In this post, I will cover building a portable USB device charging kit and how that fits well into your preps.
I’ll review the how, what, and why of building a device charging kit.
I also cover the cost of building your charging kit, including an itemized list of everything I put in the best charging kit I own – which I just put together this week.
I won’t get all technical and geeky on you. Honestly, while I’ve been using these kits for the last five years, I have no interest in learning anything beyond what is necessary to make the best portable charging kits while keeping the costs down. I am not an electrician and won’t pretend to understand every aspect of these devices.
I also want to mention that this is not a product review post. While I will mention what I use because that is always one of the questions asked, and link to what I recommend if it is still available, I don’t want this to become an ad for a particular power bank or accessories. There are a lot of Amazon links to be as helpful as possible.
With that said, I am excited about my latest power bank purchase, and I probably will post a review once I’ve had a chance to test its worthiness. More on that later.
I won’t be discussing solar charging in this post. That’s for another day when I actually have enough experience to walk the talk.
I just published a two-part series on Building A Blackout Kit that covered emergency generators (Part One) to the rest of the blackout kit (Part Two) where I briefly mentioned a device charging kit, but now we’re going to dive deeper into how and why as far as your preps.
Let’s get started!
What Is A Portable USB Device Charging Kit?
Simple. The device charging kit wraps around a portable power bank. We put together a portable power bank, cables, and maybe a couple of small accessories to keep our USB rechargeable devices charged and ready in an emergency when home or car power isn’t available. I imagine you’d find most college students walking around campus with many of these same products.
Why We Need A Charging Kit
Not long ago, carrying portable charging power around would have been nothing more than a convenient luxury.
Today, as we become more and more dependent on our devices, these kits are all but required to stay prepared in the event of an emergency. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it is critical for most of us.
We use our phones for everything. They’re essential for most of us. Just last month I was late for work for the first time in years because I forgot my Galaxy and turned around to go get it. I’d just assume forget my lunch and wallet than my phone. 😉
Wow, a day without podcasts, audiobooks, or Pandora? Unacceptable!
We have flashlights and radios that are USB rechargeable, and many of these devices use up the battery power very quickly.
What about the world-ending EMP? I know this will come up so let me address it very quickly. Preparing for an EMP or CME while ignoring the much more likely possibilities would just be irresponsible.
We’re far more likely to need to call for help or require our GPS when the phone battery dies than a nuclear bomb exploding 200 miles above us. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, just far less likely.
How about this – Build and carry a USB charging kit and if everything dies from an EPM, take it out of your bag and lighten your load. 😉
What Can Your Portable Charging Kit Charge?
Writing this post helps me realize how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. While I still carry spare batteries in my kits, they are far less critical with USB charging technology.
I’ve slowly begun replacing battery-operated devices with USB rechargeable ones.
Depending on the power bank and your devices, you can charge many items, from a C-type laptop to a tiny pocket flashlight.
I can even charge the magnetic rechargeable Olight tactical flashlight I have mounted on my Springfield Hellcat® compact handgun without removing the light or battery.
Remember, every power bank isn’t created equal, and none of them are miracle workers.
I’ll list a few USB rechargeable devices available that come to mind, but I’m sure I’ll miss some.
- C-type powered laptops (Requires a large capacity bank with a special high-speed smart charging port)
- Radios (AM/FM/NOAA) with USB charging capabilities (I just ordered this one). I have another with NOAA alert and shortwave.
- USB rechargeable flashlights (I’ve been using this Streamlight as my EDC since May 2019 and it is still going strong. It’s very reliable, but I did lose the pocket clip within a year. For my larger flashlights, I’ve been using NEBO for years and have several NEBO Slyde Kings)
- USB rechargeable Cameras (Dash-cams and security cameras)
- USB GPS trackers
- Bluetooth speakers
- Tablets (Kindle, iPad, and Nook)
- USB battery chargers (Here’s the one I use)
- Two-way radios with USB charging capabilities
- Fitness watches
- Earbuds & wireless Bluetooth headphones (Here’s the one I recommend).
