Travel Portable Batteries

The Best Portable Batteries for Travelers in 2017

In Accessories, Keep Things Running by Patricia Rey Mallén9 Comments

Having your devices run out of juice while traveling is a big hassle. It can mean losing your way, not taking that perfect picture, missing a deadline, and plenty of other things you’d rather avoid.

For many of us, these scenarios result in an expletive or two, and a longing for days past when phones lasted a week on a single charge. If that sounds like you, avoid the swear words by picking up one of these portable batteries.

We’ve ranked them by size and capacity, from ‘fits in your wallet’ to ‘you’ll need a backpack for sure’.

Travelcard charger

(Almost) Credit-Card-Sized: Travel Card

The power of, well, power doesn’t need to be overwhelming: the Travel Card charger is roughly the size of an ID card, and fits right beside it in your wallet.

The Specs

  • 1,500 mAh
  • 3.65 x 2.37 x 0.37in / 92 x 60 x 5mm
  • 2oz / 57g
  • In: integrated USB cable. Out: integrated micro-USB or Lightning cable, depending on version

The Good

  • Teeny tiny. Fits in your pocket or wallet, and is so light, you’ll barely notice it’s there
  • Available for both Android and iPhone
  • Integrated cables, so no need to remember to bring anything else

The Bad

  • Limited charging capacity. It’ll charge some phones up to around 50%, with others cutting out at the 30% mark
  • Not suitable for tablets or laptops. Tablets may get a bit more juice in them, but it’s not worth the trouble
  • The manufacturer advertises it as “credit card sized,” but it’s a little bigger than that, and around three times as thick
  • Affordable, but a little pricey for its capacity. It retails for $29

Best For…

  • A quick top-up when you’re on the move

Why We Picked It

  • The smallest of the lot. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more lighter, more portable battery
  • The integrated cables make life easier, especially if you’re a forgetful traveler

 ZILU Portable Battery

Bar-of-Soap-Sized: ZILU Smart Power

The next size up will give you a little more power, while staying small enough to carry in your pocket.

The Specs

  • 4,400 mAh
  • 1.8 x 3.7 x 0.9in / 46 x 95 x 22mm
  • 2.9oz / 82g
  • In: micro-USB port. Out: USB port

The Good

  • Can fully charge most smartphones, cameras and other small devices — there’s enough juice to charge an iPhone once or twice, depending on the model
  • You’ll get a useful amount of charge into a tablet as well, and the 2.0 amp output means it won’t take forever to do it
  • Has pass-through charging, so you charge the battery while it’s fueling your device — no wasted time
  • Light and small enough to carry in your pocket
  • Affordable

The Bad

  • The single USB port limits you to charging one device at a time
  • While there’s a micro-USB cable included for charging the battery, no other cables are provided. You’ll need to bring the right ones for your devices, and remember to carry them.

Best For…

  • Day-to-day wandering for heavy smartphone users. If you’re big on phone photography, video, or just use Google Maps all day, carry one of these
  • Budget travelers

Why We Picked It

  • Pocketable
  • Great value for money

 

Mophie Portable Battery

Flip-Phone-Sized: Mophie Powerstation Plus XL

The word “flip phone” may take you back to 2005, but that’s where the nostalgia ends.

The Specs

  • 4,000 to 12,000mAh. The best value right now is the 12,000mAh “Powerstation Plus XL”
  • 3.13 x 6.1 x 0.66in / 79 x 155 x 17mm
  • 9.7oz / 275g
  • In: micro-USB port. Out: USB port, integrated micro-USB cable with Lightning adapter

The Good

  • Three versions, with different sizes, weight and capacities — 3,000mAh, 6,000mAh, and 12,000 mAh.
  • XL version can fully charge a tablet, and other mobile devices multiple times
  • Integrated micro-USB/Lightning cable, plus a standard USB port for charging anything else
  • Can charge two devices at once
  • Both battery and devices can be charged simultaneously
  • Well-known brand

The Bad

  • More expensive than no-name batteries

Best For…

  • Those who want a device from a well-known company, that can charge pretty much any gadget

Why We Picked This One

  • Adaptable to individual needs and budget
  • Integrated cables mean one less thing to remember, and there’s still a normal USB port as well

 

 

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 Rav Power Portable Battery

Phablet-Sized: RAVPower 16750

If you travel mainly with a tablet, you’ll want the right portable battery to go with it. The increase in charging power doesn’t come for free, though — there’s an increase in size and weight as well.

The Specs

  • 16,700mAh
  • 5.0 x 3.2 x 0.9in / 127 x 81 x 22mm
  • 11oz / 330g
  • In: micro-USB port. Out: Two USB ports

The Good

  • Easily suitable for smartphones and tablets. There’s enough power to charge an iPhone 7 over five times, a Samsung Galaxy S7 more than three times, and current iPads at least once
  • Two USB ports allows for simultaneous charging
  • The battery to be recharged while it powers other devices
  • It charges quickly. One port can output at 2.4amps, the other at 2.1amps, and there’s no drop-off when both are in use.
  • Very affordable

The Bad

  • Like other batteries of this capacity, it’s quite bulky. It won’t fit in your pocket (unless you’re into cargo pants), so you’ll have to free up space in your backpack
  • No integrated cords. There’s a micro-USB cable in the packaging, but you’ll need to provide a Lightning cable yourself if you need one. Either way, you’ll also have to remember to carry them.

