[Ultimate Guide]How to Select a Portable Power Station for Camping?
Time to read 13 min
Time to read 13 min
Since the start of the epidemic, the desire to get out and travel reached a fevered pitch and camping and outdoor activity has become extraordinarily popular, with many people looking for any way to get out of their quarantined quarters. According to sales analytics, purchases in outdoor equipment have all but doubled across the country, in particular a rise in equipment to further enhances the outdoor experience. People these days are not solely interested in the old-school, “roughin’ it” ways, rather they want to experience the great outdoors all while maintaining access to some of modern day conveniences.
But before we dive deep into products that can provide us that convenience, we should ask ourselves:
With the release of rechargeable portable power stations, customers understand that it is a substantial investment: both financially and physically as some power stations are quite weighty! But to really answer this question, first we need to clarify just what type of camping we want to participate in. There are a variety of camping categories for the variety of outdoorsy-types around. In the interests of keeping this article relatively short, we’re going to condense a few larger camping categories into these main types:
According to Google, Glamping is a combination of the word “glamorous” and “camping” and is a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping. How do you know if you’re rough’n’ it or glamping? If you have access to a large camper van/RV, have access to modern entertainment, private bathroom facilities, air conditioning, gourmet food, then you are most certainly glamping.
This is the most comfortable, convenient camping scenario and tends to be reserved for those who may not desire the notorious 3 A.M., buzzing, 6-legged wake-up calls, or the quarter-inch of pure gunk under each nail after a weekend in the woods.
And if that’s not the kind of experience you would prefer, that’s okay! Some of the joys that come with glamping include a relatively clean experience free of insects, access to electricity and warm water on demand, a comfy, cozy bed, and an ultimately straightforward experience that’s as easy as checking into a hotel. With that said, in addition to these conveniences, you must also consider the costs.
These costs can included significant investments in a camping van/RV, cabin rentals, any associated cleanup fees and the list goes on. Glamping is relegated to those who fall into two main categories: 1) you want to be nature-adjacent while still having access to modern day conveniences, or: 2) you’ve purchased a camping van/RV a are fully committed to the glamping lifestyle.
Many people believe car camping is camping/sleeping in your car. The reality is much more simple and likely more comfortable. Rather, car camping is simply when you drive to a campsite and unload all your gear to spend your nights in a tent.
Car camping is one of the more simplistic options; there’s no need to carry things or hike long distances to a preferred site. You either pull up to the camping site or walk a short ways to your destination, then set up your gear.
Some benefits associated with this type of camping are: access to an electronic/charging source, access to a heat/AC dispenser on four wheels, and no long, tiring treks back after a weekend in the wilderness.
Some drawbacks include a diminished camping experience due to being relatively close to other car campers, the act and energy needed to pack and unpack everything for the journey, and not getting the feeling of truly getting away from the rigmarole of modern, urban life. This option is certainly cheaper and “rougher” than glamping, but loses drastically in terms of convenience.
Backpacking is what most of us usually consider when we think about camping. In our minds, when we’ve decided our adventurous spirit’s thirst must be quenched, we tend to think of hiking to this remote location with pristine waters and an amazing view! Whether or not we actually achieve this vision when we embark on our backpacking journey is a topic for another discussion.
That said, there is something to hiking a semi-beaten path for hours, sweaty and achy, to finally arrive at an untouched, quiet camping spot with nothing but amazing vistas surrounding you. The joy of being able to finally drop your packs and sacks, rest your legs and stretch your shoulders feels amazing; you’ve finally made it! There must be something of an adventurers’ spirit and unmatched determination in any person/people who willingly choose this type of getaway, because there’s certainly still more to do! Unpacking, tent setup, fire starting, pest control, cooking, cleaning, relieving oneself are ALL tasks that require energy and effort to complete.
Backpacking is not for the faint of heart. If you’re still headset on going the Bear Grylls/Christopher Columbus route, here are some benefits you can look forward to: a sense of adventure’s spirit from trekking areas not regularly travelled, being surrounded by natural beauty untouched by man (for the most part), and a feeling of communion with the outdoors.
Some of the drawbacks include: a journey to your destination that will need to be properly prepared for in advance, packing very light to reduce weight (no unnecessary items lest you want to completely exhaust yourself before arriving at the destination), fighting off all, and I do mean ALL, of nature’s creepy crawlers (it is their home after all). Backpacking is certainly the cheapest option of all the ones mentioned and can be the most rewarding, but it requires a significant understanding of what to expect and appropriate planning to match.
Now, let's go back to the original question: are portable power stations a camping necessity? Yes and no. Based on the categories we’ve previously mentioned, a power station can certainly enhance all of those experiences, but that depends on your needs.
