Whether you’re backpacking through Southeast Asia or camping in a US national park, one thing is for sure: at some point, your phone and other electronics are going to run out of power.
For some people, this isn’t going to be a problem. Maybe it’s even a benefit since they can look forward to some digital detox in the great outdoors. But for most of us, running out of batteries is a nuisance. Without your smartphone, you won’t be able to call for help in an emergency. Conversely, you won’t be able to communicate with friends and family. Besides which, for most of us, our smartphones have replaced our old cameras. Without your phone, how are you going to be able to take pictures of all the gorgeous scenery?
This is why it’s very important to have a backup in case you run out of power in a remote area. Hence, a power bank can come in very handy. But a good power bank for backpacking or camping needs to fit some specific criteria, such as:
- It should have a hefty capacity, enough for multiple smartphone charges
- It needs to be compact, so it doesn’t take up too much space in your backpack
- It needs to be lightweight since you’ll be carrying it everywhere
- It needs to withstand the harshness of travel: water, dirt, shocks, and scratches
- If you’re traveling by air, it needs to be approved for air travel
And some nice-to-have features:
- Solar panels that allow it to recharge on the go
- A built-in flashlight
- Fast charging, so if needed, you can quickly top it off at cafes, gas stations, airports, etc
Unfortunately, there’s no single portable charger that meets all of these criteria. For example, the smaller a power bank is, the less capacity it’s going to have, so you need to find a balance.
That said, our top choice for a backpacking and camping power bank is the ZEROLEMON 26800mAh Survival Power Bank. Let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer.
ZEROLEMON 26800mAh SurvivalJuice
- Powerful 26800mAh Lithium Polymer battery pack
- Built-in solar panel for on-the-go recharging
- 2 USB charging ports and 1 USB Type-C charging port
- Supports Quick Charge 3.0
- Built-in D-ring for easy transport
- Built-in flashlight with multiple settings
- Resistant to rain, shocks, and scratches
- TSA-approved for air travel
Last update on 2020-05-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The overall design is engineered for high visibility. The outer frame is constructed from a durable, bright yellow plastic that’s easy to spot if you drop it on the ground. In the center, you’ll find a solar panel on one side, with the flashlight built into the other side. Above the solar panel, there’s a row of four LED lights that give you a general idea of the battery status. Underneath, a rectangular green LED that lets you know when the power is turned on. There’s also a power button at the top left. When the SurvivalJuice is turned off, the battery status will not be displayed, so don’t panic if the indicator LEDs are not illuminated.
Large Capacity – 26800mAh
The overall capacity of this power bank is 26800mAh. This is unusually large for such a compact unit, and it’s the core reason for our recommendation. It’s sufficient to recharge your iPhone X almost 9 full times, and the Samsung Galaxy S10 slightly more than 8 times. Even for a week-long trip to the wilderness, this should be more than sufficient battery life for almost anybody. It can even fully charge an Apple iPad 10.2 as many as 3 times. That’s pretty impressive. Not coincidentally, it has the highest capacity allowed for air transport, at 99 Watt-hours.
Rugged design: Water, dirt, and shock-resistant
The ZEROLEMON SurvivalJuice is one of the most durable power banks out there. Built to withstand almost anything mother nature can throw at it, you can be sure that it will be there for you when you need it the most.
On the bottom of the unit, there’s a tethered rubber plug that covers the USB charging ports. When this plug is inserted, the power bank is rain resistant. Now, we did notice that ZEROLEMON does not provide an IP rating or certification. As a result, it’s tough to say exactly how rain-resistant the SurvivalJuice really is.
In addition to being rain-resistant, the SurvivalJuice is also resistant to shocks and scratches. You can drop it on a rock, scrape it against a tree and it should be fine. This is absolutely essential in a backpacking or camping power bank. After all, you want your power bank to stand up to any beatings it takes in all your outdoor adventures.
Acceptable size and weight
The ZEROLEMON 26800mAh SurvivalJuice is fairly beefy, measuring 6.9 inches long, 3.3 inches wide, and 1.3 inches thick. It weighs in at 1.28 pounds, and a built-in D-ring on the top corner makes it easy to transport. If you don’t have enough room inside your backpack, all you need to do is clip it onto the outside with a carabineer.
While it’s definitely not the smallest and lightest power bank out there, its huge capacity and other key features make up for this drawback. From our point of view, this is a compromise worth making.
