How to Keep Your Mobile Devices Charged when You’re on the Go!

by on June 24, 2013 · 44 comments

Q. Help! I’m headed out on vacation with my family and I’m worried about keeping all of our devices charged. We have all kinds of phones, iPads and some Kindles and they’ll all be dead weight if they don’t have power. What do you recommend for charging these on the go?

A. You may have the best mobile device in the world, but it’s nothing more than a paperweight if it runs out of power. Keeping your gadgets juiced when you’re on the go is important but challenging. You want to be sure that you have power when you need it so you’re not stranded or unpleasantly surprised when your device runs out of battery.

These tech accessories will help you stay charged when you’re on the go and help make sure that you’re never out of power when you need it the most. They’ll also help you avoid fights over which person in the family gets to charge their device first.

Travel Surge Protector

Hotel rooms, cruise ship cabins, airport terminals and other travel spots rarely have sufficient outlets for your power needs. Make the most of your outlet options with a mini surge protector that doubles as a power strip.

No need to fight over who gets to power up their device first, up to five devices can be charged at once with the Satechi Slim Surge Protector. This travel surge protector has three outlets for power plugs and two USB ports to keep you charged.

The Satechi Slim Surge Protector is available from Amazon for $18.99.

ChargeCard

Keep a cord handy at all times with the ChargeCard. This credit-card-sized accessory is a power cord with a USB plug on one side and a plug for your mobile device on the other. Pop this in your wallet to keep it handy for charging wherever you go.

This card not only functions as a power cord, you can also use it to sync and transfer data.

The ChargeCard is a former Kickstarter project that is now available for the iPhone 4 and 4S as well as for Android devices. (Note that the Android ChargeCard will work with other devices that use a mini USB connector.) The ChargeCard for the iPhone 5 is available for pre-order to ship on June 25 (tomorrow).

You can get your ChargeCard from the ChargeCard website for $25 with free worldwide shipping.

Spare Battery Packs

No matter how much you load up your device with apps, movies, music and videos, you won’t be able to use it for much if your battery dies. Keep a spare battery handy for those times when you’re away from an outlet, or you use more juice than you had planned.

My favorite spare battery packs:

  • indicate how much charge is left in the pack
  • let you use your own charge cords so you can connect any device

Make sure you take the right cords so you don’t have to worry about buying one on the go. Devices generally use one of three types of connectors:

  • Mini USB — Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Kindle
  • 30 Pin —  iPhone 4S, iPad 3, iPod Touch 4 and earlier iDevices
  • Lightning — iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad Mini and iPod Touch 5

The iPad 3 and 4, with their Retina display screens and powerful batteries, are not easily charged by a spare battery pack. Try to start out with a fully charged iPad so you’re not left stranded.

Rose Stone Extended Battery

The Rose Stone Extended Battery allows you to charge two devices at once and use your own cords, making this battery pack a versatile choice. This battery has indicator lights showing you how much charge is available.

The battery weighs 5.1 ounces which, while light for the power it provides, makes it a bit heavy to carry around daily in your pocket or purse. The pack comes with a carrying bag and is available in multiple colors.

The Rose Stone is available for $69.00 from Amazon.

WakaWaka Solar Powered Charger

Harness solar power to juice up your device. Let this battery pack soak up the sun and convert those rays into extending the charge on your phone. The WakaWaka Power is a combination solar charger and lamp. After 8 hours in the sun, the WakaWaka can power your phone in about 2 hours and still have enough charge to shine its lamp all night.

WakaWaka is a former Kickstarter project and the company donates free solar chargers to those living in areas where electricity is not available.

This video shows how WakaWaka works:

Keep the WakaWaka on a windowsill or on your dashboard to keep it charged for when you need it.

WakaWaka is available in black or yellow for $65.00 from Amazon or from the WakaWaka website for orders outside the US.

Emergency Hand Crank Charger

If you get stuck without any power source nearby, you may need to create your own charge. The Eton Red Cross Clipray emergency hand crank charger may be able to bail you out of a tight spot by using your own muscles. Even if you’re a bodybuilder, don’t count on this to take you from a dead device to a fully charged one, but it may give you enough juice for what you need.

