GaN Chargers and High-Speed Power Banks - Device Charging For Bikepacking

I just stumbled on this YouTube video and realized I’m way behind the curve in terms of chargers and backup batteries for bikepacking and ultra racing. I had no idea how far we’ve come in the last few years with respect to charging speeds for this kind of stuff - it’s gone from like 7w to a theoretical 140w. A potential twenty-fold speed increase has me looking at new backup batteries and wall chargers for bikepacking.

Would love to know what fast power banks and wall chargers others might have experience using? Any quality/practicality issues? Any hidden gems?

Currently looking at the following chargers:

  • UGREEN foldable 65w - love the form factor for packing
  • UGREEN bulky 140w - seems like too much to carry
  • Anker bulky 120w - also too much to carry
  • Zendure 65w - love the travel adapter and ability to plug something else into the outlet but seems like lots of parts that could break and I can’t quite work out how practical the distribution of watts across the different USB outlets actually is.

And power banks:

  • Anker 737 - fastest thing out there and I know it works with Exposure Lights, but it’s nearly twice the size and weight of my existing ‘big’ power bank with almost no extra battery capacity.
  • Zendure 26800 - brand mentioned by the youtuber in his comments since his initial product rec was discontinued. This thing looks like a monster.
  • Zendure 10000 - same brand but small-ish. I can’t actually work out why the guy recommended this.

(I touched on this in my Power Banks for Exposure Lights query but decided it should really be its own thread.)

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I have this one

and so far, so good. It powerful enough to charge my laptop via usb-c, and very small/light.

Edit to add: you may already know this part but I didn’t so I always pass this along. the charging speed and/or power are dictated by the device being charged, i.e. if you have a 65w charger but the device being charged only goes up to 15w it’ll charge at 15w.

this cable is great because it shows the wattage being sent to your device… nerdy but handy :grinning:

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If I can extend the question a little, any tips for similar chargers with EU and US type plugs? Ideal would be one with changeable pins, but you tend to gain some bulk with them. The new UK folding plugs as in the ugreen one above are actually very compact but I haven’t been able to find a 2 pin equivalent.

This looks like the US version of the same adapter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARj-hSiLHnY

I’m also pleased to have found that channel. He gives @dcrainmaker level analysis of power adapters and has got into a few power banks too. I just wish he was a bit more prolific (and had more varied vocal delivery!)

Seems like most of the time when he slates an adapter it’s because of power efficiency more than anything else. In a situational vacuum that’s reasonable, but since I’m looking for pack size and charging speed above all else I think it’s a fair tradeoff for bikepacking. I’m probably not even paying the electric bill in most of the places I’d use it anyway - a bit selfish and not very green, but highly practical :joy:

I just took delivery of the UK version linked in my original post and I think it’s going to be the perfect balance of speed, weight, and pack size for me.

I guess when you talk about the extra bulk of multi-tip versions you’re meaning something like this? https://uk.ugreen.com/collections/gan-charger/products/90409 Definitely bulkier than the US or UK standalone, but seems to tick your other boxes.

He also seems to say the Zendure travel adapter I linked above is at least safe and reliable, if not very electronically impressive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A7xbuiyqZo

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It’s funny, as nice as GaN adapters are*, I’m always a bit curious why people that actually travel like them.

As one who travels and has traveled somewhere in the 3 million miles range over the last two decades, I’ve seen every crappy hotel room power outlet situation on the planet, and having to put a big honking brick on the wall itself, often in a crappy location, sometimes barely reachable, is just not-ideal. I’ve long ago switched to having a cord to said brick, and all the USB ports I need there. Usually, that penalty is tiny, but also tends to give me more ports and equal or greater charging speed.

Likewise, if I was looking at bikepacking/hiking/etc type situations in a hostel/campground/shared use spot where you’ve got a bunch of people often strewn out on a single power strip, GaN chargers will rarely fit side by side with other things, whereas a normal and detachable cord will.

*Note: I know that GaN chargers are specifically focused on chemical differences, however, 99.9% of them are built as on-wall chargers.

