Alex Roddie tests a very useful basic powerbank, ideal for overnighters or as a backup
Most of us now take electronics into the hills – almost certainly a mobile phone, and possibly a camera and GPS as well. Increasingly, our outdoor electronics charge by USB, which means that on backpacking trips a portable powerbank is a crucial bit of kit.
Powerbanks come in a variety of sizes, measured in mAh (or charge capacity). The bigger the number, the more power the device stores.
This simple and lightweight (65g) powerbank from GP Batteries has a stated capacity of 2600mAh, which the manufacturer claims is enough to provide a full charge for most smartphones. I’ve found that claim to be accurate, and for my usage patterns it will get me through 2-3 days on the hill (using my phone for photos, and navigation with ViewRanger, I usually use about 30-50% battery power in a day). When drained, the powerbank charges in about 4-5 hours from any USB power source. There’s a very short Micro USB cable included in the packaging.
Its design is simple: a compact rounded brick with dimensions 70x30x22mm. It isn’t as pocketable as some flat or tubular designs, and the very sharp edges can snag, but otherwise there’s little to say about the design, which is extremely basic. It has a single tiny LED that flashes to indicate charge remaining (so far, I’ve found this to be accurate). Unlike many other powerbanks, it does not have a button to initiate charging; you just plug in your device and it charges automatically. This means there’s no risk of the powerbank turning itself on in your pocket, but it also means there’s no way of restarting it if it gets stuck, which can occasionally happen with powerbanks – although it has not happened with this one yet.
There’s no LED torch on this powerbank, but at this price that’s not an expected feature. It has a 1A output.
Most people will want a much larger powerbank for general use, but a small and light model like this is ideal carried in a camera bag as a backup, or even as your sole power source on very short trips. For the price it’s hard to beat.