If you’ve ever been unable to start your car on a cold morning, you know the importance of getting quick jump. Until recently, this meant either having an auto club membership or relying on the kindness of strangers, but in in recent years a new solution has come to market: the portable jump starter.

Car battery jump-starters and chargers are dense little storage bins for electrical energy, and many come with useful built-in accessories. They’ll recharge with standard extension cords, wall-plug adapters, USB ports in running vehicles or cigarette lighter-style 12-volt male adapters. Most portable battery jump starter options offer some combination of these four recharge options.

These portable batteries do what they were originally intended to do: boost the dead battery to make a car start. All battery boosters come with jumper clamps that attach to the auto battery terminals, and nearly all include reverse polarity protection. Most have some sort of flash or area light and at least one USB port to charge electronics like phones and tablets. Those features are only the start when it comes to jump starter pack options.

What else can they do? Let’s see: power your high-draw laptop computer. With a built-in air compressor it can inflate your raft at the lake or a low tire before you head home from the airport. How about an AC inverter so you can plug in a radio, a lamp or another small appliance? And maybe a dual USB port to charge your phone and another USB device at the same time? There are portable jump starters that can do some or all of these things.

To be sure, these features add bulk and mass to a jumper pack (these devices won’t fit in your glove box), but their value in capability, convenience and preparation can more than offset the extra weight. After all, you want to have enough power to prepare for pretty much any emergency on the road. Check out these three top-performing portable jump starters, as judged by CNET’s Roadshow team.

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The best portable jump starter battery

Antigravity Batteries’ XP-10 Micro-Start is CNET’s pick for best overall portable jump starter. (Courtesy of Antigravity Batteries)
Antigravity Batteries’ XP-10 Micro-Start is CNET’s pick for best overall portable jump starter. (Courtesy of Antigravity Batteries)
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Antigravity Batteries XP-10 Micro-Start

CNET TAKE: Antigravity was among the very first manufacturers to offer a lithium-ion jump starter back in 2012, and its XP-10 Micro-Start was rated best of all in Consumer Reports’ most recent test of lithium-ion jump starter portables — cited in particular for its ability to deliver repeated car jump jolts after competitors had been drained. This car jump starter is UL listed, with a multimode LED flashlight and multiple USB charging options for electronics. Antigravity says it will jump V8s up to 7.3 liters. This device is a bit pricey compared to lesser portable jump competitors, but quality counts.

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The best all-in-one portable jump starter battery

Black & Decker Portable Power Station Jump Starter PPRH5B

The Black & Decker Power Station is the Swiss Army knife of portable car battery chargers. (Courtesy of Black & Decker)
The Black & Decker Power Station is the Swiss Army knife of portable car battery chargers. (Courtesy of Black & Decker)

CNET TAKE: This is the Swiss Army knife of portable car batteries and chargers. It’s UL listed, rated well across shopping sites and priced right if you look hard. The Black & Decker Power Station features multiple recharge options, a work light, a 120-psi air compressor, USB taps and a 500-watt AC inverter with two plugs to run small appliances. That all makes it truly handy, with a solid 17 amp hours of stored power. It’s a heavyweight battery at 20 pounds, but it’s also smartly packaged with a convenient grab handle. The Power Station does it all.

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The best power bank battery for a camping trip

Schumacher ProSeries 2250 Jump Starter

CNET TAKE: From a trusted name in automotive electrics, the Schumacher ProSeries 2250 Jump Starter gets 100% satisfaction from buyers on several shopping sites. This car jump starter has a vibration-resistant absorbent glass mat battery, a 400-watt AC inverter with two plugs and enough cranking amps to start just about any light-to medium-duty vehicle with a dead battery out there. Best of all, it comes with one of the largest capacity batteries you’ll find. Schumacher says it can feed a 200-watt AC draw for 55 minutes, and 100 watts for 90 minutes.

The Schumacher ProSeries 2250 Jump Starter is one of the largest capacity batteries. (Courtesy of Schumacher)
The Schumacher ProSeries 2250 Jump Starter is one of the largest capacity batteries. (Courtesy of Schumacher)

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The following CNET staff contributed to this story: the CNET Roadshow staff and Copy Editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.