Q: What should I look for in a portable power station?
A: Think for a while about what you want your portable power station to do. Many of the higher-end models cost a pretty penny and most are rated for 500 use cycles or more.
There’s a good chance this portable power station will be with you for many years, and outdoor seasons, to come. Buy within your budget and within reason, but don’t be afraid to upgrade a bit.
Right now you may only need to charge a laptop and a small tablet. What if you invite several friends along? Maybe you have kids growing up who will go camping or exploring with you. You may need more power down the road, and buying too small now will cripple you later.
Look for a power station that you can handle. Think about how you’ll transport it. Do you have a car with very little room? Maybe you have a huge long-bed F350 and space isn’t a problem.
Try to think down the road a little and consider the ways you will use your portable power station not only this year but in the future.
Q: How does a portable power station work?
A: Basically you charge a large battery with wall plugs, solar, car chargers, or any other source. That battery then becomes a portable power bank. These portable power batteries usually have many different types of outlets on them such as standard wall plugs, USBs, and vehicle accessory ports where you can plug-in devices.
A portable power station is, in essence, a large battery that powers your devices on the move. It’s like a massive portable phone charger, with tons of versatility.
Additionally, these big portable batteries usually have outdoor features like rugged durable casings, water-resistance, and other must-haves.
Q: How long do portable power stations last?
A: Since portable power stations revolve around their internal battery, this becomes a question of battery longevity.
Most portable power stations have a battery cycle rating. Many will cite specifications such as “80% after 400 cycles”. A cycle is generally measured by the number of times you empty and then recharge the battery.
So, in this instance, imagine you use your portable power station twice a month. A power station rated for 80% after 400 cycles would have 8 years of service before it wears down to 80% of its original health.
Of course, you can still use a power station with 80% of its original capacity so, in essence, this imaginary power station would really last many years longer.
Keep in mind, however, that battery health can also be majorly impacted by other factors.
Store your battery indoors at room temperature to avoid the degrading effects of cold weather on your battery. Also, when not in use always keep your portable power station battery topped-off on juice. Recharge after use and every few months in storage to avoid damage.
Q: How much power do I need?
A: This is a question two-fold.
First, you need to know the maximum draw of your biggest power-using device. See our section above about “peak power”. If you want to use an electric chainsaw you’ll need well over 1,000 watts of power. If you want to charge a phone you may need as little as 2-6 watts.
Second, how long do you want that power to last? You may get dozens or hundreds of charges out of a power station when charging a phone. Try to charge your car battery, however, and you may only get one or less! See our section on “Frequently Asked Questions” for more on this.