My favorite camping gadget is this portable power station — and it's on sale
Save a whopping $160 on this Rockpals power station, great for campgrounds, road trips and power outages.
I love the outdoors, but it's woefully lacking in one key feature: electricity. I've got phones, drones, self-heating coffee mugs and other devices that need juice. I know: "If you need all that stuff, you're not enjoying the outdoors properly." No judgement, please. I love nature, but I need my gizmo comforts! And let's not forget the indoors: Sometimes the power goes out, you know? So whether you're roaming or at home, it makes sense to keep a power station close at hand. I'm a big fan of the Rockpals Rockpower 500W, which normally sells for $470 but drops to just $310 when you clip the on-page $160-off coupon. Read my Rockpower review, below, to find out why.
Rockpals Rockpower 500 Portable Power Station
One quick note: There's a mistake on the product page, which indicates this is a "gasoline-powered" device. It absolutely is not. It's a big battery, as detailed below.
Rockpals Rockpower 500W: Design and features
I never thought I'd use this word to describe a power station, but the Rockpower is downright gorgeous. Gray and black with red accents, it looks like a sexy oversize lunchbox — due in no small part to the handy carrying handle that's built into the casing.
It's heavy, to be sure, weighing a little over 12 pounds, but it's also a lot more compact than it looks in photos: 12 x 9 x 6.1 inches.
Inside that easy-to-tote shell lies a whopping 140,400-mAh rechargeable battery, one capable of producing 500 watts through a variety of plugs and ports. To put that in perspective, a mobile charger you buy for your phone might have a 10,000-mAh battery and output around 40 watts.
The front side of the Rockpower features a status LCD (which you can toggle off to save power) and three charging sections: AC, DC and USB. Cleverly, Rockpals lets you toggle each section on or off with a single button press; an LED illuminates so you can tell at-a-glance the status of each one.
The status window keeps things admirably simple, showing input wattage (if you're charging the charger), output wattage (interesting, because you can see exactly how much power a device is drawing) and how much total power is remaining.
The Rockpals can run totally silent, though a fan may kick on if there's a heavy load. The fan also runs while the unit is charging via the included AC adapter (which is a small brick similar in size to what some laptops use). The fan isn't loud, but it could be distracting if you're trying to sleep. (On the other hand, you might find it's the perfect amount of white noise!)
Speaking of sleep, the power station can run a CPAP machine, according to Rockpals. For how long depends on a few variables, so check with the manufacturer to determine the power draw.
Similarly, other appliance-like devices will work — fan, mini-fridge, etc. — as long as they're small. (Unfortunately, a coffee maker isn't on that list.)
It's worth noting that the Rockpals SP003 Portable Solar Panel kit is available right now for $170 when you clip the on-page $30-off coupon. Regular price: $200. It's still a pricey accessory but also a pretty amazing one to have on hand. All you need is some sun and you can keep the Rockpower topped off. It can even recharge while charging other devices. The solar panels fold flat when not in use, so they're easy to store and carry.
In my tests with one such kit, I parked the panels under partially blocked, low morning sun. To my amazement, the Rockpower reported 53 input watts. That's not far below what I get from AC power (67 watts). So the panels might take a little longer to fully recharge the battery, but they'll definitely do the job. And there's something really cool about using sunlight to generate electricity, even on this small scale.
Rockpals Rockpower 500W: What are the cons?
There aren't any problems to speak of with this power station, but I do need to point out some misleading language used by Rockpals: The Amazon listing page refers to this as a "solar generator," which is just plain wrong. As noted above, the solar panels aren't included; they cost a fair bit extra. And this isn't a generator, which by definition converts mechanical energy into electricity. This is a battery — a big, versatile one, but a battery all the same.
My only other complaint with the Rockpower is that there's no carrying case for the instruction manual, AC adapter and car-charging cable (which can be used either to charge the Rockpower itself or power things that require a power port, like a tire inflator). A zippered bag or the like would have been a welcome addition.
Rockpals Rockpower 500W: Should you buy it?
Whether for road trips, camping trips or just backup power at home, a beefy battery like this is well worth having — especially if you score it for $310. The Rockpower has a superb design and plenty of versatility, making it easy to recommend.
Rockpals Rockpower 500 Portable Power Station
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