How to Charge Your Phone While Camping (2022)

Orange USB cable with blue background.
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    Out in the wilderness, it can feel nice to disconnect from the outside world and forget about your mobile phone for a while. On the other hand, it can be incredibly useful and convenient to have full use of your phone in the backcountry. When you’re out in nature, power outlets can be hard to come by, so you might struggle to keep your phone and other gadgets charged up. We’re here to tell you about all your options to charge your phone while camping, so you’ll never run out of battery again.

    There are a number of different methods you could employ to charge your phone in the backcountry. For example, portable power packs are a common solution to the problem of electricity while camping. Not only will they charge up your phone, but these camping power stations can also power laptops and even mini-fridges! And recharging isn’t the only way you can get more out of your mobile phone in the backcountry. There are a number of ways you can conserve your smartphone battery life, so you can go longer between charges. We’ll explain how you make your mobile phone battery last longer, and the different power source options you have to recharge. 


    A man with a Dell laptop computer in the forest.

    Some camping power options can even charge your laptop out in the wilderness.


    How to reduce your phone battery usage

    Your first port of call when finding ways to recharge your iPhone or iPad in the wilderness is to make your battery last longer in the first place. Smartphones and other gadgets have plenty of power-saving options, easy changes you can make to increase your battery life considerably. So first, let’s find out how you can conserve your battery life in 8 easy ways:


    1. Our first and most obvious piece of advice: Turn it off! We know it may seem silly to point out, but most of the time you won’t be using your phone while on a camping trip. When you don’t need it, keep it powered down, so when the time comes you’ll be charged and ready. 


    2. Put your phone in power saving mode: Most modern smartphones, including iPhones and Androids, have a power-saving mode. This automatically reduces your phone’s battery consumption by limiting its functionality. For example, apps will be stopped from running in the background, and this is very helpful in extending your battery life.


    3. Lower your screen brightness: Just a simple change such as lowering your smartphone’s screen brightness to a minimum can help conserve power. This also works on iPads and other tablets, and laptop computers.


    4. Update your apps: Another simple and easy way to limit your battery (and data too!) usage on your camping trip is to update all your apps before setting off. It’s a small detail, but this will prevent them from trying to update while you’re out exploring, and this too uses valuable battery life. 


    5. Turn off connectivity features: Smartphone services such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, location services (GPS), and even your phone’s mobile data connectivity all use a significant portion of battery life. Therefore, once again you should turn off these functions when you don’t need them. Your smartphone’s GPS can be very useful on camping trips and hikes for navigation, but just be aware of how much battery this consumes. Be quick when you use it, and switch off when you finish. 


    6. Turn off notifications: Campers should be too busy getting back to nature to check their Facebook messages, so turn off those pesky notifications. You don’t need the distraction from the beautiful wilderness you should be enjoying, and it’ll make your phone battery last longer too. 


    7. Text instead of making calls: If you need to contact someone, sending off a quick text is much more efficient than a battery-draining phone call. 


    8. Be wary of extreme temperatures: In especially hot or cold weather, your smartphone won’t function as well as usual. This includes draining their battery life much faster, but you can prevent this by protecting your phone from the elements. In the winter, keep your cell phone in an inner pocket, or inside your sleeping bag at night, to keep the temperature neutral. In the summer, keep your phone out of direct sunlight and try to avoid keeping it anywhere that temperatures are high. 


    How much power do you need?

    So, you know how to make your phone battery last as long as possible, but it will still run out eventually. Before we get into your options for recharging in the backcountry, you’ll need to know how much power you require. If you just need a quick recharge for your smartphone, there are plenty of smaller power sources to choose from. If you need to power anything larger, then there are some other options for you too.

    The average cell phone battery life is 2500mAh, which lasts the average user one day. An iPad Pro (the current version) has a battery size of 7300mAh, while the average notebook laptop has a battery of between 2000 and 6000mAh. Milliamp hours, or mAh, are the units we use to measure the energy capacity of a battery. In order to recharge your phone or other devices while camping, you’ll need a power source with enough juice. 

