New Addition to My Laptop Travel Bag: External Battery Charger

Earlier in the year I wrote about the (mostly) technology that’s in my laptop bag.

So I thought I’d share that I’ve added something to the list. Which is sort of the wrong direction, I’d always rather be taking things out and lightening the load.

Fortunately with my Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer bag, which unclips to go through the security checkpoint flat instead of having to take my laptop out of the bag when I don’t get to use Precheck, I have an absolute shoulder strap which stretches to make the bag feel substantially lighter.

With my belated move from a Blackberry to the new Samsung Galaxy S3, one of the major tradeoffs is battery life.

When I’m working out of my office and not on travel, the battery lasts me a full day without difficulty. I take the phone with me in the morning, and I don’t plug it back in until I go to bed (although I have an extra charger in the office and will plug the phone in sometimes ‘just in case’).

But when I’m traveling, running between meetings around town, and living off my phone — calls, keeping up with emails mostly, and perhaps even listening to a little bit of music because I don’t carry a separate music device (again, always best to have fewer devices) — I run down the battery much more quickly.

So I’ve started carrying a high capacity power brick.

And it’s great not just for keeping my phone powered, but also for my Verizon MiFi wireless router. I’m told that the latest generation MiFi device has a battery which lasts a bit longer, but the one I use runs empty after a couple hours’ of use. Again, running around between meetings all day I burn through the battery pretty quickly. I have a tendency to work in cabs even, and if I turn up to an appointment early I’ll sit in a building’s lobby or nearby and try to keep up with my day even while I’m on the road. Being able to power back up my wireless internet device helps a lot.

So the RAVPower 10000mAh External Battery Charger is already making a big difference in my ability to stay powered up on the road.

It has two USB slots, so I can charge two devices at a time, any two devices where I can plug into one of those standard slots. And it holds enough juice to recharge my phone probably five times over without powering back up the external battery.

There are plenty of these devices out there on the market, some cheaper and some more expensive, I chose the one I did based on overall relationship between prize, size/weight, and battery capacity.

Are you using an external battery charger? One that will charge devices that can accept something other than charging via USB? What’s your solution?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. hi,

    why dont you get the additional batteries for the s3.
    this is super convinient.

    no need to carry around something heavy like a battery charger

  2. @dp: well, you still need to charge multiple batteries.

    My choice is to carry multiple batteries for my phone, along with a wall charger so that I can charge more than just the one in my phone simultaneously. This works great for me, but if I had more devices with the propensity to run down (especially ones saddles with nonremoveable batteries) an external charger like Gary’s would start to make sense as well.

  3. I have the Galaxy and have a few extra batteries for it. The wall charger is great at the airport as I can charge two batteries (one in phone and one in wall charger). I was going to wait for the Iphone 5 but went with the Galaxy largely because of the removeable battery. Never having to worry about battery dying on business trips is great.

  4. Gary,

    I picked one of these up a few months ago and love it. I got one with excellent review on Amazon, and it’s lived up to the reviews. Charging is super fast, and it makes me feel very good about heading out the door with a weak batter. HIGHLY recommend.

  5. I avoid carrying any non-essentials where possible, with few exceptions. Therefore, my external battery charger is the Macbook Pro. I carry a separate phone battery, but when the MBP is in sleep mode with the lid closed, the USB ports still work for charging. That should help any Apple ecosystem people from carrying around an extra brick.

  6. I just bought a PowerBag Business Class laptop backpack from Costco on sale for $70 (about 30% off of Amazon’s price, though out of stock now). It has an integrated 6,000 mAh battery in a TSA-friendly laptop form factor. I haven’t traveled with it yet, but I’m off to Asia next week, so I’ll see what it can do (and I’ll try not to fry it with 220v power when I charge the bag there). 🙂

  7. Extra battery for me too. I’ve had great luck finding compatible ones on ebay at a fraction of the OEM list price; usually it’s under $10 including shipping.

  8. SVTP will do the trick as FoxFi, though for a small one-time fee.
    Better than carrying around and paying for extra stuff!

  9. @Dan – careful with the Android 4.0.4 update. It killed my FoxFi on my S2 and no fix yet!
    @Gary – I have one like this on the way soon. Love the idea.

