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Phones, tablets, and laptops are getting thinner and lighter all the time. On the upside, that means they look great and are easy to carry. On the downside, it’s unusual for any of them to last more than a day away from a power socket. That’s just about manageable in daily life, but when you’re traveling? Not so much.
While there are a few smartphones out there with decent battery life, they’re definitely rare. For everything else, you’re stuck with carrying a portable charger around with you, if you don’t want to get caught with a dead device just when you need it most. They’re not all the same, though, with size, weight, and features varying a lot, even between devices that cost about the same.
We’ve rounded up the best portable batteries on the market for travelers in 2018, no matter what your requirements are. Just want something you can keep in your wallet for a quick emergency boost? Heading off the grid for a week but need to stay charged? Want to keep your laptop going, even when the power cut in your beach town enters its fifteenth hour?
We’ve got you covered for all that, and more.
- Best for Keeping in Your Wallet: TravelCard Charger
- Best for Multi-Purpose Use: Jackery Bolt
- Best Value: Anker PowerCore 13000
- Best for Endless Battery Life: RAVPower Ace 32000
- Best for Charging a Laptop: Jackery PowerBar 75
Best for Keeping in Your Wallet: TravelCard Charger
Want a battery you’ll always have with you in an emergency? The TravelCard Charger is one of the few that fits in your wallet. Combined with built-in cables, it means you can get a bit of extra life out of your phone in almost any situation.
Roughly the height and width of a credit card, and three times thicker, the charger comes with either a micro-USB or Lightning cable on one end, and a USB-A cable for charging itself on the other. There’s no USB-C or fast charging support, however.
The 1500mAh capacity isn’t much to get excited about, but will give you an extra 20-40% charge depending on your phone. You can use it for other small USB-powered devices as well, but it’ll make almost no impact on a tablet.
There are very few companies selling reliable portable batteries in this size, and the TravelCard charger is the best of the bunch. It’s relatively expensive for what you get, though, and with such limited capacity, you may still find yourself getting to the end of a long travel day with a dead phone.
As a result, this is our pick only for those who tend to forget to throw their charger in a day bag before heading out exploring, and really want to keep a small battery in their wallet. If you’re happy to remember and carry a slightly larger device, for the same money you’ll get more use out of the Jackery Bolt below.
- Super small, fitting easily in a wallet
- Integrated cables, so no need to pack your own
- Limited capacity: topup, not a full charge
- Expensive for the capacity
- No fast-charge support
Best for Multi-Purpose Use: Jackery Bolt
If you’re after a portable battery that’ll keep your gadgets going all day, and don’t want to carry a huge brick of a charger to do it, it’s hard to go past the Jackery Bolt. It does all the basics well, with several aspects that set it above the pack for travelers, and is our multi-purpose pick as a result.
This 6000mAh battery is small enough to fit in your pocket, and can charge most recent smartphones at least twice from empty. In the real world, that means unless you’re playing games continually from start to finish, you’ll get through even the longest travel day without needing a power socket.
The Bolt has a pair of integrated cables, Lightning on one side and micro-USB on the other, plus a standard USB socket. The Lightning and standard ports are rated to 2.4 amps, so you can quickly charge a smartphone or tablet from them, while the micro-USB cable puts out one amp. The total output is also only 2.4 amps, however, so don’t expect to get top charging speeds if you plug in several gadgets at once.
Somewhat unusually, the Bolt has pass-through charging — that means it can charge itself while simultaneously powering anything that’s plugged into it. That’s ideal when you’ve got a bunch of things to charge in a hotel room, and only one usable wall socket to do it with. Yes, I am speaking from experience.
Speaking of wall sockets, if you plug the Bolt into a charger rated at two amps or higher, it’ll get back to full within two hours. You’ll need to buy the wall charger separately (this is our recommended one for international travel), but still, it’s rare to find this feature in a small charger, and something we like to see.
There’s a small LED flashlight built in, which is always useful. Less useful are the blue LEDs used to show remaining battery level. They’re annoyingly bright in a dark room, and you’ll probably end up covering them with duct tape fairly quickly. Jackery is far from the only manufacturer using bright LEDs like this, but it’d be really nice if they’d all just stop.
The Jackery Bolt isn’t the cheapest 6000mAh portable battery you’ll find, but given the extra features, we think it’s well worth the money.
- Integrated cables mean you’ll never forget them
- Separate USB socket for charging other devices
- Speedy charging from two of the ports
- Can charge itself at high speed
- Pass-through charging
- 2.4 amp total output means charging multiple devices will be slower
- Annoyingly-bright status LEDs
Best Value: Anker PowerCore 13000
If you’ll be out of range of a power socket for a few days and still want a working phone at the end of it, you need a portable battery with plenty of juice. The problem, of course, is that with the extra capacity typically comes a higher cost and bulkier device to go with it.
Anker’s PowerCore 13000 strikes the right balance, with enough capacity to charge an iPhone 8 nearly five times, or an iPad Air 2 once, while staying compact enough to fit in your pocket. It’s also very competitively priced, leaving more money in your bank account for important things like margaritas beside the pool.
The battery can deliver up to three amps across either or both of the USB ports, meaning fast charging for a single device, or slower charging for two at once. It doesn’t support Qualcomm QuickCharge, however.