Regarding glamping: normally you’d have all the electricity you need in your glamor tent, yurt, etc., but let’s say you want to watch movies outdoors, set up a romantic area, or spend a significant amount of time outside but don’t have easy access to electricity. A portable power station would be perfect in scenarios like these.
Regarding hiking/backpacking: a portable power station could prove to be very useful in emergency situations. Many of them come equipped with LED lights programmed to flash SOS during emergencies and can supply enough power to keeps mobile devices charged for days. That combined with the ability to power multiple other devices could make the right power station a viable tool for an outdoor hiking adventure. All of this utility would ultimately depend on one key factor: weight. Carrying an extra 10+ pounds a few hours up and down mountains, valleys and rivers would be an added burden to an already physical challenge, and the integrated flash light or added charging capabilities just may not be enough of an equivalent exchange.
Regarding car camping: assuming you have enough space in your vehicle, this may be the best option of the three for a power station. You’re driving directly to the campsite in most cases, there’s no need to carry anything for significant amounts of time, and because you’re driving, there are more modern conveniences you can bring along thus increasing the usefulness of the power station. Many power stations are also capable of using the car cigarette charger to charge, so enthusiasts can potentially extend their outdoor fun.
A power bank is generally only for cell phones, and at best for laptops. When choosing for portability, they tend to carry a limited battery capacity of around 25,000mAh which equates to about 92.5Wh, enough to charge a couple phones 2 times (maybe!) or a single Chromebook or tablet once.
Fuel generator power are very heavy, very loud, and the fumes released by the generator means it must be operated outdoors and it is dangerous to be around recklessly. And I forgot to mention: they need GASOLINE to function! Gas + heavily wooded area = a bad time just waiting to happen. In any of the outdoor settings previously mentioned, bringing a fuel generator would make enjoying the outdoors considerably less enjoyable. Common generators output between 1 - 10kW (up to 10,000Wh) which is more than enough to power any household appliance or device, but the convenience of bringing a gas generator is severely lacking.
You may also like: Portable Power Station vs. Generator: Which is Right for You?
In comparison to power banks, portable power stations typically have additional AC plugs, drastically increasing the amount of devices that can be charged. From portable fridges, to mini-grills, to projectors and LED lights, power stations can support more products, power more, and charge longer compared to typical power banks. Portable power stations are much lighter, they generate less noise even during heavy operation, and do not require gas to operate and thus can be used both in and outdoors, in comparison to gas generators. Many are also capable of recharging via solar panels or car cigarette port, making them gas money savers.
For those who want to experience a more relaxed, comfortable excursion, there are many benefits to having a power station during a camping trip.
It provides power to the campsite: A power station can provide a stable power supply for a campsite, enabling campers to use electric devices, like inflatable mattresses, electric blankets, camping lights, chargers, and more.
It can charge equipment: Portable power stations can charge various electronic devices for campers, like cell phones, tablets, and flashlights, which can be extremely useful when needing to maintain communication and navigation capabilities.
It can power entertainment equipment: Outdoor power stations can supply campers with entertainment equipment; Bluetooth speakers, gaming consoles, and portable projectors can be powered to increase camping fun.
It can power cooking equipment: Power stations can supply electric cooking equipment like electric rice cookers and microwave ovens with power, reducing the reliance of building a fire in order to cook food.
Given everything we’ve discussed at this point, one can easily see that there is some benefit to using a power station when in the wild. But now we need to find out what factors to consider when choosing the right power station. To do this, we will use details from the Ugreen PowerRoam Power Station to help you come to a selection decision.
Battery type is the core issue of consideration for any portable outdoor power supply. Outdoor power supplies often use two types of cores: ternary Lithium batteries and Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries (LiFePO4).
Ternary Lithium battery material is generally Nickel-Cobalt Aluminum or Nickel-Cobalt Manganese. It has a high energy density, good low-temperature performance, and high charging and discharging efficiency. On the contrary, its cost is also higher, battery material is easy to decompose at high temperatures, and longevity and safety performances are borderline substandard.
Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries are typically found in electric vehicles and compared to ternary Lithium batteries, LiFePO4 energy density limit is relatively low, it has a low temperature performance that is inferior, but in exchange is a lower cost, longer lifespan, and better overall safety. Lithium Iron Phosphate is cheaper, safer, and has a longer life. Considering the fact that many intend to use power stations around family, in a wooded environment, and for extended periods of time given the price points, it stands to reason that LiFePO4 power stations would be the better alternative, despite the reduction in performance.
Battery capacity is measured in watt-hours (Wh). How it works is, the larger the value, the longer the power station can perform. For instance, a 1000Wh battery capacity means that an appliance requiring 1000W can function continuously for about 1 hour.
