Gadling Gear Review: Two Versatile Mobile Chargers

Waka Waka Power Mobile Charger
Off-Grid Solutions

There is no denying that smartphones have changed the way we work, play and stay connected with one another. Our phones provide us with directions to the nearest restaurant, tell us what time our movie begins and will even help us alert our friends when we’re running a little late. They give us weather reports, stock tips and warn us about traffic delays, all while taking great photos and sharing them across a variety of social networks. We truly live in an age of wonders during which we hold a powerful piece of technology right in the palm of our hand. That is, until the battery dies.

If there is one thing that my iPhone can’t do that my old “dumb phone” could, it is go for days without needing a recharge. You remember those days right? Back when you charged your phone once a week rather than every night. Now days, I’m lucky if my battery can get me through a single day, let alone a full week. Thankfully there are a slew of options for helping us keep our favorite devices from becoming a useless hunk of glass and plastic, including some interesting new mobile chargers that can help keep your phone up and running for hours longer than it could on its own. Here are two such options that travelers will find as worthy additions to their carry-on bags.

Waka Waka Power ($79)
With the advent of low cost and more efficient solar panels, charging our devices from the sun has truly become a viable option. The Waka Waka Power takes that concept and wraps it in a nice looking, lightweight package that is easy to carry with you just about anywhere. The charger is a little over 4.5 inches in length and weighs in at a svelte 7 ounces. That makes it easy to store in a glove compartment, purse or your carry-on, ensuring that you’ll have power whenever and wherever you need it.This mobile charger features an internal 2200-mAh battery that can be charged via the small built-in solar panel, or by plugging the Waka Waka directly into a USB port on a computer. Charging times vary greatly no matter which of those methods you choose, as the amount of direct sunlight or the level of current running to the USB port determine how long it will take to fill the power cell. Four blue lights across the top indicate the battery’s status, while an accompanying red light blinks at varying speeds to indicate how quickly the device is charging. This comes in particularly handy when the Waka Waka is collecting energy via its solar panel, making it easy to find the most direct sunlight possible.

The Waka Waka’s built-in USB port provides enough juice to charge even the most power hungry smartphones such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4. It can even charge an iPad, although the Waka Waka’s relatively small battery capacity doesn’t have the same level of impact on the battery life of a tablet. While testing the device, I was able to charge my iPhone 4S a couple of times before the Waka Waka itself needed to power up.

Off-Grid Solutions, the company that designed the Waka Waka, certainly had travelers in mind when they build the charger. Not only is its sleek design perfect for taking with you on the road, but it also comes with a built-in flashlight that is very handy at times as well. The light has four brightness settings and a flashing “SOS” mode, and is good for at least 20 hours on a full charge. And when the battery starts to run low, simply stick the Waka Waka back into the sunlight to start charging once again.

Demonstrating their commitment to encouraging the use of clean solar energy, Off-Grid Solutions has even vowed to give away a Waka Waka charger for every one that is purchased. So when you buy the device, the company behind it will ship another one to a developing nation to be given out to someone who doesn’t have easy access to other forms of power. That is a great program indeed and quite a gesture on the part of the company.

New Trent Travelpak Plus ($54.95)

New Trent Travelpak Plus Mobile Charger
New Trent

If you’re looking for a more traditional mobile charging option, the Travelpak Plus from New Trent brings a lot of great featuress to the table. For example, it is available in two versions, one with a 4000-mAh battery and the other with a 7000-mAh battery. That means even the lower capacity model has nearly twice the available power of the Waka Waka. I tested the 7000-mAh model and found that it provided ample power to recharge my iPhone more than three times without needing a recharge itself.

While the Travelpak Plus doesn’t have a solar panel, it does come with a built-in AC adapter. The back of the device has a power-plug that flips out when needed, allowing you to plug it in to a wall outlet whenever you need to charge the battery. It also comes with two USB ports, giving you the ability to charge two devices at the same time. When plugged into the wall, the Travelpak plus instantly becomes a powerful AC adapter for any device that charges via USB and when you take it on the road, it can greatly extend the life of all of your gadgets, including an iPad or other tablet.

New Trent included an ambient light on the Travelpak Plus as well and while it isn’t nearly as useful as the one that is included on the Waka Waka, it does serve as a decent nightlight when plugged into a wall outlet. That actually comes in handy when traveling, helping you to find your way in a strange room in the middle of the night.

This mobile charger is durable and well put together, and while it weighs a bit more than the Waka Waka, it isn’t incredibly heavy. It is substantial enough that when you slip it into a travel bag you’ll know that it is there, but not enough to really make it a bother. Besides, having a powerful source of energy with you at all times more than makes up for a little extra weight.

The 4000-mAh version of the Travelpak Plus costs $44.95, while the higher capacity model is just $10 more. With such a slight difference in price, I think it makes more sense to shell out the extra cash for the 7000-mAh version. You may not need that much power all that often but it’ll be nice to know it is there when you need it. A traveling companion will appreciate the extra USB port when their gadgets start to run low on power too.

Whether you go with the Waka Waka or the Travelpak Plus, you’ll be happy to have the extra power when you need it. Both of these options are great choices and each brings their own unique options to the table. The solar panel of the Waka Waka is great for charging anywhere and the extra capacity and duel USB ports on the Travelpak are excellent as well. Either way, you can’t lose.