Portable power stations enable you to power electronics away from conventional electrical sources. The Rockpals portable power station that I am reviewing here is one such device.
Planning for power in a grid-down situation is a funny thing. Power is quite literally all around us (for absolutely free!) in many forms – solar, wind, water – but you need to have the proper gear to harness the bounty of nature’s free juice. You can have all the solar panels in the world laid out on your lawn, but if you are not in possession of a method of storing the harvested energy, your panels are only effective while the sun burns in the sky.
If you read my recent review on the Rockpals 100W Folding Solar Panels (you can read the review here), you may recall that I was lamenting the fact that I was not in possession of a power station to pair with the outstanding solar panels. I could use the panels alone to charge a couple devices while the sun was out, but that was the extent of the setup’s solar efficacy. To truly make solar worthwhile, I needed a place to store the energy the solar panels collected for later use. Well, Rockpals heard my plea and sent me a brand new Rockpower 300W Power Station to pair up with the panels.
Meet The Rockpals Rockpower PS300
The Rockpals Rockpower PS300 I received is a neat little package. Measuring out at about 10 ½ inches long, 5 ½ inches wide, and 8 ½ inches tall and weighing a surprisingly chunky 7.7 pounds, the Rockpals Rockpower 300 offers the end user a compact unit that provides a lot of power. Compared to the cheesy little semi-pre-charged power banks you pick up at gas stations, the Rockpower 300 is a tank with a huge capacity.
How much capacity? Glad you asked. The sealed bank of lithium-ion batteries combines to provide a total battery capacity of 78,000 milli-Amp hours (mAh) and 280.8 Watt-hours (Wh). Put in very basic terms, that’s just shy of 28 full-up recharges of a new iPhone 12, or 13 recharges of a typical large notebook-sized laptop battery.
The exterior of the Rockpower 300 is hard plastic, molded in Rockpals’ signature red, gray, and black color scheme. A sturdy fixed carrying handle lives on the top of the unit, with the two short sides hosting a pair of vents for the circuitry cooling fans. The “face” of the unit houses the inputs, outputs, a, LCD status screen, and the controls.
The Rockpals Rockpower 300 offers a useful suite of outputs to accommodate the user’s power requirements. Looking from right to left, first you’ll notice the three-prong 110V AC outlet with its square rubber weather proofing/safety cover. Next to the 110 AC outlet lives four standard USB outputs: a blue-coded QC 3.0, two 5V 3.1 A, and a 30W USB-C, all arranged in a neat vertical row.
Moving down the line, next you’ll encounter the Rockpals Rockpower 300’s standard covered 12V car cigarette lighter-type charging output, and a pair of DC 12V outputs for a barrel-type plug. Above these is the “DC IN” input which the end user will use to charge the Rockpower 300. The small LCD status screen is located on the far left. The LCD screen provides info such as existing power supply, outgoing power draw, incoming power levels, overload alerts, and temperature alerts.
Underneath each individual charging output are buttons that turn the appropriate output circuitry on and off – DC, USB, and AC. Under the LCD display are the master power button to turn the Rockpals Rockpower PS300 on and off, and the display function button. The Power and 110V AC buttons require long presses (2 seconds or longer) to activate, whereas the DC and USB port power buttons can be activated with a quick tap. The Rockpower 300 turns itself off after about 30 seconds of inactivity, when none of the ports are being used.
Included with the Rockpower unit are a standard AC wall charger, as well as a DC car type charger to provide the end user with a versatile suite of charging options. The USB-C port can be used to charge the unit, as can any number of solar panels from Rockpals (or other manufacturers, providing the power output doesn’t exceed 24V)
Taking Charge with the Rockpower
When I unboxed the Rockpals Rockpower PS300, the LCD screen informed me that battery charge was at 65%. I elected to plug the unit in using the provided AC wall charger to top ‘er off before I started playing with the power station. Using the wall charger, the Rockpower PS300’s battery level charged from 65% to 100% in just about two and a half hours – or 1% of battery every 6-7 minutes. Later, after I’d drained the power to less than 10%, it took an overnight stint on the wall charger to bring the battery level back to 100%.
I had been seriously chomping at the bit to try the Rockpals Rockpower PS300 with the solar panels that Rockpals had provided me earlier. Thankfully, I was able to find a bright sunny day before my writing deadline, and I arrayed the solar panels in my back field in the direct sunlight. No adapters were required; the Rockpals solar panels plugged directly into the power station’s DC IN port. The LCD panel popped on immediately to let me know the unit was charging. The screen also let me know the amount of incoming power so I could angle the solar panels for utmost efficiency; I was able to wrangle 39W of incoming power at the best positioning. When clouds drifted in front of the sun, the indicated charging input dropped to 16-17W. I left the Rockpals Rockpower PS300 and the 100W solar panels to do their thing while I worked inside.
