No more dead phones: Guide to portable power banks

portable power banks for camping

When I am out and about, either camping or exploring, I want to capture every moment, but there is nothing worse than when my phone, iPad or camera runs out of battery.

Portable camping power packs are an ideal solution. Not only can they fit in your pocket or rucksack, but they also charge fast, are lightweight and are simple to use. But what are power banks, and how do they work?

Portable power banks are lightweight, handheld devices that store energy providing freedom to charge USB devices whilst on the move. The electrical charge is mAH ( milliampere-hour). The higher the mAH, the longer the device will charge. On average, 10000 mAH will last 8-10 hours and can charge several devices simultaneously.

What are lightweight portable power banks?

Portable power banks are rechargeable devices that store energy, enabling you to charge electrical devices such as iPhones, Ipad, cameras and air pods while on the go. They are compact devices that fit easily in the palm of your hand. They can charge by solar: a built-in solar panel or a detachable solar panel. Simply connect your cable to a mini USB input charge point to charge.

To charge multiple devices, connect your recharge cable to the out USB output., Or you can attach a wireless charging pad so you do not have to worry about connecting your phone. Just place it on the pad to charge. However, this is not ideal if you are on the move. Which, for me, is the primary purpose of a portable power bank. The wireless charge is magnetic to keep your phone in place if you are stationary.

Charging cables to electrical devices are not supplied—only the mini USB charge cable for the power bank. You can use your standard charging cables, only disconnect from the plug.

Power banks are not generators and cannot compete with a generator. Generators supply energy by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. In contrast, a power bank is a portable battery pack that stores energy on a smaller scale and without an engine.

There are different levels of portable power banks. They are rated via the mAH, which is the milliampere-hour. The higher the number, the greater energy stored.

Monitoring how much charge they hold is either with a LED display that gives your the percentage of charge remaining. Or LED lights, usually 4, will decrease as you use the power. When charging, the light will flash. They will automatically turn off when unused or your device is fully charged. So no overcharging of devices.

I do not go anywhere without my power banks. I have one for myself, which is only chargeable by mains or solar panel and a solar-charged device for my son Nick. Mine is slimline, lightweight and can easily fit into trouser pockets.

In contrast, Nicks is bulkier and can be solar-charged. However, for it to be effective, it needs to be in sunlight for up to 32 hours for 100% charge, which is not ideal. AC mains can charge it, so I charge it fully before leaving. Nick has a higher level of energy storage, 26800mAH, as he charges his iPad during the evening. Mine is smaller at 10000mAH. I use it just for charging my phone and Kindle. Both last easily for 2 weeks, charging once a day.

What are the features of a portable power bank?

  • Storage – mAH the greater the number, the more storage capacity. Ideally, don’t go below 10000mAH.
  • Power display – Two types of LED displays. 4 light display that reduces ad power are used. Each light flashes as it charges to highlight the level of charge. Another is a LED percentage display that shows how much battery power remains.
  • Charging – Multi-chargeable, allows solar charging, wall mains, or 12v car charging.
  • Charge capacity – Fast charging can reduce the time to power your devices. However, this does increase the price of the device.
  • Torchlight – Not portable power charges have a built-in light. Lights can be handy, as they have emergency settings. The lights can be used for up to 40 hours, depending on the device, providing no other devices draw power.
  • Size – Power banks are becoming increasingly smaller and compact with a high storage capacity. Ideally, to keep portability, they need to be lightweight and able to tuck into a pocket or rucksack. Not bulky or weighty as you will be carrying it around with you.

What does it mean by mAH capacity?

mAH milliampere-hour means how much electrical charge can hold before it needs to be recharged.

  • mA – milliampere
  • H – per hour

There is no simple calculation to determine how long the power bank will last, only an estimate. This is because it all depends on a device’s drawing charge and voltage.

Charging Time (in hours) = (Battery Capacity in mAh) / (Charging Current in Amperes) * (Charging Voltage in Volts)

Based on a standard mobile phone

  • Iphone – 5 volts
  • iPhone – 1- 2A – Av 1.5A
  • 10000mAH – 1

10000mAH / (1.5A x 5v) = 10000mAH / 7.5 = 1,333.33 hrs (Approx 54 days and 13 hrs)

54 days of charge main seem a lot; however, you must consider how long a device will take to charge. If you are charging multi-devices and the drawing charge is greater, this will reduce the charge hours available.

