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    • nature_wanderer

      I grew up camping completely without electronics as a kid. We didn't even use headlamps, just gas lanterns.

      Times have changed. Now I struggle to charge my array of equipment on car camping adventures via a 110v + USB inverter. Just imagine trying to plug in my laptop, multiple mirrorless cameras, my iPhone of course, a hot spot, radios, headlamps, and more into my cars' center console.

      I need a portable charging solution that I can put on a camp table. Has anyone tried a large power station like the Goal Zero Yeti? Or has anyone tried a solar charging system? I have a couple of Anker power 10,000 mAh USB batteries, but they don't even come close to delivering what I need. Not enough storage. Sometimes I need 110 volts.

    • vegasphotog

      I have pondered the same dilemma. For me, for the money, it seems like I would get a much better ROI buy purchasing a fairly quiet Honda Generator. A tad more money but will last me FOREVER whereas the Yeti will have some sort of life span.

    • dr

      If you go Goal Zero, go with their newer Lith-Ion-based units, even though it comes at a serious premium for the watt-hours you're getting. It fits the purpose so much better. And in terms of lifespan, I see it as a way better set of products versus their first gen products.

      I'm with VegasPhotog wrt the ROI of a battery vs. a generator. Right now, if you don't mind burning dinosaurs, genuinely nothing really comes close yet to the instant convenience delivered per dollar. The top-tier gensets offer legitimately effective muffler/silencers, making it less offensive. You can't, however, get away from the fact that you're beholden to how much your fuel container can carry. And even if you're happy with a the genset's carbon footprint, the fumes generated do intrude on your interaction with nature. And it's apples-vs oranges...gensets *produce* on-demand power...they don't *store* power. So...while it wins the dollar value and lifespan, there's definitely a trade off.

      Goal Zero ... It's definitely the go-to name in camping-oriented personal-sized power-storage & solar power production. iNergy is a distant 2nd player in the market. I saw their product years ago, and it doesn't look like they're going for anything but a tiny slice of the market.

      Anyone watching their product lineup over the years has noticed that their first gen products were based on sealed lead acid technology, which does offer decent power density. But its weight blew chunks. Who's gonna bring a 100+ lbs of a 1250 watt-hour battery pack into the woods? The same person who's happy to bring *two* daisy-chained 50 lb Honda EU2000i's, cranking out 4k watts of Goal-Zero-butt kicking power, that's who! Lead Acid batteries also have lousy deep draw characteristics, and short lifespan when abused (or I should say, when used as one typically does in this application). So, I was thrilled to see them finally roll out Lith-ion-based products. Such a no-brainer.

      And they do a *terrific* job of pairing up the energy storage with nicely integrated, purpose-built charge controllers, and thoughtfully-provisioned ports and daisy-chaining options, and pairs nicely with their family of solar gen products. They're seriously well designed pieces of kit. I looked into building comparable units out of parts readily-available from the RV industry, and it's completely doable, but you just don't get it packaged quite so nicely. So...really well-specified products, but it's a hell of a premium to get it all buttoned up in their nicely-designed boxes.

      Btw, want to know the way enginerds maximize value from Goal Zero's engineering chops? Get your hands on the smallest power station, and dismantle it. Connect the battery leads to as big a battery as you can get your hands on (of the same chemistry)...voila...still pricey, but way less than shelling out $3k for their top tier power station.

      Wtf is with their website only working on Internet Explorer??? It's like they're living in the 20th Century!

    • wx

      We're still talking about camping, right? I see that things have changed. My first time was one canvas groundsheet, one thin blanket, one two-person tent, one solid fuel itty-bitty stove. Froze through a sleepless night, ate grass in the attempt at breakfast, no place to poop and a forced long hike to get back to a toilet. Probably the most desperate I've ever been to make a pong. Boarding school builds character through torture.

      Swore I'd never "camp"again. GF talked me into a family outing. Air mattress that sagged heavily to my side because I weigh more than her, sweltered through a sleepless, humid Midwestern night. Never again.

      I do not recognize this activity that you describe, with generators and batteries.

    • nature_wanderer

      I hear you 100%. It feels shameful to admit I need these things. I will never be that person that brings the computer to play video games and a boombox to feel more at home. To fit more camping in, I bring most of the equipment so that I can work remotely. Kinda like what @DanSolarMan is reporting in this convo.

      But for other stuff, I use radios for long pitch'd climbs when I can't communicate with the rest of my party by voice and I'm obsessed with photo, so I bring all that gear too.

