GO THE DISTANCE

These portable power packs can make your electronics last the distance out bush

 

Pipe down, luddites. The future is here and technology is part of off-roading whether you like it or not. While you’re grumbling away to yourself about ‘the vibe’ of getting out there without mobile reception, technology is making it easier and safer than ever to actually get out there. GPS units let us plot routes through locations we’ve never driven, allowing us to focus on enjoying the outdoors rather than checking the paper maps every 30 metres. Hand-held UHF units mean we don’t need thousands of dollars’ worth of gear and expensive installs just to talk between one vehicle and the next in convoy. And god forbid, mobile phones have made it so we’re able to call for help when things go wrong… you no longer have to do your best impersonation of Bear Grylls if you break down in the bush.

 

For images, videos and the full Unsealed 4X4 experience, read this in our online magazine.

 

It’s a hell of a time to be a four-wheel driver, but all these new luxuries come at a cost. They all run on batteries. If you’re spending the whole trip behind the tiller of your 4X4 with power outlets in every direction it’s not that big a deal. But if you pull up and camp for a few nights you might find yourself wishing there was a power outlet in your swag to keep things charged up. Enter portable battery packs. They come in a range of sizes and capacities to suit anything from a few quick charges in a mobile phone right through to what are basically replacements for generators; and in this issue we’re shining the spotlights on a few of the offerings from Goal Zero and Uniden – two of the biggest names in 12V gear. How do they stack up? You’re just going to have to read on to find out.

 

Goal Zero Venture 30

One of Goal Zero’s most popular units, the Venture 30, is one of those products you never knew you needed until you got one. It’s comparatively (in this comparison) small battery did limit it to charging hand-held devices like tablets, phones and small 12V gear – but it was that simple to use we literally carried it with us everywhere. It comes with three inputs (two USB and a micro USB) with a cleverly designed rubberised cable plugging the holes when not in use, but also doubling as built-in charge cables for most popular devices. The unit was dead simple to use with just two buttons – one turning the ports on and the other turning the LED flashlight on. The Venture 30 is perfect for those looking for a sturdy ‘take everywhere’ charger to keep hand-held devices running for days, away from traditional power supplies.

 

Cost: $169

Ease of use: 5/5

Key features: 7,800mAh battery, waterproof, built-in LED torch, built-in charging cable, 4hr USB recharge time, 4.8Ah USB ports.

 

WHAT WE LOVED

  • Waterproof and tough construction
  • The cables were built in
  • Light weight

WHAT WE DIDN’T LOVE

  • Having to remove the phone from its case to use the included micro USB port
  • The in-built torch flickered… useful for finding your keys in the dark, not so much as a light

 

 

Uniden UPP120 Jump Start Kit

Marketed as an emergency pack rather than a simple battery pack, Uniden’s UPP120 Jump Start Kit is powered by an impressive 12,000mAh battery. It has your standard inclusions like an in-built LED torch and USB outlets; but also comes with a small air compressor and a jump start attachment making it seriously versatile. Because of the kit’s large size, we found ourselves leaving most of it at home and stuffing the charger, cabling and jump start clamps in the glovebox. The battery pack itself has an easy to read backlit LCD screen as well as built-in grips and a tough rubberised coating. We consistently averaged around six charges for a mobile phone, or two for a laptop; but mainly found it useful for keeping tablets running, GoPros charged up and hand-held UHFs working. Strangely enough the more time we spent with the kit the less we liked the accessories and the more we liked the battery pack itself.

 

Cost: $199.95

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Key features: 12,000mAh battery, included 12V and 240V chargers, jump start kit, small tyre inflator, built-in LED torch, 2.1A USB port.

 

WHAT WE LOVED

  • Jump start your 4X4 in a pinch
  • Durable construction
  • Similar battery capacity to much larger devices

 

WHAT WE DIDN’T LOVE

  • The built-in tyre pump isn’t big enough for a 4X4 tyre, but will comfortably do camp beds and bike tyres
  • Bulky carry case with all the accessories

 

Goal Zero Yeti 150

Weighing in at 5.4kg and taking up as much room as a six-pack the Yeti 150 was the largest of the bunch we tested. It fits somewhere in the middle of the Yeti range of products. Too large to chuck in a backpack or glovebox, and too small to serve as a replacement dual-battery system the Yeti 150 became the jack of all trades during our time with it. The 14Ah battery packed plenty of punch. Recharging phones around eight times and laptops twice, it served as a good backup for both 12V and 240V needs. It’s also capable of running camp lighting… allowing us to set up LEDs at camp when away from the vehicle. Overall, the fit and finish is what we’ve come to expect from Goal Zero – with a tougher outer casing, clever designs, and the price tag to match. We optioned ours up with the Nomad 20 solar panel allowing for recharging throughout the day, although it did require 17 hours of daylight for a full charge.

 

Cost: $299 ($599 with solar charger)

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Key features: 14,000mAh battery, 6hr 240V recharge time, 240V outlet, Cig outlet, solar charging available, 2.1A USB port.

 

WHAT WE LOVED

  • Big enough to power any rechargeable electronics like kids’
    toys, laptops, hand-held UHFs
  • Reasonably compact size for its features
  • Built-in inverter
  • No noise or fumes

 

WHAT WE DIDN’T LOVE

  • It ain’t cheap
  • Just not quite large enough to replace a dual-battery system

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