This summer I went camping with the Goal Zero Venture 30 7,800 mAh backup battery. My grand ambitions of getting a tan from something other than a computer screen led me to find a battery that could handle all sorts of treacherous terrain, and the Venture 30 is built for the job. Not only does it have a grippy, rubberized rim for impact protection while stomping around in the woods, it is waterproof without needing extra gaskets to cover up the plugs.
You'll find two full-sized USB ports that can each independently charge phones, tablets, GoPro cameras, or anything else that needs some juice. The microUSB port lets you charge the Venture through all of the usual sources. An integrated cable wraps around, covering one USB and the microUSB slot, as well as offering a handy loop for mounting at the bottom. Two buttons on the front face allow you to check the battery level at a glance and flip on an LED flashlight. Though it's advertised as waterproof, the Venture 30 is rated IPX6, which means it can handle high-pressure jets from all angles, but it isn't built for submersion. So, don't jump in the pool with this thing. You'd be a weirdo to want to charge your phone down there anyway.
Now, the Venture 30 technically works with Goal Zero's primary products, their solar panels. I emptied the Venture 30 pack on one of my first nights of the trip, and had it hooked up to two panels on our car dashboard for the better part of the week. Though it was sunny and clear for a lot of that time, tree cover would regularly obscure the Nomad 13 and Nomad 7 panels. That said, after about five days, I was able to charge the Venture 30 halfway with sunlight alone. That was enough to fill up the Galaxy S6 from 9% to full with a bit of juice left to spare. With a clear view of the sun, and a bit more mindfulness about having a direct angle, you could certainly get more power in there. Goal Zero claims the Venture 30 can be fully charged with nine hours of direct sunlight, or four hours over USB.
The Venture 30 is more clever than your average backup battery. With a quick tap of the battery button, the Venture 30 can identify how to deliver power to your device as quickly as possible. With up to 4.8 amps of current, this can be pretty speedy, even for tablets. Individual charging profiles can be assigned to either plug, so both devices are getting an optimal output. There's a long-term storage mode perfect for the off-season. This can ensure it keeps a charge for when you need it, such as, say, during a power outage at home.
Despite being a part of the same brand, I found the Venture 30 didn't work as well with the solar panels as I would have liked. Namely, the bundled cable's USB plug points in the wrong direction. Ideally, you'd want it turning inwards, so the Venture 30 could be stashed in the Nomad panel's storage pouch, but as is, the plug juts out forcing you to keep the zipper open, and the battery out in the open. It's not that it can't handle the elements, but it would be more convenient for stowage to have the USB going the other way, and ensure anything else you have in the panel stays zipped up. These bulky plugs can also make it impossible to charge phones that are in a big case, which is a likely scenario when you're in a rough-and-tumble environment. My Defender Series OtterBox was wholly incompatible with the included Venture USB cable, though it works fine with another generic cable.
The Venture 30 is remarkably tough and surprisingly smart for a charger. It's nice to see that it falls in line with the Goal Zero style, but I'd prefer it to work with their solar panels more efficiently in terms of USB connection. Though the idea of a cable integrated with the battery is solid, it needs to be slimmed down to fit practical usage. On its own, this Venture 30 rugged battery pack is more than capable of keeping your gadgets charged while you're out on the trail.