      I reserve weeks of backpacking each year as my complete disconnection from electronics. Except for my PLB (convo w/ reasons why).

    • nature_wanderer

      Ah, I never thought about a generator. Feels so old school but you really can't beat the energy density of gasoline. I wonder what the effective watt-hours produced per gallon of gasoline for those small Honda EU line generators.

      I occasionally camp with a guy who uses a Honda EU2200i. It's remarkably quiet but the disadvantages are:
      1. It sits dozens of feet away from the camp table to avoid breathing the exhaust, so you have to run an extension cord over to the table. A little Goal Zero with USB ports and a 110v outlet right there on the table would be convenient.
      2. On a still night with zero wind and zero human noise, the constant thump of the engine is annoying. Though in a busy campground, like the Yosemite valley ones, you literally can't hear it over the chatter of the crowds.

    • dr

      Oh, snap! Leave it to the marine equipment industry to put up some competitive fight! Here's a new entrant to the market that I hadn't seen before.

      Midland's PPG100 Portable Power Station. Looks competitive. Submersible when stowed. 950 Watt-hour Lith-Ion onboard. 25 lbs. And unlike inergy, these guys have established distribution channels, so this sucker's available at places like REI and Frye's. They hit a price point that's $300 lower than the comparative goal zero product.

      https://midlandusa.com/product/ppg100-portable-power-station/

    • Ridge
      Ridge

      The, oft unspoken and overlooked, downside to using a generator is their atrocious power quality. Honda are, marginally, better in creating a pure sine wave AC output but, generators are notoriously inefficient at producing clean AC. The quality of power is even worse as the generator begins to idle down and run out of fuel. Power spikes, dips, harmonics, and noise are all symptoms of generator use.

      Dirty power supplied to solid-state electronic devices and their associated batteries has a detrimental effect on their longevity.

      Basically, there are three types of sine waves used in the power conversion/inversion industry;

      Pure Sine Wave

      Modified sine Wave

      Square Wave

      Looks like the Goal Zero Yeti 150 uses a modified Sine wave
      -AC inverter (output, modified sine wave): 110V, 60Hz, 0.7A (80W continuous, 160W surge max)

      -Oddly though, their Yeti 400 is Pure Sine Wave AC inverter (output, 60Hz, pure sine wave): 110V, 2.6A (300W continuous, 600W surge max)

      Honda eu1000i generators just state "sine wave" with no real clarification on type... even though they use an image of a pure sine wave (highly skeptical)https://powerequipment.honda.com/generators/models/eu1000i

    • dr

      I hear ya, wrt the downsides of the genset. It's definitely out of place if you're set up at the bottom of a climbing route. But I would say aim to keep your power requirements low, if those are the intended locations, and then maybe the 400 wh options might suffice, yielding a relatively compact and light 16 lbs or so of portage.

      The other half of the conversation, though, is power generation. If you don't intend to be sleeping besides a power outlet, and if the intent is to go solar, then what size solar panel is sufficient for replenishing the storage unit? Boulder 200 panels are HUGE. I have boulder 50s, which are fairly compact, but you do suffer some additional loss in transport due to the additional wiring, daisy chaining smaller panels, versus a single large panel. IMO, you need at least four boulder 50s to charge up a 400wh storage unit, giving a rough charge time of like 6 hours. That's a decent balance.

    • dr

      Good point, and the reason I kinda drool over the goal zero stuff. Their 2nd gen stuff is built with the better inverters. Their first gen stuff...a little more basic. I believe the Yeti 150 you saw was the first-gen product. I noticed that the Midland product is also specified as "Pure-Sine, 400W".

    • Chris

      is this why my Sony camcorder has fried both times I plugged it into my van’s 110 volt plug? The first time I thought it was a fluke.

    • Ridge

      Very likely... also, most current electronic AC connection cables have a transformer/switching DC converter attached in-line. Those are also affected by poor AC supply, as their job is to down-convert the AC into a lower voltage DC for the device. The "quality" of electronic components in those wall-worts is never as high as what's in the actual device.

    • nature_wanderer

      I had no idea generators dedicated to producing AC power do it that poorly.

      Years ago, I found this blog post so interesting. It dissects why the Apple iPhone Charger is so expensive. It comes down to the same reasons the Goal Zero might be more costly. It can filter dirty power into a steady output with voltage protection. You pay extra money for the longevity of the batteries you're charging.