For instance, an iPad draws 2.4A and a voltage of 9. This reduces the hours of charge by 871 hrs.

Portable power bank: Ideal for solo campers and backpackers

If you are backpacking or a solo camper, being able to keep your mobile phone charged for emergencies is vital. Removing the worry of having a dead phone gives your more freedom and the opportunity to capture more memories. As well as keep in touch with people or for emergencies.

Ideally, having a solar-powered portable power bank is the ideal solution. Not only if it is built-in, but you can also use separate portable solar panels. Attach to the back of your backpack and charge whilst you walk.

If a power bank is not sufficient and you want to be able to cook with it, there are other options. Solar power generators such as a Jackery are another option. They are bulkier due to the power they hold, and you will need solar panels. However, they are a great way of renewable energy. It may not be the ideal solution for backpacking due to the weight, although they are a popular option. They would be more beneficial to a solo camper if you stay in one location or have some form of transport. For more information on solar generators, please read our guide on selecting the right one for you, pros and cons.

Portable power banks: Recharge time vs charging devices

The time it takes to charge a power bank depends on several different factors.

  • Level of power charge – AC mains, solar or generator charging
  • Power output to charge to power bank
  • Cable quality
  • Environment
  • The heat of the power bank during charging. Will the safety features turn off the device due to overheating?
  • Fast charge – 80% of power banks have a fast charge which can reduce time on average by 50%

Confirming a correct charge time depends on the power bank’s input charge, the power source’s output for charging, and the volts of the charger.

  • Watt = 5V x 2.4A
  • Total watts 12
  • Total energy consumed (kWh) = 12Watts x 5 (Time / Hours) / 1000
  • The total cost of unit = Total energy consumed x kWH

Energy consumed (kWh) = Power (W) x Time (h) / 1000

Power bank charge time and cost of charging

mAH – Power bank sizeCharge time – Output / Input 2.4A / 5VAverage unit charge 0.3346p
5000 mAH5 hours5v x 2.4 A = 12 watts
12W x 5 hr s= 60 Wh
60wh / 1000 = 0.06 kWh
0.06 kWh x 0.3346p = 0.0198p
Total cost 0.020p for 5 hours
10000 mAH8-10 hoursAverage 9 hours
5v x 2.4 A = 12 watts
12W x 9 hrs = 108 Wh
108wh / 1000 = 0.108 kWh
0.108 kWh x 0.3346p = 0.03613p
Total cost 0.036p for 9 hours
20000 mAH8.50 hours5v x 2.4 A = 12 watts
12W x 8.5 hrs = 100.8 Wh
100.8wh / 1000 = 0.1008 kWh
0.1008 kWh x 0.3346p = 0.0337p
Total cost 0.0337p for 8.5 hours
26000 mAH
11 hours
5v x 2.4 A = 12 watts
12W x 11 hrs = 132 Wh
132wh / 1000 = 0.132 kWh
0.132 kWh x 0.3346p = 0.0442p
Total cost 0.044p for 11 hours
27000 mAH11.5 hours5v x 2.4 A = 12 watts
12W x 11.5 hrs = 138 Wh
138wh / 1000 = 0.138 kWh
0.138 kWh x 0.3346p = 0.04617p
Total cost 0.046p for 11.5 hours
30000 mAH12.5 hours5v x 2.4 A = 12 watts
12W x 12.5 hrs = 150 Wh
150wh / 1000 = 0.150 kWh
0.150 kWh x 0.3346p = 0.05019p
Total cost 0.050p for 12.5 hours
50000 mAH12-13 hoursAverage 11 hours
5v x 2.4 A = 12 watts
12W x 11 hrs = 132 Wh
132wh / 1000 = 0.132 kWh
0.132 kWh x 0.3346p = 0.0442p
Total cost 0.044p for 11 hours
Power bank charge times by AC mains

Portable power banks: Solar charge vs mains charged

There are several ways to charge power banks. Via mains, 12v car charge and solar charging. Charging by mains is a quick, easy process, whereas charging by solar, especially if the solar panel is built-in, the power bank can take up to 32 hours. Which is dependent on the weather.