When it comes time to charge your devices, the SurvivalJuice provides Quick Charge 3.0 through the first USB port. This allows it to charge an iPhone X in about 45 minutes if you use a PD USB cable. The same is true for the Samsung Galaxy S10 and other similar phones. For smaller smartphones, you can get even faster charge times. By comparison, a standard power bank can take up to 2 ½ hours to charge a modern smartphone. When you’re sitting around the campfire, do you really want to wait that long to snap a few marshmallow-eating selfies? This is also a significant benefit for other purposes. Even on a short airline flight, you can get your smartphone fully charged before you get to your destination.
All in all, you can charge up to 3 devices simultaneously. There are two USB type A ports and an additional USB Type-C port. That said, only the first charging port supports Quick Charge 3.0. The second USB type A port charges at a standard rate of 5V/1.5a, and the USB Type-C port charges at a brisker rate of 5V/2.4a.
You can also use the SurvivalJuice for charging a laptop or Chromebook. For example, it has enough capacity to recharge your MacBook Pro 15” more than 3 times, or a Samsung Chromebook 4 more than 4 ½ times. That’s an impressive amount of capacity. The compatibility also extends to digital cameras, GPS units, and other electronics that you might take on your camping trip. Keep in mind, though, that the more devices you’re charging, the faster you’ll drain the SurvivalJuice’s battery. If you keep it simple and just bring your smartphone, you’ll be able to stay on the trail for longer.
At a rate of 5V/2a, it will fully charge in about 12 hours, which isn’t terrible considering the capacity. Plug it in overnight before you leave for your trip, and you won’t have any issues getting a full charge before you hit the road.
The built-in flashlight has 4 different modes: max brightness, low brightness, strobe, and SOS. The max brightness setting is designed for use as a standard flashlight. Use it to navigate on a dark trail or just to find your way into the woods to use the bathroom. It’s also a great way to illuminate your tent in the middle of the night. Just hang it from the D-ring, and it will function as a rudimentary lantern.
The low brightness setting is ideal if you don’t want to spoil your night vision. It’s not bright enough to use for walking, but it’s great for looking through a rucksack to find food or supplies. The strobe and SOS functions are both very bright and are designed for use as an emergency signal. To cycle through the max brightness, low brightness, and strobe modes, simply press the button on the front of the SurvivalJuice Power Bank, opposite the power button. To use the SOS function, press the bumper on the top right corner. As with all the other functions, the flashlight will not function if the main power button is turned off.
Solar charging feature
The SurvivalJuice also features in-built solar cells which allow the device to charge directly from sunlight. Admittedly, this charging option is very slow and you should not rely on it as the main charging solution. Depending on how much direct sunlight you get, it can take weeks before the power bank will be fully charged via the solar panel.
Even so, this feature can come in very handy during a natural disaster or even a glitch like the Northeast blackout of 2003 that can knock out power for weeks. With a solar-powered power bank, you can at least have enough juice to let your loved ones know that you’re okay. For other portable solar charger options, check out this article.
The most practical way of using the solar panel is simply to clip it onto your backpack while you’re hiking. This will allow you to at least supplement the existing battery life, extending the power bank’s usefulness.
Keeping Your Devices Safe
The SurvivalJuice is designed to protect both the internal circuitry and all of your devices. To keep the power bank itself safe, it features input overvoltage protection. In other words, if you accidentally plug the power bank into an incompatible quick charge power supply, it’s not going to fry your circuits or your battery.
To protect your devices, it features output overvoltage protection and output overcurrent protection. This keeps your devices safe, even if they don’t have any native protection of their own. Finally, both the inputs and outputs come with incorrect charger protection and short circuit protection. Many of these features are standard on most modern power banks. But it’s still good to know that ZEROLEMON has built a quality product, without cutting any corners.
So, how does the Survival SurvivalJuice Power Bank compare to other power banks on the market? For camping or backpacking, in our opinion, it’s the best that money can buy. It’s tough and rugged enough to take a serious beating. It also stands up to rain, which is essential for any outdoor product. The solar power supply gives you an emergency backup charging method, while the standard wall charging is good enough to get the job done. The capacity is enormous, while still squeaking in under the TSA’s limit. And the multi-function flashlight is a great added value, whether for lighting up your tent or signaling for help.