Increasingly, humans are reliant on electronic devices in every aspect of our lives. Backpacking is no different and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. GPS is a far easier way to venture into the wild than paper maps and a compass. Jennifer and I use maps.me on our cellphones for almost all trail navigation these days. This is a huge convenience, but you do still have to know how to read a map and make sure you have the correct information downloaded before heading out. All that being said, if our phones die we could be lost. Our phones, headlamps, GoPro, and an ever-increasing number of products can now be recharged via USB. This allows for safety and reliability while backpacking. For these reasons, it is important to have the best battery backup.
Classification and Rating
We classify the best battery backup as a piece of optional backpacking gear but also give it a rating. Our A-F rating is to help newcomers to backpacking know where to best spend their budget. Check out our best backpacking gear post to see how we rank and rate all backpacking gear in one place.
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The Best Battery Backup
- Classification: Optional Gear
- D-Rating: Save some money as the difference in a name-brand product is not necessarily worth the cost.
A good solution to what size battery backup you will need depends greatly on how much time you spend in the wilderness and what devices you need to recharge. Battery backups are rated in milliamp-hours (mAh). If all you need is a battery to recharge your phone once or twice while out for a weekend trip, then look at the size of your phone battery (iPhone 12 Max = 2,815 mAh) and get a battery backup that is rated >5630mAh (2 charges). I say greater than because all batteries (lithium included) immediately start to deteriorate. A year from the date of purchase that 5630mAh battery will no longer be able to recharge your phone twice. Batteries will last longer if they are regularly charged and stored in moderately temperate environments.
When the mercury drops below freezing on a trip I sleep with all my electronics and my water filter inside my sleeping bag because batteries do not like cold weather. If your battery backup starts to deform in any way dispose of it immediately. Lithium batteries that are subjected to extreme temperatures have been known to catch fire and even explode. Do not throw them in the garbage as dumpster fires are becoming more commonly caused by lithium batteries. Dispose of them properly. Many stores that sell electronic devices including Best Buy will take a battery backup for free with no questions asked.
The most obvious characteristic when considering the best battery backup for backpacking is weight. At 6.2oz, the 10,000mAh T-Core I have listed is a very light and small battery backup with a mid-range power rating. It is the best battery backup for those wanting to do a four or less day backpacking trip and whose recharging power needs are only their cell phones.
Fastest: Charmast PD
Not all devices charge at the same speed and not all batteries can charge at higher speeds. Traditional USB charges at a slower set rate. Newer USB-C can charge at much higher speeds and actually talks to the device to know exactly what rate it can charge at. While a battery backup may be USB-C compatible that does not mean it is charging at a higher speed. You must look for the PD in the label which stands for powered delivery. If charging fast is important to you when backpacking or if you have a device that needs dedicated PD charging like my Canon EOS RP then you will need to look for a compatible battery backup. I use this Charmast 10000mAh PD battery backup which can charge my Canon RP 9-times. It also weighs only 0.41 pounds (6.56ooz) making it perhaps the best battery backup for backpacking.
We own an old 3,000mAh RavPower FileHub battery backup. The new ones have a 6,700mAh rating and weigh in at 7oz. These are useful travel devices in that they allow the user to transfer images from an SD card to a USB device wirelessly through a cell phone. You can transfer images or videos from your SD card to the USB device, your phone, your iPad, or between any of those devices. This is obviously a much lighter way of backing up images then carrying around a laptop computer. I typically just carry more SD cards when on longer backpacking trips but on longer international journeys, I like to carry this device rather than my expensive and relatively heavy laptop.
Solar Chargers/ Battery Backup Combos
Are battery backups with solar charges worth the money/weight? This will depend on how long you plan to be in the wilderness. Solar panels are not overly efficient by any stretch of the imagination. You need bigger panels to charge bigger batteries and you need to keep them angled towards the sun which is hard to do when hiking. So while small solar battery backups can be useful for recovering energy while backpacking on sunny days it is highly unlikely you are recovering even a fraction of the discharge you use to charge your devices at night. This is not to say they do not have worth as even recovering 1/3 of the power you use each day extends your wilderness adventure by one day for every three.
Our Feelle Solar/Battery Backup
On any journey that is longer than three days, Jennifer and I backpack with a Feelle Solar which is a 24,000mAh solar portable battery that weighs 1lb (16oz). It is almost 2.5x heavier than the tiny 10,000mAh backup listed above and one of the single heaviest pieces of backpacking gear that we own. The benefit of this 24,000mAh Feelle pack is that it has three solar panels instead of one. Many popular solar battery backups will have a single solar cell on the back of the battery. This is almost useless as it is so small that very little energy is generated.
Under perfect conditions, the Feelle battery can supposedly be recharged in 30 hours (800mAh/hour). This is not only impossible because the sun sets (unless you live above the arctic circle), but also because sunlight is rarely optimal (90degree angle). However, we aren’t even close to using the full 24,000mAh available to recharge our devices every night. Jennifer and I are typically using about 8,000mAh/day for all our devices. This battery pack can sustain us for a four-day trip (3-nights/charge) with no solar regeneration. The solar panels allow us to stretch out the amount of time we can stay on the trail. How long depends entirely on the weather. If we conserved our energy really well we might even be able to backpack indefinitely in consistently good weather. This is the best battery backup for those wanting to do long-distance backpacks.
Another Argument for a Solar Charger
As nomads, Jennifer and I also use our solar battery backup in the winter to help with charging our devices when the sun is lower in the sky and our truck’s solar system is more taxed by our other power needs. It sounds odd but every little bit of energy helps us stay off the grid longer. We will place the solar device on our hood or lean it against a tire angled towards the sun allowing it to charge during working hours and then charge at night.