I usually go backpacking in the wilderness, so there’s no friggin’ way that I could bring a power station with me (I literally calculate the calories in my meals so I don’t bring one more ounce than necessary!).
Even for car camping, I wouldn’t bring a power station: for me, the whole point of camping is to connect with nature, and I can’t do that while I’m plugged in. Even on week-long trips, a lightweight power bank is enough to keep my few necessary devices charged.
But the brand Bluetti recently sent me their EB70 power station and 120W solar panel for free to test out (one of the perks of my job J). I have the EU version but there’s also a USA version. My main reason for accepting this power station was to have for power outages and emergency preparedness. The setup is definitely awesome and easy to use, even for non-tech people like me.
So, now that I have it, I got to thinking about how a power station could fit into my camping lifestyle and whether it’s worth it.
If You Charge Lots of Devices while Camping, then a Power Station Is Probably Worth It
Lots of campers swear by power stations. They are especially popular with campers into nature photography because they allow you to recharge camera batteries multiple times, even while in the field.
An alternative would be to bring multiple power banks. I can imagine how annoying it would be to keep track of which power banks are fully charged. It’s a lot simpler to just bring one power station and plug all of your devices into it.
And it’s definitely better than leaving your vehicle running to charge device or potentially draining the starting battery.
A Power Station Might Be Cheaper than Paying for Campground Electric Hookups
If you usually pay for an electric hookup at camp, then a power station might also be worth it. Most campgrounds charge around $5 to $10 per night for electric hookup. However, some campgrounds charge $20+ more for sites with electric hookups. That’s a lot of money to pay just to be able to recharge your phones, flashlights, and other small devices!
Good portable power stations are not cheap. Expect to pay at least $400 for a power station with enough capacity for camping needs. But, if you go camping more than 15 nights a year, the cost could quickly pay off because of money saved from those electric hookup fees. Plus, you’ll also have a power station to use in case of a power outage at home. It’s hard to put a price on peace of mind.
Bonus: With a power station, you can choose a primitive campsite, which means that your camp neighbors will also have a primitive site. So you won’t have listen to annoying camp neighbors using the electric hookup to blast music or watch movies.
Working while Camping Is Now an Option
Here’s what makes me excited about having a power station for camping: I can now work while camping.
The EB70 that Bluetti sent me can recharge my laptop approximately 8x. Even when you calculate in the power required for Wifi from my phone, I still could work for several days while in the wilderness. Plus, I’ve got a solar panel to recharge the power station. With the Bluetti and some other models, you can charge and discharge at the same time.
Now I just need my kids would leave me alone long enough to get some work done, but that’s a separate issue…
Be Realistic about What Portable Power Stations Can Charge
Portable power stations are great for charging camping gadgets like:
- Camera batteries
- USB lights
- Air mattress pumps
- Small fans
- Rechargeable batteries (kind of funny to charge batteries with a battery, but my headlamps use AAAs!)
But you can basically forget about using a power station camping to charge things like electric blankets, heaters, coolers or camp fridges. You’ll also drain the power station very quickly if you use it to power things like electric kettles or run a larger fan all night.
To power those sorts of power-hungry devices, you’d need a power station with a VERY large capacity. And high-capacity power stations aren’t very portable or practical for camping.
Also Consider Where You’ll Keep the Power Station during Day Trips
One thing that scares me about using a power station when camping is this: lithium-ion batteries don’t handle high temperatures well. The battery will lose its capacity if kept at high temperatures. This isn’t an issue when at camp since power stations are usually fine up to 110F.
But what about when you go on day trips or hikes? Where will you put the power station?
I’m not about to leave gear worth $500+ outside. The only solution is to put it in my vehicle. But, in summer, it can easily get to over 140F inside a vehicle.
You’ll have to think carefully about this – such as making sure your vehicle is in a shady area and that you keep it covered with one of those reflective tarps. Or just don’t bring the power station when camping in peak summer (which defeats the point if you want it to run a fan).
Are There Cheaper Alternatives?
It’s definitely possible to build your own power station and solar charger setup. It can end up being a lot cheaper than buying one. But that assumes you know what you are doing and don’t calculate in your labor time. Those DIY power stations usually aren’t very portable or practical for camping though.
So, the cheapest alternative is to simply reduce your power needs so you don’t have to take a power station camping.
Buy the Biggest You Can Afford
If you do decide to buy a power station for camping, note that everyone says to get a bigger one than you think you need. As one Redditor said, “It only took one trip, three nights, to realize how true that statement is.”
And Also Don’t Rely on Solar
Bluetti also sent me a 120W solar panel which does a great job of recharging the power station. But only when it is sunny.
And guess what? It will inevitably be cloudy when you need to recharge the power station via solar. Or you will want to go hiking during the day and won’t want to stick around camp while the sun recharges your solar station. Nor will you want to leave your expensive solar setup out while you leave camp. Bottom line? Solar is nice, but don’t rely on it.
Do you use a power station when camping? Let us know in the comments section below whether you think it was worth it.