The world is still in the midst of a pandemic. Now that it’s summer in the northern hemisphere and the weather is better than when lockdowns began in March, it’s even harder to stay home and commit to one Zoom Happy Hour after another.
Even if people want to travel, though, it’s near impossible for them to do so right now. Many flights are no longer operating, cruises are canceled, and major theme parks are shut down or on abbreviated schedules. Mixing with hundreds or thousands of other people isn’t safe or appealing right now anyway.
So what’s the alternative, other than sitting on the couch and wistfully browsing Google Earth on your phone all day?
For many, the main option left for travel is exploring the great outdoors.
Camping is a social distancing-friendly alternative to more traditional vacations. Outdoor spaces are deemed safer than indoors when it comes to potential transmission of airborne diseases, more time in nature can do a body good, and you can usually drive to a campsite (or at least a trailhead) in your own vehicle rather than taking public transport.
The CDC recommends visiting parks that are close to your home to avoid the possible spread of the coronavirus, but that hasn’t been stopping people from buying or renting RVs and setting up camp in remote areas. For some people, camping is an excuse to leave the electronics at home, but being at one with nature doesn’t always mean ditching the devices.
A smartphone is your lifeline in an emergency, and a great navigation tool the rest of the time. If the weather turns bad, a charged iPad will keep the kids entertained until the rain passes. A whirring fan or cool drink from a mini-fridge makes all the difference on hot summer nights under canvas.
But how can you keep your gadgets running when you’re in a spot with even fewer free outlets than a busy airport?
Invest in a Reliable Portable Battery for Camping
We recommend you have a reliable portable battery when traveling anywhere, and that goes double when camping in the middle of nowhere. Even phones with particularly long battery life won’t last much more than a couple of days. After that, you’ll need some way of charging them back up again.
Even when you’re staying in a drive-in campsite, there are no guarantees you’ll be able to power and charge all of your stuff. Having your own power source also provides extra freedom: you’re free to camp at unpowered sites rather than being tethered to a cable. At a time when good, uncrowded campsites are hard to find, flexibility is vital.
Below, we’ve rounded up the best portable batteries for camping in 2020. Whether you need something basic for your phone, a way of charging a bunch of mobile devices at once, or a heavy duty option for larger appliances, we’ve got you covered.
There’s even one model that can jump-start your car, a feature that you hopefully never have to use, but will be extremely grateful for if you do! We also cover some solar charging options, for juicing those batteries back up using nothing but sunshine.
- Size: 6.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches (17.9 x 5.8 x 2.2 cm)
- Weight: 12.6 oz (356g)
- Capacity: 20100 mAh
- Ports: In: 1x micro-USB, Out: 2x USB-A.
- Max Output: 12W per port, 24W total
- Size: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.3 inches (20.8 x 13.7 x 3.3 cm)
- Weight: 3 lb 3 oz (1.45 kg)
- Capacity: 50000 mAh
- Ports: In/out: 2x USB-C, Out: 2x USB-A
- Max Output: 60W PD
- Size: 7.2 x 3.8 x 1.5 inches (18.3 x 9.7 x 3.8 cm)
- Weight: 2.8 lb (1.27 kg)
- Capacity: 58830 mAh
- Ports: In: 1x DC, Out: 2x USB-A, 1x AC
- Max Output: 12W (USB-A), 60W (AC)
- Size: 11.6 x 8.3 x 7.7 inches (29.5 x 21 x 19.5 cm)
- Weight: 7.1 lb (3.22 kg)
- Capacity: 82500 mAh
- Ports: In: 1x DC, 1x AC, solar panels. Out: 3x USB-A, 1x USB C, 3x DC, 1x AC, 1x Qi
- Max Output: 330W AC, 15W USB, 60-120W DC
- Packed Size: 5 x 7.9 inches (12.7 x 20.1 cm)
- Weight: 2.1 lb (935g)
- Capacity: 2600 mAh
- Ports: 1x USB-A
- Max Output: 3W
Best Lightweight Battery for Camping: Anker PowerCore 20100
Taking a weekend camping trip with a limited amount of gear? You’ll want to make sure this lightweight Anker Powercore portable battery is in your equipment bag.
