Battery packs are easy to come by, but it's more difficult to find a battery pack that will keep your gear charged, charge it completely if it's low on battery, and still be sturdy and well-built enough to go with you anywhere. The Limefuel Rugged fits the bill perfectly. Here's why.
Limefuel sent one over to us to try out, and it's one of the best battery packs I've ever used. It's one of the few I've tried that doesn't just pump out enough juice to keep your devices running, it's enough to actually charge them to full battery. Plus, it seems like it just keeps going and going -- and that's a good feeling to get out of your battery pack.
The Limefuel Rugged comes in two flavours -- the 15,000mAh model that we tested, which will set you back $US85 at Amazon, and a 10,400mAh version for $US65. Both versions are the same size: 14cm long x 8cm wide x 2.5cm deep, making it just a bit much for most pockets, but perfect for a go bag, briefcase or backpack. It weighs 369g, so it's hefty without being too bulky. It even comes with a ripstop nylon strap and carabiner that goes into the slot at the bottom of the battery pack so you can attach it to or secure it inside of your backpack.
The Rugged features two 5V/2.4A charging ports (total 5V/4.2A, meaning plugging in two devices doesn't halve your charge rate), so you can plug in a pair of power-hungry devices without worrying that they won't charge. It's also capable of charge passthrough, so you can charge the battery and power your devices at the same time. If the battery is charged, all the juice goes right to your device, which is really nice.
The charging cable that comes with the Rugged is also worth mentioning. It's flat and won't tangle, much like a SATA cable. It even has a rubber clasp on it, so you can coil it up and wrap the clasp around it to keep the cable neat. One end has a thin USB port that's narrow enough to slip into any spare port without competing for space with other used ones, and the microUSB side actually shares a charging adaptor for Apple's Thunderbolt connector. If you need to charge a Thunderbolt device, leave the adaptor on. If you're charging microUSB, just slide it out of the way of the microUSB port. You can see it in the photo above, but it's a nice touch. This way you don't need two cables to charge two different devices.
Build-wise, the Limefuel Rugged is IP66 certified (although immersion isn't recommended), so you don't need to worry about getting it wet. It's also shoc-resistant and crush-resistant. We kicked ours around a fair bit, and it barely picked up a scratch. The centre of the chassis is a kind of translucent polycarbonate, and the power and charge indicator -- which is normally dark -- is touch sensitive. When you tap it, it will light up and display how much charge is left in the battery. The edges of the case are made from solid, thick, textured rubber that's ridged on the sides for an easy grip. The charging ports are at the top, and can be protected by closing a snap-lock port cover. The thing is built like a brick, and it will take more punishment than you'll probably put it through, but it still looks great and isn't super-heavy.
There isn't a lot to dislike about the Rugged, actually. It can take a long time to charge (which we can't really ding it for, since the battery's capacity is large and it takes forever to discharge), but that's about it. The Thunderbolt connector on the convertible cable pops off sometimes, so you may need to keep an eye on that. It's a little on the big side -- I could fit it in my pocket easily, but it's just a touch heavy enough that you probably wouldn't want to keep it in there and just run the cable out from your pocket. A jacket pocket, sure, but a pants pocket might be a bit much. It only has two output ports (unlike even other Limefuels, like the Blast, which has four high-speed ports). Still, I never found myself needing to plug in more than two devices at a time.
Over a few weeks of use, I regularly found myself packing a Rugged over other, even higher-capacity, battery packs just because my experience with the Rugged was better. Its build quality was solid, and it felt like something I could carry around safely. Since the Rugged actually charges the devices it's connected to, you can plug in a dying phone and come away with one that has way more juice than you left it with, which is a better proposition than just using your phone with the Rugged connected. If you ask us, that's a pretty big boon, and one that's definitely worth its price tag.