Whether you plan on listening to music, take pictures, vlog your journey, use a GPS, or track your trek on a smartwatch you may wonder how to keep your electronics charged while you are out hiking/backpacking for multiple days.
There are really only two ways to keep your electronics charged while out backpacking (or camping for that matter) where you won’t have access to electricity.
You will see these everywhere on the trail and Anker is the most popular brand. They come in all different sizes and capacities. If you are going to choose a battery bank as a way to recharge devices, you will need to decide what you plan on charging, the capacity you will need, and the brand. Let’s break it down.
What will you be charging?
What are you looking to charge? Someone who is only taking a cell phone that will stay on Airplane Mode or be turned off unless needed, needs considerably less capacity than someone who is using the cell phone to track their hike, take video and pictures, etc… Even more capacity is needed if you plan on powering other electronics in addition to your phone.
How long is your trip?
The next thing you need to ask yourself is, how long will you be gone or how long will there be between charges for recharging your battery bank? If you will be able to recharge your battery bank every two days, you would need a lower capacity battery bank than say if it will be 5-7 days between charges.
5000 mAh is best for those who plan to be gone a max of a couple of days that will only be taking a phone and have it on airplane mode or turned off and maybe use it to take pictures.
10000 mAh tends to be the most popular among long-distance thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail and other long trails where town stops are every 4-5 days. This tends to work great for those that will have their phone on airplane mode and will use to it take videos and pictures and the occasional text/phone call. You typically also have enough juice to recharge a headlight and possibly a GPS device.
It will typically allow you to fully charge your phone 2-3 times (depending on your phone) which is perfect for those who can recharge the battery bank every 4-5 days in town. Airplane mode allows you to save your battery consumption greatly. If you do not put your phone on airplane mode, you will probably run out of battery bank juice before you get into town to recharge the battery bank, essentially leaving you “dark” on the trail.
20000 mAh is another popular choice for those who tend to take several electronics or use them heavily (filming video, editing video, listening to music, etc…) tracking their hike on GPS, headlights, cameras, etc… and who will be gone for several days. Because I film all my hikes and tend to edit video while on the trail, I carry (2) 10000 mAh battery banks as they are lighter than a single 20000 mAh battery bank.
While the brand may not seem important, it really is. Battery banks can be expensive and some brands last a lot longer than others and have better warranties. Anker is a super popular brand with a great warranty. I have also found that many of the off brands also work very well, weigh less, and have the same warranty.
Solar chargers are solar panels with common inputs for electronics. You plug the electronics directly into the solar panel and use the sun to charge your device. The solar panels are large and typically attach to the back of your backpack.
If you decide to go this route, something to keep in mind is the area will you be in. If you are hiking the Appalachian Trail, this will be useless as you are typically under tree cover. If you are on the PCT, however, it would work great, since most of your time is spent in the sun.
Another thing to look at is the wattage of each panel. Skip the ones that have small panels with a battery bank attached as they don’t typically work that well and take forever to charge.
Other Things to Think About
Quick Wall Chargers – If you will be on the trail for a while (such as on a thru-hike) where town time will be limited, ditch the wall charger that came with your device and get a multi-port quick wall charger. Doing so, allows you to spend less time in town and more time on the trail.
Have extra batteries – I have switched all of my devices to those that have rechargeable batteries, but if any of yours still take disposable batteries make sure to bring extra.
What I Use to Keep my Electronics Charged
I use two 10,000 mAh battery banks as you can see from my electronics picture that I took for my thru-hike attempt (damn you pandemic) of the Appalachian Trail:
I have actually moved away from using the Anker brand just due to an unpleasant customer service experience with them and the fact that I wanted to test out other brands.
The two battery banks shown in this picture are ZMI (the blue one) and PowerADD (which I can no longer find on Amazon, but did find this one that looks identical). I have had both for three years and they are both still going strong. I did have an issue with the ZMI shortly after I received it, reached out to the seller (who was located here in the USA), and promptly received a response and a replacement. Their customer service was amazing to deal with.
So that basically sums it up on how to keep your electronics charged while on the trail. What do you use to keep your electronics charged (assuming you take electronics with you)?