The Best Portable Chargers for Rafting Trips

6 Min. Read
A pair of guests on an OARS trip Middle Fork Salmon River goe through a rapid.

Picture this: You’re surrounded by stunning natural scenery. The sun is setting and the light is just perfect. You whip out your phone to snap a few memories and nothing. The battery is dead. On multi-day river trips, small portable chargers can be handy for cameras (or phones, if that’s your preferred picture taker), reading lights or headlamps. A few folks like to bring their e-readers, electric toothbrush or battery beard trimmer that might need extra power, too. In this post, we will explore how to choose a good portable power setup for your needs and the variety of charging options that are available.

How to choose the right portable chargers

A solar charger charging an action camera on the edge of a river

Do I need a solar panel, battery pack or both?

Solar panels don’t store power. If you want to be able to use your devices during the day and then recharge them at night when it’s dark, you’ll want to start with a battery pack using the guidelines below. If you charge your battery pack before the trip and turn off your devices when you aren’t actively using them, a powerful portable battery should be sufficient. If you are on a longer trip, like the Grand Canyon, and you think you’ll deplete your battery pack, then you might also want a solar panel that you can use to keep your portable battery pack topped off.

How much power do I need?

The first step in choosing a battery pack is to look at the devices you are bringing and see how much power they need to fully charge. For example, let’s say you want to bring an iPhone 15 Pro plus with 3290 mAh (“milliampere hours”) battery, as well as a GoPro Hero12 with a 1720 mAh battery. That’s a total battery capacity of 5,010 mAh.

If you want your spare battery pack to charge both your iPhone and GoPro at least once each, you’ll want a battery pack that has a total battery capacity of 5,010 mAh or greater. If you want to be able to charge each device twice off one battery pack, then you’ll want double that. And as li-ion batteries can perform differently in different conditions (hot, cold, etc), we typically try to leave some wiggle room. 

How fast do I want my stuff to charge?

The power output of your portable battery pack determines the speed at which it charges. A higher amp output basically means your stuff will charge faster. If you want to charge your point and shoot camera and your phone simultaneously while you’re eating dinner and hanging around the fire, look for a portable battery pack with two USB ports that each have an output rating of at least two amps.

What other factors should I consider for portable chargers?

If you are on a rafting trip, durability is important. If you need to hook up your battery pack to a solar panel while you are out on the boat during the day, consider one of the waterproof options below.

Weight and size is also something to consider. If you plan on using the same battery pack for a future backpacking trip, you’ll want one of the lighter, smaller options so it doesn’t weigh you down.

How big should my solar panel be?

With solar panels, you’ll want a solar panel that is powerful enough to charge the portable battery you choose. Bigger panels with higher wattage ratings are able to harness more power from the sun and will charge your battery pack faster. The trade-off is bigger panels are heavier and take up more room. 

Now that we’ve broken down the different questions to ask yourself, here is a list of some of the most reliable portable chargers for a rafting trip.

Best Portable Chargers for River Trips

Luci string lights with detachable battery pack

Best Simple Charging Solution

MPowered Luci String Lights + Detachable Power Hub

  • Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Number of Ports: 1x USB-A
  • Battery Storage Capacity: 4000 mAh

While the string lights provide warm ambient lighting and a cozy atmosphere after the sun sets, the power hub can provide a charge or two for USB-chargeable devices like phones or action cameras. Among other pluses, Luci String Lights are lightweight, waterproof, and durable, making them ideal for trips where rough conditions are expected. They also pack down small enough to fit easily in a dry bag and include a built-in solar panel to add power when the sun is out.

Best for Phone Photographers

Anker MagGo Charging Bank

Anker MagGo Power Bank (10K)

  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Number of Ports: Wireless Charging, 1x USB-C
  • Battery Storage Capacity: 26800 mAh

For a little more juice on longer trips, Anker makes a lot of solid battery packs. Snap your phone onto the magnetic charger or plug in devices via the USB-C port. The fast 15w charge speed will add juice quickly, getting most iPhones from 0 to 50% around 40 minutes. A foldable design keeps this portable charger pretty compact and a small lcd lets you know what the battery level is. 

Best portable charger for rafting: Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC power bank

Best for Long Trips

GoalZero Sherpa 100AC

  • Weight: 2.1 pound
  • Number of Ports: 2x USB-C, 2x USB, 1x AC inverter
  • Battery Storage Capacity: 25,600 mAh

For long river trips (i.e. 18-day Grand Canyon trips), a reliable and long-lasting source of power may come in handy, especially for photographers. Highly regarded by explorers and adventure film crews, GoalZero has earned a reputation for making products that can withstand harsh environments and adverse treatment. With multiple charging options, the Sherpa has gone through several configurations and can charge an action camera an estimated 19 times. It easily pairs with solar panel chargers, if you need to add power at camp.

Best for Ongoing Charging

A BIgBlue ETFE 30 Solar Panel

BigBlue SolarPowa 30

  • Number of Ports: 1x USB-C, 1x USB-A
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Watts: 30

For photographers or creators on multi-day river trips, an ongoing source of energy may be necessary. There are dozens of different portable solar panels available. Big Blue’s have been rated as some of the most efficient. Sporting both USB-C and USB-A charge ports, the company’s ETFE series panels come in several different sizes (the 30 being the largest). All of them fold up small enough to easily fit in a dry bag. These can be used independently, potentially saving you the weight and hassle of bringing spare battery packs.

Goal Zero power kit with solar panel and battery pack

Best Panel + Power Bank Kit

GoalZero Venture 35 + Nomad 10 Kit

  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Watts: 10

This nicely paired kit can handle the rigor of a multi-day rafting trip. With a full-submersion IP67 waterproof rating, both the panel and portable power bank will survive a leaky dry bag, an accidental drop or a sneaky rain storm. The power bank has enough power to charge a GoPro six times, a phone around three times and a lithium-powered headlamp about seven times. It’s a reliable and compact kit for those looking to pair a panel with a power source.

Note:  Keep in mind, for guests on OARS trips having power is by no means a necessity. Guides carry safety, navigational and communications equipment with necessary power supplies. They do not, however, carry enough battery power to supply guests with a multitude of charging options. One of the great aspects of a river trip is the option to disconnect from our often very connected lifestyles, put down the devices and tune into the fun and peace of a spectacular setting. Afterall, most of the canyons we travel through are great at blocking any and all cell signals.

This post has been updated from a previously published version in 2017

Kristen Bor

Kristen Bor is the founder of Bearfoot Theory, a leading outdoor travel website where she shares detailed destination guides, outdoor tips, and her favorite gear in order to help everyday people spend more time outside. She grew up in Idaho, travels in a 4×4 Sprinter Van, and spends her time wandering around the West. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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