This charger also has a flashlight making it very useful when you run out of power unexpectedly.

The Eton Red Cross Clipray is available from Amazon for $14.98.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever run out of power when you’re on the go? What do you use to keep your devices charged? Let us know in the Comments section below!

** Power line image by Peter Kaminski

Comments on this entry are closed.

Johan Bengtsson June 24, 2013 at 8:13 am

I do not recommend anyone to buy a hand crank charger. Tried one and you need to keep at it for a really long time before you get any charging at all. Get a portable battery pack instead.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 8:57 am

Hi Johan, Yes, a hand crank charger is for when you don’t have any other alternative power sources. It’s an emergency device. not a primary source of power.
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Leora Wenger June 24, 2013 at 8:43 am

Yes, I certainly have had the dead phone experience, more than once! I just got a new Samsung 4. Plan to buy the backup battery. These other ideas are welcome. I like the hand cranker idea – after living through Hurricane Sandy, I’ve learned how useful this could be (assuming cell phones still can reception from somewhere).

Ah, I just read in a comment: ” Get a portable battery pack instead.” – OK, will do.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 9:00 am

Hi Leora, True, with many phones you can get a spare battery but I prefer external battery packs because they can charge a variety of devices. If you get a spare battery then that will only work with your model phone.

A hand crank battery is for emergencies, not as a primary source of power. Johan is right, it won’t give you much juice. But when you’re left with no other options, a hand crank battery may be extremely useful.

The WakaWaka wasn’t available when Hurricane Sandy hit, but would have been a very handy item to power devices then.
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Riley Harrison June 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

Hi Carolyn,

I was travelling and forgot my cell phone charger. I asked at the hotel whether they might have a charger. The desk clerk brought a huge box of chargers that guests had left behind and said “Have at it” .

Riley

Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 9:03 am

Hi Riley, That’s a great story! I left my charger behind when I was traveling in April. I took my USB cord from my car and plugged it into a USB port in the desk in my room. I was mad at myself for not having my ChargeCard in my wallet, but it worked out fine. I’ll have to remember to ask at the front desk next time!
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Pramod June 24, 2013 at 9:15 am

Not many people would like my strategy of keeping the mobile phone off for most of the and turning it on after certain time intervals while travelling :P . Anyways , out of all the tools you’ve mentioned the wakawaka charger has certainly made me to search for more info on it as i’ve never heard of a mobile charger depending upon the sun to charge your mobile.

Regards,
pramod
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hi Pramod, Yes, there are many ways to conserve battery power with mobile devices and keeping the power off is a very effective one. I should do an article about conserving battery power.

But when you’re low on power you might need to get help charging your phone when you’re away from home. These tech accessories will help you get a charge on the go.

The WakaWaka is very useful to keep charged using the power of the sun. Charge it all day and then power your device at night.
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Lisa June 24, 2013 at 9:41 am

Great info Carolyn, I just visited my Verizon store over the weekend and they wanted to sell me a new charger for $99. These seem to do more for less money. I have a go-charger which I loved but only goes for about another 4-6 hours. I’m going on vacation in October and need more power than that. I may may go with your spare battery pack. Thanks for sharing these!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 10:13 am

Hi Lisa, Yes, it’s best to research charging devices to make sure that the one you get meets your needs. I wish the Rosa Stone were a bit lighter to keep in my purse all the time but then the battery power wouldn’t be as strong. I prefer having a strong battery so I only take the Rosa Stone along when I need it.

I’m glad you’ll be prepared for your trip, Lisa!
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Lori Gosselin June 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

Hi Carolyn,
I love the Handcrank charger! The solar one is pretty sensible too – but if your camping vacation is not sunny, you’re cursed in two ways :o
I had bought my dad a cool crank radioi/siren/flaslhlight with a charger in it. Maybe I’ll borrow that for our camping trip! I love the idea of adding the energy myself!
Nice share Carolyn, as always!
Lori
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 11:31 am

Hi Lori, The WakaWaka will charge even on a cloudy day, but more slowly. You can also charge it from an outlet when you’re home and keep it handy on the go.