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Where I’m coming from for bikepacking is to be able to get as much power into a powerbank, phone and Garmin in the space of a cafe stop, while keeping the weight and bulk as low as possible.

Like everything, it’s a compromise. Until I have until now used the 10W Samsung USB A charger which was bundled with my phone and I have the equivalents in US and EU plug versions. They very light and compact. Niche issue is that the pins stick out and make holes in waterproof stuff sacks! Recently, chargers such as this have been released, which are faster and more compact, though a bit heavier and there are versions with several ports. The UK type with folding pins are a brilliant bit of design and because our sockets are fairly large and solid, they don’t run into the problems you’ve mentioned.

I’ve done some more searching since my post above and yes, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent version for European sockets that is as good (equivalent EU version), likely because of the design of the socket.

For me, the corded versions are too big to make the compromise worth it on the bike, though I agree with you and use one for general travel.

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Yep it’s this for me exactly, and that’s why I bought the 65w version of the charger you linked (also in my original post). The bottom-socket USB setup on the 45w is superior to my end-socket setup when considering Ray’s issues with fitting behind hotel beds and nightstands and such, but otherwise both versions seem like good options for what I need.

Haven’t taken mine on the road yet but it’s the best compromise I’ve seen yet and seems to be working well in my quick tests around the house.

100% agree with Ray that the corded type ones look best for general travel, particularly if I were running about with as many gadgets as he does. I did look at a few of those for bikepacking but it was less about form factor and more about the fact that some of them also have another AC outlet on them. At the race I’m currently buying for I’ve heard there can sometimes be fierce competition for plug sockets at the checkpoints, so something that allowed others to plug their stuff in on top of mine appealed. Same reason I linked that zendure travel adapter above (even more than the international aspect). Ultimately I’m hoping I won’t need this if I can get everyting in and out in less than 3hrs though.

Some powerbank updates:

I’m currently sitting on a few to try and return:

  • Anker 737 - as linked in original post. This thing really is the bees knees. It’s just so so bulky and heavy! But it works with everything and tells you exactly what’s going on and is really fast.
  • Baseus 65w 20,000mAh - cheap for what it is, has a metal casing, and at least as fast as any charger I’m willing to carry right now. Charges Exposure lights using a USB-A to C adapter but not through the USB-A ports themselves. Further testing required before I’m willing to rely on it in a race.
  • Baseus 30w 10,000mAh - got it with a voucher code for £17 I think so might keep it even if I decide not to add it to my bikepacking rig. Heavy for a 10k but same metal casing and 30w speed is good. Will do Exposure lights through the USB-C port just like its big brother above.
  • Ugreen 145w 25,000mAh - was really hopeful about this one given the overall Ugreen product line. No joy with Exposure lights so it’s not for me, but it seems to offer the same speed and battery capacity as the Anker 737 but with a more useable form factor and about 100g less weight.
  • Zendure 10,000 - only one that arrived shrinkwrapped, so I might struggle to make a return. I think I’ll still end up opening it though. It’s significantly lighter than the Baseus 10k and should be smaller too. If it can handle Exposure lights it will be my small capacity preferred option.

Will cross-post a version of this to my Exposure lights powebank thread.

EDIT: Sub-100w Recharge Rates:
(Tested using the cheapie tester, a 65w Ugreen GaN charger, and a 100w Ugreen cable)

  • Zendure 10k - 20w (this is over the spec listed online)
  • Baseus 10k - 18w (a shame given the 30w output)
  • Baseus 20k - 57w (spec is 65w - not sure if the powerbank or the charger is the limiter here)
  • Anker 737 - 59w (took a while to negotiate this though - started at 35w)
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That’s why I still like the Apple bricks. They all (for the square ones anyway) have the ability to remove the wall hugger plug and pop on a cord, which I for some odd reason always saved from older MacBook and Airport express bricks when they failed (Apple charges $15 for one now!). And they work perfectly in lots of settings, especially cruise ships where there are never enough receptacles, and what is available becomes a near acrobatic feat to keep them plugged in, (and power strips can make things worse (a schuko power strip with US style jacks would be genius BTW)). Apple started selling a brick with 2 USB-C jacks and it’s my favorite for travel as it charges a MBP, and their folding iPhone/Watch charger base, and/or iPads, etc. Just pop that plastic plug off, pop on the cord, and good to go…

