ECOFLOW, BLUETTI, ANKER. A simple, tech free post explaining what power unit we went for and why.
Portable power for off grid camping – Have you been watching countless videos on Youtube, doing comparisons between brands, getting bemused as to what is best, how much power you need and listening to the ‘reviews’ wondering if it really is unbiased?
What this post is not…
There are a ton of sponsored posts and videos out there, this post is not one of them and as I write we have still have not decided which brand to go for. This post is more about letting you in on my thought process from a non tech, non expert point of view.
I won’t be thrashing out the tech comparisons or explaining capacities or batteries on a scientific level only Einstein would understand. This is more like, I need portable power for off grid camping, I know the basics and a thousand euros/pounds/dollars+ is a lot of money to invest – the decision needs to be right so how do I go about deciding which brand to go for?
What do you really need?
There are dozens of specs for these units and it can quickly become very confusing. The only real question we asked ourselves is ‘How much power do we actually need?’ To answer this we made a list of all the items we take camping and also considered any future purchases we’d be making that would also require power or battery charging.
- 3 x Laptops
- 3 x Phones
- 3 x Camera batteries
- 1 x Tablet
- 2 x Radios
- Rav Power external battery
- Fridge [future purchase]
From there we worked out the power we needed but there is also the way in which we’d be using the unit too, there was a strong possibility we’d need to use it off grid for building projects in the future so we had to consider power drills, jigsaws and the like and the ‘surge’ of these tools.
Example: To put it simply, an electric hammer drill may have a running wattage of 700w but when you first plug it in and switch it on you might get a surge of 1100w so this is something to consider.
Portable power for off grid camping
Taking the three brands we were considering, their portable power stations come in two categories, the first being a selection of two or three power stations usually between 500w – 1000w and the second category is where you find the big boys from 1500w upwards.
A smaller unit would have done us fine for a weekend or even a week long camping break but for road trips of a month or longer we needed more juice so we decided on one of three brands:
- Ecoflow Delta 2
- Bluetti AC180
- Anker 757
Each of these models is an entry into the more professional range of solar generator, again depending on your needs you may not need something this big but for us it made sense for both now and the future.
|ECOFLOW DELTA 2||BLUETTI AC180||ANKER 757|
|Warranty||5 years||5 years||5 years|
|Wall charge||50 mins [80%]||45 mins [80%]||60 mins [80%]|
Above: Portable power for off grid camping – If all you want is a product to do what it says on the tin then the numbers above are pretty much all you need to concern yourself with.
- Watt hours: The Anker has 77 more watt hours than the Bluetti and 205 more than the Ecoflow.
- Ecoflow and Bluetti both have 300w more than the Anker meaning these two can handle bigger power requirements.
- Ecoflow and Bluetti can both handle 500w of solar recharge compared to the 300w of the Anker meaning that they will both charge faster, however the caveat is that 500w of solar panels in order to acheive this will be significantly more expensive. Will the 300w suffice?
- Fast charging, 45 minutes, 50 minutes, an hour? is it really that significant?
Solar generators, portable power batteries or whatever you choose to call them are not cheap. Dropping over a thousand euros on something takes serious consideration and with that said you also need it to last for as long as possible which is where we decided on futureproofing our purchase.
especially off grid you are better off with more power than you need than not enough.
Essentially what this meant was working out our power requirements then looking at what else was available with even more power but within budget. Clearly you don’t want to go daft but for us it made sense to buy more power, this of course will depend on personal circumstances and especially off grid you are better off with more power than you need than not enough.
When it comes to form factor the Bluetti AC180 wins hands down, it really does have the design nailed, no handles sticking out at all, it’s just a square box with handles built in. This may not seem that important but for overlanding and extended road trips where every quare inch inside the vehicle counts this design is a winner.
Boy is there plenty of blurb. Watching Youtube makes you realise how dated some of the information on these types of products is – even those videos less that a year old. It’s the nature of the product, they are almost outdated as soon as they become available as the companies are always working on the next, making it better, smaller, lighter, more efficient such are the technological advances these days.
Watch out for ‘the only company that offers a 5 year warranty‘ – all three of the big brands above now offer this. ‘Fast charging is another one hour‘ – all can now charge in under an hour and ‘can be charged for 10 years’ etc these USP’s have only had a short window of time but remain in the sales blurb and sponsored videos so it pays to dig deeper and not believe everything you watch although videos do have their place.
All of these power stations boast a feature or features that the others do not, some of the differences are subtle but may well be a deal breaker for some. At the end of the day though they are all the same thing – portable rechargable batteries.
Speaking of fast charging, it is worth noting that the numbers touted in the sales blurb etc are sound, all can indeed charge in under and hour but what you don’t hear is that this is emergency charging and should not be used as the normal method of regular charging otherwise you may damage the batteries.
Call me old fashioned but I want something I can plug stuff into and charge up – that’s it. I wouldn’t look forward to using it so to me the app isn’t something I have looked into a great deal. All models have an app with extensive features and controls over the units to allow hands free use.
