As full-time campers who have spent the last 7 years moving around the country, staying in countless campgrounds, we’ve seen many families and groups spend a lot of energy just trying to charge their personal phones and electronics. They hover around bathroom outlets, leave phones charging in the campground office and picnic shelters, or hide in their car with the engine idling. Who wants to be in a campground with an engine idling nearby? Not us, no thanks!
If your group loves to stay in remote campgrounds without electrical hook-ups, hang out on the boat all day, or even kayak/canoe camp, here are some portable charging options for both small and large groups. It’s incredible what these portable units can do, so amazing that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!
Phoenix 100: Perfect for a Small Group or Family with Minimal Power Needs
The Phoenix 100 is a small, hand-held, versatile, and powerful 27,000 mAH Mini Power Station that packs a big punch for its small size. While it’s the perfect size to take car camping, it's small enough to fit into a backpack, duffel bag, dry bag, or bike cart. Check out our video review of this product, too.
Size/Dimensions: Weighing in at about 1.5 lbs, this unit is slightly bigger (2.7” x 2.7” x 6.1”) than a standard soda can or about ⅔ of an average travel mug.
What Can it Charge or Run?With 3 different outlets (USB-A, USB-C, and 110V), this unit will charge up a smartphone, laptop/tablet, camera batteries, headphones, bike lights, AA/AAA batteries, or provide power for a string of lights, small stick blender, or 12V fan at your campsite. We were amazed to discover that you can even charge a couple of these electronics at the same time!
How Can It be Re-Charged?There are various ways to recharge the battery of the Phoenix 100 – plug it into a wall outlet, portable solar panel, or car/boat utility port. Because the battery on this power bank is rather large for the size of the unit, it takes awhile to charge from 0%; therefore, we found it better to use, then immediately top it off so it’s ready the next time you need it. Note: We recommend charging this unit in a wall outlet before heading out on your trip, so you are just topping it off while on the go.
Wall Outlet: Depending on whether you use the USB-A or USB-C port, the charging time ranges from 10-15 hours. But, if you combine the two ports to charge the unit, it only takes 6 hours.
Portable Solar Panel: A 30W portable panel will fully charge this unit in 15 hours, which would probably take 2 days in the direct sun.
Car/Boat Utility Port: Similar to the charging times in a wall outlet,
it will take 10-15 hours to charge the unit depending on which port is
used. By combining the ports, this time
is reduced to 6 hours.
Downsides: We have used and abused this new product for most of the summer. The only downside is that it is not waterproof so we kept the unit in a dry bag when we used it in wet environments (e.g., sea kayaking or canoeing).
Phoenix Portable Solar Generator: Ideal for Larger Families or Groups with Greater Power Needs
The Phoenix Portable Solar Generator is a briefcase-sized, all-in-one generator combining all 4 components of a solar-powered system (solar panel, charge controller, battery, and inverter). With a powerful 16 AH / 14.8V Lithium Ion battery, this unit will impress you with what it can do! Check out our video review of this generator.
Size/Dimensions: Weighing in at just under 13 pounds, this unit is about the size of an average briefcase (16.14” x 13.77” x 3.89”) and easily fits into the trunk of a car, storage bin, or closet.
What Can it Charge or Run? With 150 watts of output power, this unit can
charge or run many small appliances including a smartphone, laptop/tablet,
camera batteries, AA/AAA batteries, a string of lights, heating pad, small
coffee maker, stick blender, small TV, CPAP machine, and even a small 12V
cooler. A variety of power outlets (12V,
USB, 110 AC, and DC) allows you to charge or run many different small
electronics at once.
How Can It be Re-Charged?
The great thing about this generator is the variety of ways it can be recharged and the speed at which it does so. It can be plugged into a wall outlet, 100W Solar Suitcase, or car/boat utility port…or use the built-in panel to keep the battery topped off. Note: We recommend charging this unit in a wall outlet before heading out on your trip, so you are just topping it off while on the go.
Wall Outlet: In just 5 hours, the unit will fully recharge, which is impressive given the size and power of its battery. Plug it in when you go to sleep at night and it will be ready to go in the morning.
Built-In 20W Solar Panel: Since the generator’s battery is quite large in relation to the solar panel, its intended use is to top off the battery, rather than charge it back up from empty. Using just the built-in panel, it takes about 15 hours in the direct sun to fully charge the battery.
100W Solar Suitcase: In the direct full sun, a 100W panel will fully charge this unit in about 2.5 hours.
Car/Boat Utility Port: In approximately 5 hours of driving, this generator will be completely recharged.
Downsides: We’ve been using this product for over a year and a half, and have been really pleased with it! It isn’t waterproof, so using it outside requires some attention. Additionally, like many lithium battery products the battery doesn’t function at temperatures below freezing.
This solar generator has a number of other great applications -- from full-day athletic events to family reunion picnics to long road trips, or even an easy battery option to grab from the closet during a power outage and you are trying to meet a deadline!
We could argue that the whole point of camping is to unplug and disconnect from our modern world, and many do just that. But we’ve also seen families waste a lot of valuable vacation “together” time seeking out places to plug in. Keep your family or group hanging around the site, by bringing the power with you.