With our ever-more digitized, electrified existence, portable power stations are becoming increasingly popular among the outdoor crowd. From elevated camp meals to apres-ski tailgates, phone-charging to van-lifing, there's a host of applications for a good battery. And with that newfound popularity comes affordability—what used to cost a few grand can now be had for a couple days' pay.
Loads of options exist, but for my needs—powering a wall-tent camp in the woods—I went with a larger 1500-watt model, mainly for the battery life. The VTOMAN FlashSpeed 1500 has three AC outlets, two USB-C ports, and four USB-A ports, one of them a quick-charge. There's also a 12V cigarette-lighter outlet and a jumper-cable port, among others. Which means I can power my laptop and tablet, charge my phone and headlamp, and run a few electronic conveniences (fresh-ground coffee, anyone?) several times before having to re-charge the battery. I especially like the top compartment, which keeps all the different charging cords stowed in one spot.
After several weekends at camp, when the battery's been drained, the FlashSpeed offers some options: pack it home and plug it into the wall (one hour to full capacity), charge it off my car's battery, or throw out a solar panel and let Helios do the job for me. I like delegating to the gods, so I picked up a 400W Foldable Solar Panel, which re-charges the power station in a few hours on a sunny day. It's waterproof, so I can leave it out and let it work between visits to camp. And like the FlashStation, the panel has a built-in compartment to keep cords & adapters safe and secure. The folding design and collapsible prop-stands make the entire panel slim, for handy stowage in the wall tent, where space is at a premium.
Once you get a taste of the good life, it's hard to return to the old ways—and I'm now considering picking up a smaller VTOMAN kit for future road-trips. Goodbye to that annoying spider-web of charging wires on the dash, hello to creature comforts. On extended camping trips, we'll throw out the solar panel while we're hiking, and come back to camp ready to blend margaritas, dig into a steaming crock-pot, and enjoy all the other luxuries of an electrified existence.
$1,700 full retail, but currently on sale for $850 on the VTOMAN website.