Rambling over Coffee: Girls Road Trip 2018 - Power Sources

The second item on the planning board this week is continuing to make my decision about POWER on the trip.  As in electricity back up for a couple items.

I've been researching this for awhile and I need to make some decisions.

We will rarely have any power sources on this 2 week trip.  We won't have bathrooms or water sources for a shower either but that's a whole other post!

Today's rambling over coffee is about my power backup. Primarily for our cell phones, for safety reasons, obviously. But I'd also like enough power to charge my laptop battery.  Since we are not backpacking everything and have access to a car, we have more options than if we had to carry everything with us.

There are so many options for portable power when tent camping - some of which are;
  • Generators
  • Power Inverters (from 12V to 110 V) to use in the car while driving
  • Solar battery packs/banks with solar panel charging, wall charging and car chargers
  • Power Pack with jump starter, USB, AC power, etc.
  • Car or boat batteries with cables to a power inverter

There are more but there is no need to go further.   And the fact that I even typed the word 'generator' on the list above makes me cringe because if you are a recreational camper who runs a noisy, gas guzzling generator in a quiet, recreational camping area, you're just a jerk.  (And if you are dragging along TV's, small refrigerators and gaming stations and a slew of things like that, why in the heck are you 'camping' anyway?  Go home to your basement or go hole up in a hotel room.) 

If you only need to power your cellphones or other tiny devices for safety reasons, I love the solar backpacks with the built in chargers.   However, I want just a bit more for this long trip.

What do we need power for?
  • Charging our cellphones
  • Charging my ereader 
  • Charging the laptop
We are going to be in areas that do not allow any ground fires (so no sitting around a fire in the evenings), have no internet service, are remote and are an hour from the nearest town or any available services and it gets dark early enough that having something to do in the evenings will be necessary.  I am a voracious reader.  I devour them quickly, so having my ereader with hundreds of books at my fingers tips is a God-send.  We also found last year while in a similar remote location with long evenings ahead of us before retiring to bed, that it was nice to have a laptop and DVD's to watch when we had a couple hours between being finished with dinner and bedtime.

Personally I threw out the idea of the car charging a large battery pack or power inverter that plugs into the cigarette adapter because there are times when we won't have access to the car or it will be parked in one spot for 2-3 days.  I don't want to have to start the car and let it run for an hour to power anything.  I don't want to put any extra pull on my vehicle battery and I don't want to waste any gas as we will be an hour away from the nearest gas services on parts of this trip.

I have it down to two choices that will work best for our needs.

I'm leaning towards the Yeti 400 if I can justify the cost verses how many times I'll use it over the next few years and other uses besides camping trips.  First, I'm going to link to the product description on Amazon as they list it all out for me:

  • Yeti 400 portable power station with wall plug, and one Boulder 50 Solar panel with 8mm cord and kickstand. No noise, no fumes, big power
  • 396Wh lead acid battery portable power station can power up to 7 devices at once (33Ah @ 12V)
  • Continuous 300W, 600W surge pure-sine wave inverter, 2.1A USB ports, 120W 12V ports
  • Recharges from AC, 12V or solar panels (sold separately). Gas-free generator alternative with no noise, no fumes, no maintenance
  • The 50-watt Boulder 50 Solar panel is built with strong tempered glass and an aluminum frame, and equipped with an integrated kickstand to help get optimal angle to the sun
  • Charge phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, and most small devices. Backup power for small appliances, lights, and more
  • Designed and engineered by power station experts with a US-based customer service center
  • Chainable with other 33Ah lead acid batteries for longer runtimes
Expensive? YES.  But with a 400 watt power station (it holds power and you plug your items into it just like you would the wall plug in, unlike the inverters/converters in your car that only power while it's plugged in and do not store power).

I can get
  • 3-5 recharges on my laptop
  • 20+ charges on our cellphones
  • 10+ charges on a tablet/ereader
  • 130 hours out of my light-a-life lamp (which I already own) 
  • For those of you who camp with your LCD TV's and mini-fridges you can power your fridge for about 7 hours and your tv for about 3 hours.

The reason I am considering the Yeti 400 even though the set up is expensive, is that I already own solar panels that will work with the Goal Zero Yeti 400.  I wouldn't have to buy panels - just the power pack.  I originally bought my panels a few years ago to work with the Escape Power Pack which they no longer make. If I find a good price on the Yeti 400 I have silent back up power for our needs that would only have to be recharged every 2-3 days and I already own the Goal Zero solar panels to do so.  It also comes with the adapters to recharge the power pack by AC (wall) plug ins IF we do end up in a place with electrical power we can plug in for 2 hours, or with the 12V adapter.

The smaller, Goal Zero Yeti 150 is another choice that works to power our cellphones, laptop and ereader at a more affordable price ($199), it would just need to be charged every day or two, as it only holds enough power to charge the laptop 1-2 times, 6 charges to the ereader/table and about 15 to our cellphones.

While I am tempted to go the route of the deep cycle battery and power inverter option, I would have to buy all the components as I don't already own any parts, like I do the solar set up.  I also would HAVE to have a power source to recharge the battery after use, verses having the solar option on the Yeti.  My laptop averages 32 watts and 2.1 amps so while there is a slight chance the battery could last us up to a full week of power if we are careful, it's doubtful and I don't want to count on that.  Plus, we absolutely would have to find a source of electrical power somewhere that we could let it sit and plug in at for at least 2-3 hours to  recharge at a quick charge.  With the solar options, I've got free solar energy as long as it's at least partially sunny, but I also have the option of wall charging and car charging should I need it. 

I keep going back to the solar options and although there are various brands and styles out there, the fact that I own Goal Zero already and would only need to purchase the power pack (which also be useful during power outages at home during storms and other inclimate weather,  get togethers in the back yard, small day trips in which we would want/need power, etc) it seems the best choice for me.