Top charging options for off-the-grid excursions

Top charging options for off-the-grid excursions

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With the recent focus on staying safely distant, more and more folks are finding new ways to get outside for some much-needed adventure time. For some, this means a walk in the park, but for others, a totally off the grid excursion is all that will do. And while it’s rejuvenating to get away from the bustle and beeps of technology, there are still times you’ll need a power supply even if you don’t have an internet connection.

Of course, sometimes you can get out into some fairly remote places and still have cellphone service, enabling you to get some work done on a laptop. In these cases, you might not be technically “off the grid,” but you still won't have easy access to recharging your devices. So, you will still need some sort of power bank to keep with you.

No matter if you’ll be connected to the mobile web or entirely off the grid, having a power bank for recharging things like Bluetooth speakers, smartwatches, GPS devices, and digital cameras is essential while adventuring. We’ve put together a list of some of the top charging options for off the grid excursions, along with the crucial charging considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when making your selection.

What devices will you need to charge on your trip?

When choosing a power bank for an off-the-grid excursion, the first consideration is what devices you will need to charge while you are away. It can be easy to forget just how many devices we have that use battery power and are rechargeable. For example, something as small as a headlamp that takes AAA batteries. Being able to charge your rechargeable batteries and small devices can be a godsend, despite the seemingly inconsequential nature of these devices. When you're planning a big trip, be sure not to forget about the small things. Like not having a headlamp when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night! (Certainly not the kind of wake-up call you want!)

So what are some of the larger devices you might need to charge? The challenge with these devices is that they require more wattage for a longer period of time to fully charge. Devices like laptops can use up to 100 watts of power if you are actively using them while charging. For example, if you only need to charge your MacBook Pro while not in use, you’ll only need 40-60 watts of power. But if you want to use the laptop while it’s charging, a minimum of 100 watts is required.

How Many Milliamp Hours Does it Take to Power a 32” TV?

If you want a higher level of entertainment in the backcountry, a TV is one of the more power-hungry devices you might want in your rig. For example, a 32-inch flatscreen TV can use anywhere between 30 and 85 watts, depending on the brand and type. LED screens use the least amount of wattage, while LCD screens use the most. Keep in mind this is just the wattage consumption at present. Milliamp-hours is the primary figure you’ll want to pay attention to because this is the number that determines how long you can use or charge a device. 

How many mAh does it take to charge the new 16” MacBook Pro?

If you need to keep your MacBook Pro charged while you’re off-grid, you should make sure the portable power supply provides at least 25,000 mAh, which is about how much it will use for one full charge. Unless you’ll be powering an older MacBook Pro that uses the Magsafe charger, you’ll want to be sure the power bank also has a USB-C port (some power banks ONLY have a USB-C, so be sure there’s a standard outlet if you have an older MacBook).

Besides the mAh rating (essentially how long the power bank can charge), there’s also the wattage to be sure of. 

How many watts of power do I actually need?

A 45-watt portable powerpack can charge any USB-C PD-enabled device, but if you are charging a small device like an iPhone X, only 18-watts of power will actually be delivered to the device. So, be sure to choose a power bank that can handle the largest wattage demand device you’ll want to power in addition to the wattage needed by any other small device.

Top charging options for off-the-grid excursions

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 Does the power bank support pass-through charging of connected devices?

Another feature that's important to be sure your power bank has for off the grid excursions is the ability to charge the power bank PLUS your laptop or other devices simultaneously. This will help you quickly charge all of your battery-powered devices simultaneously when you have access to a normal power outlet. It can also be useful when you’re charging from a solar panel.

Power banks featuring Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 or USB-C PD

Another consideration when shopping for a portable power bank is how quickly it can charge your devices. The faster it can charge, the more efficiency you’ll get out of the power bank, along with more ability to power devices like laptops while using them. There are two dominant technologies for fast charging––Qualcomm Quick Charge and USB-C PD.

One power bank that features USB-C PD technology while also being TSA-approved is Sherpa 100PD by GoalZero. This handy little power bank can provide a USB-C laptop up to 1.5 recharges, making it perfect for digital nomads who travel light.

So what is Qualcomm® Quick Charge™?

Quick Charge 3.0 was introduced in 2015 to deliver higher power while charging while also ensuring power transfer is as efficient as possible. For example, Quick Charge 3.0 is 100% faster than QC 1.0 and can charge a smartphone up to a 50% charge in only 30 minutes, while the upcoming Quick Charge 4.0 will be able to charge a smartphone up to 50% in only 15 minutes.

What Is USB-C PD?

USB-C Power Delivery is another fast charging technology that can be found in some Apple and Android devices. Similar to Qualcomm® Quick Charge™, USB-C PD can flow much higher levels of power for lightning-fast charging. Chargers featuring USB-C PD technology can charge some devices up to 70% faster than standard 5W charging.

Another benefit of USB-C PD is that it can provide up to 100W of power, making it possible to charge larger devices such as tablets and laptops, cutting down on thick, bulky cords that make a mess of laptop bags. Belkin makes a high-quality USB-C PD cord that’s made to last.

Does the power bank accept solar charging?

While having an extra charge or two available for your laptop is helpful, if you’ll be spending more than a couple of days off the grid, you’re going to need a way to replenish the energy in your portable power bank. Being able to easily connect for a solar charge is ideal in this case, but not all power banks offer this feature, so be sure to check before you purchase your off the grid power supply.

Many of the portable power solutions made by Jackery offer solar charging as an option. If you want big power for extended excursions, combine two of their SolarSaga 100W Solar Panels with their Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station for 1000 watts of endless portable power. The solar panels can charge the power station in only eight hours, making this a good setup for longer-term Overlanding trips, and at the time of this writing, they’re offering a $200 discount when you buy two of the panels with the power station.

What are the TSA rules for lithium-ion batteries?

Mobile power banks aren’t exactly cheap, so you may want to be sure to choose one that can be taken anywhere, including an airplane. This means some mobile power banks will be far too large for air travel, requiring you to drive wherever you’re traveling to. The good thing is most people who need a larger power bank do because they’re traveling by land rather than air.

Here are the TSA requirements for lithium batteries from the TSA website:

  • Lithium batteries with 100 watt-hours or less may be carried in a device in either carry-on or checked bags. Loose lithium batteries are prohibited in checked bags.
  • Spare (uninstalled) lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries, including power banks and cell phone battery charging cases, must be carried in carry-on baggage only. 
  • When a carry-on bag is checked at the gate or at planeside, all spare lithium batteries and power banks must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin. The battery terminals must be protected from short circuits.
  • This also includes external battery chargers (portable rechargers) containing a lithium-ion battery. 
  • Lithium-ion (rechargeable) batteries are limited to a rating of 100 watt-hours (Wh) per battery. 
  • With airline approval, passengers may also carry up to two spare larger lithium-ion batteries (101-160 Wh) or lithium-metal batteries (2-8 grams). This size covers the larger after-market extended-life laptop computer batteries and some larger batteries used in professional audio/visual equipment.
  • As you can see, you’ll be fairly limited when it comes to portable power banks, as many of them suitable for long trips far exceed 100 watt-hours of capacity, so keep this in mind if you travel by air often. You ARE allowed to carry two larger-capacity batteries as well, so you could simply use a few smaller banks versus one big one as a workaround.
  • Pocket power banks you can take on airplanes

    If you won’t need to power a laptop, but instead smaller devices such as phones, headphones, or an iPad, you can use a pocket-sized power bank like Rokform’s Rugged Portable Wireless Charger. This 4,000 mAh power bank is about the size of a typical smartphone, making it perfect for keeping in your pocket or carry-on bag for trips requiring air travel. You can expect enough charging capacity from the single USB charging port or wireless charging point to provide you an additional 30 hours of smartphone talk time. Featuring rugged drop protection and an IP65 Water Resistant rating, you’ll get reliable power for your small devices no matter where you travel.

    We hope this guide helps you find the perfect portable power bank for your next adventure off the grid! When you venture out into the wilderness, don’t forget to keep your phone protected from drops when you’re snapping shots. The Rokform Rugged Case will keep your phone safe no matter where you roam. Be sure to tag us on our Instagram and share how your off-grid excursion went!

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