Many companies — including Twitter, Apple and Google — have announced that they’re gearing up for a return to in-person work. If your company is in the same boat, this may be a good time to upgrade your commuting essentials. A portable charger — whether it's a traditional charger or a solar power bank — can keep your tech charged while you’re traveling back and forth. Even if you’re not returning to the office soon, portable chargers can also be useful during concerts, vacations and any long periods away from an outlet, like an emergency, for example.
We spoke to experts on what features to look for in a portable charger and how you can determine which one is best for charging your wireless earbuds, laptop, smartphone or other travel tech. We also rounded up some highly rated portable chargers with varying charging capacities and speeds.
5 portable chargers to shop in 2022
Since we don't test portable chargers ourselves, we rely on expert guidance and our previous reporting about how to shop for them. Our experts recommend looking at capacity, device compatibility and charging speed to determine the best battery pack for you. Below, we list portable chargers that were previously selected by tech expert Whitson Gordon. We also included some highly rated chargers with varying capacities and charging speeds recommended by Select staffers. All of the chargers can be returned within 30 days if they don’t work out.
Anker’s PowerCore Slim 1000 is a pocket-friendly portable charger that you can toss in your pocket, purse or travel backpack. Select editor Gideon Grudo said he likes that this charger contains both a 12W USB-A port and 18W USB-C port (just make sure you have a USB-C to USB-C cable on hand to take advantage of the latter). It has a 10,000mAh capacity, which Anker says is enough to provide a little over two charges for the iPhone 12 and above and one-and-a-half charges for the Galaxy S20 and above. Weighing 7.5 ounces, it’s also the lightest option on this list.
The Anker PowerCore 2K isn’t as pocket-friendly as the PowerCore Slim, but it has a larger charging capacity of 20,000mAh. Select writer Shari Uyehara says this power bank lasts her a few days and can charge her phone to 100 percent about three times before she has to recharge it.
The portable charger features twin USB ports that Anker says allow you to charge two devices at the same time with 15W of total power — the micro USB and USB-C ports are input only, meaning they can only be used to recharge the battery pack. Anker does offer the PowerCore Essential 20000 PD, though, which can charge devices via a USB-C port.
If you need to charge higher capacity devices like a laptop, ZMI’s PowerPack 20K Pro should work with most USB-C laptops through its 65W USB-C port, according to the brand. It measures its capacity at 20,000mAh or 72Wh. It can also double as a USB hub, so you can plug flash drives into it while you’re charging your laptop.
If you want to charge your laptop faster, you’ll want an even more powerful battery bank. Goal Zero’s Sherpa series, made with a tough aluminum build, has a 60W USB-C port as well as two 2.4A USB ports, according to the brand. It has a 94.7Wh capacity — just about the highest that you can legally bring on a plane. It also sports a wireless charging pad that lets you charge your device without cables and you can use its USB ports to charge multiple devices simultaneously.
Grudo said he’s gifted the compact Anker PowerCore Fusion III to several family members — “it’s great for commuting — you can both plug it into the wall and take it with you,” he said. While it does have the lowest capacity on this list at 5,000mAh, it also has the smallest dimensions and equips both a 12W USB-A port and an 18W USB-C port.
How much can you charge with a portable charger?
When shopping for a portable charger, you’ll most likely need to balance size and capacity — you want something that fits comfortably in your backpack or purse, but you also want something that can charge your devices as much as possible.
Charging capacity is often measured in either milliamp hours (mAh) or watt-hours (Wh), according to our past reporting.
- Milliamp hours (mAh) can be useful comparing the capacities of different battery packs: A 5,000mAh battery pack will provide fewer charges than a 12,000mAh model.
- Watt-hours (Wh) will give you the best estimate of how much or how many times the charger can charge your device.
While phone manufacturers lean into mAh as a spec, “watt-hours is a better, more accurate rating of capacity,” explained Brad Saunders, chairman of the nonprofit USB-IF. If your battery pack uses Wh, you can compare the watt-hours on the battery pack to the number of watt-hours held by the device you want to charge. For example, a 12Wh battery could fully charge a 4Wh device three times.
Keep in mind that physically larger devices usually have bigger batteries. Plus-sized phones and tablets will need more juice to get to 100 percent compared to their smaller siblings. Ultimately, you’ll need to balance your charging needs with how much space you have to lug a battery bank around.
How long does a portable charger take to charge devices?
Just about any battery pack will charge your phone, but some can do it faster than others by using different fast-charging standards. USB ports are typically anywhere from 1Amp up to 2.4Amps — the higher the amps, the faster your device will charge. (Belkin’s portable charging guide goes into more detail about this.)
Some phones will come with proprietary Quick Charge (QC) tech, either using Qualcomm Quick Charge or their own branding, like Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging or Motorola’s TurboPower. Sometimes you’ll see Quick Charge-branded USB ports on battery packs — if your phone is compatible, it’ll charge even faster through that port.
Many modern devices use a simpler USB Power Delivery (PD) standard, which means they will charge as fast as they can with whatever PD-compatible charger or battery bank you plug them into. USB PD chargers work with your device to determine the optimal charging power up to 100W in order to charge it as quickly as possible.
We previously recommended buying a newer PD-compatible battery bank if you’re looking for fast charging since it’s the easiest to understand — it measures charging speed in watts and is more widely supported by modern tech companies. You can see which fast-charging standards your phone supports by checking its page on the manufacturer’s website.
How to shop for a portable charger
Choosing the right battery pack is just a matter of comparing its wattage to your device’s charger. “If it says ‘works best with a charger that’s rated at 27W and higher,’ then go look for the 27W-and-higher charger,” Saunders said. In most cases, your device will still work with a lower wattage charger, though it’ll charge more slowly.
While phones and tablets don’t need too much power to charge, laptops might have higher requirements and will need a high-capacity battery pack — you’ll often find laptops measured in the more accurate Wh, in addition to or in lieu of mAh. You’ll want to make sure you get a battery pack that matches or exceeds that number.
Our experts also suggested looking at certain features to determine the best portable charger for you:
- Check compatibility. Our experts noted to always double-check that a battery bank is going to work well with your devices before you buy it. Read the product description and Google around or check reviews to see if someone can confirm a given battery pack works with the model phone or laptop you’re hoping to charge (especially if you want to use fast charging).
- Invest in good quality cables. High-quality cables can ensure safety and the fastest charging speed possible, according to our experts. Saunders recommended cables that have been certified by the USB-IF, who maintains these standards — it’ll often say in the product listing, though you can also search the USB-IF’s database here.
- Look at return policies. Many portable chargers feature return policies in case they don’t work out. For example, Amazon gives you 30 days to send something back if you don’t like it, so don’t be afraid to return a product if it doesn’t charge your device the way you’d hoped.