In this article we review a few offerings in the solar generator and power pack world for camping and other adventures done by car.
It's time we got ourselve's a solar generator and portable battery setup for our outdoor gadgets and electrical items. We love camping, we do really long journeys across the UK in our car and have uses for external power supply when out and about.
We have looked at the Maxoak K2, Goal Zero Yeti's 150 and 400 and the Solarpod 240, three solar generators, meaning you can charge them from the suns power alone. The Maxoak K2 is a large battery pack but it doesn't just charge USB electrical devices, you can charge laptops and camera batteries too.
What Is A Solar Generator
It's a large battery pack but has safe charging and circuit protection which means they can have outputs to plug items in to them, so you can charge many different things wherever you want. In the coffee shop, on a camping trip, during a full day out, at an event without a power supply, going for a longer journey on your electric bicycle? Charge that too mid ride, so many options! What makes it different to just a power bank with USB charge is the solar input, you can charge them from solar setups you already own or via a UK mains plug or even on the road whilst in your car using a 12v cigarette lighter.
Below you will see many different examples on how and where you can use them, none though are waterproof, so if you want to use on your next adventure outdoors, make sure to create a safe environment for your solar generator. We would recommend a plastic container with clips which you can put your battery and electrical items inside of when charging. Just remember to make sure there is a decent flow of air as these power packs can warm up.
Do I Need A Powerpack For Camping
If you need extra battery capacity, you're off on a group or family camping holiday in a tent or similar. You go out on big photography tours in search of beautiful landscapes or you want to power your electrical devices to get the most out of them, we highly recommend you read on.
DIY Solar Generator
If you are really serious about having some extra battery capacity on the go, then why not look in to a DIY solar generator setup? There are plenty of tutorials online and you will only need a few pieces of equipment and some basic electrical knowledge to get started.
https://www.modernsurvivalists.com/how-to-build-a-2000-watt-solar-generator-part-1/ has a great rundown of what you'll need and how to put it all together. Here is a quick summary of what is expected to work together to get your own solar setup working and for you to take camping with you and use on the road.
- Pelican case or hard wearing secure plastic box, this will be used to store everything in, transport it and keep everything safe.
- An AC Inverter, so you can safely convert different electrical currents and use with solar inputs and output what you need to charge laptops and the like
- Solar panel and charger kit, this is the most important part of getting a solar generator together, you need the sunlight to recharge your battery.
- Battery, the 2nd most important part, without this you aren't going to be able to store anything to then later use to charge or run devices on the road or whilst camping.
You can make the solar generator as big or as small as you'd like, here is a great resource on how to build a briefcase size battery pack that can be charged by a solar panel that is fitted to the outside. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ecGY3z558I
Do you just need to charge your electrical devices? We would highly recommend the Maxoak K2 and the Goal Zero Yeti 400. Both can offer multiple smartphone, tablet, laptop and camera battery charges as well as other USB electrical items like a GPS device but they have two major differences. With the Maxoak K2 you have to charge at home from a wall socket main plug and then it will be good to go again, the Yeti 400 can be charged in a number of ways but you need a serious solar set up for it to be of any use. One more difference is that the Maxoak K2 you have to use laptop adapters to be able to charge a laptop, were as with the Yeti you can just plug straight in, which is really cool.
The other two offerings are the Solarpod and the smaller Yeti 150, both have different power outputs, if you are wanting to charge more devices, go for the Solarpod. Both are capable of running small appliances for a limited time, like an electric cool box but are still not backups to real complete home setups.
They are all aimed at charging external and small electrical devices and all of them do a terrific job of that.
|Review of Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator||3.9/5||££|
|Review of Maxoak K2 50000mAh Power Bank Battery||4.5/5||£|
|Review of Solarpod 240 Portable Solar Generator Battery Pack||4.8/5||££££|
|Review of Goal Zero 400 Solar Generator||4.2/5||££££|
Review of Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator
This is a review of the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Solar Generator, a huge battery in a clever box that you can take with you on adventures and long journeys as a backup electricity supply and charging station.
What we have here with the Goal Zero Yeti 150 is basically a battery pack, but a very little clever one, which is the size of a large brick. You can bung this under a seat or in your boot for emergencies or have it ready in your car for your next camping trip
This sort of equipment is perfect for loads of different scenarios, say you're off out for a full days photography trip to multiple locations, which is common with landscape photographers. You can take sunrise photos at 5am with your power thirsty camera, then when you move location after a couple of hours hiking and you're back at your car. You can easily plug in your cameras multi battery charger and recharge the 2 batteries you just used that morning. Yes you can have more batteries on you but this will make sure you have full batteries before each shoot and location.
That is just one example of many on how you could use this device, but as you can see, this is perfect idea for any outdoor enthusiast who uses electrical equipment; phones, cameras, laptops, torches, lamps and the like whilst out and about or on multi-day trips.
- Battery Capacity: 150Wh, 14Ah (12V).
- Power Output: USB (2x), 12V, AC.
- Weight: 12 lbs (5.4 kg).
- Recharge by: AC, 12V, Solar.
- Ideal for: Tablet, Laptop, DSLR Camera, Lights.
This is a really simple, silent solar power generator that is fume free because it doesn't use any fuel. You can recharge the Yeti in three different ways; using a solar panel, from your cars cigarette lighter or from a wall socket in your home, all of these options make it versatile and ready for when you need it and even continually topped up whilst camping (via solar panel) or charging when driving in your car.
What Can It Charge and How Many Times
Smartphone: 15 times
Tablet: 6 times
Laptop: 2 times
Because of it's power output this battery bank by Goal Zero won't be able to run a TV or fridge but could run other smaller devices by simply plugging in to it a number of ways, anything from energy efficient lights and lamps through to wifi dongles on USB and more.
What Solar Panels Can Charge It
The simple answer is any! If they aren't Goal Zero panels then you will have to get an adapter but they only cost a few quid in the UK. With a Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panels it will fully charge the battery pack in approximately 17 hours, so will take a full day in the UK summer. You will get faster charges with a 100W solar panel and from AC power and 12v car cigarette lighter.
Above you can see it is not much bigger than a large DSLR camera, of which it can charge some of its batteries anywhere you are. We absolutely love it and being the first solar generator we've tried, are really happy with it, it's a really cool piece of gear.
Negative Points and Downsides
We only have a couple of small gripes with it, and it's not really a problem, on the UK version with our 3 pin plug, it sits in upside down when you are plugging a device in and it sits on top of the on/off switch. This doesn't stop the device from working or make it any worse, it's just a peculiar design process.
Obviously this was designed with a different plug adapter, like the US or EU plugs and thus the on/off switch would still show with these plugged in rather than the UK version.
Camping Is The Perfect Place For This Battery Bank
If you are going to a festival or camping for a few days with friends, this is the absolute perfect piece of equipment for you and your friends. It has 2 USB ports so you can charge 2 phones at a time, you can keep it safe inside your tents inner tent and charge your phones out of sight. With up to 16 charges, you can charge 3 of your friends phones and yours at least 4 times each, more than enough for a long weekend at a festival or somewhere in the sticks.
As the weather in the UK is quite poor, just remember to keep it dry at all times, it isn't weather proof or waterproof. We would recommend a microfibre towel or a neoprene cover for it. This means it wont get knocked about when travelling nor wet when transporting it between places.
- Can charge smart phones, tablets, camera batteries, even your laptop
- Very portable, small in size
- Good entry price
- Some of the inputs are goal zero inputs and you have to get adapters for your own solar panels if they aren't Goal Zero panels
- Not weather proof, so keep it out of rain
- The on/off switch is hidden when you plug in a device, such as a laptop
A great little intro in to solar power generators, if you wish to trickle charge it from solar panels you have, awesome, it can do that. If you wish to keep it stowed away until you go out for long days or camping adventures, just charge it up before you go and it will be ready to charge numerous devices.
It is a big battery which has inputs and outputs, very clever, no need for inverters or any fancy addons like you usually do when you have a solar set up at home.
Compared to a portable power bank, it's great, it will keep more things charged and bigger devices too. It isn't a replacement for a solar set up at home but if you have limited gadgets, it is perfect.
Review of Maxoak K2 50000mAh Power Bank Battery
This is a review of the Maxoak 50,000mAh behemoth battery bank and external power supply. This isn't a solar generator like the others but is still capable of powering and charging your phones, tablets and laptops with it's multi connectors.
We're reviewing this Maxoak 50,000mAh behemoth of a battery which can power pretty much anything you chuck at it because it's an alternative to the solar generators. You can't charge this from a solar panel, which is a shame, we thought you might be able to but we haven't had any luck with our USB Goal Zero Panels and we've read online that other USB solar panels dont charge it either. Either way, we didn't get it for that, we reviewed it for it's awesome power and huge battery capacity.
Features & Specs
It can charge all phones and tablets off of USB, digital camera batteries or cameras if they charge by USB. It can also charge the most popular branded laptops, I have a Lenovo G5 and an old Dell and my partner has a Lenovo 13" laptop and an old Samsung and they all have different charging connectors and they all charge from the Maxoak battery. It won't charge them all at the same time but it is good enough for a couple of charges.
Smartphones: 10-18 charges
Tablets: 5-10 charges
Laptops: 2+ charges
Outputs: 20V/3A for laptops, 12V/2.5A for cameras and two USB 5V/2.1A and two 5V/1A
Recharge Time: 6 hours from UK wall socket
It is good for over 1000+ charge cycles being lithium polymer, so our guess is that this thing is stuffed with 18650 rechargeable battery cells, the same thing you'll find in laptops, car batteries and other high power draining electrical items.
Whats in the box: 1 x battery power bank(K2),1 x Home charger, 1 x DC cable, 14 x Laptop charge connector, 1 x Multifunction bag, 1 x Manual
Laptops That Can Be Charged
There are two things you need to check if you are getting this to charge laptops out in the field or elsewhere.
- Check the list of compliant laptop connectors below that yours is one of them, if so, thats a good start.
- Check what current your laptop is charged on, anything above 5A will not work, some laptops are 6A or higher.
A:6.0/1.4(6.5*4.4mm)FUJITSU/SONY C:5.5/2.5mm ACER/ASUS/IBM/DELL/HP/COMPAQ/FUJITSU/TOSHIBA/NEC E:5.5/1.7mm Acer F:4.8/1.7mm HP H:5.0/1.0mm Samsung I:7.4/0.6mm(or 7.4/5.0mm) DELL/HP Fordell: 7.4/0.6mm(or 7.4/5.0mm) DELL K:7.9/0.9mm(or 7.9/5.5mm) IBM/LENOVO L:3.0/1.1mm Samsung O:4.5/3.0mm only for HP, not fit for Dell Laptop. Lenovo: fits for LENOVO laptop with square head with a thread in the middle (not suitable for Lenovo laptop with half solid and half hollow) FOR DELL: 4.5*3.0mm Dell laptop with 4.0*3.0mm N:4.0*1.35mm ASUS laptop with 4.0*1.35mm connector G:4.0*1.7mm Lenovo laptop with 4.0*1.7mm connector
Charging and Running Electrical Devices
You can run a notebook or laptop with this sufficiently without having a battery in your own laptop, that is just amazing and great for older laptops that have dead batteries that you use in the home like a desktop.
You can charge, like the picture suggests above, multiple devices at the exact same time, which is great if you want to charge a laptop and other USB charged devices.
- Will charge as much as the Goal Zero Yeti 150 with its 10-18 phone charges (depending on phone), multiple tablet and laptop charges
- Can charge your digital camera via USB or even its batteries using your camera battery charger
- You can charge and power multiple devices at the same time, 2 phones, camera batteries and a laptop will all get recharged and powered
- You can charge or run other electrical devices too, some telescopes, smart watches that need charging or USB headtorches, all should be fine, just check their currents.
