New Trent’s PowerPak series of portable lithium-ion polymer battery packs are designed for the trail. The PowerPak + (left) weighs in at 10 ounces and has ribbed, scratch-resistant casing designed to withstand some of the lighter rigors of the trail. For ten dollars more, there’s the PowerPak Xtreme (right), which is an ounce lighter, splash-resistant and can handle falls up to 1.5 meters. Both charge up to two USB devices at a time—that means tablets, smartphones, cameras, etc.—and carry up to six iPhone charges-worth of power. The PowerPak is guaranteed to recharge 500 times, so it’ll last long enough to justify the expense.
$69.95/$79.95 at NewTrent.com
If bundled with GoalZero’s Nomad 13 portable solar panel, this 1.1-pound power pack can take you completely off grid. The solar panel, which can be carried on the outside of your pack while you hike, will charge the Sherpa in 6 to 12 hours, so it can be ready to power up your laptop or smartphone when you reach camp. It can also be charged by wall outlet or car in only 3 to 4 hours. A fully charged Sherpa 50 is good for seven smartphone charges, two tablet charges or a full laptop charge (you need to buy a laptop adapter kit, though). If your wallet cringes at the Sherpa’s price, GoalZero also makes a smaller, smartphone-specific solar kit, the Guide 10, for $119.98.
$199.99; $359.98 with solar panel at GoalZero.com
This innovative new hybrid battery pack has a twist: its disposable fuel cells can be charged with water. Pour a little water into a “power puck” ($4 apiece; 1 oz.) and you’ll generate enough energy for a single smartphone charge. The PowerTrekk also has a lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged via USB cable, so you’re not wedded to the fuel cell system—at least for your first charge. At over $200, this device isn’t cheap, but does have a few advantages: it’s only 8 ounces and can power your phone or GPS off-grid faster than a typical solar charger; and it’s durable enough to bounce around in your pack and withstand splashes. IPhone adapter included.
$229 at REI
What’s cooler than a super-efficient camp stove that weighs only two pounds and requires only twigs for fuel? How about one that charges your iPhone. The heat generated by the BioLite fuels a thermoelectric generator that powers USB-chargeable devices: smartphones, headlamps, GPS devices and more. Twenty minutes of fire will not only boil water for your morning coffee and cook your breakfast, it’ll give you 60 minutes of talk time on your iPhone or Android smartphone.
$129.95 at BioLiteStove.com
BioLite isn’t the only way to harness the power of your campfire for the benefit of your electronic gear. Debuting at this summer’s Outdoor Retailer product show, the FlameStower also uses a thermoelectric generator. You fill up the water reservoir and position the generator over an open flame or other heat source. Its USB output charges at about half the rate of a wall outlet, say the manufacturers, so you can completely charge an iPhone in about 3 hours, depending on the heat of the flame. Good for any USB-chargeable device, it’s only 8 ounces and collapses down to a very stowable 7.75” x 2.25” x 1”-package (inset). Available for pre-order.
$69.99 at FlameStower.com
Brunton will be releasing its own highly anticipated fuel cell charger later this year. This device operates on a similar principle as the PowerTrekk: you insert a fuel cell into the reactor, and the resulting hydrogen reaction generates enough energy to power your USB device. But that’s where the similarities with the PowerTrekk end. Each fuel cell, manufactured by the company Horizon, can charge an iPhone five times, or a tablet one-and-a-half times—there’s a switch to toggle the amount of juice flowing into your device. The only byproduct of the reaction is water vapor and heat, and each fuel cell ($15 apiece; two included with purchase) can be recharged 1,000 times and recycled when it’s kaput. The only issue: while Brunton works with outdoor retailers to develop public charging stations, your only current option for recharging the cells is purchasing a separate $250 charger.
The third fire-powered charger on this list uses similar technology in a slightly different way. Whereas the BioLite is the stove itself and the FlameStower uses heat from another source, the PowerPot places the generator on the bottom of a pot you can use to boil up to 46 ounces of water. A flame-resistant USB cable will recharge your smartphone, digital camera or other device at slightly faster rate the other chargers—under 2 hours, the manufacturers claim. Like the FlameStower, you need to keep an eye on the water level, and, at 18 ounces with lid and cable, it’s a tad heavier than average camping pot. (Hint: the lid can be flipped upside down for use as a frying pan.)
$149.00 at ThePowerPot.com
To be released later this year, the Nectar by Lilliputian Systems promises to be the Cadillac of fuel cell chargers—albeit much smaller. At only 7 ounces, this compact, lightweight charger is similar to the Brunton Hydrogen Reactor, with the difference that each non-rechargeable cartridge ($10) is good for more than 10 iPhone charges, or more than two-weeks of power, boasts the company. Of course it also works for your e-reader, iPad or any other USB-powered device, but it comes at a cost reminiscent of a Cadillac: $300. Available only from Brookstone.
$299.99 at Brookstone
From the tiny Astro Mini ($19.99), which packs enough punch to charge a smartphone once, to the heavy-duty, 20-ounce Astro Pro2 ($99.99), which can charge an iPhone nine times or a laptop once, Anker’s Astro series of portable battery packs runs the gamut of size and power output, but maintains a consumer-friendly range of prices. A good middle-ground option for hikers and campers is the Astro E5 (pictured; $49.99) which has enough juice for seven or eight smartphone charges, comes Apple-ready, and can charge any two USB devices simultaneously. Charges via USB or separate AC adapter.
$19.99 to $99.99 on Amazon
An update on the BoostTurbine 2000, this lithium-ion battery pack can fill up the usual way—plug it into a power source via mini-USB—and store enough power for a couple solid iPhone recharges (or about a third of an iPad’s capacity). But in a real pinch you can unfold this handy pack’s crank arm and power it up with a little bit of muscle. One minute of cranking will get you about 4 minutes of talk time or a few texts, Eton claims. That little bit can be vital in an emergency.
Possibly the most durable battery pack on the market, mophie’s one-pound powerstation PRO is dust-proof, splash resistant and impact resistant. Its rubber casing means it can survive a fall, and, according to mophie, you can even take this pack in the shower without damaging it (not that you’d want to try.) It also carries enough charge to boost your iPhone four times over, and it’s compatible with most USB-powered devices.
$99.95 at mophie.com
This battery pack isn’t just a battery pack. Recognized as best-in-show at this summer’s Outdoor Retailer convention by GearJunkie and Gear Patrol, Trimble Outdoors’ TopoCharger does triple duty: it doubles your iPhone’s battery life, serves as a protective case, and turns your phone into a portable GPS device with a removable chip containing detailed statewide topographical maps. You’ll be burning that extra power when you use the maps’ 15 zoom levels (1:250K to 1:24K), but at least you won’t need reception to look at them. Available this fall for iPhone 4, 4S and 5.