Last week I was in the Outerbanks, North Carolina – before the hurricane hit – and it was beautiful. The weather was in the low 90s, clouds were few and far between and the water was glorious and warm. Yes, I was on vacation, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t using my electronics constantly — I was on my phone at the beach and streaming music to a Bluetooth speaker. I was in the car playing Nintendo Switch while also using my phone and assisting in navigation (it’s an eight-hour one-way trip from New Jersey). And I was using my laptop to read the news, watch Netflix and check fantasy football scores. It’s strange, really, how sometimes we tend to use our electronics more when outside the office, right?
Anyway, during my vacation, I used the new Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC ($300) to charge all my devices. Yes, all of them. It’s a portable battery, in simplest terms, but it’s a far cry from the little Mophie and Anker that you stick in your pocket and use to charge your phone. This thing is a beast. It weighs two pounds and packs a 25,600mAh capacity, which the company claims is enough to charge your smartphone eight times over. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Sherpa 100AC.
It packs pretty much every charging port you’d want: two USB-A ports (2.4V) and two 60-watt USB-C ports, both of which support Power Delivery (PD), meaning that they can charge your laptop; and the Sherpa 100AC has a built-in AC inverter. For me, what that meant was that I could take my MacBook Pro’s wall adapter (61-watt, USB-C) and charge the Sherpa 100AC with it, but I could then take that same wall adapter, plug it into the Sherpa 100AC and charge my MacBook Pro. There wasn’t a need to mess around separate charging cables, which was nice.
I used the Sherpa 100AC mainly to charge my MacBook Pro, which it had enough juice to do about twice over before needing to be recharged. And that’s pretty good for something that’s about the half the size of my 13-inch laptop (even if it’s way heavier). It was also able to charge everything else I had with the Sherpa 100AC: Nintendo Switch, AirPods, iPhone, Galaxy Note 9, Bose SoundLink speaker, Sony RX100 III compact camera and Master & Dynamic MW07 wireless earbuds. I used it to charge my Mophie power banks, too. (Yes I travel with a lot of devices.) And you can charge several of these things all at a time.
The Sherpa 100AC has an internal fan, allowing it cool down when it starts running too hot. But to be honest, in all my testing I never heard the fan turn on as I assume it never got warm enough to be a problem. And that’s when I was using it charge my iPhone, MacBook Pro and Nintendo Switch all at the same time.
There are several other things that make this thing special. Its OLED display, though tiny, tells you everything you need to know while using the charger. It tells you its battery life along with how much juice is currently being sucked out of each port. It also lets you know how much juice it has left before needing to be recharged. (It takes just three hours to recharge using USB-C PD, FYI.)
The Sherpa 100AC comes with a variety of short charging cables (micro-USB, USB-C, Lightning) so you don’t necessarily need to remember to bring your own. And there are rubber pockets on either side of the Sherpa 100AC that you can store two of these short charging cables at a time, too, meaning they could easily come with you.
Over the last few years, portable power banks have become really popular and I’ve seen many come and go. It’d be foolish to say that the Sherpa 100AC is clearly the best. It’s not the most powerful, but at 94.7Wh (watt-hours), it’s actually right at the max to still be allowed on an airplane. (According to the FAA, the carry-on limit for a battery is 100Wh.) So, it’s technically one of the most powerful batteries that you’re allowed to travel with. And although it’s a beast, the Sherpa 100AC isn’t really rugged. I wouldn’t take it anywhere where sand, water or dirt can creep into its crevasses.
Listen, $300 is no small amount for a portable charger. If you’re just looking to charge your smartphone, there are much cheaper and more practical options. There are also cheaper and more practical options if you’re looking to charge your laptop (just look for the portable power banks that support PD, like this one by Anker.) And if you’re looking for a portable generator that has even more battery capacity than the Sherpa’s 25,600mAh – those are out there, too.
But if you’re looking to fly with it, and the $300 price tag doesn’t scare you away, the Sherpa 100AC is everything and more that you could want in a companion for your travel gadgets.