    The other consideration you’ll need to remember is the number of Amps you need to charge your devices. This is essentially the amount of power which flows out of your power source to recharge your smartphone. For example, an iPhone needs a minimum of 1 amp (Ampere) to charge, while an iPad needs 2.4 amps. If you want to charge multiple devices at the same time, you’ll need to use a power source with enough Amp output to keep up. 

    Now you’re well informed about charging your phone while camping, and how to make the most out of your battery life. It’s time to jump in and find out the different ways you could charge up your devices on your next camping trip. 


    Brown electric meter.

    The amount of power each device needs is different, so make sure you get a charger with enough juice!


    Portable battery packs

    Portable battery packs are popular at the moment, with many people carrying one to charge their mobile phone on the go. These power banks are for recharging your smaller devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, portable speakers, and some tablets. They range in size, weight, and battery capacity, with some cheap options holding just enough juice to charge your phone once.

    We recommend investing in a larger portable battery from a trusted brand, such as the Anker Powercore. With a capacity of 20100mAh, it’s enough to recharge an iPhone fully 8 times! This power bank has two USB ports for charging with a maximum output of 4.8 amps. As you now know, this level of power is ideal for recharging your handheld devices. There’s a huge range of portable battery packs available to recharge your phone when camping, just check the amount of power you need for your device so you get a charger with enough juice. 

    If you just need to power smaller devices such as your cell phone, then a portable power bank is ideal. This lighter weight solution is also ideal for backpackers, as power banks are small and easily packable. On the other hand, if you need to charge or power any larger devices other than your cell phone, you might want to consider a more powerful portable power station. 


    Portable power stations

    Popular amongst car campers and glampers, portable power stations are now common at the campsite. These larger, heavier battery packs hold a lot more juice than their pocket-sized counterparts and are capable of charging and running much larger electrical appliances. Although these are wholly unnecessary just to recharge your phone while camping, they can be incredibly useful in a range of other applications. 

    Camping power stations hold much more charge than power banks and can recharge your laptop, and all your friends’ devices too. Some portable power stations even hold enough charge to power small appliances such as a mini-fridge. Of course, this power solution is inappropriate for backpackers, as portable power stations are bulky and heavy. However, if you’re setting up a base camp, or car camping, then it can be incredibly useful to have such a versatile portable power source. 

    Power stations differ from most of the other options in that they don’t only support USB charging. Unlike portable power banks, some (not all) power stations have AC outlets and 12v car ports in addition to USB ports. This gives campers a lot more freedom in what they can power at the campsite; if your power station has enough juice, you could run a mini-fridge or even jump-start a car. 

    The Goal Zero Yeti 400 is a top-of-the-line camping power station, it packs a serious amount of juice with a battery capacity of 396Wh. This converts to a huge 33,000mAh, enough to charge a smartphone 30 times. The Goal Zero Yeti 400 can charge up to 7 devices simultaneously, and once empty can be fully recharged using an AC outlet in 5 hours. It’s also worth noting that this particular model weighs a hefty 29lbs, so power stations are best suited to car campers. A power source with this high of capacity is ideal for extended trips and multi-day expeditions, to power you the whole way through. 

    As you can see, portable power stations provide you with a lot of versatility at the campsite, they’re a highly useful piece of equipment. This is just an example of one of the portable power stations available today, there are many others with different specifications, so shop around to find the one which best suits your needs. Portable power stations aren’t the right solution for everyone, but if you have the means to transport large and heavy items on your camping trip, they’ll power your entire vacation. If you’re a backpacker, if you just want to travel a little lighter, there are other possibilities for you. Our next backcountry power solution is a much greener option, which never runs out of battery. 


    A person near some tents and smoke with trees.

    Portable power stations have a big enough battery capacity to charge all your camping buddies cell phones.


    Solar chargers

    Rather than carrying a heavy power pack with limited use before it needs to be recharged, solar chargers can provide an almost unlimited way to charge your phone while camping. Instead of using mains electricity, solar chargers harvest energy from sunlight and use it to charge your devices. That’s free power, wherever you need it, just set your solar charger in the sun and plug in your smartphone. 

    Solar chargers are a great way to recharge your gadgets when backpacking, as they’re generally lightweight and easily packable. Solar chargers can even be attached to the outside of your backpack, so you can recharge your phone while you hike the trail. If a solar charger sounds like it might be ideal for you, check out our buying guide about the best solar chargers for backpacking. Some are compact, folding down into the size of a smartphone, while larger designs cover your whole backpack to collect solar energy all day. 