- Ring® doorbell & peephole live video batteries
- Nintendo Switch (I don’t own one, I’m going by a couple of product descriptions)
Here’s a nice example – one of my battery chargers has USB Type-C and micro-USB inputs to provide the energy to charge my batteries. Here’s an Amazon link to the one I use below.
Building Your Portable USB Device Charging Kit
Okay, I will cover a lot here but trust me, I’m a professional. I’ll break it into simple, easy-to-digest sections. Once you’re finished, you should feel confident in building the ideal charging kit you want.
Not All Devices, Cables, and Accessories Are Created Equal
First, the size and charging speed of your power bank is not the only thing you need to understand.
Your cable, power adapter, and any phone jack adapters will lend to your charging speeds. In fact, you want to have the proper cables to prevent the cable from getting too hot.
For example, one of my power banks has a charging speed of 45 watts when using the USB-C port. While this is good for my laptop, I need a cable capable of safely delivering that power. For that kit, I carry 30-watt & 18-watt wall adaptors and keep a 45-watt adaptor in my laptop case. My cord adapter (For charging devices I don’t generally carry) and charging cables are all rated at 60 watts.
Not every cable and adaptor can be used for data transfer. If you want the ability to transfer data from device to device, ensure you’re buying the correct product.
Finally, the length of your cable matters. Longer charging cables lose energy and take longer to charge your devices. I recommend buying the shortest cable that will still meet your needs.
I’ve Moved To C-Type Fast Charging Options
Over time, as I began upgrading both my portable USB device charging kits and my at-home charging station, I decided to move to C-Type fast charging.
I feel the fast-charging option can be critical in an emergency or SHTF type of situation. While I don’t use fast charging all of the time (See note below), I do keep those options available both at home and on the go.
A note on fast charging:
There are many myths of phone charging, but we do know our smartphones begin to degrade as soon as we begin using them. While this is normal and a fact of electronics, fast charging can increase the speed of this degrading.
How much of a degrading difference do we see between charging our phones via fast charging and regular smart charging? Honestly, I think the difference is hardly worth worrying about but your guess is as good as mine. The factors are too numerous for my tiny brain to worry about.
For that fact, I don’t fast charge my devices every time. I do not use these fast-charging devices every night when I go to bed or while driving around, for example. I use smart wireless chargers at home and a simple 12-volt USB outlet in my car.
I do keep fast charging (18, 30 & 60 watts) charging banks, cables, and power plugs in my portable USB charging kits. I want to charge my devices as fast as possible on the go, and I want the flexibility of charging multiple devices at once or even charging my laptop.
I also keep fast charging options available in my at-home device charging station when I am in a hurry. Admittedly, this does run the price of building my charging kits and charging station up significantly, but I decided it was worth the cost since I’m all about being prepared in an emergency.
What Size Power Bank Should You Buy?
I’d love to tell you a specific mAh (milliamp hours) and be done with it, but, of course, things are never that clear-cut. It depends. Let’s quickly look at some of the considerations.
The higher the mAH of a power bank battery, the more charges you’ll get from it. That higher mAH generally comes with a higher cost and more weight.
We need to find the right balance of size, weight, and cost for your particular application.
For example, when I take a day hike, I have a very small portable (pocket size) power bank I take.
On a multi-day hike, both the size (mAH) and weight become huge factors, especially when I’m recording video for you.
In my vehicles and blackout kit, I want the most mAH at the best cost because weight is no longer an issue.
In my bugout bag, get-home pack, and EDC bag, we’re back to a three-way compromise.
Note: Remember that as phones and devices get bigger, so are their battery capacities. The original iPhone had a 1400 mAh battery, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max is 3969 mAh. The first Android phone went from an 1150 mAh battery to a whopping 5000 mAh for the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Also, I’ve learned that just because a power bank says it is 30,000 mAh doesn’t mean that is the total storage size. It is generally going to be slightly less. Keep this in mind and take that into consideration when calculating the size battery you need. In other words, give yourself a little buffer.
