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  • Writer's pictureRiona

Paralyzed by choice: Picking a portable power station for my van

Only a week to go before Poppy and I pile into Ruby the van to drive to the beach at Chincoteague, VA for the 4th of July week. I've been agonizing for weeks about my power options.

Ideally, I'd have a full solar setup, but I'm a new vanlifer and I'm not ready to invest that kind of money. But I do need to charge my phone and devices, some lights, and at least a fan (and, ideally, a 12v cooler). The answer did seem to be a portable power station with solar planels and a capacity of about 1000Wh. Easy?

Not easy! There are so many options. I browsed and agonized and analyzed without coming to a decision until I remembered Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice. He says - and I believe him - that having many options to choose from doesn't increase your happiness; it just causes stress and makes decision-making harder. One way forward, he says, is to limit your choices. In his case, he says, it's handy to have a rule of thumb for things you don't care so much about: if you need A/V equipment, don't bother researching all the options - just buy the second-cheapest Sony. It's going to be just fine. (Unconvinced? Check out his TED talk.)

In my case, my rule of thumb is: What does the Wirecutter recommend?

The EcoFlow Delta 1300 is Wirecutter's pick, with a capacity of 1,260 Wh, body dimensions of 12 x 8 x 11 inches: pretty compact for the power available, although it weighs in at 30lb. It's currently on sale at Amazon for $1099 (including a $100 coupon), but you'll need to buy solar panels separately. EcoFlow sells a bundle that consists of the power station plus 2 110-w solar panels for $1549, down from $2197. It takes about 10-12 hours to recharge from the car's 12v system, but if you plug it into a wall socket, it recharges from 0% to 80% in 2 hours, which is pretty impressive.

  • Pros: Lots of capacity, fast storage.

  • Cons: Need to buy solar panels separately. EcoFlow does not recommend third-party panels, and their own bundle is over $1500.

The Jackery Explorer 1000 is the blogosphere's darling. The Wirecutter's second pick, it's currently on sale at Amazon for $899 (after a $100 coupon). Its capacity is slightly less (1002Wh) than the EcoFlow Delta, and at 13.1 x 9.2 x 11.1 inches it's a tiny bit bigger - but it's significantly lighter, at 22lb to the Delta's 30lb.

  • Pros: Significantly lighter than the Delta, plenty of capacity, good price.

  • Cons: Slower to recharge (from a wall outlet, it takes 5.5 hours to go from 0% to 80%).

In the end, I went with the Jackery. Why? Because on Prime Day, Amazon offered a bundle consisting of the Jackery 1000 plus two 100w solar panels for a total (including coupon) of $1,269.97. (That same bundle is now available for $1500 - $1400 with a coupon applied). The Jackery seemed juuuussst about as good as the EcoFlow, but the combination of price plus simplicity (getting the panels in a single bundle) sealed the deal.

Did I make the right choice? Does it really matter? I'll find out in a week!

If you're dithering yourself, here are some resources I found useful:


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