Picking The Right Portable Charger For Bikepacking: A step-by-step guide with our favorites


With each passing year, it feels like I am bringing more electronic devices with me on each of my bikepacking trips. But how do you actually keep them all charged? Most people will take a portable charger with them on their bikepacking trip to help overcome this, but how do you choose which one is right for you, and are there any alternatives you should be considering?

Our favorite bikepacking portable charger is the Anker PowerCore III Elite. It has a large capacity, recharges your devices quickly, and can recharge to full in 4.5 hours. While it is the best choice generally, there are many factors that will impact which portable charger is best for you.

To help you decide which power bank is best for you, we’ve taken a look at all the factors that may impact your decision and compiled them into a decision tree that you can use to easily pick the right one for you!

A flowchart showing which portable charger to choose for bikepacking or bike touring
Suggested Chargers Price
Nitecore NB10000£54.95
Schmidt SONDelux Hub Dynamo£214.99
Anker Solar Charger & Anker Powercore III£116
Maxoak 50,000 mAh£169.99
Anker Powercore III Elite£69.99
Anker PowerCore III Elite with Rapid Charger£89.99
Anker PowerCore Essential£38.48

How to pick which portable charger is right for your bikepacking trip?

There are a number of key factors that you need to look into when picking a portable charger. These can be broadly classified into 4 key areas:

  • How much charge do they hold
  • How fast they can charge your devices
  • How fast they can re-charge
  • Physical factors of the charger and extra features

Obviously, all of these features are important, but we are going to take a deep dive into a few of them to help give you the best chance of picking the portable charger for you.

How much charge do they hold?

The amount of charge that your portable charger can hold is obviously an important factor in deciding which power bank is right for you.

The amount of charge a portable charger can store is measured in milliamp-hours (mAh).

Battery banks can range from 1000mAh all the way up to 50,000mAh.

It is important to note that the largest common capacity of a portable charger is 26,800 mAh, as this is just under the limit allowed on airlines and gives them a smaller form factor than the larger alternatives.

The amount of charge you need will be dependent on how many devices you are carrying with you and how much charge they each need. See the table below for examples of common pieces of gear you may be taking on your trip.

DeviceCharge required for 1 full charge
Smartphone3000 mAh
Bike GPS System1,750 mAh
Bike Lights (600 lumen light for 4 hours)14000 mAh

When it comes to planning the capacity of the charger you need, it is important to realize that 20,000 mAh of power bank capacity does not equate to 20,000 of charge. You can lose up to 30% in some cases during the charging process (due to conversion and charging losses).

How fast do they charge your devices?

How fast a portable charger can charge your devices is measured by its wattage.

Wattage is calculated from the voltage and amps of a device. So the higher either of these numbers, the faster it will charge your devices faster.

Volts x Amps = Watts (rate of power transfer)

You’ll want your output to be as high as possible to ensure that charging your phone doesn’t take forever. Anything less than 1.5 amps will mean your phone will take hours to charge which may be inconvenient.

As with the other areas we talk about, all of this is on a spectrum and so getting a faster-charging power bank will result in a higher price tag.

The speed at which is charges your devices is most important if you have multiple devices requiring a recharge at the same time.

Slow portable chargers will not be able to charge a GPS, phone, and set of lights overnight, so if you need to charge all of these devices at once, you will either need to get multiple chargers or one that can charge them up more quickly.

How long does it take to charge the power bank?

Some portable chargers, particularly those with a higher capacity can take a long time to charge. Of the options we suggest here, the longest charging time is the MAXOAK 50000mAh which takes 8 hours to charge to full.

How long the power bank takes to charge will not be as important a factor if you plan to spend many nights in a hotel or campsite with electricity.

On the other hand, if you are going to spend more time wild camping, fast charging can be very beneficial. A power bank that can charge to full in 3 hours allows you to charge it while stopping somewhere for a long lunch, which is not possible for one that takes 8 hours.

What are the charger’s physical factors and extra features?

When it comes to a portable charger, the actual form of the power bank is also an important consideration. Obviously, more lightweight and slimmer options will be better for carrying on a bikepacking trip.

The largest power bank we have suggested above is the MAXOAK 50000mAh which weighs 2.8 lb (1.3kg) while the most lightweight is the Nitecore NB 10,000 only weighs 150g.

If you need lots of charge but do not want to carry one large charger, then it may be easier to take a few smaller chargers with you.

These can be easier to carry, give you more redundancy in case of a failure and allow you to charge more devices simultaneously.

Finally, it is important when it comes to picking a portable charger for a bikepacking trip to look into the durability and reliability of your choice.

When you are relying on your power bank to charge your way of calling for help and finding your way home, you want to make sure it is going to be reliable. As a result, we’d only suggest power banks from popular and reputable brands such as Anker or Nitecore.

Are they any alternatives to a portable charger when bikepacking?

I feel like I can’t have a conversation about the best portable charger without mentioning two alternative options; Dynamo hubs and solar chargers.

Dynamo Hubs

Dynamo hubs attach to your wheel and use the spinning force on your wheel to generate electricity. This energy can then be stored in a battery pack or put directly into the device you wish to charge.

They are very effective at charging your devices and can provide sufficient power to keep things such as a phone or GPS fully charged up as you cycle.

Dynamo hubs might sound good in theory, but they do have some drawbacks, including a high setup cost and they can be quite difficult to set up.

If you want to consider a dynamo, take a look at the SonDelux Son Hub Dynamo which is quite popular among bikepackers and bike tourers

Solar Powered Portable Chargers

Many bikepackers see solar-powered portable chargers as a great addition to a portable charger instead of being an alternative. This is because most solar panels stop charging if there’s not enough sunlight (in the shade for example), and do not recover immediately.

This can result in the charger never giving enough power to actually charge an item such as a phone.

As a result, most bikepackers use a solar charger connected to a battery pack. These are better suited to receive a slow charge over a very long period of time than a phone.

If you are thinking that a solar-powered charger might be good for you, we’d suggest Anker Solar Charger

Overall

As you can see, when it comes to portable chargers, there are many separate factors to take into account. We hope that the above chart helps you make a decision.

Most of all, remember when it comes to bikepacking, you should never be overly reliant on one device. If that means you need to carry a paper map with you or take a GPS that uses AA batteries, then make sure you’re doing that.

Mark Holmes

30-year-old doctor with an interest in cycling, bikepacking, and statistics.

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