  10. I use a Hypermac ( and a PowerGen (purchase on Amazon).

    Because of the Mac proprietary adapter, HyperMac was the only external battery that I could find that did NOT require me to carry a second charger. Unfortunately, Apple sent them a cease and desist, so they don’t come with the best adapter anymore.

    Powergen is great. It’s an external battery for any USB charger and it charges my iPhone numerous times before running dead. For shorter trips, this is the only battery I take with me as it will charge my iPad and iPhone.

  11. a friend of mine got a bigger, i.e. more powerful, battery replacement that fits in his G3. it comes with a replacement cover to go over the thicker battery. Of course that makes the phone thicker but that may not be a problem for some people. i don’t remember the name but a quick search should yield results.

  12. I use my S3 as a hotspot without any additional apps. Either WiFi connection or direct USB connection works just fine.

  13. On Windows laptops the USB port with yellow is the always-on one. The black ones (and blue, which means 3.0) will be off when the computer is in standby.

  14. I use pdaNet to tether my old Droid X running Android 2.3 to my laptop. About $15. There’s a free version but you can’t access secure websites. There’s a way around that with some VPN clients though.

  15. +1 @MilesQuest. Just received a new Mophie Juice Pack Plus for my iPhone 4 this morning as my old one petered out at 18 months. If anyone is looking to buy one, avoid the cheap prices at Amazon as many are counterfeit. Buy online directly from Mophie or at a store.

    @Bruce – look at the “input” rating on the technical label on your AC wall adapter for the bag (you may need a magnifying glass). If it says something like “Input 100-240V”, then the device can take anywhere from 100 to 240 volts. If you only see 100 or 120, then you will need a voltage converter.

  16. Gary, this brings up a timely topic for me. I am out of contract w/ Sprint and am about to re-up my phone. I want the G3S but I want to be able to use my phone abroad… I could 2 phones ago on Sprint but cant on my current EVO4 or the G3S.. I am not married to Sprint, but what r the best phones and services for international travel?

  17. @clayd333 – I guess it depends on how heavy a data user you are, international travel gets complicated when you want tons of data (for most folks that don’t have the fortunate of a really generous grandfathered plan..)

  18. I bought one last year before a long trip to China- despite not using the cell phone and Ipod Touch for anything other than watching some movies, it came in handy a few times both on the bus, plane, and hotel (not having to carry around a whole bunch of chargers is excellent). Mine’s not nearly as large, however, not sure of the voltage now. I take it to weekend conventions now rather than schlepp multiple chargers

    It even comes in handy when I’m not traveling- like if the battery on something is dying and I have no access to a charger or outlet. I can charge 2 things at once but usually only one appliance is low on batteries at any given time for me.

  19. Just got one per your post. I have a Galaxy S2, S3 and a Samsung Tab 7.0 and will now schlep this around with me too (plus adapters, headphones, etc…) Remember the days of “electronics free” traveling ???

  20. @clayd333,

    Depends what you mean. If by “international” you mean Europe then a reasonable option for example would be a Verizon iPhone 5 because you can buy it on contract, so subsidized for say $199, and yet it is GSM unlocked so you can go out and buy (or cut down) a nano-SIM in whatever country you go to that will give you data at a reasonable price. Of course your phone number won’t work when you’re travelling, it’ll be a different phone number… is that okay with you? Are you staying in a country long enough to justify doing this or do you just want to enable international roaming for a month and pay $30 for not very much data at all for the convenience…

    It all depends what you want. You’re not being specific enough.

    Where do you want to go? How long are you going to be there? How much data would you normally use in that amount of time? Do you need you existing phone number to ring while you’re traveling?

  21. Gary – Thanks to a recent court decision, Verizon can no longer block the free tethering/hotspot apps. If you have grandfathered unlimited data, however, you won’t want to use them because unlimited plans specify that you must pay for hotspot access. Whichever is the case for you, the MiFi is an outdated device you should dump in favor or using your S3 as your hotspot. It does the same thing, and even if you pay for the app, it will save you money because you can dump the MiFi subscription once the contract is complete.

  22. I have the same bag and strap. A wonderful item, even if you do have to 2nd mortgage the house to buy it. I just use an external charger for the blackberry with a second battery. Doesn’t take up much room.

    I wish there was a travel solution to the HP laptop power supply. The sucker is heavy and quite bulky for the bag. When I shove all my stuff in it, the Bihn bag looks about as large as my carry-on.

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