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I Tried to Ruin a Camping Trip With 130 Pounds of Batteries – Digital Trends | Gmx Pharm

You’re probably familiar with portable power stations that you can take with you on camping trips to charge your phone and run fairy lights. You’re probably also familiar with home backup systems like the Tesla PowerWall, which can keep your entire house running when the power goes out. But you probably are Not familiar with the Bluetti AC500, which combines the performance of the latter with the portability of the former. And it’s crazy.

The size and weight of a cooler, the AC500 can output 5,000 watts of peak power, which is more than double what a typical outlet in your home can deliver without flipping a circuit breaker. If that sounds like way, way more juice than you’d ever need in the woods, it is. So I had to come up with an absolutely absurd scenario to test it.

The Bluetti AC500 is the size of a large cooler and takes up a lot of space in a vehicle.

Sure, it could power some lights, a speaker, a laptop. But can it power a refrigerator? A microwave? A boat engine? I had to find out. With a group camping trip on the horizon, I decided to only use the AC500 for idiotic indulgences that would annoy and confuse my friends. Could the AC500 handle that? Could my camp companions?

I loaded my van with an obnoxious menagerie of devices and drove to eastern Oregon to test the capacity of modern battery chemistry and the bonds of my friendships.

Stupid thing about electricity: refrigerator

Power consumption: 88 watts

Group reaction: Eye-rolling acceptance

My first choice of appliance was also my most pragmatic: a mini-fridge. While companies like Dometic sell compact, efficient 12-volt fridges for cross-country flights, the AC500’s amazing 120V output allowed me to pluck the mini-fridge off my back patio and dump it in my van without even closing the beer remove. It was almost comfortable enough to justify the damage this may have done to my back.

That was actually where the convenience ended, because the fridge in question was really too small for groceries, the door scraped on the sandy floor, and everyone seemed to prefer beer from the icy depths of a cool box. Or maybe they just hated the cheap beer I stocked the fridge with. Regardless, bringing in 97-degree temps still seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Unfortunately, the fridge’s constant power demands, combined with the no-load power consumption of the Bluetti AC circuits, made this my thirstiest electric indulgence.

Stupid thing to power: Blender

Power consumption: 1,501 watts

Group reaction: Genuine enthusiasm

With the scorching heat at our waterfront campsite, it seemed almost mandatory to prepare mixed cocktails. Yes, you can buy “cordless blenders” on Amazon, but with only 300 watts on tap, these glorified soup blenders would be lucky enough to shred a celery stalk. The AC500’s juice surplus allowed me to pack a 1,200-watt NutriBullet that would surely make short work of the ice and frozen pineapple I needed for piña coladas.

The author uses a blender to make mixed drinks at a campsite.

While my friends frowned at the blender, their skepticism melted with the first batch of piña coladas from this beast. I admit mugs would have been a smarter accompaniment than the cocktail umbrellas I ordered from Amazon at the last minute, which looked less festive in encrusted coffee mugs. The true accomplishment of the blender, however, was turning 20 pounds of fresh watermelon into jar after jar of watermelon juice that went down like, well, water.

Stupid thing about electricity: boat engine

Power consumption: over 120 watts

Group reaction: Unrestrained mockery

My sister-in-law once disparagingly referred to my inflatable SeaHawk II as a “boat made of air,” but I prefer to think of it as a minimalist yacht. Whatever you call it, mine comes equipped with an electric trolling motor which I’m used to baby cleaning for a full day on the water. Not so with the AC500, which has literally eight times the capacity of the batteries I normally use. Full speed ahead!

An electric trolling motor mounted on an inflatable boat.

I imagined it like that. After loading up the big B300S battery and lugging all 80 pounds of it to the boat, I confidently sped off the beach, only to crawl in horror when the motor died five seconds later. As I weathered a barrage of heckling from shore, I found that the motor’s peak draw exceeded the 10 amp limit of the Bluetti’s DC output. I had no choice but to row to shore in embarrassment and soothe my bruised ego with the cheap beer that no one else wanted.

Stupid thing about electricity: microwave

Power consumption: 1,849 watts

Group reaction: contempt, redemption

Camping reminds me of lovely soups cooked over the blue flame of a Coleman stove and hot dogs lovingly roasted over a wood fire, making the microwave by far one of my most obnoxious camping recommendations. “A microwave?” My friends winced. I just went too far. For 24 hours the unwelcome box sits neglected on the fridge.

Until dinner on the second day. Like the Rudolph of camping gear, he was just waiting for his time to shine. The humble Panasonic got out to quickly heat two huge bowls of beans during dinner when stove space was at a premium. More importantly, in an environment where every crispy dinner must be hand-spiced, this feat was accomplished without messing up additional pots or pans. The chefs were happy.

Stupid thing about electricity: coffee maker

Power consumption: 961 watts

Group reaction: props given

Everyone loves a hot cup of coffee in the morning, but making coffee for 12 people with a French press feels like digging a post hole with a soup spoon. Enter my household filter coffee maker that would brew 12 cups at the touch of a button. But would anyone appreciate the humble machine?

Uh yeah On-demand coffee for sleepy-eyed campers is manna from heaven, and this machine pumped out carafe after carafe. My only regret was running out of coffee on the second day as I wasn’t expecting to use it nearly as much. The reheat function also sapped my battery life quite aggressively when I didn’t think about killing it when the pot was empty.

Stupid thing about electricity: kettle

Power consumption 1,501 watts

Group reaction: relief

Excited as I am by the turbo cooking power of the isobutane powered Jetboil, electric kettles are even faster. And I had room for one, so why not? I put it in the microwave to avoid breaking the delicate glass.

It turned out to be a life saver when I ran out of ground coffee as someone with more foresight had brought in a large supply of instant coffee. As with the microwave, it was nothing short of impressive to see how the kettle’s high consumption and relatively long runtime massacred my battery, and it was this very device that brought my battery life down to 0% on the third day.

Can you have too much power?

There could be a reason why most power plants of this size are not portable. Aside from the weight and expense of lugging that much lithium into the woods, the amount of gear I was lugging took its toll. They gobbled up space in my van, made the campsite look like a QVC set, and required constant babysitting for battery life.

Household appliances and a Bluetti AC500 power plant are piled up on a beach.

But you have to give it to Bluetti: this thing does what nothing else can. Aside from the boat’s motor, which alone exceeded the battery’s DC capacity limit (it goes up to 30A when coupled to the inverter), nothing came close to utilizing all of the 5,000 watts that the AC outlets could provide can deliver. I mean, there’s an outlet on this thing that can power a dryer.

If I have one major complaint, it’s the AC inverter’s idle consumption, which eats away at about 1 percent of battery life every hour or so, even when nothing is drawing power. That’s a lot of watts for nothing, and with all the smarts in this thing, there really should be an option to automatically turn this circuitry off after sufficient non-use. The screen that’s barely readable in the sunshine is another issue, but the sleek mobile app is an easy fix.

Did it ruin my camping trip? No, and I think my friends would agree—if you caught them holding a piña colada. The novelty of 5,000 watts has actually put a fun twist on camping, even if I still find sand in my microwave.

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Updated: September 17, 2022 — 12:32 am

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