Its 20100mAh capacity is enough to charge most phones, tablets, and other mobile devices multiple times, while the dual USB ports and 4.8-amp output mean you can simultaneously charge two devices at somewhere close to full speed.
Safety features include protection against both power surges and short circuits, with an 18-month warranty for extra peace of mind. Speaking from personal experience, Anker’s customer service reps are some of the more attentive that I’ve dealt with.
A short micro-USB cable is included with the PowerCore, but if you want something longer, or need a cable with a USB C or Lightning plug on the end, you’ll have to provide your own.
Anker uses its own proprietary PowerIQ and VoltageBoost system for high-speed charging, rather than supporting the more widespread Qualcomm QuickCharge standard.
Whether this matters will depend on the type of device you have and how quickly you need it to charge up, but the difference is pretty negligible for most people.
For a short getaway, the Anker PowerCore 20100 is the ideal way of keeping one or two devices powered up without adding much extra size, weight, or cost. If it doesn’t perfectly satisfy your needs, however, Anker has a wide range of other options when it comes to capacity, ports, and charging speed.Buy on Amazon
Best High-Capacity USB Battery for Camping: Crave PowerPack
The above Anker model is ideal for charging up a phone or two on short camping trips, but if you’ll be off-grid for a few days and traveling with a laptop or several mobile devices, take a step up to the Crave PowerPack.
With four USB ports (2x USB C and 2x USB-A), this 50000mAh PowerPack puts out up to 60W PD. This is enough for most laptops including the majority of MacBook models, along with smartphones and tablets. It’s also capable of charging other USB-powered devices like portable speakers and headphones.
A wall charger and USB C cable are included, but if your devices require a different type of cable, you’ll have to provide it. If you have an older laptop with a barrel charger, this 19-piece laptop adapter kit (sold separately by the same company) should solve that issue. Just double-check the compatibility of both plug and power output beforehand!
Unsurprisingly, the extra capacity of the Crave PowerPack translates to a fairly large piece of equipment. The good news is that it’s not terribly heavy at under five pounds, but it’s still better left in your RV or campsite than your equipment bag during a hike. Note that the battery’s 185Wh capacity is too much to take onto a plane without special permission.
When you’re ready to hit the skies again, the TSA-compliant Crave Plus Pro has a much slimmer design, albeit with less capacity and lower (45W) output. We also reviewed this portable laptop charger with a wall socket, which may better suit some people.
For those long camping trips when you need to keep everything charged juiced up, you can’t go wrong with the Crave PowerPack’s fast-charging USB ports and generous battery capacity.Buy on Amazon
Best Portable Battery for Car Camping: HALO Bolt
The HALO Bolt is a cross between a high-end portable battery and a car emergency kit. If you’re road tripping to your campsite by car or truck, you won’t want to leave home without it.
This battery pack has a large 58830mWh capacity, and its three outputs (2x USB and 1x AC) can charge and power mobile devices, laptops, and other electronics like game consoles and small TVs.
In addition to keeping your tech powered, the HALO Bolt also works as a jump starter for your vehicle and ships with a set of leads. It provides enough power to jump a car, truck, ATV, or small boat. It’ll likely jump your RV engine as well, but don’t expect it to charge its house battery.
The Bolt also includes a built-in floodlight, a useful safety feature in case your ride breaks down in the middle of the night.
Aside from an AC wall adapter and DC car adapter for recharging the Bolt itself, there’s also a USB to micro-USB cable in the box. That will suffice for many older devices, but you’ll need to provide a USB to Lightning or USB C cable for other phones and tablets.
There’s no direct support for Power Delivery or Qualcomm QuickCharge, although you can always plug an appropriate charger into the AC socket if you need to. Even so, the HALO Bolt is a solid choice for keeping your tech, and your car, running smoothly.Buy on Amazon
Best Portable Generator: BALDR Portable Power Station
If your camping must-haves include things like a mini fridge, CPAP machine, or small television, you’ll need a more substantial power source than we’ve discussed so far. Enter the BALDR Portable Power Station, a 330-watt generator with four different types of output.
Along with four USB ports (3x USB-A and 1x USB C,) there’s a Qi wireless charging pad on top, multiple DC ports, and an AC outlet. The USB-A ports support QC 3.0, but there’s no Power Delivery from the USB C port. You can plug an appropriate charger into the AC socket instead if you need to.
