Portable Power Station for Camping – Worthwhile or not?

jackery 500 portable power station

Portable Power Stations Reviewed

Hopefully by the end of this article you will know what a portable power station is, what they are designed for, what they are not designed for as well as how to work out which portable power station suits your needs. 

We also review our Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station for camping, discuss the accessories available for it and we will also cover the alternative options available to you. 

 

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How to get power on the go for camping, fishing and garden parties!
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    What is a portable power station?

    jackery explorer 500 portable power station review

    A portable power station is in essence a lithium battery and inverter housed in a fairly rugged case with multiple input power and power outlet slots. 

    Usually chargeable via a DC 12v supply (cigarette lighter type) or a 240v supply (wall plug type), and usually supplies power through a range of 5v or 12v usb slots and a 240v conventional plug outlet or two. 

    A typical power stations battery has a capacity of anything from approximately 400wh (watt hours) to 1000wh.

    What a portable power station is designed for

    Designed to give more power than a simple battery pack, as well as a supply capable of powering more demanding devices a power station is a great solution for camping, fishing, or days out at the park where electricity usage is going to be high.

    This might be to

    • Charge a laptop
    • Run a hair dryer
    • Power a SUP pump
    • Use a low power blender or smoothie maker
    • Power a projector for alfresco cinema nights
    • Cook on an electric grill
    • Alternatively it’s a great way for long lasting power to lower usage items
    • Charge phones and tablets
    • Power a lamp or string lights at your camp spot
    • Provide temporary outdoor power for your garden parties

    How long will the battery last on my portable power station?

    If you look at the watt hours your power station can provide, and then look at the watt usage of the devices your going to run and their voltage you can work this out fairly simply. 

    The basic calculation is 

    1. Device wattage divided by device voltage
    2. Divide your battery capacity by the answer to 1. 

    Let’s use an example of a power station with a watt hour capacity of 500.

    If you want to run a projector:

    Portable projectors vary significantly in their power consumption from something like 100w to 500/600w.

    Let’s assume a middle of the road offering requires 300w.

    1. 300 (wattage) / 12 (voltage) gives us 25.
    2. 500 watt battery capacity / 25w draw means you could theoretically run your projector for 20 or so hours, let’s assume 10% is waste means we could realistically hope to achieve 18 hours!!!

    What about a 240v device – like an electric grill.

    This offering from George Foreman averages a 760w draw

    1. 760w / 12v gives us 63
    2. 500 watt battery capacity / 63w draw means you could theoretically run your grill for 7.9 hours, let’s assume 10% is waste means we could realistically hope to achieve roughly 7 hours!!!

    What a portable power station is not designed for

    Given the above calculations we can make some assumptions about what a Portable Power Station is not designed for is not the right solution for:

    • Simply as a mobile phone charger – it’s overkill for this task alone and far too large and heavy, use a portable battery pack (see later).
    • Running a camping fridge for any significant length of time – you will require a generator or EHU for this purpose.
    • In lieu of a proper campervan electric setup or leisure battery.

    Want to learn more about campervan electrics?

    Check out our Simple Guide to Campervan Electrics

    Jackery 500 Portable Powerstation Review

    So, now we’ve learnt about what a Portable Power Station is, what it is designed for and what it is not the right solution for, what about an actual product – does it hold up?

    We’ve had our Jackery Explorer 500 for a while now and have used it extensively – here’s our thoughts

    • Solidly built – it feels rugged and durable and we are confident it will last for a long time yet
    • It has heaps of power. We use it for charging all our devices while we’re on the road (two phones, a tablet, smart watches, the odd kitchen appliance and a laptop and with every day use it lasts for well in excess of a week before starting to run low. 
    • Well designed. With multiple outlets we can charge various things simultaneously. The small screen indicates current power draw and battery percentage remaining which gives us confidence in how much charge we’ve got left.
    • Built in torch. This feels a little gimmicky. We’re not sure why you want to use this massive unit as a torch – but that said it doesn’t take away from the rest of the positives so it’s really not a big deal. 
    • The unit is completely silent when charging or powering 12v devices. When using the 240v with inverter the fan does kick in to keep the unit cool but the noise really isn’t overbearing and we barely notice it. 
    • Do be sure that you don’t plan on using any extremely power hungry devices as it is rated for a 500w output peak with short bursts available up to 1000w but we’re not sure we would want to put this to the test. 

    Overall if a Portable Power Station meets your requirements we couldn’t recommend a Jackery highly enough. Available as a 240 watt hour unit, a 500 watt hour unit that we have and a massive 1000 watt hour unit as well. 

    Jackery Power Station Accessories

    The beauty of buying into the Jackery eco-system is that you open up a whole raft of accessories designed specifically to work with your Jackery Portable Power Station.

    Options include a foldable 100w Solar Panel which is easy to transport and move around during use as the sun changes position, a carry bag to easily transport your Jackery safely to your destination – be that the sunny corner of the campsite, the side of fishing lake or to the riverside. 

    Alternatives to a Jackery

    Jackery isn’t the only company to make Portable Power Stations, and while we only have experience using a Jackery – here’s a few options on Amazon to check out as well. Look at the reviews to get an idea of their performance. 

    Lower power solutions

    Don’t need all the power that comes with a portable power station?

    Here’s a smaller, more portable option for just charging phones, tablets and other less demanding devices. 

    Is a portable power station for you?

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    Jackery Portable Powerstation in our campervan

    So, hopefully by now you’ve decided whether a portable power station is suitable for your needs. 

    Any further questions then please don’t hesitate to drop them in comments below. 

    Go Explore! With a Portable Power Station!

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