Small Power Banks – If you can afford it right now, I suggest you consider at least a 5,200 mAH power bank as a minimum. This should charge most newer phones at least one time.
Larger Power Banks – My newest power bank for our bugout bag is a 45W PD 30,000 mAh with type-C USB 2-way power and three charging ports (2 USB-A output ports 5V/2.4A and one Type-C two-way USB).
I went with this power bank because it will charge my Type-C Laptop. This power bank weighs in for me (Just the battery bank alone) at 23 ounces or 652 grams. It’s heavy but I don’t plan on dragging my wife miles into the woods in a bugout situation.
One Is None – Two Is One – There are two schools of thought on larger power banks. For example, my bugout power bank is a single 30,000 mAH battery. I could have purchased a 20,000 mAH plus a 10,000 mAH power bank for about the same price.
Why would you consider two power banks for the same device charging kit? Remember the old adage, “One is none, two is one“? If you have two separate banks in your kit and one doesn’t work you still have a backup.
Personally, I don’t recommend we carry two of everything. That would get crazy very quickly. With a piece of gear this critical, the concept is valid. It is certainly something to consider.
I carry a single power bank in my bugout bag because I have multiple device charging kits (Including in my EDC bag), and I usually have access to at least two of them at all times. Also, I wanted one large and fast enough to charge my laptop in an emergency.
You have to decide the role of your kit and its importance. If you consider a device charging option critical and only have a single charging kit available, two smaller separate power banks might be the way to go.
How Many Device Charging Kits Do You Need?
This is an easy question, after all, we are Next Step Survival. 🙂
If you’re just starting out, begin with one USB charging kit. I’d rather see you with a ten-dollar pocket power block and a single charging cable for your phone than wait for a bigger and more expensive option while having nothing at all. Or even worse, going into debt by using a credit card. Please don’t do that.
If you carry an everyday carry bag, that would be a great place to start for your first portable device charging kit. This gives you almost continuous access and offers everyday convenience. As they say, use what you store, store what you use. In this case, buy what you use, use what you buy.
Just remember to charge it after you use it – every single time. (See “Building Your At-Home Charging Station” below).
Once you’re ready to start building multiple device charging kits (After you’re squared away with food, water, safety, first aid, protection, shelter, etc.), here are the steps I’d take, but you have to factor in your own needs and resources.
- First USB Device Charging Kit – Every day carry or vehicle kit.
- Second kit – Get-home bag
- Third kit – Bugout bag
- Forth kit? I see no need but I do have a power bank in each vehicle because I’m a madman. LOL
- Important – I do consider a USB charging kit mandatory for any serious blackout kit, but, as I mentioned in How To Build A Blackout Kit, it doesn’t have to be a separate kit inside your blackout kit. It just needs to be handy, where you know exactly where it is and fully charged. So I consider all of my device charging kits as part of our Blackout kit. Even when I’m gone, at least one charging kit is home in my bugout bag, and my family knows it’s there because it is listed in the inventory checklist/locations sheet inside the main blackout tote.
What Accessories Should You Include In Your Kit?
I like to keep my USB charging kits simple. Of course, you may have different needs. Along with a power bank, I keep these accessories in each kit:
- Cables for your devices.
- A decent USB wall charger plug for charging your power bank (Or devices when household power is available).
- A 12-volt cigarette USB plug when a vehicle without separate USB ports is available – for the same reasons as a USB household plug.
- Charge cable adapters or a universal USB charger cord for converting cables from USB to Type C – iPhone – Micro USB. You might need to help a family member or friend that carries different devices.
- A quality bag or pouch to carry your kit and keep it clean and dry.
Bottom Line – How Much Money Are We Talking Here?
You can spend as little as $20 or well over several hundred dollars for a high-end mega super duper kit made for royalty.
