Easy. You can do this. You can avoid the stress and consequences of a dying or dead mobile phone battery. For the same weight as an apple, you can have a robust mobile and emergency phone charging kit. I’ll show you how a small dedicated kit can help you through many cell phone scenarios and give you examples for my Samsung S7 and Apple iPad.
In Brief, Here’s What You Need:
1. Diverse sources of power
3. Any plug adapters
4. Cord Ties and a Carry Pouch
The key is having the option you needed when you needed it. It’s of little value that you have a great little emergency phone charging kit at home when you need it while commuting, at work, out cycling, travelling, …
How to Source Your Power?
Each power source has its pros and cons, and the availability will vary, hence being able to use the source available to you.
1. Wall Outlet Power
The easiest option for charging your phone and other devices will be via a wall charger and electrical socket. For North America (plug Type A), these twin-USB Ailkin wall chargers are great and they come in bright colours which might be enough to prevent you from forgetting it in a hotel room or lobby, or at Starbucks: https://amzn.to/2Fnd68j
For mainland Europe, you will need a Type C plug such as: https://amzn.to/2Tj74sw
This is particularly relevant when charging from a wall electrical outlet abroad.
If your device and any charging plug is rated 100V-240V, you can that set-up anywhere in the world. Check your devices and any charging plugs. If you only have a 110V-only device (from North America), you will need a transformer to use it in Europe and most of the rest of the world. 220V-only devices will also need a transformer to be used in North America’s 110V region. Always best to check your devices before you fry them.
2. Power Banks: What is the Best Portable Power Bank?
This is a tough question as there are more varieties of power banks as there are car models and sizes, and there can be bells and whistles to attract your buying dollars.
What’s the best power bank? Firstly, it’s the portable power bank you will have with you at the time of needing it. Secondly, it’s having the most capacity possible to give you the most charging possible if that power bank is all you have for a certain period of time.
Being able to recharge your phone once is better than nothing but being able to recharge your phone or tablet multiple times is even better. More charges, though, means more weight and bulk and cost.
I could tell you that you should always have a 20,000mAh power bank and while that’s a great amount of power and number of charges, it’s heavier and bulkier, so there is a higher chance of you not having it with you. So maybe that lighter and more compact 5,000mAh unit will be your go-to power bank for your commuting bag.
Have a variety of power banks and always make sure they are charged and also recharged when used. There are so many models, capacities, sizes and weights when it comes to power banks (also known as battery packs).
What is mAh and How Are Power Banks Measured?
The power capacity of a power bank is measured in mAh (called milli-Ampere-hours or milli-amp-hours). The higher the mAh number the better but that comes a the cost of more weight and bulk due to more materials. A large full water bottle will weigh more and be bulkier than a smaller bottle but they provide different quantities of water.
What are the Six Most Important Power Bank Features?
With so many power bank manufacturers and hundreds of models, the features that appeal to you can be the deciding factor. Larger ones will often have more features than smaller units. What battery bank features should you look for?
1. A power remaining display (either a digital percentage reading or light bars)!
2. An LED flashlight
3. Two USB ports to charge more than one device at a time. Small power banks will often only have one USB port.
4. Some will even have an integrated Micro-USB and/or Lightning cable which saves having to carry around extra cables although you may still need a spare USB cable need a cable to recharge it.
5. I find it useful to be able to charge a phone at the same time as I recharge the power bank, especially when your outlet charging opportunity is short.
6. Quick phone charge is another feature I like as sometimes one is limited in the time available to recharge one’s phone.
Can you Bring Portable Power Banks on a Plane?
It’s always best to consult your airline as policies change. Many airlines will only allow you to bring it in your carry-on. Some airlines will not allow you to charge you phone or other device with the power bank for fear of a fire. You will need to carefully check the airline website and also see if there is a maximum mAh power bank capacity allowed.
How Big is a Power Bank? Pay Attention to the Dimensions
When you see power banks for sale online, it’s hard to get a real sense of the size of each model. They all look like some sort of rectangle or perhaps they’re kinda round. On is tempted to buy the higher mAh capacity model since it looks the same size as the lower capacity one, but the size difference can be substantial. I’ve purchased a few power banks and then been disappointed that it was bigger than I wanted for a certain application, such as carrying it in a jacket pocket. As a reference, in the photo below, the 6,000mAh battery is the size of a deck of cards. The 20,000mAh is about 30% big and thicker.
