient to keep your batteries topped up for the duration of your trip. The good ones cost a few dollars more but it’s an investment worth making.​

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