On the low end, you can pick up an Anker PowerCore 10,000 mAH portable charger for under $25 or a White Kaiman 3400mAh portable power bank w/built-in LED flashlight for around $10. Add a charging cable for under $10 (Which I bet you already have lying around), and you have a charging kit between $20 and $35. Not bad, right?
Note: The image above shows a couple of tiny USB 3.1 Type-C to micro USB and iPhone adapters as an alternative to the multi-USB charging cable I carry in the kit. Those adapters stay in another charging kit.
Device Charging Kit Examples
I have six complete portable USB device charging kits – all with their own purpose. I’ll cover each of these charging kits as examples. Two of the last six power banks are outdated, and one I don’t recommend, so I won’t be linking to those. Replacements are easy to find, however.
As I mentioned above, these are what I have, and I believe most people don’t need or want six+ device charging kits. I’m just a little “unique.” At least, that’s what my mother used to tell me. 😉
Below I’ll list my top three kits. The last three are outdated, or I cannot recommend them.
Device Charging Kit Example Number One: My Biggest And Best
This is my latest kit, which is my best (And high-end in my world). I build it as a separate charging kit for my bug-out bag.
I put together my bug-out charging kit for under $165.00 as of the time of this post. This will charge three devices at once – including my laptop.
Here are the items in that complete kit:
- iMuto Power Bank 45W, 30,000mAh, USB-C PD Portable Charger 3-Port Battery Pack w/ LCD Display
- Sentient Wolf Water-Resistant Oxford Fabric Multifunction Phone Bag
- AUKEY USB-C PD Charger, 30W 2-Port iPhone Fast Charger with 18W Power Delivery 3.0
- Anker 30W PIQ 3.0 & GaN Tech Power Delivery USB-C Charger
- Anker 42W PowerDrive Speed+ Duo, 2 Port USB Car Charger, 30W Power Delivery Port
- CHAFON USB-C Fast Charging Cable, PD 60W 3A Braided 5-in-1 Multi USB Charger Cord Adapter
- Micro USB Cable Android Charger, JSAUX (2-Pack 6.6FT)
- AUKEY USB USC-C to USB-C Cable 2-Pack, 60W Fast Charging Cable, 6.6ft Durable Braided Nylon
- Anker USB Type-C Cable, Premium Nylon USB-C to USB-A Fast Charging (2-Pack, 3Ft)
- Cabepow USB Type-C Cable, 3A Fast Charge Cord (3-Pack, 1Ft)
- Cabepow Micro USB Cable Android Charger Cable (3-Pack, 1Ft)
Example Two: My Get-Home Bag Charging Kit
Example two is the charging kit I keep in my get-home bag. This kit sports an Anker PowerCore Slim 10,000 mAh power bank, case, power cord adaptors, cable plugs (Including car adaptor), and plenty of cables. All for under $100! (At the time of this post).
I picked this kit because I wanted the fast 18-watt USB-C PD (Input and Output) charger. I included 18-watt car and wall adaptors and a 60-watt charging cable. The cord adaptor in case I want to charge multiple devices or another device, such as an iPhone, is also rated at 60 watts.
Of course, for flexibility, I included USB to Micro USB cables, including a short one-foot cable for faster charging with lower energy loss. Top that with a one-foot USB to USB-C cable and a decent carry bag, and we have a very decent kit.
Links to the kit components:
- Anker PowerCore Slim Power Bank, 10,000mAh, USB-C PD
- AUKEY USB C to USB C Cable 2-Pack, 60W Fast Charging Cable, 6.6ft Durable Braided Nylon
- Utility Gadget Waist Pack 6.5 inch Phone RFID Blocking, 3-pocket, Water Resistant
- AUKEY USB-C Charger, 30W 2-Port Fast Charger w/ 18W Power Delivery 3.0, USB C Wall Charger with Foldable Plug
- Anker USB-C Car Charger, 36W 2-Port PowerIQ 3.0 Car Adapter
- CHAFON Multi USB Charging Cable Short, 6 in 1 Multiple Charger Cord
- Rankie Micro USB Cable High-Speed Data and Charging, Nylon Braided Charger Cord, (3-Pack, 3FT)
- Cabepow USB Type-C Cable, 3A Fast Charge Cord (3-Pack, 1Ft)
- Cabepow Micro USB Cable Android Charger Cable (3-Pack, 1Ft)
Example Three: My EDC Bag Device Charging Kit
My EDC ba charging kit is very similar to my get-home charging kit. The two main differences are:
One, the Anker PowerCore Slim 10,000mAh charger only allows USB-C input. The output (how you charge other devices from the power bank) uses only a PowerIQ and VoltageBoost USB port.
