Portable electronic devices like iPads, smartphones, and ADS-B receivers have made flying safer and easier over the last decade. While these have proven to be quite reliable, the weakest link is not software bugs or even screen brightness—it’s power. Without enough juice in the battery, Garmin Pilot cannot show your approach plates and Sentry cannot show the latest radar. That makes a backup power source an absolutely essential item for any pilot.
Our longtime favorite in this category has been the Flight Gear Backup Battery, a 20,000 mAh battery brick with plenty of capacity to keep all your devices charged. That model is staying around, but now there’s a new option that’s small enough to fit in your pocket and eliminates the need to carry cables.
The small Flight Gear Backup Battery is about the size of a deck of cards (4.25″h x 2.75″w x 0.75″d), but still packs a 10,000 mAh capacity. While that’s half the size of its big brother, it’s plenty to charge an iPad and an iPhone in a single go.
Five ways to charge
The superpower of this battery pack is its flexibility. It can charge almost any device in your flight bag, and you may not even need cables—it’s an all-in-one digital Swiss Army knife. In fact, there are five different ways to charge:
- Built-in lightning cable: This short cable stores in the back of the battery and is perfect for older iPhones and iPads.
- Built-in USB-C cable: This one also stores in battery, and works with newer iPads (including the mini 6) and the iPhone 15, as well as Sentry and Stratus ADS-B receivers.
- USB-A port: If you need a longer cable, or if you want maximum compatibility, this is the perfect port. Its output is rated at 5V/4.5A, 9V/2A, 12V/1.5A so it can charge devices quickly.
- USB-C port: This bidirectional port can fast charge external devices (including with Power Delivery) at 12V/1.67A, but it’s also used as the in-port to charge the battery pack itself.
- MagSafe wireless charging: The front of the battery pack includes a circular, magnetic charging connection. This works with iPhone 12 and newer, and is rated for up to 15W.
You can see how useful these options would be for a variety of situations. On a recent day, we used the built-in lightning cable to charge an older iPad, the USB-C cable to charge our Sentry Plus, and the MagSafe charger to keep our iPhone 13 Pro topped off. For the last example, we simply attached our phone and stuck it in our pocket—the battery pack plus phone is a little thick, but is easy to carry around. We particularly liked how easy it was to just grab the battery pack, without having to worry about a mess of cables.
In another test, we closely monitored how well different cables worked. The built-in USB-C cable charged our iPad Pro from 36% to 53% in 45 minutes. Using an external cable and the USB-C port, the iPad went from 51% to 86% in an hour, showing the advantage (small but noticeable) of a higher amp cable.
Made for aviation
Our number one complaint about most backup batteries is the proprietary cables that are used to keep them charged. When you need to charge your battery before a big trip, there’s usually a mad scramble to find some odd-shaped plug buried in a kitchen drawer. With the Flight Gear battery pack, you can charge with a standard USB-C cable. We charged the battery pack from completely dead to 100% in just two and a half hours, using a 20W USB-C to USB-C cable (the one that came with our iPad). The battery pack also comes standard with a short USB-A to USB-C charging cable. There’s also a helpful screen to help you monitor the battery level.
Safety is another concern in an airplane, and this battery has a lot of built-in monitoring features. It is continually protecting against:
- Temperature fluctuation
We’ve also flown with this battery in a number of different aircraft to test for radio interference, and it passed with flying colors. As a bonus, the white exterior keeps it from overheating and the MagSafe circle has a helpful reminder of VFR/IFR cruising altitudes.
The Flight Gear battery pack is available now for $39.95, a great value. We don’t leave on any trip without it, whether in the airplane, in the car, on camping trips (it is a must-have at fly-ins), or around the house.
Watch our hands-on demo below: