In April 2021 I did a write up on a little Powertech Power Station I bought for motorcycle camping and my impressions. At the time my two main criticisms were that the battery was too small and that the charge rate was too low. Since then, we have travelled to Far North Queensland and completed numerous other camping trips which have confirmed my concerns. These trips have also helped me understand what I want / need for powering my campsite.
What have I learnt about power stations from our camping trips over the last year.?
- a power station is a really effective all in one source of portable power for powering your campsite.
- single night camping (stop overs) the small power station really wasn’t a problem as I only needed enough power for one night and I could charge the power station in the bike’s topbox during the day as we rode.
- multiple night camping you need either more power or the ability to charge it quickly and easily at your campsite. The Powertech couldn’t do either effectively.
- charging the Powertech was way too slow as it only accepts 25-30 watts, meaning that it would take all day to charge even on mains power. And if you have to rely on solar you were chasing the sun all day to get enough power (even with a 120-watt solar-blanket) and often you couldn’t get enough charge in to offset what you used the night before, so by day 3 you were out of power.
- camping isn’t always sunshine, and when the sun isn’t out, or it is raining the charge rate is even lower!
- If you have access to a camp kitchen you need to leave the unit plugged in all day, every day to provide you with enough power.
- the Powertech only has bars to show the battery level. It would be really handy to have a display to show more information about what was going on, especially charge rate.
Boiling it all down there are three important considerations for power stations, when motorcycle camping, and getting the balance between these three is important.
- Enough Power – In my original write-up I suggested that ideally I would like to have double the capacity to be able to provide a comfortable 2+ days charge. I still think that is valid.
- Charging Rate – if you want to keep the size of the unit down you need a much higher rate of charge to reduce the charge time and maximise the power you do have.
- Size – when travelling on a motorcycle room is at a premium – so size matters. I can throw my current unit in the trailer or pop it in my topbox to charge off the bike with no problems. However, this becomes more of a problem the larger the unit becomes. Shape is also a factor as a squarish shape is much easier to pack then a weird, rounded shape.
The compromise is to have the balance right, it’s great to have a big capacity battery, but that always comes at the cost of size and weight, both of which aren’t always practical. One that charges fast using solar needs a big solar blanket which again takes up addition room we don’t always have.
With this balance in mind, I have been using my Google-foo to seek out options to replace my Powertech with something more suitable. And since the time I bought my Powertech there are many new players and options. I’m not sure whether that makes it easier or harder.! And when investing your hard-earned money, I like to touch and feel them, but so many are only available online which makes it hard to truly evaluate them. The main ones that I was considering were –
- Capacity: 300 watts
- Price: $550
- Size: 240 x 142 x 154mm
- Weight: 3.3kg
An Australian made unit that seemed to tick most boxes and was getting on the large side but may have been manageable.
- Capacity: 268 watt hours
- Price: $599
- Size: 255 x 180 x 183mm
- Weight: 4.6kg
This has some great features including fast charging (30mins to 80%) but is bigger than I would like to go.
- Capacity: 288 watt hours
- Price: $699
- Size: 288 x 185 x 194mm
- Weight: 5kg
Also has great features and includes fast charging (1 hour to 80%) but again it is too big.
The other option is to just build my own system into the trailer on the frame under the fibreglass tub. Doing it that way meant that size and room were not quite the same issue. However this was going to be more hassle than it is worth, and then you have to run power leads from the trailer as it wouldn’t be portable. I think if I was going to swap out the esky on the front of the trailer with a small fridge then I would need a bigger system and integrating it into the trailer makes more practical sense. But for now a portable power station is a much better solution.
Wandering through a camping and caravan show the other weekend on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland I came across the team from Gvolt and while they had a number of big power stations capable of powering your caravan … my eye was drawn to the little All Powers 300 watt power station. It was the right capacity (double my current one) and the physical size and shape were only marginally bigger. And it seemed that it would take a charge of more than double that of my current unit. While this certainly doesn’t compete with the Bluetti or Ecoflow for fast charging it is the perfect size for what I need. Again it is about getting the balance right between capacity, charge rate, and size.
The guys from GVolt were super helpful and knew their product which is a great sign. And the price was right, so I grabbed it.
- Capacity: 288 watt hours
- Price: $399
- Size: 206 x 160 x 110mm
- Weight: only 3.9 kg
Features (directly from the website)
- 5 Input Charging Methods: The portable charging station has 5 ways to power the backup battery. The portable charging station is charged simultaneously via 240V socket and USB-C, 0-100% in just 3 hours. It takes 5-6 hours to fully charge the portable charging station via AC power outlet. Solar panel takes about 4.5-5 hours in direct sunlight, 3-7 hours in a 12V/24V car cigarette lighter outlet, and 5-6 hours in a 60W USB-C outlet.
- Simultaneous operation of 10 devices: ALLPOWERS S300 power station has 2*AC 240V socket (nominal power 300W, peak 500W), 1*12V/10A car connection (stable 12V), 2*DC 12V/5A connection, 3*USB-A 5V /3A port, 1*USB-C (max 100W QC3.0) port, 1*Wireless 5V 1A charging.
- Wireless Smart Phone Charging: The ALLPOWERS portable generator supports most smart phones that equipped with QI standard technology or other QI enable devices.
On paper the specs all look promising, but how do they translate in the real world..?
Size – overall the size of the All Powers S300 is only about 1cm deeper than my current unit and much squarer. This shouldn’t present a challenge fitting this into the motorcycle topbox for charging as we ride.
Capacity – with so much rain around and no prospect of camping anytime soon I plugged in my dc adapter to my cpap machine to test it. The first night I tested it complete with the humidifier (which is power-hungry – and I don’t take the humidifier when I’m travelling) – the power station showed that it was drawing around 45-50 watts and within about 4-5 hours the unit was completely drained.
My next test was using the cpap without the humidifier (as per my camping setup) and it appears that the gauge is a bit like fuel gauges on your car in that it takes a little while for it to drop but when it does it drops quickly. Over the course of four nights, I found the following (with the cpap machine on for a similar amount of time each night).
- 98% – after one night
- 79% – after two nights
- 49% – after three nights
- 0% – on the fourth night is was fully drained after about 5 hours
Charging – To date I have tested the mains charging which indicated around 70 watts, 12 volt charging directly from the bike was around 80 watts and using my 120-watt solar-blanket it was pulling in around 80 watts, so overall that is upwards of 3 times faster charging rate.
Timing the charging from dead flat it took about 4 hours and 40 minutes to fully charged using mains power. This is a huge improvement over the old one which took 50% longer to charge a unit half the size.
It appears that we have a winner, and I can’t wait to get out. The unit does what it says on the box and I believe for my purpose it successfully balances my needs of having enough power, within a small enough size to carry on the bike and has a high enough charging rate to ensure we always have enough power. If there was one criticism it is that the gauge is not very accurate, but like any of these things this is only an indication and once you are aware how the gauge translates to your application then you are fine.