It seems we can’t move in the motorhome space without an influencer extolling the virtues of the portable power station. I see some sellers have taken to calling them generators! But that’s wrong, they are no more generators than the battery in my torch. However, as a portable power supply (PPS) they can be a useful piece of kit. Some have even incorporated a torch!
So what are they?
Essentially, they are a battery in a box. I agree, some actually look a little like suitcase generator and they share some similarities. They can be as heavy as petrol generators, they are portable, but for the bigger ones you’ll need a bit of weight training.
Like the best generators they incorporate an inverter so they can cleanly power items that use regular household three-pinned plugs, as well as USB outlets. A big plus over the genny is they are silent and produce no noxious exhaust gas.
Charging the Power Supply
We can charge them at home, on a campsite, via mains, they can take a charge as you travel, via a ciggy-lighter socket, and you can buy a dedicated solar array to keep them topped up. Some have seen van lifers sneak them into pubs and coffee shops to charge them up, but let’s not go there!
So do you need one?
If you watch YouTube videos about these things, then with all the oohs and ahhs and superlatives you’ll wonder how you ever coped without one. However watching some reviews I can’t help but doubt how useful they really are for some of us.
I have been approached a couple of times by makers of such products who would offer me a free portable power supply so I might extol its virtues and help them sell them, but I turn them down.
While I’m quite happy to promote products I think are excellent with no paid inducements at all (hence my long-term support for brands like Vanbitz.) I’ll not sell my soul and lose credibility by promoting a product I don’t use or believe in.
This YouTuber is being up front an honest and tells us exactly how it is before they review a PPS.
I read this as saying if they gave a positive review they could keep it. So on that basis should you trust a word they say?
Well, that depends. All I’m saying is, unless you’ve been following a particular person for a while, and can trust them, then as ever, treat most glowing reviews with a healthy scepticism. However, I should say that honest public review notices like the one above are a good start and help build trust.
Not all influencers chase the dollar
There are those who honestly just want to share news about a fantastic product they’ve found. I’m sure this is a case for plenty of them. However, some appear to be as shallow and dishonest as any of the more dubious shopping channel sales pitches. So when watching, be careful and ensure you have access to large pinches of salt.
Why are people buying them?
I can see the value, and a lot of use cases. My son goes climbing and speed flying (flying down mountains on a small parachute) these are always in remote areas, they get as close as they can in the motorhome, park up and take one of the smaller power packs on the hike to their base camp. Once there, they can use the PPS to keep those essential cameras, phones and drones powered for the whole day.
There is a great use case for small campervans and tents who rarely have much in the way of inbuilt power. They take it away with them and power, lights phones and gadgets for a weekend. This is perfect for them.
But what about larger traditional motorhomes, the type that are in the majority at MotorhomeFun. Why are they buying them?
The most common reason I see for people buying them is essentially they want a little extra power and they like a gadget.
Some say they are buying a new van soon, so it makes sense not to fit a traditional power system in their current van. With a portable power supply they can painlessly take it with them to the new van. This makes sense, though I guess, if the new van has a decent power setup fitted, while they’ll never admit it, their gadget will get little further use because in built power is just so much more convenient.
Which is why I won’t be buying one.
I already have an inverter and 200AH of lithium battery and inverter secreted around my Motorhome. We wild camp a lot, we spend plenty of time on rally fields with no power. We tour using aires and sites.
My solar panels charge my batteries quickly, unless I’m in Wales 😉
When I’m hooked up or when I’m travelling, my batteries are taking in a charge without me having to think about it.
If I need power outside my van as I often do, I just have a small extension lead which powers my laptop and mobile, my last van had an outdoor powerpoint.
I love a gadget, but try as I might I just can’t think of a single use case for my style of camping.
I can also think of a few downsides to owning this kind of power supply.
Traditional batteries are always stowed away, bolted down under seats or in lockers, where do I store this heavy lump? If it’s accessible, then it will be in the way, if it’s not accessible then it will be a pain to use. For travel it really should be secured. A loose 20 kg battery flying around the van in when braking hard or worse, is not something I want to contemplate.
My batteries are bolted down and out of sight, with a PPS I’ll also have to worry about theft. Lowlife can easily walk away something that costs a lot of money and has a handle.
If you can see a use case for yourself, then you are spoiled for choice. I came across this video by the Roaming Radfords who I thought did a good review of a few PPS.
If you want one, then it’s well worth a watch. But I did note, that his best use case was giving power to the kids outside. Something you can do easily, anyway. Without having to worry about re-charging, stowing it away and theft.
PPS and Payload. What might happen!
As PPS become more popular, I can cynically see some makers doing away with fitting batteries all together. When you consider, that to save a little weight, some motorhome makers, just to make their measly payload look better on paper; are selling new motorhomes with only a 75 amp hour battery. To sell a motorhome without a battery will appeal to them.
Maybe in future they’ll just be an empty bay where you can park your PPS and strap it in, then plug it in. I can see a time that when we buy a new motorhome, we’ll drag our PPS from old van to the new.
If you have a grand or two burning a hole in your pocket and you love a gadget. If you think you have a genuine use case that your current set up can’t solve. And you can put up with the hassle of security and storage. Buy one, they are a massive upgrade on the traditional generator and some even have a built in torch!