As mentioned above all three brands boast a 5 year warranty, for us a warranty is pretty important as you gives you the peace of mind that if anything goes wrong it can be dealt with. A warranty however is one thing, you also need the customer support to back it up and make things go smoothly.
Ecoflow and Anker are two brands that online have some very good reviews indeed especialy when it comes to customer service. Bluetti on the other hand has gained a reputation for not so good customer service standards with quite a few complaints. Now this may well have been resolved but it did become obvious when researching the brands. There are also many satisfied Bluetti customers out there who are more than happy with their purchase so it depends on how much you read into complaints.
Deals & Special offers
I’ve had the websites of Ecoflow, Bluetti and Anker bookmarked on my computer for months now as well as being signed up to the mailing list of all three. By far the quietest of three has been Anker and this is not a negative either. Ecoflow and Bluetti are filling my inbox with all sorts of stuff on a regular basis while Anker sends very little. Look at the website though and Anker surely has to sit at the number one spot for offers and discounts.
We all know that many offers [especially on electronics] are not always quite what they seem, usually it’s an initial inflated price to make the discount look bigger but Anker seem to be offering a little more than that. You can benefit from an initial sale price to start with then on top of that shave off another €100 with a discount code [which is provided on the website]. There is also 5% cashback opportunities and 10% referral discounts meaning that if you play your cards right you can bag a great product with a substantial saving. Offers on all three brands vary throughout the year.
Portable power for off grid camping means you are dependent on the sun for recharging your batteries through solar and this is where things get interesting. If you are going for the budget option like the power station itself and a 100w solar panel then it is going to take a long time to charge your unit using the sun and here’s why:
Manufacturers charging times for solar will inevitably be under perfect circumstance like the brightest sunny day with full exposure and no shadows, this will also include you constantly moving the panel[s] for optimal positioning toward the sun at regular intervals.
1 x 100w panel is going to take 12 hours+ to charge any of the power stations mentioned above [200w will reduce that to 6 – 7 hours] this is from 0 – 100% fully charged. Of course you shouldn’t find yourself needing to do that, more using the solar to keep the batteries topped up but if you are using a lot of power then a single 100w solar panel is going to struggle to keep up.
Most manufacturers recommend 300 – 400w of solar input on the above units [of course they will as they want you to buy their panels], 200w would be a minimum. This is where two of the brands shine and one does not – Anker being the latter as it’s solar panel choices are weak at best, a 100w panel is the best you will get. Sure, you can just buy another one even two more but the issue we have is that we don’t have room in the rig… Plus, the more panels you have the more there is to trip over and go flying!
A single 200w panel [or higher] is where it’s at for us. The top brands like the three mentioned in this post all offer solar panels but they are are very expensive. I did look at third party panels but then you need adapters etc and they were brands I’d never heard of with mixed reviews. Buying same brand gear is a simple connect up and go solution, you know it’s just going to work.
At the time of writing these were the options available:
|Ecoflow Delta 2 + 220w solar panel||€1798,00|
|Bluetti AC180 + 200w solar panel||€1498,00|
|Anker 757 + 2 x 100w solar panels||€1498,00|
Okay so the Ecoflow is over budget and the Bluetti is the same price as the Anker but… it only uses one 200w panel instead of a pair of 100w, has 300w more power, can take an additional 200w of solar input if required, has slightly less watt hours but a faster charging time so on paper the Bluetti is a winner. Oh yeah and the form factor for car camping/overlanding is better too, it’s just that the customer support seems to be lacking which, is only an issue only if you need it.
What did we decide?
In the end we pulled the trigger on the Anker 757 and here are the reasons why:
The reviews on the Bluetti just put me off, I’m not usually one to take much notice of negative reviews but on this occassion there were simply too many. The Delta 2 was out of our price range so the Anker was the best choice. Having monitored the deals we decided that the additional €100 euro discount [making the total €899] was the best we were going to get in the time frame we had.
We think that given the specs of the Anker 757 that €899 is a pretty good price in Europe which is why we snapped one up before we moved back to the UK. Everything we were going to need to charge had EU two pin plugs so it made sense on that score too.
We decided not to go with solar panels as we would not need them initially, this left us with the choice of Anker panels at a later date or third party panels which we’d investigate more. Either way the 757 was the best option for us and a whopping €200 euros cheaper than it’s nearest competitor Bluetti.
It’s worth noting that gear like this is very much a personal choice and there really is no ‘best’ as long as you stick with decent brands. Everyone’s situation is different, to begin with an Ecoflow River Max would have easily done the job for us but our circumstances changed quickly and dramatically meaning we needed more power for our requirements.
If in doubt get more power than you think you need. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
If you’ve been looking for portable power for off grid camping, home use or projects then let us know the choice you made in the comments below. We’ll be offering up a full review on the Anker in the next few months too so stay tuned.