EDIT: I bought a 12South GaN charger and was disappointed that it wouldn’t work on most of my wanderings. It’s a nice charger with good specs, but is far too awkward to use unless I also bring a power strip, and for that much drama, I’d rather just toss in a brick and a cord. Hotel rooms usually have enough plugs somewhere, usually hidden behind furniture/etc, so the cord helps to also make it easier to triage the room on checkout and finding those charger tails and packing them up.

Here’s an international power strip that can do Shucko plug on the cord and has a surprising number of USB jacks for such a small power strip. Not sure if this brand is ‘good’, but there are options…

A standard figure-8 connector fits them too (the kind you used to get for dvd players and hifi stereo equipment back in the old days when those appliances existed). Less secure and less pretty but perfectly safe and cheap as can be. I’ve got one that stays plugged in behind my desk, one that sticks out from behind the sofa, and one next to the kitchen table so it’s really easy for anyone in the house to plug in whatever brick they’re using wherever they are.

Main thing with those though is because they’re Apple I never think twice about leaving one plugged in amongst a nest of cables for months on end. These upstart Chinese GaN manufacturers on Amazon are making stuff that’s about half the size and weight of the apple bricks for the wattage which is great for bikepacking, but I fully expect them to fail at some point and I don’t want it to be while I’m leaving them unattended for a week.

I looked at the 2-port Apple one you mentioned today. Good for mechanised travel but GaN still wins for bikepacking. Was reflecting on Ray’s comment above about outlet crowding and I think we are actually unique in the UK for having power strips that almost always orient the bricks perpendicular to the strip itself. US and EU ones are stacked more top to bottom than left to right (unless you get one specifically designed for power bricks, but it’s hard to count on that in a hotel.)

Pretty sure I did exactly this (different connector) when I first moved from US to UK and had a good handful of DC adapter bricks that were rated 110-240v with inbuilt US plugs (external hard drives and such). Went to the hardware store in the US and got a non-surge-protected power strip, cut the male plug off of it, then when I came over here I wired a standard UK 13-amp wall plug to it. Grabbed a sharpie and wrote all over it “220v! NOT A TRANSFORMER!” just to be safe, but it just lived under my desk so wouldn’t have been an issue for anyone but me anyway. Thankfully never had to get it PAT tested either :joy:
Not sure about Schuko but UK plugs are incredibly easy to wire DIY. If you can adjust a limit screw on a derailleur and follow instructions off of the internet then you can definitely wire a power plug.

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Yes, you are right, a ‘standard 2 conductor device cord’ will most likely work to plug in to the Apple bricks. I’ve never done it, but yes, IF the plug has the right cutouts (figure 8, as you said). Maybe do some electrical tape on the one that falls out easier? I’ve had to do that to some equipment that plugs direct into mains, like a computer. Those plugs, and sockets are sometimes kind of off a bit, one too big, one too small. Tape works.

I mentioned schuko because of the memory of the first cruise the wife and I did: The ship was ‘aged’. The room was larger than today’s ‘standard’ cruise rooms, but the laugh was they said there were ‘US outlets in every room’, and there was, A single US outlet in our room. And nearly a dozen schuko outlets!!! I kid you not. We had to trade off who had the outlet at the time, and occasionally fought for it. They were right, there was ‘an’ outlet in each room. Good grief…

Another short story, I ran a computer networking company, and we got some HP systems in for a client. (We usually preloaded software so that when they were delivered, the setup was pretty much automagic) Well, for whatever reason, we got a bunch of computers with schuko cords!! I checked the box too, they were for US sales. Hmm… I have seen schuko outlets in the US, but I can count on one finger the number I’ve seen them on country. So I called support. That was a joke. Good thing we had a box of power cables. I still have most of those cables too. What use are they… (Had a client sending someone to Poland for a contract, and they loaded up with a couple of them. They said they were worth their weight in gold. I said I should have charged more for them. (I gave them them) Hah…)