- Comes with a lot of laptop connectors so you can charge yours
- Quite big, easily the biggest battery bank we have ever seen, but at 50,000 that is to be expected, it's the size of a small brick, a small flat brick actually
- Takes a while to recharge itself, approximately 6 hours
- You cant charge this via a 12v car cigarette lighter nor solar panels, only with UK plug socket mains
- It can't charge an Apple laptop and a few high current laptops, please check yours first
If you need a battery for an extended stay somewhere, in a cafe all day with your laptop or you're off on an adventure in the woods for a few days and you're driving there. This will be great to keep in the car or with you so that you can charge the electrical items you are using on your adventure.
Its bulky so this isn't going to go backpacking with you, but camping, trips in a campervan, days out with electrical devices, this should cover all of them and more. Your friends will be thanking you when you can all charge your phones at the campsite without any hassle!
Review of Solarpod 240 Portable Solar Generator Battery Pack
This is a review of the Solarpod 240 portable solar generator. It has a large carry handle, isn't too big so is still portable and has a decent amount of power to back itself up, we look in to it more.
We have done a thorough field test of this device for a recent mountain biking excursion in the Welsh mountains. It was a 2 night stop over with 2 of us camping near some local trails. We each had a smart phone, 1 tablet between us and 3 cameras between us, 2 powerful front headlight torches and other small USB powered bicycle lights. We wanted to see if we could use the electrical gear without hesitation and each evening charge the devices.
We had everything stored in a large plastic container with lid which we could keep inside the tent and make sure that it kept everything, including the Solarpod 240 solar generator dry for the 3 days in the tent, no matter the weather. We'll get to this little test in a bit, for now, here are some specs.
Specs and Features
3 outputs: 110V AC, 12V DC and Dual USB. With this you can run a laptop, charge some camera batteries and also two USB charging devices such as a phone or tablet.
Multi charging option included: 12V DC, 110V wall charger and 12V solar panel adapter. You can charge whilst in your car with the 12V car cigarette lighter, from a mains wall socket and also via a 12V solar panel of which you get an adapter. So you can charge before you go out on an adventure, in your car if you are travelling between destinations and also whilst using a solar panel when you set up camp. Given the right weather, with enough sunlight you can recharge this solarpod 240 in as little as 5 hours from solar and a little longer from a car cigarette lighter.
It has over 2500+ charge cycles available being lithium polymer battery technology, weighs about 7kg and is the size of a large brick.
Our little mountain biking expedition went better than expected, everything we took with us was already fully charged so that definitely helped but the Solarpod did its thing and more.
We used our large DSLR cameras for one evening and one full day whilst riding for over 9 hours in total, stopping here and there taking photos and had a gopro on us to share action shots. We were sharing one smart phone when on our bikes for an emergency but never used it, we both also had a smart watch and a bike gps but we didn't need to charge these. On an evening we used the 2 torches, lamp and other bike lights for a late night ride and whilst at our camp.
The Solarpod only got its first use on the afternoon of our 2nd day out. We charged our camera batteries one after the other using the UK mains plug, each taking about 1 hour to charge. We had a USB battery charger plugged in to one of the USB slots which charged our torch lights and a phone we took out with us in the other USB slot. Over a 2 hour span we had topped everything up, not fully but plenty of energy now in each device. We were good for our evening ride as the sun set, to take some more photos and use the torches again for our 2nd evening in the woods and local trails of the campsite.
Late on in to the 2nd evening we had nearly drained our action camera as we hadn't recharged it, so we plugged that in, charged the smart phones one after the other and had some lights plugged in so we could see what we were cooking. With this one little battery pack we felt like we weren't missing anything, we didn't have to rely on solar throughout the day and we could charge at any time, it was just there waiting for us.
Through the night we charged the tablet we had and the camera batteries. It really was a practical thing to have and we would have had to have brought a lot more batteries for each device or have different charging devices or even gear just so we could charge by USB, luckily we already had a USB charger which could charge anything from AAA through to 18650 batteries and it meant our camera charger could be plugged in without having to wait.
The thing we really noticed with these solar generators is that it helps by choosing certain equipment to use and already owning it before hand, from lights, the cameras you have through to watches and more, so that they are compatible with USB or can share charging devices. For instance, many cameras now can charge straight from the body via USB. If you can get all of your lights or torches to use the same batteries, you only need one charger.
