Portable Chargers for the Backcountry

TECH TALK

Backcountry charging

The use of electronics like phones and gps devices in the backcountry is no longer the exception; it’s the norm. Smartphones can be incredibly useful. With apps like Gaia (GPS) and Avanet (snow study/tour planning/map), a phone becomes a worthy gps and map tool. As we rely more heavily on electronic devices for everything from communication to navigation and weather information, keeping them charged in the backcountry setting is becoming a need that is hard to escape.

On a typical day trip, there’s no need to worry about recharging, but on multi-day tours or in the event of an emergency, being able to recharge your device is critical. I have experimented with a variety of charging options based on a variety of scenarios.

The way I see it, there are three scenarios when charging your electronics is important:
1. Long-term expeditions
2. Shorter, multi-day adventures
3. Emergency scenarios on a day trip that demand more power

Long-term expeditions require the ability to charge different devices multiple times. The easy answer is a portable solar panel, but I will not get into expedition use here. Instead, I focus on small portable options to meet the needs of shorter multi-day adventures and general emergency backup needs.

I’ve been testing two models of portable chargers and both have proven themselves very useful during testing: the Goal Zero Venture 30 and the Brunton RESYNC 6000. Both devices are essentially lithium storage batteries designed to be charged at home, or when you have access to power and used to recharge small electronics like phones, a gps or a tablet while in the backcountry. Here’s the scoop:

Brunton RESYNC 6000

Brunton RESYNC 6000

Brunton RESYNC 6000

Size: 6.2″ x 3.1″ x .6″
Weight: 7.41 oz / 210 G
Cost: $79
Shop for the Brunton RESYNC 6000

The RESYNC 6000 is a 6000mAh lithium polymer storage battery that can charge multiple small devices or a single larger device. In other words, it’s a rechargeable battery that you can pack to recharge your stuff.

It’s primarily designed to be charged by plugging it into the wall via a USB port. You can charge it before a backcountry trip and it then offers the ability to recharge your device(s) multiple times. What sets the RESYNC apart from other lithium battery storage devices is that it integrates a .75 Watt solar panel into its housing. The solar panel lets you recharge the unit in the field. The caveat being that to fully recharge the unit via the solar panel requires 45-55 hours to achieve a full charge from zero. In contrast, the unit can be fully charged from a wall outlet or even a car charger in as little as four hours.

The solar panel charge time is long and sounds impractical, but The RESYNC is designed for primary charging using the USB input, while the solar panel integration is designed as a way to keep the unit topped up in the backcountry. Solar charge times from zero percent to half charge are much longer than from half charge to full, so think of the solar panel as a way to maintain the initial charge. It’s basically a way to keep the unit topped up and to extend its usefulness. For example, if you phone charge is down to 60%, use the RESYNC to top it up and then use the sun to maintain the RESYNC charge. It’s a way to get some additional battery life on your electronics without having to plug the RESYNC into an outlet.

Charging your device from the RESYNC unit uses an included 2-in-1 adapter cable, which is set up for micro USB and Lightning ports. There are two charging terminals: one for 1 milliamp and one for 2.4 milliamp output.

Charge times are similar to the times required for your device under normal home charging situations. The RESYNC unit features a single power button with a four-LED power indicator. A small flip door opens to reveal the port for charging cables.

The RESYNC is easy to use and the built-in solar panel offers a convenient way to keep the unit charged, especially if you do not drain it too low. The solar panel essentially extends the range of the battery by letting you maintain the charge. I was able to strap the unit to my pack to allow for daytime charging, though a dedicated d-ring or loop on the RESYNC would make strapping it to a pack even easier.

DETAILS:

  • Shockproof and weatherproof
  • .75 Watt Solar Panel for maintaining charge and recharging in emergency situations
  • High-yield lithium cell
  • 2-in-1 Adapter Cable Included (Micro USB, Lightning)
  • Power: 6000mAh
  • Size: 6.2″ x 3.1″ x .6″
  • Dual Output: To Standard USB (5v; 2.1A and 1A)
  • Input: Micro USB and Solar for secondary charging
Goal Zero Venture 30

Goal Zero Venture 30

Goal Zero Venture 30
Size: 4.5 x 3.25 x 1 in
Weight: 8.8 oz / 250 g
Cost: $99
Shop for the Goal Zero Venture 30

The Venture 30 is a 7,800mAh lithium storage battery that can charge multiple small devices or a single larger device. It’s designed to be charged via a USB port through a wall outlet, but is also compatible with Goal Zero’s portable solar panels that are available separately. When paired with a Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel (a 7 watt panel), it can be recharged in 8-16 hours.

Charging the unit from a wall outlet takes approximately five hours. It is then set to charge a smartphone or similar device a couple times or a larger device a single time. The Venture 30 includes two USB output ports, so you can charge two devices at once. The shockproof, weather-resistant unit is designed for rugged outdoor use and withstood two weeks of backcountry abuse without notice.

I have not paired the Venture 30 with a solar panel, but it has served me well for maintaining a charge on my smartphone over the course of a multi-day trip and during an extended flight where no outlet was available. The interface is simple and a series of five LED lights indicate how much power is available or how charged the Venture 30 unit is. It’s a nice clean design for anyone looking to for a simple, portable charging unit for their electronics.

DETAILS

  • 7,800MAH recharger
  • Weatherproof design
  • Solar Ready (charges from any Nomad solar panel or USB port)
  • Built-in micro USB tip
  • Dual 2.4A USB ports

Shop for portable chargers