When it gets low on juice, it’s worth powering the battery back up with a wall charger rated at two amps or more (again, this is our recommended one for international travel). Not all portable batteries support this, but the Powercore 13000 does, going from empty to full in around eight hours if you use one. Charging from something else will take at least twice as long, which can be very inconvenient on the road.
It ships with a lightweight travel pouch — a nice touch — and a micro-USB cable that can be used to charge the battery itself, or plugs into any other gadget with the right port. Unlike the Jackery mentioned above, however, it doesn’t support pass-through charging.
Anker is the leading name in good-value, high-quality portable batteries, and stands behind its gear, with an 18-month warranty in the event of any problems. The company sells several other sizes of portable battery as well, so you can pick the ideal mix of capacity versus size and weight for your needs.
- Good value for money
- Reliable product from a top manufacturer
- The right mix of size, weight, and capacity
- Can charge itself quickly (with the right charger)
- Travel pouch and micro-USB cable included
- Doesn’t support pass-through charging
- Only outputs 3 amps total across both USB ports
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Best for Endless Battery Life: RAVPower Ace 32000
The other big name in portable batteries, RAVPower has long been a good option. This 32000mAh version is no exception, and while you’ll need to accept the extra size and weight that come with a battery this size, you’ll be smiling when your phone is still going well over a week since it last saw a wall charger.
The three USB-A ports can each put out 2.4 amps (six amps total), meaning you can quickly charge a couple of phones or tablets at the same time, with enough capacity left over for your Kindle or headphones. It supports pass-through charging so you can charge everything, including the battery itself, from a single socket.
Rated to charge an iPhone X more than seven times, or even a power-hungry iPad Air over 2.5x, it’s quite possible you’ll get through an entire vacation without needing to recharge the battery itself. If you do, as you’d hope from a battery this huge, plugging into a 2.0 or 2.4 amp charger will speed up the recharging process dramatically.
It’ll take 8-10 hours to get to full, but that’s still manageable overnight. Use a one amp charger, however, and it’ll take almost a full 24 hours to do the same thing. No thanks.
The sheer bulk of this battery means you’ll be keeping it in a bag rather than your pocket. Note that it’s over the 100 Wh (watt hour) FAA limit for bringing onboard, which means you’ll need specific permission from your airline to do so. If you’re planning to fly with it, check with your airline(s) in advance, and get permission in writing if at all possible.
If you’re heading out into the wilderness, however, or anywhere else where power sockets are in short supply, the RAVPower 32000 is a great, inexpensive way of making your devices last seemingly forever.
- Huge battery capacity
- Good value
- Fast charging of devices and the battery itself
- Can charge three gadgets simultaneously
- Pass-through charging
- Quite big and heavy
- Over the FAA limit for taking on aircraft
Best for Charging a Laptop: Jackery PowerBar 75
For many travelers who work from the road, keeping their laptop charged is just as important as powering their phone, tablet, or camera. Laptops need a lot more juice, though, which means appropriate portable batteries are bigger, heavier, and more expensive than those for smaller devices. As a result, they’re harder to justify for all but the most committed digital nomad.
Since it’s such a niche requirement, and there are big differences in power requirements between laptops, few companies make this kind of battery, and even fewer make good, reliable ones. Of those that do, the best mix of capacity, compatibility, and weight is the Jackery PowerBar. Reasonably priced, it’s likely to satisfy most traveler’s needs.
In an effort to keep the size and weight down, the PowerBar has a relatively low capacity of just under 21000mAh. That’s enough to give most travel-sized laptops at least one full charge, but if you’ve got a 15″ Macbook Pro or similar — especially if you’re using it while charging — it’ll probably only get to around 50% or so. That’s still many hours of extra work time, of course, but just don’t expect days away from a power socket.
At around a pound and a half (690g), you’re not going to be keeping this battery in your pocket, but it’s fine in a day bag or laptop bag. It also falls within FAA limits for the size of lithium-ion battery allowed in airplane cabins.
The North American-style two-prong 110v socket can handle any device that draws 85W of power or less. That covers almost all current laptops, especially Ultrabooks, but if you’ve got one that’s particularly big or powerful, it’d be worth double-checking its power requirements ahead of time.
As well as the AC socket, there are two high-power USB-A sockets on the device (one with Qualcomm Quick Charging 3.0 support), plus a USB-C socket. With that combination, you should be able to fast charge pretty much any mobile device you’re likely to be traveling with. You’ll get up to ten charges of a smartphone, or up to three for a tablet, and can charge from any or all of the sockets simultaneously.
That USB-C socket is also used for charging the PowerBar itself. You can use any USB socket you like to charge it, as long as you’ve got a cable with the right plugs on each end. The more powerful the charger, though, the less time it takes, with a three amp version being best if you’re hoping to get a full charge in overnight. In a useful touch, an LCD screen displays exactly how much power is left.
The PowerBar isn’t for every traveler, but if you need to keep your laptop and other devices charged at all costs, it’s the ideal way to do it.
- Powers laptops (and more) up to 110v/85W
- Lightweight compared to the alternatives
- Good mix of charging options
- Fast-charging support, including QC 3.0
- Capacity is a little low
- Still quite heavy for the average traveler
Images via jjur, TravelCard, Jackery, Anker, RAVPower, Jackery