That’s great you have a crank charger already. Make sure you test it before you head out on your camping trip to learn how much you need to crank to get power.

Have fun on your trip!
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Margie June 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

I just used a Switch8 from Goal Zero to charge my iPhone 5. Their Guide10 product also does the same job. Only $40 for each product. They also have a solar charger so you don’t even need the wall outlet.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 11:36 am

Hi Margie, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! I’m glad you found a mobile power source that works for you. I haven’t tried the Switch 8 yet but it’s very helpful to hear from someone who has. :-)
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Hajra
Twitter:
June 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I got the Lumia 720 recently. And people are telling me to get the wireless charging pillow because I might need it when I am on vacation. Still haven’t decided on whether I should or not – I usually unplug on vacations! :)

Lots of options here!

Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Hi Hajra, I love the wireless charging of the Lumia phones. Such a handy feature! You’ll still need an electrical outlet to use the wireless charging pillow but that looks like a very cool accessorie for your new phone!
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Frank Cern June 24, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I love the size of the charge card. Seems like it would be very easy to carry around so it’s good for those on the go.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Hi Frank, You’re right, the ChargeCard is about as convenient as you can get. Just slip it into your wallet and have it handy when you need it.

I think the ChargeCard would be especially useful for people who have Apple iDevices that use the Lightning cables. You can’t find Lightning connectors as many places as you can the 30 pin and mini USB connectors. Having a ChargeCard in your wallet would be extra handy then!
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Robert E Kraus June 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Excellent collection of power accessories. I especially like the Satechi device. It would be nice to have two USB ports on the wall socket I used to charge me devices instead of two wall warts.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Hi Robert, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! I’m glad you like the Satechi surge protector. I was actually researching mini power strips when I came across this accessory. I like that it has USB ports in addition to the power outlets.
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Stephanie Stewart June 24, 2013 at 3:31 pm

With two teens and two tech addicted parents all having a phone, iPad and a computer we travel with a full 8 point power strip!

Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Wow, Stephanie, I can see why. That way each person in your family gets to charge two devices at once. Very handy! :-bd
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Adrienne
Twitter:
June 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Those are so cool Carolyn!

I wouldn’t even have thought about this but I remember a few years back when I saw Sergio’s first video. He was in Europe I think and was trying to plug some things in and found out that the outlets were all different. He had to run to the store to get some type of adapter so he could plug all his equipment in. I’ll never forget that and it’s stuck with me to this day.

Not that I travel a lot but these are really cool little devices and I’m sure we all need to get a couple for when the time comes.

Thank you as always for sharing these cool things with us. Necessities for our necessities! lol…

~Adrienne
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Hi Adrienne, Yes, I almost included a power adaptor for international travel, but I couldn’t find the one I liked online. I found when living in Europe that European airports had my favorite ones.

I like the kinds that can adapt any kind of plug to any kind of outlet. There wasn’t a point of getting just a US/UK adaptor. Better to have flexibility!

Even if you’re just out and about for the day you still might need an external battery if you become a heavy user of your new iPhone, Adrienne! I’m generally near an outlet or in my car if I’m away from home unless I travel so I only use these when I’m traveling. But others may be away from energy sources during the day and need the extra juice!
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Mohammad ismail June 25, 2013 at 3:41 am

wow this is really awesome post,, because many time we left our charger, so such type of thing will help us more in such situation

Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 26, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Hi Mohammed, That has happened to me too. Leaving your charger behind is such a difficult situation. Having spare battery packs and a space charge cord can get you out of some tough spots!
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Carol B
Twitter:
June 25, 2013 at 8:06 am

Thanks for the great tips! I bought the Satechi surge protector for our next trip.

I also bought this pretty cool device … It’s a car charger by Energizer. It has pretty decent reviews to thought I’d give it a try.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ATXEPQI/ref=oh_details_o00_s01_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

We are driving lots of miles and I will be using my iPhone GPS so needed something portable to keep it charged. What do you think of this one?
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Hi Carol, That’s a great suggestion! Even if you have sufficient charge ports in your own car, you may find yourself in a rental car without enough charging options. Packing this car charger can solve a lot of problems!
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gregory urbano June 25, 2013 at 10:03 pm

great list, love the hand crank! solar is noce too but the price of the crank is low and as long as your hands can move you have power!

Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 26, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Hi Gregory, I’m so glad you like this list. Yes, you can generate power for your mobile devices using the crank charger. You can skip using arm weights at the gym because using the hand crank will give you quite the workout! :-bd
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Lovejeet June 26, 2013 at 3:54 am

Thanks for this great post . my s3 use to drain too much battery on 3g mode . It was getting really irritating while travelling . I will get a Spare Battery Pack today .

Regards
lovejeet
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Hi Lovejeet, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! I’m very glad you found this helpful. You’re right, sometimes phone batteries drain much more quickly than you realize and then you could be stuck in a bad spot. Yes, you could buy a spare battery for your S3, but then you wouldn’t have the flexibility of being able to charge other devices. Best to get an external battery pack you can use with many devices.
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Ashvini
Twitter:
June 26, 2013 at 6:31 am

Hi Caorlyn,

These are some really cool charger gears to use. The problem is that we don’t need them until we really need them :D. I guess at that time we are reminded how essential the battery life is .
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Hi Ashvini, Exactly! By anticipating our charging needs ahead of time, we can avoid some serious problems when our devices die. Being prepared is key! :-bd
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Mike Maynard
Twitter:
June 26, 2013 at 9:23 am

Hi Carolyn,

I’ve been meaning to read this for days. Simon was charging his Android phone in my car, but keeps blowing fuses on the leads. The phone is a lot lower voltage though. I also took off with my sat nav lead! It is a problem keeping things charged. I have spare batteries for my Fujifilm camera, but I have to keep charging the battery for the Nikon in between outings. I’ll have to get a spare.

The new pictures are on a zillion ideas! I’m reorganising my blog posts yet again!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Hi Mike, Yes, exactly. The more gadgets we have the more charging issues arise. Having flexibility with charging could make your life much simpler. Your photography trips would be wasted if your camera battery dies.

I’ll be over to A Zillion Ideas too. I wanted to stop by yesterday but the article I was writing took much more time than I anticipated! I always look forward to your Neodigital lessons each week. :-bd
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Arleen June 27, 2013 at 9:45 am

I am happy to say I have never ran out of battery power. I make sure every night that my mobile devices are charged. I always keeps a charger in my car. I sell many different chargers so I am covered. I need my phone and Ipad available so I am always in touch with the office. Running out of power is not an option for me.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr July 1, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Hi Arleen, Wow, that’s great that you never run out of battery power. You’re right, as someone who sells chargers, you can’t afford to run out of battery power!
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Apprendre la voile June 29, 2013 at 6:01 am

I’am usuallu trying to “save the battery” when i’am on the go but sometimes i’am out of it … Spare batteries are useful but it take place and weight in the bag… When i’am on my motor bike, or when i’am sailing, solar charger are just terrific. Thank you for this listing, i didn’t know about the wakawaka and my solar charger need to be replaced :)
Regards
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr July 1, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Hi ALV, Yes, the WakaWaka would be a great accessory for you when you’re on your motorbike or when you’re sailing. Harness the power of the sun to charge your phone!
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Pramod July 3, 2013 at 8:12 am

Hi Carolyn
Thanks for sharing your insight! It was really unique and thought provoking.! the technique your share are more helpfull. and they are easily done. Today’s day the mobile phone are become important part of life.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr July 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Hi Pramod, You’re right. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly essential yet they don’t do us any good if they run out of battery power. Taking some time to plan ahead can save us from aggravation later!
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Karan July 4, 2013 at 3:49 am

I was never aware about these devices. I am an Android lover, but one thing in which Android sucks is its battery life.
I am surely gonna buy one of these devices soon. thanks for sharing.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr July 4, 2013 at 11:52 am

Hi Karan, yes, if you have a phone without a strong battery, you can make up for it by having a battery pack handy. I just used one on my husband’s iPhone yesterday during a long flight. He was so happy that his charge went back up to 100% without having access to an outlet.
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