      Oddly though, their Yeti 400 is Pure Sine Wave

      Yeti 150 - $200 / 150Wh = 1.3 $/Wh
      Yeti 400 - $600 / 400Wh = 1.5 $/Wh

      I wonder if that's why cost per Wh is more on the Yeti 400. For more than twice the Wh, I'd assume you'd get a price break per Wh not a hike.

    • dr

      The Yeti 150 is first gen 12 lb Sealed Lead Acid for $200.
      The Yeti 400 comes in first gen ( 29 lb ) SLA flavor for $450 or 2nd gen (16 lb) Li-Ion for $600. You were comparing the 150 SLA to the 400 Li-Ion. There's a big uptick in the cost of Li-Ion versus SLA energy storage. But the upsides are huge too. Half the weight, for one. Handles full drawdown without killing the battery. No top end limitations, so it handles surge power draws (like refrigerators...power tools...jump starters) way better.

    • nature_wanderer

      Thanks for the correction. Despite being an extra $150, the Li-Ion seems like the deal.

      Might be a crazy question, but I'll ask anyway: can any of these batteries jump start a car? Currently, I drive with a jump start battery. One less thing to bring if I don't need one.

    • Ridge

      Keep in mind that, currently, there is no sustainable method to recycle/recoup the materials in Li-Ion batteries. The chemistries of these battery types varies wildly and they can be manufactured for very specific applications, based on ambient temperature ranges, capacity, tolerance to discharges, cell structure, etc... nearly 180 degrees from industry-standard battery composition and chemistry. Even when I attend BattCon, there is not as much interest in the Li-Ion applications for industrial sites vs. VLA, AGM, etc...

      They're fine for UPS applications where fast switch-over sites are critical, but far too unpredictable and fault-prone to act as standby power for substations, etc...

    • dr

      See, a substation has the luxury of cheap real estate. Weight of the system is immaterial. It's stationary. Lead is cheap. And you've got the space to store it. Real estate even solves the deep draw issues... Just keep throwing capacity at the problem and pair it with a big enough generator and you won't have deep draw issues. The only downside to lead acid when you've a stationary application is it's longevity.

      When I looked into what it would take to replicate a Tesla power wall I found that I could probably come out ahead with a bank of 24 lead acid 2v cells. Hooked up to a 48v smart controller

    • dr

      If I recall correctly the answer is no... Not so much because the battery can't do it, but because a high draw DC output is not one of the supported output ports. You have a cigarette lighter, a couple of USB ports, and the 120v ac inverter Port. Neither the USB not cig port support high draw. To jump a car, you'd need to add a high draw dc circuit, likely an Anderson power pole connector to clamps on 12 gauge. Personally I keep a dedicated battery onboard for jumpstart duty and wouldn't replace it with a multi tasker like this. Its role is to be always charged, always in the car. For the purpose of high readiness posture, that means dedicated equipment, and a maintenance routine you stick to.

    • Ridge

      This, and the fact that portable battery banks with jump-start cables are fairly inexpensive. Just a bonus that they double as a backup power source for electronics. I wouldn't want to carry one into the backcountry though.

    • Ridge

      Just posting this as an example to the varying chemistry types of Li-Ion batteries and how they can be manipulated for specific applications. This is an exhibit from one of the papers published for the last BattCon I attended in 2016.

    • dr

      So, I dug around a little, trying to find out more deets on the Anker Powerhouse hardware. A few points to call out. Out of the box, I think it'll need a little tweak to play nicely with solar kits.

      The DC input is spec'd at 16-17V/6A, coming in over a round plug. I hope it's not *that* tight in actuality, as solar output tends to vary a bit. They didn't specify the size of the round plug, but one reviewer noted 7.5mm That 16-17V/6A range is a little narrow, but should still play nicely with a Renogy solar panel, cranking out 17V usable, on a bright day. You may need to roll your own round plug adapter, to get the solar output into their round plug receptacle (FYI, goal zero's plugs are standardized around 8mm round plugs, or Anderson Power Poles for their higher amp inputs). The 6A input is a little skimpy, so don't expect to throw tons more solar panels at this thing, in hopes of recharging faster. One 100W panel is about what this will be happy with.

      Also, FYI, some dude who goes by the handle "SonarTech" did a teardown in the posted anker reviews of this thing. :D What caught my eye was that the battery is not user replaceable, and is basically integrated in such a way that this is basically a throw-away device, once one of the 32 internal batteries goes tits up. He did note outstandingly clean sine wave output from the inverter.

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