Did you see that great deal on that randomly-named USB battery pack on Amazon? Looks great doesn’t it? Massive storage. Connects to tablets & phones of all types. Charges fast. What else could you possibly want?
As it turns out, quite a bit.
I get all sorts of comments from people heading out into the wilderness that they found a great battery pack, only to learn that it won’t do what they were hoping it would. Often it is the little things that matter most.
Before you go an spend even $60 on a portable battery bank for your outdoor adventures, here is a 3-step decision process for weeding-out the undesirables…
1. Pass-Through Charging
This is the #1 issue in my mind, and one that most battery pack makers conveniently, or inconveniently, omit from their specs. I make a big deal of this issue when discussing the various battery packs we offer on ModernOutpost.com.
Essentially “Pass-through charging” is the ability of the battery to regulate its input port while keeping its output port(s) operating. This simply means that you will be able to charge your phone or GPS while the battery pack itself is charging.
Seems like a simple feature, but apparently it isn’t. Most battery packs will not support such functionality. You either charge the battery pack, or you charge your device, but not both at the same time.
Maybe you don’t care much, in which case save a few bucks.
But you will care if…
a. you run-down your battery bank and have to wait until it has enough charge to warrant unplugging it and charging your device.
b. you want to connect to a solar panel for endless charging anywhere, anytime.
Remember, all the battery packs on ModernOutpost.com feature pass-though charging (with a couple of notable exceptions), including ones that support laptop voltages & AC inverters. Goal Zero, Voltaic Systems, Enerplex, Kicker/Aspect.
Does the battery pack offer the output formats you need?
universal USB ports that are both Apple & Android-friendly. Laptop voltages & connectors. Maybe even AC inverters for equipment that has no DC-input option available.
Don’t try charging USB batteries from 12V solar panels using a 12V USB car adaptor. The results will leave you less-than-impressed as you cut your panel’s output by more than half in the process.
For 12V systems, use a battery that is natively 12V range on the input and offers USB ports.
For USB systems, use a USB battery with a USB-ready solar panel (5-6V).
This means both input and output rates, not just capacity.
No sense having a battery pack that can only accept 5W of input power when you know you will be draining it at 10W for several hours a day.
Similarly, no sense having a big battery that has to charge or discharge at an agonizingly slow rate for safety.
When using solar, select a battery that matches both your input & output requirements, and then make sure that it has the capacity to get you through your charging day.
Those are the big three when it comes to choosing a battery pack for use with, or without, solar power input. Make sure it supports pass-through charging, supports all your devices, and has the charging, discharging, and storage you and your devices need.
Need help choosing?
Want my opinion on a particular battery before you decide to buy? (yes, even if its not one we sell at Modern Outpost).
Send me a note.