It’s sort of hard to look at jump starters as outdoor gear…until the first time you come out of the woods, get to your car, and find you have a dead battery. Even worse, when you come out of the woods and find that not only is your battery dead, but that big, clunky, heavy lead acid jump starter you’ve been carrying around in your trunk for years is dead, too. And it’s a 3 mile hike to the nearest place that MIGHT be able to help you.
If you’re thinking that the above isn’t just rhetorical, you’d be right; we’ve had it happen. And while a 3 mile hike without a pack isn’t really a big deal, the time and hassle when you’re expecting to jump in the car and head home is.
The reality is, the jumper cables that we all have carried since our parents beat the idea into our heads are an outdated design. Sure, they can work, as long as there’s a handy donor vehicle, you can get it into the correct position to have the cables reach both batteries, you can get a good connection at all 4 points of contact, the charging system of the donor vehicle is in good shape…in other words, there are a ton of problems to get around to make them work.
And for a while, it seemed like the lead acid jumper packs that you can find at your local parts supply store would solve the problem. Except that they had one problem; they needed to be used pretty often and recharged regularly to work right. That’s great if you’re a tow truck for AAA, but for the rest of us, they ended up forgotten in the trunk until they needed, and then they were worthless. Well, other than for creating new and exciting forays into swearing.
The advent of high-quality lithium ion batteries, however, has changed the landscape, with a plethora of relatively small and light options on the market that are designed to have the cranking amperage to turn over your car and get it started without fuss or muss. We’ve tried a couple, with somewhat mixed results, and came to the conclusion that they were better than nothing, but not perfect or even close, and they were pretty pricey.
Which brings us to the Weego Jump Starter 22. At a $99 retail ($79ish street price), it packs a whole lot into a small and inexpensive package. Let’s start with the OTHER features. It has a built in 250 lumen LED flashlight, which might seem a little silly as it’s pretty weird to carry a flashlight around that’s the size of a small paperback, but is in fact brilliant (pun intended). When you’re trying to charge your car in the dark, you can use the Weego to get everything set up, then plug the cables in and start it. Or, as happened to one of us, when a headlight bulb popped one evening early in a long, dark drive, the Weego became a handy light to help replace it. Let’s face it, it’s never a bad thing to have an extra flashlight around, and it’s nice to know that one little bag can solve a lot of problems.
Beyond that, the Weego Jump Starter 22 acts as a very good, very quick charger for your phone or tablet. Convergence means that our phones are an integral part of being in the outdoors, with them acting as map, compass, GPS unit, camera…until the blasted battery dies on you because it was cold and the cell signal was bad and the phone was searching and power on your phone went from 50% to 5% in a half hour. The Weego is a bit heavy compared to some of the top battery options out there, but if you have a limited budget, having the ability to use it as a car starter AND a cell phone charger is pretty cool.
At this point, you may be thinking…”but if I use it to charge my phone, I won’t be able to use it to start my car, right?” Not so fast. We played around a bit to see how hard we could push it, and you can do more than you might think. On a single charge, we charged a Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini twice, and started a Mazda 6 with a 2.3L engine 3 times. The third time was on the edge…it barely had the juice to turn it over fast enough to make it catch. Still, that’s pretty impressive for a little multi-function unit. We wouldn’t hesitate to charge a phone a couple of times and figure that we’d get at least one good jump start out of it.
It’ll handle larger engines, too. We booted up a Ford Ranger with a 3 liter V6 a couple of times with no problems, and that one required more cranking than the Mazda to get it to catch. And for good measure, we then took it to jump an Ariens 13hp lawn tractor, no problem. It’s rated to handle up to 5L gas and 2.5L diesel engines; we don’t own anything that large, so can’t speak to that ability. Still, given how well it handled the smaller engines, it seems likely that it would work for those…just maybe not 3 times on a charge.
The Weego cable/clamp setup is a beauty, too. The clamps have great serrations, and reasonable clamping strength for being so small. The key to making them work is to use the lanyard that comes with the unit to hang it from your hood over your battery; if you just lay the battery in the engine compartment, it’s likely to shift and disconnect a clamp. The cable is a “smart” one, as well; it will tell you if you’ve connected it correctly or not, protecting the unit and your car battery. We’d all like to think we’re smart enough to not connect a battery in reverse, and most of us have still managed to do it; at least you can’t damage anything this way!
In a nutshell, we can’t think of any reason to NOT carry the Weego Jump Starter 22 in your car, or even in your backpack, unless you need one of their bigger units. While there are other units on the market, the fact that Weego backs theirs with an 18 month warranty is a plus. And, it actually comes from a “real” company; Weego is a division of a company that has been around since 1964, so it’s likely that they’ll hang around during your warranty period unlike some of the cheaper direct imports. We can tell you this much; we feel a whole lot more confident coming back to our car at the trailhead after a few nights in the woods than we used to, now that we’re carrying it all the time!