BEST WAYS TO CHARGE A PORTABLE POWER STATION OFF-GRID FOR HIKING & CAMPING
There is nothing like the great outdoors. Fresh air, sun, trees and wildlife are all great reasons to spend time hiking and camping. But what happens when you do not have enough power from your portable power station to charge your devices?
Fear not – there are ways to charge a portable power station off-grid.
This article will be covering green energy or sustainable power specifically. While there are fuel-powered portable power stations, this article focuses mainly on green alternatives.
Here are the best ways to charge a portable power station off-grid for hiking and camping.
PORTABLE SOLAR PANEL
Solar panels are one of the most popular sources of renewable energy. One of the most common ways to charge a portable power source is through portable solar panels. These panels can be attached directly to a tent or backpack or placed where sunlight will naturally hit them. The panels convert light into electricity, which then powers a device directly or charges a portable power station.
Pros of Using a Portable Solar Panel
The benefits of using portable solar panels include:
No Drilling or Wiring Required
Portable solar panels do not require any wiring or drilling. Instead, it can be placed anywhere and can work as long as there is available sunlight.
This makes it extremely easy to set up and use, as well as convenient when it comes to needing to move it.
Portable Solar Panels are Easy to Use
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells that can capture solar energy and convert it into electricity. This electricity can then be conveniently stored in a portable power station for later use.
Most modern solar panels come with cables to be easily attached to a device. Simply follow the instructions that came with it, and you will be able to charge a multitude of devices inclusive of, but not limited to, smartphones, GPS trackers, GoPros, headlamps, portable power stations and more.
Takes Less Space
Solar panels are extremely compact and trying to fit many of them inside a backpack or tent should not prove to be a challenge.
Depending on the design, some portable solar panels even come with a nylon cover, and it is kept compact in transit as it folds neatly onto itself.
On top of being highly compact, most modern portable solar panels do not weigh much, making them extremely easy to carry around.
Cons of Using a Portable Solar Panel
While portable solar panels are an excellent option for charging a portable power station, there are some drawbacks. The cons of using solar panels include the following:
Although portable solar panels are relatively easy to use, they are not always reliable, especially during cloudy or stormy weather.
Additionally, even if the weather forecast predicts a non-rainy day, there is no certainty on how brightly the sun would shine on that particular day, reducing the potential of a solar panel when trying to harness solar energy.
Location is also another factor to consider. If the plan is to camp in a forest, finding an appropriate clearing in the canopy may prove to be a difficult task.
Ethicalities of Portable Solar Panel Manufacturing
Solar energy is not as clean as it may claim to be. The creation of solar panels requires materials like cadmium, copper, nickel and lead. It has been noted that attaining these materials through extraction and chemical separation processes can often lead to pollution.
While solar energy does not currently have a huge carbon footprint yet, it is predicted that as it continues to grow in popularity, manufacturing and mining efforts will increase as well, leading to more pollution.
Some of these substances are also toxic, and some governments may even classify solar panels as hazardous waste at the end of their usable lifespan.
How to Charge Your Portable Power Station with a Portable Solar Panel
Solar panels come in many different sizes and shapes. Regardless of size, finding a suitable location with direct sunlight is crucial.
Before setting up the solar panels, it is advisable to calculate the amount of power that is required for the specific portable power station. The size of a solar panel is directly correlated to power rating – the bigger the panel, the higher the rating.
But size is not everything. When it comes to larger panels, there is a risk that parts of it may end up being covered in the shade. It is worth considering having multiple smaller solar panels instead, so that there is more room to shift them around when needed.
As most modern good portable solar panels come with included USB wires, connecting it to a portable power station is a simple task.
However, it is worth noting that power output can fluctuate with variations in sunlight intensity, which can potentially harm your portable power station or portable battery. This can be prevented by connecting the solar panel to a charge controller, before connecting that to the portable power station or portable battery.
On top of controlling the input to become a steady signal, charge controllers can also monitor your portable power station or battery and shut off input once it is fully charged.
PORTABLE WIND TURBINES
Another option for powering your portable power station is wind turbines. Wind turbines are essentially large fans that have blades that spin according to the speed of airflow. This airflow creates kinetic energy, which is converted into electrical energy.
Pros of Using Portable Wind Turbines
The benefits of portable wind turbines include:
Wind turbines need a lot less space when compared to solar panels. In terms of its footprint, it can be many times smaller than its larger counterpart. Good portable wind turbines also have blades that are designed to maximise torque and power, making them highly efficient for their size.
Many portable wind turbines can also be fully dismantled, making them easy and compact when it comes to transporting them.
Wind Energy is Renewable
Using portable wind turbines means harnessing the power of nature without causing any harm to the environment. As it is highly sustainable, wind power is steadily gaining traction and is now the largest source of renewable power in some countries.
The upfront cost of getting a portable wind turbine can be potentially pricey, but it pays off over time. As harvesting wind is free of charge, a portable wind turbine will eventually pay for itself and more.
