Keeping your devices powered when you’re on the road, whether as a part-time or a full-time nomad, can be a major concern.
Especially if you’re one of those intrepid beings who refuse to be tied down to an address or a desk. There are as many solutions as there are personalities, and everyone’s power needs are unique.
What I need to maintain power on the road and to be able to run my business without too much interruption will be different from the road warrior who makes his or her living taking photos, or climbing mountains, or racing bikes. My needs require that I am able to power a laptop (MacBook Air), an iPhone, an ancient iPad2, two USB fans (one takes batteries, too), and an external speaker.
To manage my power needs, I’ve come up with a motley collection of power banks. This collection includes the tiny but mighty Anker PowerCore 10000 (on sale for 1/2 price at this writing) and my Goal Zero Yeti 400, which I connect to my Renogy solar panel with Goal Zero’s 8mm cable.
The biggest power hog is my laptop. That sucker can drain the Yeti 400 in no time.
So, I plan the charging of my laptop when I know I’ll hit a Starbucks to get a bit of work done—but this is obviously not always feasible due to location and availability of Starbucks (you can try fast food restaurants, as well). That’s why I have the 8 mm cable to charge from the 12v/cigarette lighter port while driving, and the Renogy panel to make use of all the free sun that’s so abundant in the western states. I also take the wall charger along, just in case.
The one significant headache to my power on the road situation is the solar panel, but it’s minor. I wish I would have bought the 100-watt panel or even the 100-watt folding suitcase panel. So, yes, it takes forever if the Yeti is low, and with the Yeti, you want to be careful not to drain it below 50%. Also, the Yeti 400 is one heavy sucker (29 lbs.)! They now have a line of lithium ion power packs, which are much lighter, but for many reasons, I prefer the AGM lead-acid battery. So, with the weight of the Yeti, it’s not easy, but it is possible, to casually walk into a Starbucks and recharge it.
I know there are some dedicated Goal Zero haters, but let me explain why this set-up works for my needs:
- My power needs are minimal, so I can get away with a smaller portable set-up such as this.
- In addition to minimal power needs, I am conservative with my use, maximizing my charging time with driving time (where I can use the ports in the van to charge everything but the laptop).
- I’m strategic. See #2, above, and I make the most of time parked in the sun to drag out the Renogy solar panel and use it to top up the Yeti. I rarely waste a chance to top up the Yeti.
- I like NOT having the solar panel permanently mounted on the roof of my van. It keeps me incognito, and I can park the van in the shade to keep it cool while placing the Yeti and the panel in the sun for optimal charging.
I realize you can build a cheaper and more powerful system, but I wanted to get out in nature—not spend time fiddling with systems that I have little knowledge or patience to implement.
And, knowing the Yeti has an integrated pure-sine wave inverter (necessary for sensitive electronics) and is chainable (you can hook up additional batteries to it to increase the storage capacity) gave me the confidence that the system can grow with my potential growing power needs.
I hope this was helpful. I am by no means an expert in this area; this has just my personal experience and what works for me. I’d love to hear what works for you—and if you have any questions about my system, drop me a line.