This $100 portable charger can charge your laptop 2 times over and withstand the elements - here's why we recommend it for outdoor adventures and everyday commuting
- Lifeproof's new power bank is built for the outdoors enthusiast or professional on the go.
- It will charge your laptop two or three times over, with a smartphone charge or two left in the balance.
- Also, waterproof and equipped with a flashlight with white, red, and strobe settings, the Lifeproof Lifeactív Power Pack 20 ($99.99) is built for all your adventures, from your day-to-day commute to your days-long trek through the wilderness.
Spending a good deal of time working outdoors and risking life, limb, and my small quiver of very expensive electronics is no easy feat, friends. Day in, day out, I wonder what (bones, computer, camera) I'll break next. It's hardly ever a question of if so much as it is when.
Same goes for running out of juice in the field. How many times has the sun burst through the clouds, offering up that crucial ray of light for the photograph I've been waiting for, only to find itself hitting the light meter of a DSLR full of dead batteries? And how many times have I neglected to bring backup simply for fear of damaging that, too? Well, my well of excuses has run dry, but only because my prayers have been answered.
Electronics are tough enough to take care of as it is. Considering that a power bank is something you'll only ever take on the move, it has to inherently be one of the toughest pieces of tech any one of us relies upon, right? Well, so you'd think. I'm not sure how many of these things I've dropped and sunk, or simply splashed with a little saltwater, never to see its happy little light blink again.
Lifeproof's Lifeactív Power Pack 20 puts out 20,000 mAh from two 10,000 mAh batteries (mAh are milliampere hours, standard units by which the energy charge of a battery is measured). For reference, I calculated that a 2018 13-inch Macbook Pro out of the box, which Apple advertises as having a 58- to 58.2-watt-hour battery, holds about 5,315 milliampere-hours at full capacity. In lay speak, that's a lot of juice, and among the larger portable power banks available at the moment, you'll get somewhere around two or three full laptop charges, along with maybe a cellphone charge or two (a new iPhone holds about 1,900 mAh). Keep in mind that that's without taking ever-present inefficiencies into account, as we're always bleeding power from one source to another. Still, it's plenty for a day out, not to mention dustproof, drop-proof to 4 feet, and waterproof to 6.6 feet (repeatedly tested and confirmed by yours truly).
Being 19 ounces, this thing isn't lightweight by any means. But being fairly streamlined and 7.13 inches by 2.96 inches by 1.02 inches, it's still small enough that you'll have trouble digging it out of your purse or briefcase, which is a lot more than you can say for most laptop chargers.
The Lifeactív comes with USB-C and USB-A ports, so it can charge and be charged any number of ways. I recommend buying the corresponding lanyard cables for your most relied-upon devices, which attach to a tiny but sturdy lanyard lock on either side of the power bank. Two reasons for this: It's something to hold onto (this thing is waterproof, but it does not float), and you'll never have to dig around for a cable.
And lastly? The good people at Lifeproof also thought to stick a flashlight on the thing. Sure, your phone has one, but does it strobe, and do you have the option to switch to a retina-saving red light, which is great at the campsite?
In transit, and afield
Life on the move comes with its set of imperatives, especially when one is heavily reliant upon lithium-ion battery power. Until now, I've generally fallen, often disastrously, short of fulfilling them.
Case in point: I'm currently writing this review while cruising at 35,000 feet with no power outlet in sight, my laptop battery hovering at 15% charge as I get ahead of the upcoming workweek, and I'm not worried about a thing.
The only thing I've come up with so far that would make this thing better is if it were to have a built-in solar panel for recharging. I spent the past week clamoring up and down streambeds and rock faces largely exposed to the sun for the better part of the day, and I probably could have pulled a good charge while doing it. Maybe food for thought for Lifeproof's R&D team.
The bottom line
As far as I'm concerned, Lifeproof's new Lifeactív Power Pack 20 is the best piece of tech out on the market, shy of the latest and greatest smartphones. Not only can it handle a 2-meter dive and remain at that depth for at least an hour, it's just big and powerful enough to charge your laptop at least a couple of times over. If that's not what you call handy in this high-speed, highly mobilized age, I don't know what is.
Pros: About the size of a portfolio wallet and charges your laptop 2 to 3 times, essentially life-proof