Cons of Using Portable Wind Turbines
There are some disadvantages associated with using portable wind turbines. These include:
Compared to solar panels, portable wind turbines can be considered rather noisy. When the blades spin, a whooshing noise is created, and some people may find this to be annoying if they are sensitive to noise.
Before purchasing any portable wind turbine, it is recommended to check if the company selling it displays its potential noise levels in the product specifications. Noise levels are usually measured in decibels (dB).
Unpredictable Wind Patterns
While portable wind turbines work great in areas with consistent winds, they may not be suitable for locations with unpredictable wind patterns. This is because the turbines would not be able to generate electricity at full capacity, especially if the wind speed is not strong and consistent.
Unfortunately, as portable wind turbines rely on wind speed, the reliability of using them as a primary energy source can be limited in areas of inconsistent wind speeds.
Expensive Upfront Cost
While the energy harnessed from a portable wind turbine is free, the initial investment required to get one can be quite expensive. A portable wind turbine can cost hundreds of dollars, which may be more than some are willing to spend.
How to Charge a Portable Power Station with a Portable Wind Turbine
Before using a portable wind turbine to charge your portable power station, you need to set up the portable wind turbine.
To set it up, follow the included instructions to assemble the wind turbine. Generally, there will be a few main parts to the design – legs, shaft, blades, blade mount cap, turbine unit and cables. After assembly, place the tripod onto a flat surface and either peg it down or hold it down with tensioned cables.
Most good portable wind turbines come with USB cords. Once the turbine is set up and running, these cords can be directly connected to a portable power station. As with solar panels, using a charge controller will be helpful.
Once the blades of the portable wind turbine start to spin, the energy harnessed from it can be used to charge a portable power station.
For portable wind turbines with 360-degree adaptability functions, it is important to ensure that any wires may not get tangled while the turbine is rotating to catch the wind at the right angles.
PORTABLE FUEL-POWERED GENERATORS
If solar panels or wind turbines are out of the question, there is always still the option of using fuel-powered generators. Such generators use diesel or gasoline as fuel and convert them into electricity.
Pros of Using a Fuel-Powered Generator
Fuel-powered generators have many advantages, including:
More Power Reliability
Unlike portable solar panels and wind turbines, fuel-powered generators do not depend on sun and wind conditions. As a result, they can provide constant power even when there may not be enough wind or sunshine.
More Options and Sizes
Portable fuel-powered generators offer more options when it comes to power electronics. It offers the choice between alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) depending on the device that needs to be powered.
Cons of Using a Fuel-Pumped Generator
There are some drawbacks associated with using fuel-powered generators. Some of these include:
Since they run on gas or diesel engines, fuel-powered generators tend to make a lot of noise. This means that they are not ideal for places where individuals are trying to sleep at night, and generally have to be placed some distance away from a campsite for the noise levels to be less jarring.
Another disadvantage of using fuel-powered generators is that it produces pollutants. For example, diesel engines emit carbon monoxide, while gasoline engines emit hydrocarbons.
Expensive Upfront Cost
A portable power generator can cost thousands of dollars, which may be more than some are willing to spend. On top of that, as it is reliant on fuel, it is a lot more costly over time as compared to renewable energy sources like solar or wind power.
Reliance on Fuel
In addition to being noisy and harmful to the environment, fuel-powered generators also require fuel to operate. This can lead to potential logistical issues when it comes to transporting and storing fuel.
This can also become another issue as certain campsites prohibit storing any type of liquid fuel. It is essential to check with the forestry department that is responsible for the campsite to enquire if they permit liquid fuel.
How to Charge a Portable Power Station with a Fuel-Powered Generator
To charge a portable power station using a portable fuel-powered generator, all you need is a way to connect the two.
It is recommended to use extension cords to connect your generator to your portable power station. As a power generator tends to create more energy, it is recommended to ensure that the cords are heavy-duty and have a sufficiently thick wire gauge to handle the generator's current.
The cords must run in a manner where they are not coiled up or kinked as they can get hot and melt in the process.
The correct order to connect a generator to a portable power station is to first start up the generator before plugging in the cords, and finally plug the cords into the portable power station.
When the portable power station is fully charged, the opposite should be done to safely disconnect the system.
Additionally, consider plugging a surge protector into the portable generator first before connecting a portable power station to it. This will avoid sudden electrical shocks or power shutdowns due to excess voltage.
The portable generator should be kept dry during use to avoid any electrical mishaps.
PORTABLE POWER STATION ENERGY RESOURCES
Portable power stations are a great way to have backup power for camping or hiking.
There are a few ways to charge them off-grid, and each has its benefits. Knowing which option will work best for you will help ensure that your portable power station is always ready to go when needed.
Portable wind turbines like Texenergy's Infinite Air 12 (discontinued; upgraded to Infinite Air 18) and Infinite Air 18 can charge portable power stations in any weather condition in an environmentally friendly way, with maximum power capacities of 18V. In addition, Infinite Air 18 includes a 12V adapter that can charge 12-volt devices, extending the power available for device charging.