Two, my car 12V adapter is just something I had lying around. It’s nothing special, just two USB slots, 1 amp, and 2.4 amp.
What is the cost of this kit? Just over $66 today. Of course, prices frequently change. Always look for a better deal with equivalent and quality products.
I’ll probably upgrade this car adapter, but it won’t be necessary in my case. Our vehicles, including most of the trucks at work, already have the USB plugs, plus I have 18-watt cigarette lighter adaptors in all of our vehicles (Just in case we need to move to another vehicle).
Above all, these two kits are almost always either by my side or in the vehicle I’m in. How’s that for redundancy? Or should I say overkill? 😉
Here’s the content of this third example that I use for my EDC kit:
- Anker Power Bank, PowerCore Slim 10,000mAh, Ultra Slim Portable Charger $21.99
- Utility Gadget Waist Pack 6.5 inch Phone RFID Blocking Passport Pouch 3-pocket water-resistant $11.95
- AUKEY USB-C 18W PD Charger, w/ Foldable Plug $9.99
- Cheap generic 12-volt cigarette plug adapter I already had
- AUKEY USB C to USB C Cable 2-Pack, 60W Fast Charging Cable, 6.6ft Durable Braided Nylon $8.99 (4.50)
- CHAFON Multi USB Charging Cable Short, 6 in 1 Multiple Charger Cord $8.99
- Cabepow USB Type-C Cable, 3A Fast Charge Cord (3-Pack, 1Ft) $7.99 (2.66)
- AkoaDa USB-A to USB-C Fast Charger Cable, (3-Pack – 10,6.6, and 3.3ft) $11.99 (4.00)
- Rankie Micro USB Cable High-Speed Data and Charging, Nylon Braided Charger Cord, (3-Pack, 3FT) $5.98 (1.99)
Motorcycles and off-road options: While I haven’t used or tested these waterproof charging options, I did run across them in my research.
Building Your At-Home Charging Station
I think it’s a good idea to keep a single location for device and battery charging (Device – NOT automotive) when it’s time to change things at home. Although there are two separate circuits supplying the power (See safety note below), I can plug these two cords into a single extension cord going to my generator in the event of a power outage.
I had a very messy home charging station I made with a cheap hanging shelf setup. I’ve since upgraded my at-home charging station. I dedicated one of my prepping pantry rack shelves and replaced many of the cables.
Note On Electrical Safety
I do want to mention that I AM NOT an electrician, but I do recognize that is an awful lot of electrical components in one place. So no one gets the wrong idea and potentially creates an unsafe condition, there are two things I want to mention:
- Fortunately, I have two separate circuits running into my pantry, one 15 amp and one 20 amp. That is because I built this room myself and had an electrician and the separate circuits to our circuit box. The two 8-outlet surge protectors are plugged into two separate circuits.
- Second, everything is displayed simultaneously for the pictures I used for this guide. That IS NOT where I keep most of my devices. The power banks, for example, are in their own device charging kit and in the appropriate bag or location.
There you have it. As you can see, the most complicated part of building a portable USB device charging kit is deciding what you need it for and what to buy.
Again, while I do believe having a device charging kit is an important piece of kit for your preps, it’s certainly not the first thing anyone should purchase when just starting on the road to preparedness.
I hope this article helped you decide on how to move forward in your device preps and add a critical part of a quality bugout bag, get-home bag, or EDC kit.
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Stay safe, aware, and prepared,