The BALDR Portable Power Station can also be outfitted with powerful solar panels like these. Charging the built-in lithium-ion battery takes five to seven hours from 100W+ panels, depending on conditions. It takes the same amount of time via the wall charger, and slightly longer from a car accessory port.
With a full battery, the BALDR Power Station can run a 12-volt compressor fridge for six hours, a 32-inch TV for four hours, and a 125-watt fan for two hours. CPAP machines can be powered via a DC adapter for up to two nights.
That’s pretty good, but note that the 330W max output isn’t enough for microwave ovens, induction cookers, or coffee makers. If your setup involves power-hungry appliances like these, you’ll be better off with these 500-watt or 1000-watt models instead. These versions also have greater battery capacity, but are larger and heavier as a result.
With myriad charging options, as well as added safety features like an SOS flashlight and short circuit protection to keep you and your tech safe, the BALDR Power Station makes a great addition to any well-equipped campsite.Buy on Amazon
Best Multi-Purpose Option: BioLite Campstove 2
Fancy the idea of cooking meals and charging your phone at the same time? Check out the BioLite Campstove 2. You simply pack and light the stove using sticks, twigs, or pellets, and the heat from the flame is converted into electricity that charges the inbuilt 2600mAh battery.
The Campstove’s patented combustion technology means you’ll get far less smoke in your face than with a traditional camp cooker, and the LED dashboard lets you keep tabs on fire strength, battery life, and fan speed. Foldable aluminum legs make it easy to set up, and the stove packs down to about the size of a 32-ounce water bottle for easy transport.
The Campstove includes a USB cable and a FlexStop Light for a bit of extra illumination around the campfire. A range of accessories are available including a grill attachment, kettle/pot, and coffee press, separately or in various bundles.
With camping’s newfound popularity, both the stove and some of these accessories have gone in and out of stock lately. Check the manufacturer’s site if you’re struggling to find them available on Amazon.
Given the small battery capacity, low three-watt output, and single USB port, the BioLite Campstove 2 is best suited for a solo traveler with minimal tech. Admittedly you’re paying more for the novelty and the technology of the stove itself, but hey, it’s pretty cool, in addition to being eco-friendly.Buy on Amazon
Alternative Energy Options: Solar Panels
When your portable battery runs out of juice in the middle of a camping trip, what can you do? It’s not always feasible to find a power socket to charge it, especially if you’re somewhere remote. That’s is where solar panels come in.
The efficacy of solar panels depends on how sunny your location is. Contrary to popular belief, though, solar panels can still generate energy when it’s cloudy. It’ll be less than when they’re exposed to direct sunlight, but it’s still a much better scenario than having a dead battery and absolutely no way to charge it.
Below are a couple of solar panels we recommend for your camping trips:
- Nekteck 21W Portable Solar Panel Charger: This foldable, weatherproof charger has three solar panels and two USB ports that can output up to 3A between them. Best for those with smaller devices like smartphones, it’s small and light enough to hang off the back of a backpack while you’re hiking into your campsite.
It doesn’t store power on its own, and while you can use it to power small mobile devices directly, you’ll generally get better results by charging a portable battery like those mentioned above and then using the battery to charge your equipment.
- GoPower 130W Portable Folding Solar Kit: Designed with long-term camping trips in mind, it works with RVs and campers to maintain the “house” battery without the need for a traditional generator. A folding design plus an included carrying case make it easy to transport, but it’s not weatherproof, so be sure to stow it away in bad weather.
While it’s on the pricier side, the investment may be worth it if you’re seriously considering the mobile camping lifestyle.
If you’re looking for a middle ground between the above two options, the BALDR Portable Power Station can also be outfitted with solar panels for charging as we mentioned earlier.
While you can find small and light solar chargers with inbuilt batteries like this PowerCam model, our experience with small panels like these is that they take a very long time to charge even in direct sunlight. You’ll benefit more from the Nekteck folding charger or similar.
Make sure your camp preparedness kit includes a battery pack or generator along with emergency rations and a first aid kit. Whether you’re just bringing a cell phone for a day-long hike or several small appliances for a longer or more luxurious trip, a reliable portable battery will keep your electronics running in even the most remote locations.