Best For…

  • Tablet lovers, or those who’ll be away from a power socket for days at a time.

Why We Picked It

  • Fast charging, even for multiple devices.
  • Great value for money
 
ChargeTech Portable Battery

Paperback-Sized: ChargeTech Portable AC Battery

Work from the road? Ultra-dependent on your laptop? Maximum charging capability means you’ll sacrifice portability, but you (and your device) will be grateful you did.

The Specs

  • 27,000 mAh
  • 7.5 x 5.2 x 1.0in, or 191 x 132 x 25mm
  • 2.5lb / 1.13 kg
  • In: AC socket. Out: Two USB ports, one North American three-pin AC socket

The Good

  • Very powerful. There’s enough juice to charge a 15-inch MacBook Pro fully, an 11-inch MacBook Air twice, and an iPad Pro a handful of times
  • Can charge almost any laptop, and other wall-powered electronics up to 85W.
  • Can power a laptop and two USB devices at the same time
  • Fast self-charging – the battery itself fully charges in two hours
  • Airline and TSA approved

The Bad

  • Heavier and larger than other portable batteries — it weighs as much as some laptops. It fits in a backpack, but you’ll definitely need to make space for it
  • It’s a significant investment — you’re unlikely to buy it on a whim
  • Includes cable to charge the portable battery, but no cables for the devices themselves. You’ll need to provide your own, and remember to bring them

Good For…

  • Digital nomads of any kind
  • Volunteers, especially if you’re in very remote areas
  • Business travelers constantly on the move

Why We Picked It

  • Versatile — you’re not limited to charging just one kind of laptop (or limited to charging laptops at all)
  • Powerful enough to handling even the larger 15″ laptops that many competing products don’t
  • Tough enough to withstand rough travel
 

Product images via manufacturers. Feature image via ChargeTech.

A dead device can really put a dent in your day, but it doesn't have to be that way. These are the five best portable batteries for travelers in 2017.
About the Author

Patricia Rey Mallén

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A roaming writer and tech enthusiast, Patricia has been wandering the globe for 10-odd years. A passionate Apple lover, she is familiar with Genius bars from Sydney to Reykjavík to Mexico City. She only vaguely remembers life before the Internet, but will forever long for the days in which mobile phone batteries lasted for over a week.

Comments

  1. Why on earth are there still no chargers with USB-C built-in cables? I find it maddening.

    1. Yeah, it’s a surprising omission in some ways, although it’s getting harder to find decent portable batteries with built-in cables of any sort. The only USB-C one I found in a quick search was this, although there are no reviews and it’s a bit expensive for a 5000mAh battery, so it’s hard to get too excited about it.

  2. I agree 100%, Frank Doyle.

    Great article, Patricia Rey Mallén. I had no idea some of these devices even existed, and I’m quite up on tech generally. Really useful.

  3. Here’s a cross-over option.

    I dont usually need a portable battery (mainly because I travel with a ‘real’ camera, so I never hit that quandary: do I stop taking photos now, or do I risk not being able to use Google Maps later to get home, due to a flat phone battery?)

    But some times on a big day, with lots of photography, I flatten the battery on my camera.

    I usually carry my 10″ tablet with me, mainly to use in the evenings, and a OTG cable. I can plug the camera (or phone) into my tablet using the OTG cable and rechage it from my tablet battery, which is 6800 mAh, to keep me going. If I flatten the tablet battery it’s not important because I still have my fully-charged phone for other functions, and I can recharge the tablet battery back at the accomodation.

    The tablet is bigger and heavier than the same-sized portable battery; but I rarely use it this way, and I’m carrying it anyway for other uses.

    The same principle applied if you’re carrying a laptop – you can always use it to recharge other devices.

    1. It’s a good option if you’re going to be carrying a device with a big battery anyway, and something I think we’ll be seeing more of as USB-C (which has that “charging one gadget from another” feature built in) becomes the standard.

  4. I owned a RAVPower battery, but in April 2017 I was flying from Thailand to Los Angeles on EVA through Taiwan with the battery in my checked bag. In Taipei I was informed that it was a restricted item and security confiscated the battery. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency in airline policy. I’ve traveled with the battery on airlines in the US and also flew to Singapore and Thailand with the battery. Be aware that it has the possibility of causing problems.

  5. I don’t understand while almost every single battery pack review on the internet completely ignores self-charging times. Only the last product in this list mentions it. I travel extensively and the last thing I have time for is to spend 12+ hours waiting for a battery pack to charge.

    1. I suspect it’s because, with a few exceptions, battery packs of similar sizes take similar amounts of time to charge, so it’s only those exceptions (as in this roundup) that get talked about. The long charging times are annoying, though — that’s why I tend to buy a somewhat larger battery than I strictly need, so it’ll always last until I can get to somewhere with a power socket to leave it charging overnight.

  6. Both Mohie and Zilu look pretty good. I have been carrying a really heavy and bulky charger all this time
    and while it gives me the option of three USBs and a good backup, I still hate carrying it in my baggage.
    The Credit Card sized one is pretty nifty just that with limited backup don’t think it is of much use
    except to maybe show off a little.

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