Overall, using a solar generator would be more efficient if you want to charge any devices with renewable energy. Built-in solar panels on handheld portable devices could be more efficient. We have listed the reasons why in our pros and cons. However, I do not recommend a solar charging power device because it is solar charging only for the sturdiness of the device.

Mains charging: Pros and cons.


  • Charge time – Quick to charge compared to solar. Depending on the device can take up to 4-5 hours.
  • Reliable – Stable and constant charge
  • Convenient – Can charge anywhere, mainly public places, have facilities to charge. You can charge via EHU on-site and many campsites have designated areas your charge with a fee.


  • Overcharge – Easily overcharge; however, many portable power banks have a built-in switch-off to avoid. This can damage the battery, so do not leave it charging overnight.
  • Overheating – The device heats up during charging. This affects the performance of the battery and can reduce its lifespan.
  • Cost of charging – With the increase in electricity costs. The cost of charging a 10000mAH will be 4p per hour.

Solar charging: Pros and cons


  • Freedom – Being able to charge on the move gives you more freedom, as you can charge anywhere
  • Renewable energy – Eco friendly
  • Emergency charging –
  • Sturdy – The devices have a sturdier feel than streamlined mains-powered power banks. Ideal for younger children to charge electronic devices.
  • Cost-effective – Cheaper to charge than mains charging. However, an initially higher financial outlay of additional solar panels to charge more effectively.


  • Weather – Charge time is dependent on weather conditions. If it is overcast, the device will charge slower.
  • Unreliable –The charge’s strength depends on the charging time. It can take several days to reach a full charge.
  • Bulky – They are heavier than mains charge power devices. If you walk long distances and want to pack light, you can feel the weight afterwards. However, the weight is not too heavy.

Related questions

How to increase the life of your power bank?

There are several different ways you and increase the life of your power.

  • Storing the power bank in a cool and dry place is recommended for optimal battery power.
  • Avoid exposing it to damp environments; turn it off and dry it immediately if it becomes wet.
  • Overcharging the power bank can damage its battery life, so unplugging it once fully charged is important.
  • Always use the cable supplied with the power bank to charge.
  • To prolong the battery life, it’s best to keep a minimum charge of 10-20% and avoid letting the power supply drop to zero.
  • Charge regularly, as the power supply will discharge on average 3% per month. However, this does depend on the above where it is stored.
  • To clean the power bank, use a dry cloth and never submerge it in water or clean it with a wet cloth.

What alternatives are there to portable power banks?

Alternative options to power banks are available in different sizes. However, not all are mobile and can be stored in a rucksack. It is important to consider what you want to charge and the time period you want to use the device.

  • Hand crank lanterns – They can be used to provide light and are also great for charging electrical devices such as mobile phones, Ipads, and Kindles. However, only small devices. They are unable to charge laptops or other large electrical devices. Hand crank lanterns are powered. Turning a handle generates electricity and is stored in a rechargeable battery inside.
  • Rechargeable lanterns – Rechargeable lanterns are available in different mAH. 10000mAH is suitable for a week’s camping and can be charged by AC mains and solar. Multiple devices can be charged at once. However, only mobile phones, iPads and Kindles. They are not suitable for powering 3 or 2-pin devices. For more information on rechargeable lanterns that can keep your device fully charged, check our ar article on budget rechargeable lanterns with power banks.
  • Solar panels – You can connect a mobile phone directly to a solar panel. They vary in size, which will determine the power. The larger the solar panel, the more efficient the charging time will be. Per square meter of sunlight on a solar panel will provide 1000W.
  • Fuel power generators – Ideal if you have transport as they a bulky. They are ideal if you stay on a campsite, camper van, motorhome or caravan. However not for keeping devices charged for just a day or wild camping whilst you are on the go.
  • Solar generators – Can be charged by solar panels or via AC mains supply. Available in different sizes, which determines the types of devices that can be charged. The higher the power supply, the larger the generator.
  • 12v car charge – Not ideal for portability, but you can pre-charge devices before you leave the vehicle. You can use a car charger to charge handheld devices as well as portable power banks.

Not sure if you need a power bank or a generator? Our guide to generators can help you. Generators require maintenance before and after use, plus it is important to follow a maintenance schedule to ensure safe and efficient working. We compare fuel, solar generators, pros and cons, plus the effect on the environment.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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