    Many solar chargers come with a power bank built-in, so you can collect the surplus power for use later. This is an especially useful function as it gives you the ability to harvest solar energy during the day, and then recharge at night once the sun sets. Solar chargers usually only have USB ports, so they support charging for your smaller devices only. For your smartphone, GPS unit, or MP3 player. More powerful chargers are available for larger devices, but generally, a solar charger is ideal for smaller gadgets only. 

    The main issue with using a solar charger to charge your phone while camping is that it’s not as reliable as other power sources. Using solar energy depends on the availability of sunlight, so it’s not really viable as an emergency option. If you’re planning to camp using a solar charger, just keep in mind that your power source will be much less useful in cloudy weather. If you need a sure way to recharge your devices, a solar charger might not be the best choice. 

    If you like the idea of using green energy on your camping trips, why not look into the best solar panels for camping? These offer much more juice than their portability-minded backpacking counterparts, so if you have the means to transport larger and heavier equipment, consider this eco-friendly way to power your next camping vacation. 


    Hand crank phone chargers

    If you’re up for a more old-fashioned, hands-on way to recharge your cell phone, you could try a hand crank phone charger. These are miniature generators that use the kinetic energy from when you turn the crank, converting it into electricity to charge your mobile phone. The great thing about hand-crank chargers is that they guarantee power. Unless your charger breaks, all that you need to do is turn the crank and your cell phone will charge. 

    Hand crank phone chargers use a USB port to charge your device, and they usually have a few other useful features included too. Most commonly, radios and flashlights are combined with hand crank chargers to create a multi-functional off-grid power source. The power output of a hand crank charger varies depending on the amount of elbow grease you put in and the conversion efficiency level. Hand crank chargers are a good choice as a backup, they can quickly provide your phone with enough charge to make an emergency phone call or similar task. However, if you want to use other functions of your phone which consume more power, you’ll need to look for a different way to charge your phone while camping. 


    Camping appliances with built-in chargers

    Many gadgets and appliances made for use on camping trips have USB ports for recharging your devices. Manufacturers know that campers need to recharge their phones while away from AC outlets at home, so adding these charging ports to other equipment is a great idea. You might find a USB charging outlet on a lantern or flashlight, portable speaker, or even built into a camping stove. 

    Many campers choose to bring along a portable speaker on their trip, to play some music while they enjoy the backcountry. You can connect your phone to the speaker using Bluetooth to play your tunes, and if you have a speaker with a built-in battery, then you can also connect your phone using a USB cable to charge it up. While using a speaker, stove, or lantern isn’t the most reliable way to recharge your phone while camping, it’s very useful as a backup feature. 


    Car charging

    Our final suggestion for charging your phone while camping is to use your car battery. Of course, this applies to car campers only, who can use the 12V outputs in their vehicle to recharge smartphones and other small devices. If you want to use this feature, you’ll need to purchase an inexpensive 12V to USB adaptor, and you’ll be ready to recharge your smartphone using a car charger from your vehicle’s battery. 


    Man sitting in a car's tail looking at the mountains during sunset.

    If all else fails, you can always recharge your smartphone using your car battery.


    Final Verdict:

    There are so many options when it comes to charging your phone while camping, there’s an ideal solution for everyone. Rechargeable power banks are the simplest solution, they’re easily portable and will power most of your electronic devices on a camping trip. If you’re a car camper and you need something with more energy, then a portable power station is ideal. Car campers can also use their vehicle battery to power some of their gadgets, just be wary of emptying it completely. 

    Chargers which use solar power are another excellent choice, you don’t need to recharge them using mains power, and the energy they provide is free and eco-friendly. A portable solar panel is ideal if you know you’re camping in a very sunny environment, so you can be certain that enough energy is available. Otherwise, we don’t recommend you rely on them as your primary power source. 

    Remember to conserve your smartphone battery life by turning off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other unnecessary functions. This way, you can stay charged up in the wilderness for even longer. 


    Bonus tip: Watch this video to learn about some different backpacking solar panels!



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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.