Keeping Your Electronics Charged While Travelling- Product Updates for 2021

I don’t travel so much by plane anymore. I do have a few really long road trips planned, and since those will be largely from California to Texas, there’s some hotel stays involved.

In my previous article I wrote about reducing the weight of stuff you’re carrying and trying to only take up one outlet in the airport. The strategy hasn’t changed since I wrote it, however what’s available to accomplish it certainly has. In the last seven years, a lot of manufacturers have adopted USB-C, which makes things even easier. I’m going to talk about a few newer options you can take advantage of if your stuff has mostly standard USB charging.

Here’s a list of what I commonly carry around and the charger type it uses. This is all pretty standard stuff.

  • iPad – Regular old iPad with a keyboard accessory.
    • Lightning port
  • Android Phone – Mine is a Samsung Galaxy S10.
    • USB-C, Wireless
  • Wireless Earbuds – Samsung Galaxy Buds
    • USB-C, Wireless
  • Smart Watch – Old Samsung Galaxy Frontier
    • Wireless
  • Apple Pencil
    • Lightning – needs the coupler that comes with it.
  • Laptop – Rarely, but it’s a Dell.
    • Dell 4000lb Power supply.
  • Wireless Mouse – Only if I need my laptop
    • AA Batteries
  • Portable Monitor – Only if I need my laptop
    • USB-C (just for power, doesn’t have a battery)

Here’s the full kit, with links, so you don’t have to pick and choose from each section:

Travel Power Kit:

I won’t focus so much on the laptop and mouse since they really aren’t items that need charged. The laptop has terrible battery life, and the mouse isn’t a rechargeable model. Plus, I only take them if I know for sure I’ll need them. I’ve found I can do everything I need to do on an iPad or a Surface, and borrow a PC if I need to.

Cables

I recommend getting a three foot (one meter) retractable USB-C cable, a USB-C coupler and the device I’m about to talk about.

I found the KableCARD while searching around Amazon for interesting gadgets about a year ago. It’s one of those ‘urban survival’ gadgets that is far more useful than it would seem at first glance. The KableCARD is a clamshell case about the size of a credit card with several adapters and tools inside. Folded up it’s about 6mm thick, or about the thickness of five or six credit cards. That is, in my opinion, too thick for a minimalist wallet, but small enough to put in the business card pocket of a folio, or laptop bag.

The KableCARD has the following things included inside it:

  • USB-C male to male cable. It’s about six inches long.
  • USB-C female to Lightning Male adapter.
  • USB-C female to Micro-USB Male adapter.
  • USB-C female to USB-A male adapter (so you can turn your USB-C cable into a USB-A to C cable).
  • SIM Card tool

It also acts as the following:

  • Wireless (Qualcomm) charger.
  • Micro-SD Reader
  • Ambient light (it has a light inside, not great as a flashlight, but can illuminate a desk or keyboard).
  • Has two slots to store nano-sim cards. I suspect this is more important outside the US, but I could see throwing a pre-paid SIM in for emergencies.
  • Cell phone stand.

This device solves a lot of problems in one convenient package. Since my watch can only be charged wirelessly, I don’t have to bring a separate charger. My phone can charge things wirelessly, but it’s finicky and any little movement of whatever is being charged messes is up.

The company that makes the KableCARD makes some other great looking stuff, including some very small cell phones that might work as backup phones. The phones sell for $75 and while they don’t appear to be smart phones, I’ll have to check them out for a bug-out bag addition or to throw in the car.

Also if you poke around on Amazon for the card, make sure you get a “KableCARD” by “CARD”. I’ve seen a ton of much cheaper knock offs that don’t have very high reviews and look thicker. For ~$40 it’s not so expensive there’s a reason not to get the real thing.

One could eliminate the coupler and retractable cable if distance isn’t a concern (like if you charge mainly from a battery pack) or if charging more than one device at a time isn’t really a concern. Personally, I like to make sure my watch is charged up every night as well as my phone. The iPads and earbud cases are of less concern as they aren’t necessary for driving and can be charged in the car if need be.

Power Supply

I’ve been using RAVPower equipment for a while. I got a couple of their two port USB chargers a few years ago and they both still work great. It’s a little big for a two port charger, but it has a beefy 36w power supply. That’s going to average out at about 18w per port, depending, and considering the chargers that come with an iPad/iPhone are typically 12w and only have one port, it’s a good deal.

This is an updated version of the one I’ve been using for the last four years. They are extremely reliable, and super durable. One got soaked in rain at the airport, forgotten in my backpack’s water bottle pocket (sustaining even more moisture exposure) and left outside for six months with a bunch of tools stacked on it and it still works.

On this new version both ports are QC 3.0 charging ports. They can also be used on non-QC devices and it is adaptive, meaning it can figure out what the best way to charge your device. Mine has one QC 3.0 port and one ‘adaptive port’. I’m not sure how much “adaptive” is just marketing jargon, but I do notice a difference between it and a generic 2.4a charger. This model is a definite upgrade from the old version, though.

For just every day use I carry around the charger that came with my iPad. It isn’t a quick charger, but I keep a couple of cheap quick chargers wherever I’m going to be.

Battery Pack

Again, my go-to is RAVPower for these. I figured if their chargers were quality, the portable battery packs should be too. The one I linked to is the one I have. There are plenty of options to choose from. I find that 20100mha is more than enough for my needs. I also have a jump starter in my car that has about the same capacity and can be used in emergencies.

I like this one because it has three ports. A USB-C, and two USB-A. The USB-C port can be used either to charge the pack, or as a power output. The normal micro-USB charging port is QC compatible, so combined with the above charger, it fills up quick. One of the USB-A ports is a QC port as well, making it a pretty fast charging device.

You can charge two devices at once with it. I do not think you can use both USB-A ports and the USB-C port at the same time, but I’ve never tried.

RAVPower makes power banks with more and less capacity with similar features, depending on your needs. For my equipment, 20100mah does everything I need, and it isn’t so heavy I notice it in my backpack.

Power Strip

The KableCard, battery pack, retractable cable and a small USB charger are part of my every day carry. This power strip only gets used for when I actually travel. It’s an inexpensive, two outlet strip with four USB charging ports. The outlets are compatible with several non-US plug types, and the strip can handle either 110v (most of the Americas) or 220v AC (Europe). The cable is about six feet long and wraps up around the body of the power strip pretty tight.

When I take my laptop with me, this definitely goes too as I can just charge stuff right on the strip. It isn’t a QC charger, but it does the job at a hotel or when I stay at my parents house.

If you aren’t from the US, there are versions of this that have different cables. This is great for travelling to the US/Canada and not having to buy extra adapters though.

One major drawback is also a pretty good feature. It isn’t grounded, so maybe don’t use it for something that absolutely has to be. The great part about that is, it can be used in places with super old outlets that don’t have the ground prong.

Car Charger

One issue that gets neglected is a car charger for travel. I have this one: JSAUX Quick Charge 3.0 3A Dual USB Ports 36W Fast Car Adapter

My only complaint is that it does not actually fast charge two devices at once as advertised. It seems to be normal charging when both devices are connected. I’m not sure if this is due to the devices I have hooked up themselves, or a power limitation on the charger. It does keep two devices going rather reliably, eliminating the need for two chargers.

The best thing is, it has an aluminum housing instead of plastic, so it dissipates heat better, and I’m not worried about it melting into the socket if it overheats.

Leave a comment