How Much Does a Portable Power Bank Weigh?
As with cars, there is a big weight range in the power bank world. For this episode of Better Preparedness on Easy Smartphone Battery Charging on the Go, I weighed four of my power banks. The weight increased dramatically with the higher mAh capacity from 65grams (1.2oz) for the 2,000mAh battery all the way up to 423g (15oz) for the 20,000mAh unit.
Which Power Banks Do I Like?
With so much choice out there, I like to stick with brands I’m familiar with and I like having the different sizes.
Smaller capacity ones are nice and compact but may only deliver one charge, which could be totally fine for your needs. Remember larger devices such as iPads and other tablets require a lot more power than most smartphones. You’ll need at least the 6,000mAh and ideally the 20,000mAh or more if you plan to charge larger devices, especially more than once. Always run some tests with your devices and power banks while at home to see how many charges you can get.
Here are my battery bank picks:
In the Comments section below, please share your favourites!
If you are lost or in an emergency and all the power you have and will have access to is that power bank, you need to go into absolute minimal power usage mode. Darken your screen, turn off all unnecessary apps, restrict usage, consider turning it off for periods of time, … This might enable you to stretch out your window of crisis communication.
3. Vehicle Plugs
Your vehicle, a taxi, an Uber, your friend’s vehicle, or any vehicle with a so-called cigarette lighter outlet can provide a solid charge for your phone while the vehicle is running. Many vehicle outlet plugs have two or more USB ports so make sure you have sufficient USB cables for the devices you would want to charge. That might mean having two micro-USB or two USB lightening cables. I like the Amazon Basics: https://amzn.to/2OMR7XV
Using one’s phone as the GPS navigation and playing music will drain your battery more quickly. Even more reason to have your phone charging at the same time.
Remember to recharge your power banks while you are driving!
If you have one or more vehicles, keep a vehicle plug with appropriate USB cables in each vehicle.
4. Compact Solar Panel
In day light and with sufficient hours of charging time available to you, having a compact solar panel is an option for charging your phone and more importantly power banks to have additional power reserves.
Tornadoes, earthquakes, ice storms, wind storms, fallen tress, lightning, etc… can easily knock out power lines. In a natural disaster situation and with no electrical grid, having a compact solar panel could be the only source of electricity for days or weeks.
If your reason for having it is mostly for emergency purposes, I’d choose the more compact style of solar panel as I feel there is greater chance of you bringing it with you. I like these ECEEN options for their low price, low weight and compactness: https://amzn.to/2RRKJAC
If you plan to rely extensively on solar electricity to run your phone and other devices, I’d then suggest you have a higher capacity solar panel: https://amzn.to/2Bcc62S
Keep in mind that solar panels will come with or without a battery bank. I like the lighter weight option of just having the solar panel and then connecting it to one of my power banks. Remember to charge whenever you can as clouds and storm cover (and darkness!) will prevent you from accomplishing much with your panel.
Sometimes there is a power source available to you such USB ports at public charging stations, in an office, in airport departure areas, in certain restaurants, etc… Be creative and you might find a USB port accessible to you. The only thing you need to provide is the appropriate cable to plug in your device(s).
Cables, Cables and Cables…
Since the powers-that-be never created a single USB cable standard, we have a variety of cable types. The cable types and how many of them that you buy will depend on your devices. I like buying them in bulk of 3-5 cables.
Some cables will indicate that they are “Only Changing” which means that you cannot use them for data transfer so keep that in mind. If you want to cover your bases and ensure you won’t be without a USB plug type, check out the Chafon 6 in 1 charging cable: https://amzn.to/2DK3sv7 There are a number of multi head USB cables such as the Chafon but just make sure it has all the heads you are looking for.
Buy your Micro USB and Lightning cables in bulk as it’s good to have extras and you will invariably lose them from time to time, at least that’s experience.