The voltage thing can be an issue. A crazy electrician around here had a special way of wiring his service cable for new construction. It would blow up anything not wired by him. Nice…

Now you have me wondering if I can use one of those cables to Frankenstein a power strip. And you are totally correct, the number of powerstrips I’ve seen that will accept more than a scant couple of power bricks is way to small… It’s embarrassing! We’ve had power bricks for how long? Do better people…

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Anyone got a link for a 65w gan charger that is a cable to the wall and not the wall wort?

What outlet type?

Us but would like the ability to swap plugs

This looks like it takes the figure 8 leads we were talking about above. Makes for an easy switch to other countries’ versions. Probably also a good chance of finding (or making) custom lengths for different applications.

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Now that’s exactly what I’m looking for

Edit:
Actually this got me down a rabbit hole and got the slim q brand

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Update on my initial list of products I was trialling. Direct copy/paste from my Exposure thread:

I ended up taking the following two for the GBDuro:

Zendure was my backup so I knew I’d have 10k mAh spare if I crashed or broke my bike or something and got stranded in the middle of nowhere. I never used it and probably could have gotten away with something half the size, but I’d also happily rely on this for an Audax or something similar as my only powerbank.

Baseus caused a world of pain. It charged my devices just like it had in testing without fail, but charging the powerbank itself was the problem. After about 2 days it would only charge when plugged into a USB-A charger via my Wahoo’s USB A to C charge cable, which meant it was limited to charging at 18w (or less?). The whole point of relying on this unit was to be able to charge at 65w (or 57w as-measured).

To make matters worse, if I plugged anything else into my Ugreen wall charger at the same time as my Baseus powerbank, the powerbank reset itself every 5-10 seconds which meant the charger renegotiated wattage with all connected devices and none of them ever ended up charging. So I had to charge the powerbank all by itself at 12-18w either before or after recharging all my other devices, which made everything take longer. And the trial-and-error of testing to find out what device or combination of devices were the source of the problem ate up loads of valuable charging time too.

About halfway through the race I bought one of the Apple USB-C iPhone chargers with the folding plug tip so I could at least charge one other device at the same time as the powerbank. Unfortunately I couldn’t connect the powerbank to the Apple plug charger as the Baseus wouldn’t take a charge over USB-C to C.

As soon as I got back I raised a support ticket with Baseus and basically told them I want nothing to do with their product and they should take it back and give me a refund. I haven’t even received a response and it’s been 3+ weeks.

A shame to have that happen with such a promising product, but based on that experience I don’t think I could ever trust anything from Baseus during a race again. Serves me right for running something from an unknown brand. But now none of the rest of you can say you didn’t know!

If you had a do-over would you go for the Anker 737? I’ve some bikepacking camping adventures planned this coming summer and I’m wait listed for Badlands (but that’ll probably come to naught). I’ve never owned a power bank. And like you have Exposure lights. One of the big units, a Maxx(?) or something plus a wee Diablo helmet light.

I think I would do exactly that at that point in history. I have no idea what’s come onto the market since, so there may now be a better fit.

The Anker 737 is too big, too heavy, and probably more power than I needed for that race (or anything similar), but without the opportunity to really stress test an alternative that’s the product I would trust most, which makes it worth the weight and bulk penalty.

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I just had a quick look out of curiosity and Anker now have two smaller models in the same series that I would go to. I can’t find weight and dimensions for a direct comparison, but even stepping down to the 20k mAh looks like it saves enough space to make it significantly more manageable.

20k: Anker Prime 20,000mAh Power Bank (200W) - Anker UK

12k: Anker Prime 12,000mAh Power Bank (130W) - Anker UK

I think I’d probably choose the 20k plus my existing Zendure 10k as a backup. If I had a few more of those races under my belt and was a bit more experienced with my overall power needs I suspect actually buying 2 of the 12k ones would be a perfect setup

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