In terms of cost effectiveness, if you don’t frequently use many appliances outdoors or don’t require a lot of power (induction cookers, electric kettles, other appliances over 1000-watts), then a 500Wh power station capacity would be more suitable for your needs. At this capacity, you can still charge multiple devices including cell phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, drones, lighting, ambient lights, and more. The power and capacity is there for multi-charging, and power stations in this category are also a good balance of price and weight, and most suitable for entry-level users.
If you desire to use a battery generated fire to cook as well as charge additional electronic devices, then a 1000Wh battery capacity would be a better choice. Additionally, some camp sites do not allow open fires, so many choose to use an induction stove top which can easily require up to 1500W of power. Choosing a power station that can reach those limits can make the difference between waiting a few minutes for a warm meal, or waiting hours.
Fortunately, the Ugreen PowerRoam 600 Power Station is a 680Wh/600W lightweight outdoor power supply. Although it’s rated at a mere 600-watts of power, the U-Turbo mode pushes the limits of it’s power up to 1500-watts! This means users can enjoy the benefits of having a smaller power station; light weight and compact, without the power anxiety. Charging electronic devices like laptops, cell phones, gaming consoles, and drones are an easy feat, in addition to other digital products like small fans, min-fridges, coffee makers, projectors, and electric kettles to name a few! The PowerRoam 600 brings more indoor quality to the outdoor life.
Another factor to consider when deciding on power stations is the available output and input ports. An output port refers to the interface used to power connected devices. Input ports refer to the interface used for charging the power station. Power supplies with a variety of ports provides versatility to users, giving them the discretion to charge and recharge devices and the power station however they’d like. Therefore, a more practical and convenient power station is one well-equipped with a rich interface.
The Ugreen PowerRoam 600 Power Station for example, has two USB-C ports that support up to 100-watts of output power, two USB-A output connector that support up to 22.5-watts, a car charger connector port which supports up to 120-watts of output power, and two DC5521 output interface which provide up to 60-watts of output.
On the left is the input ports for recharging the power station via AC, which boasts a full recharge speed of 90 minutes, or solar panel, which fully charges in about 4 hours. These ports are enclosed by a protective cover that helps prevent entry from foreign objects. Large exhaust holes below help to regulate internal temperature. The right side has five AC outputs that can be used simultaneously, accompanied by an on/off AC switch . Another ventilation fan is provided to help with temperature regulation.
The PowerRoam 600 is equipped with a full range of ports, suitable for any user need and capable of making any outdoor experience a more cozy one.
A major deciding factor in which power station is right for you, is the recharging speed. What’s to point of having a power station that charges everything, if the station itself takes an entire workday to recharge? Being able to get up and go with a fully charged power station battery is essential to a positive outdoor experience.
Thankfully, engineers at Ugreen took that into consideration with the PowerRoam. The PowerRoam 600 and 1200 are able to recharge completely, from 0 to 100%, in 90 minutes. In the time it would take to pack and prepare for a camping trip, you will have a fully charged, portable power station ready to juice up any device that tags along.
As previously mentioned, you can also recharge the power station using Ugreen Solar Panels that need about 4 hours of sunlight to fully charge the PowerRoam. This key item is great for those extended stays in the wilderness or for those pit stops in between long drives. For those of us who enjoy traveling outdoors for days in a row, the ability to solar recharge gives us the capability to attain "limitless recharge/charge range" for our power station.
One final factor to consider is the power stations actual physical design and structure. Is the power station convenient to use? Is there a way to easily view information like charge time during use? Is it capable of operation after a few falls or drops? Will it survive a fall? The answers to these questions could be the difference between a smooth experience for users or one that’s mired in constant frustration and confusion.
A sign that you’re on the right track in power station selection is if said station has APP support. A dedicated application allows users to have immediate access to, and updates from, their power station.
Some APPs, like the Ugreen PowerRoam App, let users set power ratings, enable child safety locks, and perform immediate self-diagnostic checks, which are great ways to add convenience to the user. To make information easy to view, the PowerRoam comes equipped with a 2.7-inch LCD display screen that displays how much charging/recharging time is remaining, which ports are activated, and any potential system error code for instant feedback.
If the PowerRoam takes a tumble, the PC+ABS composite shell keep the internal components save and secure, making the PowerRoam resilient power station. The shell is also flame-resistant, so in the unlikely event of an internal fire, it remains contained, keeping you and those around you safe.
Camping does not necessarily require a portable power station, but it can certainly bring a qualitative leap to the quality of your camping experience. A great way to enhance that experience is to consider all the factors we mentioned previously. Power stations can be compact, lightweight, and easy to use, and hopefully this guide has helped you on your journey to picking the perfect one.