Keep in mind the cable length you need for your application as there are shorter and longer cables. While you don’t want to be frustrated by a way-to-short cable, you don’t want to be carrying around 5m of cable most of the time. Buy a few lengths of your necessary cables and you’ll have more flexibility. Here are examples of short Lightning cables https://amzn.to/2S06kam and longer Lightning ones: https://amzn.to/2DJvp6e
In terms of Micro-USB cables for Samsungs and many other devices, I like these multi-length charging packs of cables: https://amzn.to/2RZcVl1 or a three-pack of 3ft long cables: https://amzn.to/2DG1E68
Plug adapters are a frustrating reality and necessity when travelling. How are you going to charge all those electronics in your life when you can’t plug into the electrical outlet in front of you?
Make sure you do your research for the plug type(s) in your destination and any locations you are passing through. If you are transiting through a country and get stranded there for a day or two (which has happened to me), you’ll want to be able to recharge devices and power banks.
To give you an idea, North America uses either the two flat pronged Type A plug or the Type A with a rounded third prong as the ground which is then called the Type B plug
Mainland Europe uses the two smaller rounded prong Type C plug.
Here in South Africa, the primary plug type is the bulky three rounded pronged Type M plug and you may find the Type C plug but it’s not a given.
Ceptics has a great 12-piece plug adapter set: https://amzn.to/2DqhAsv. While you will likely never use all or most of these, this type of set allows you to only bring the plug types you need for that trip and any countries you are passing through. There are also specific adapters to suit most needs just take note of what plug you have and what the destination plug is. Remember to check the voltage!
What Does a Robust Kit Look Like?
For Easy Smartphone Battery Charging on the Go I did some tests for both my Samsung S7 and iPad 4.
1. My very Capable Smartphone (Samsung S7) Charging Kit
For my backpack or whatever I am carrying, for my smartphone, I’ll use a little pouch and carry a small power bank, vehicle plug, power plug and a micro-USB cable. That weighs a mere 130grams:
2. My very Capable iPad Charging Kit
For my iPad, if I know I only need a bit of charging capacity, I’ll use a little pouch and carry a larger power bank, vehicle plug, power plug and a micro-USB cable. For travelling, I’ll bring the larger 20,000mAh power bank. My basic kit weighs a mere 273grams:
3. In Comparison, Here’s For Charging Your Body:
An apple or banana can easily weigh more than the very compact On-The-Go Kit.
Build Your On-The-Go Kits. Take a look at these components and collect those items if you have extras at home or buy them and keep some extras.
You won’t have an on-the-go charging kit with you unless you have a dedicated set or multiple sets. Consider the investment like insurance to not run out of power. The more power you need, the charging more capacity you should bring with you.
My very portable filming set-up:
I’ve filmed many of episodes with my cellphone: https://amzn.to/2pd9IC8
Awesome Battery Pack with display when filming with a cellphone: https://amzn.to/2MKEko8
Lavalier Microphone: https://amzn.to/2xm8GaI
Smartphone Rode Directional Microphone: https://amzn.to/2xkLvNY
Bendy Compact Tripod: https://amzn.to/2QCvCLB
Full Size Tripod: https://amzn.to/2xswAS6
Tripod Mount for Smartphones: https://amzn.to/2xs9Pxg
Sony Digital Audio Recorder: https://amzn.to/2xsNHmu
Waterproof bags! Protect your gear!
My Studio set-up (and still portable):
Canon DSLR of choice: https://amzn.to/2xogzMH
Canon go-to lens: https://amzn.to/2xov96Y
Shotgun Microphone: https://amzn.to/2xpZT7J
Lavalier Microphone: https://amzn.to/2xm8GaI
Full Size Tripod: https://amzn.to/2xswAS6
Ensure you have the various spare batteries such as for the Canon and the two microphones.
Go-to Portable USB Hard Drives: https://amzn.to/2pfzzJE
Rugged Portable USB Hard Drives: https://amzn.to/2xgNnrF
Memory Cards: SD size (for my Canon): https://amzn.to/2xqszxp
Memory Cards: Micro SD size (for my Samsung S7): https://amzn.to/2pg9jyW
Waterproof Memory Card Case: https://amzn.to/2MDMcri