- Practical, easy to move around and safe to put anywhere
- Has a lot of charge in it, will charge many phones, tablets and the odd laptop too
- Can be charged itself by 3 different options, mains UK plug, solar with a 12v adapter and from in your car using the cigarette lighter
- This could be great for days out, weekends out, camping in a campervan, caravan or tent, anywhere you get to by car really and you have a few electronic devices on you
- Looks great
- You don't need any of the special Goal Zero adapters, this thing will work with standard plugs, adapters, solar panels and USB
- No display so you aren't getting any readings from it, there is the LEDs on top but that doesn't show much or what is happening as you're charging it or charging other devices
- Costs quite a bit, it's a direct competitor of the Goal Zero Yeti 400, has less ports and inputs than it but we'll find our more when we test that product in the coming months
A solid portable solar generator, can be charged by many different inputs and will last a few days use from most electrical gadgets you throw at it. It's not weather proof so make a setup for it that you are happy with taking it outdoors.
Has less ports than the Goal Zeros but its simple, does exactly what you will want of it in numerous ways and is a very practical piece of gear to have on you. Even though it's portable, we are really surprised with how it performed for us, we even used it in our home for testing and just loved it.
Review of Goal Zero 400 Solar Generator
This is a review of the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator, an electrical generator which can be charged and used for charging numerous electrical items.
In this review, we look at one of the bigger solar generators and large battery packs to see what its capable of, what environments and situations you can use it in and more.
Like the other Goal Zero and the Solarpod, this can be charged in a number of ways. You can charge from solar panels, using the Goal Zero or some you already own, although you will need a 12v adapter. You can charge via a UK wall socket outlet and in your car as well using the 12v car cigarette lighter. You will see different times for charging the Goal Zero Yeti 400 depending on how you charge it, anywhere from 5 (for plug socket) through to 60 hours (on small 25W solar panel in bad weather).
The beauty of this solar generator is that you can charge the following devices from it or even choose to run some electrical items for a small amount of time.
- GPS watch/GPS cycling device
- Batteries of all types with USB and 12v charging mounts
- Cameras straight from the body which have USB charge
- Laptops, just plug them in
- and more!
Power Electrical Items
- small fridge or electric cool box
- small tv
- wifi dongle connected to your phone network
- electric hot plate
- Lights and lamps
You need a bit more power than what the Yeti 150 provides, well this is quite a step up in terms of power and what it can charge and run. Again though, this is a lead acid technology battery, unlike the lithium offerings from the Maxoak and the Solarpod, so you have a heavier item and this means it's not great for anything other than camping trips by car, no backpacking.
That said, the real use for this device is as a backup for small camping trips and other days or adventures out when you need to charge a few items a handful of times. You'll find you need a bigger 50W-100W solar panel set up to charge this in anything less than 6 hours. Again, like the Yeti 150, you will need specific GZ adapters, there aren't any crocodile clips, the 12v is Goal Zeros own, as seen on their solar panels output.
- Super large battery capacity
- Can charge loads of different devices over multi-day trips
- Can be charged by mains plug in the UK and car cigarette lighter in 5-8 hours
- Its quite expensive for such a big battery
- Its very heavy being lead acid, compare it to the solarpod which is a few KG lighter
- You can't charge it via Goal Zero solar panels unless you're somewhere with blue skies and a lot of sun, even then it will take a day or two
- You need adapters to add other generic solar panels to it that you might already own
- It only has 2 USB outputs, the Maxoak has 4 of different power offerings
If you want a really big battery set up that can handle anything you throw at it to charge, this will be great. If you want to try and run electrical items like fans, fridges, tvs, etc, it will struggle with this, it won't last too long.
Also for charging it via solar, you need a dedicated setup, not a roll out 25W solar panel, it will take days to charge it, and that is dependent on great weather.
Imagine charging this before you head out on your travels or you have a 12v car charger at the ready when driving about to keep it topped up, this will keep multiple peoples electrical items charged for multi-day trips, which is amazing, but that is where its offerings end.
Although it's a solar generator, it will struggle to charge from Goal Zero's solar offerings in less than a day, but as a really large battery pack with outputs on it, it's is terrific.