Having a power source was another project that tested our boundaries between van-living and road-tripping. The number of van builds with fully operational electrical systems is incredible. We decided to keep our needs very basic. Our energy source must support 2 cell phones, a laptop, and a fan to move air while we sleep.
With our minimal electrical experience, the thought of car batteries and open wires in our tiny living space was a bit off-putting. After a bit of research we happened upon this great piece of equipment –
Goal Zero’s Yeti 400
This is not a generator. It is however a nice compact portable power station. The full capacity is 400Wh (which means it will support 1 Watt for 400 hours). It weighs about 30 pounds and is the approximate size of a car battery. The Yeti400 can be recharged from a wall outlet, your car, or hooked up to a solar panel. Overall our experience with this device has been very smooth and easy. The connections and interface are easy to understand and it functions exactly as promised. It is fairly heavy, I would not recommend trying a hike with this thing, but ours mostly sits in the same place.
A little experimentation revealed some fun numbers.
Power Draw (WATTS):
2016 Mac Laptop while in use: 80-100
Mac Laptop while sleeping: 70-80
IPad USB: 12
IPad outlet: 23
Android Phone USB: 9
Android Phone outlet: 18
AC infinity computer fan: 1-2
Skygenius clip fan: 2
Power Intake (WATTS):
Wall Outlet: 72
Renogy 100W Solar Panel: Varies depending on sun exposure. Max we have seen in full sun is about 85, drops to 0 in shade.
It’s not good for the battery if the charge is completely depleted and ideally we try and keep it above half. With this in mind, we could potentially run our fan for 12 full nights of sleep without recharging. Once you factor in any computer usage or phone charging, our self-sustaining time limit begins to run low. After a couple of test runs we decided a solar panel would be well worth the purchase.
This is a pretty essential piece of equipment for keeping us unplugged and out on the road.