Starting from an 85% indicated battery charge level at 10:39am with an ambient temperature of 39° F, the charge level rose to 96% by noon. Cloud cover had increased gradually during the day, dropping the solar panels’ efficiency, but I was still looking at a charge rate of 1% of battery life every 7-8 minutes, rivalling the AC wall input’s charge rate. According to my math, that means a 12-hour shift of basking in the sun should bring the Rockpals Rockpower PS300 from stone dead to 100% using the solar panels only. I’m sure a nice cloudless sky and a clear line of sight from the panels to the sun would cut that charge time somewhat.
I haven’t yet tried the 12V car charger; I did try the USB-C input to charge with the charger from my Google Pixel cellphone, and it worked just fine; the USB-C port can be used for charging the Rockpals power station or for charging devices.
Getting a Charge Out of it All
Charging the Rockpals Rockpower PS300 300W power station is seriously easy with multiple options for you to use. Thankfully, using the stored energy in the Rockpower PS300 is just as easy.
The very first test I performed with the Rockpals PS300 was to plug my Boss Katana 50-watt guitar amplifier into the three-prong AC outlet. I powered on the amp and proceeded to make my ears ring even worse with a few terrible AC/DC renditions and a mediocre version of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” The Boss Katana amp I have has different power output settings – 5W, 25W, and 50W. All three settings worked just fine, and the LCD display on the Rockpower PS300 showed the power output I was robbing from the power station. As I played louder at higher settings, the power draw was naturally higher. However, except for The Doof Warrior from “Mad Max – Fury Road”, I couldn’t think of many people who will be playing the electric guitar in a post-apocalyptic setting, so I turned off the amp and searched for other stuff to try with the PS300.
Next up was the expected charge of small devices that will likely be the main drain of the majority of people who purchase this unit. I plugged my Google Pixel phone into the USB-C input/output and tapped the “USB” button on. I was gratified to note that the cellphone instantaneously indicated it was accepting a rapid charge at a self-regulating 7W, with the cellphone topped off in under an hour. Cool.
An old burner iPhone 6 Plus took a charge with glee, as did my son’s Samsung Galaxy tablet, my RAVPOWER 22000 mAh battery pack, an Olight Warrior Mini flashlight, a small Bluetooth speaker, and my Dell Laptop. This rounded out the majority of items that I anticipate most people would be using this power station for.
However, thinking that some may use the Rockpals PS300 a bit more aggressively – say if the power was temporarily out due to a natural disaster such as a hurricane or snowstorm. Maybe you have some kids that are stir-crazy, or you want to relax and catch up on your DVR’d season 948 of Grey’s Anatomy. In this scenario, I determined that a power strip would be needed to provide electrons to multiple devices.
Once I freed up a power strip, I plugged it into the Rockpals power station, and then plugged my older 42” LG LCD television and a small Sony Blu-Ray player into the power strip. I turned the Rockpower 300PS on and powered up the AC outlet. The TV flashed into life, and the Blu-Ray player showed power. I slammed in a copy of “Back to the Future” and let ‘er rip.
With the Rockpower’s display showing incredible power draw – over 140W at times – the movie played in the background while I worked, checking on the setup occasionally to take notes on power level. I started with the charge indicator reading 87% at 12:30pm. An hour later at 1:32 pm, I was showing just 31% charge left in the station. When I checked again at 2:18, the Rockpower power station had shut itself down, and the TV was off. A hit the power button on the PS300, and it showed less than 10% charge. Long story short? If you want to use the Rockpals Rockpower PS300 300W power station as juice for an entertainment system, you should be looking at a smaller, more efficient television than my LCD TV to keep the power draw to a minimum and maximise your run time.
The Rockpals Rockpower PS300 does have internal circuitry to ensure it plays nice and provides the optimum output for any devices plugged into it. If you phone will only accept a 2.1V charge from the USB port, that’s all the power station will deliver. If your device can accept more (like my phone’s fast-charging capability, the power station will feed it at the correct power level.
The same circuitry works the other direction, ensuring that the Rockpals PS300 will only accept as much power during a recharge as it can safely handle. Knowing you won’t be unintentionally melting down your power storage unit is a comforting thought.
Are Rockpals Portable Power Stations Worth The Money?
So, wrapping all of this up, you may be asking yourself the question: Is the $400+/- investment for a quality solar panel and power station really worth my while? This is a question you have to answer for yourself after reviewing your basic power needs. Most portable power stations just don’t offer the capacity and amperage to power large appliances such as a kitchen refrigerator – the Rockpals PS300 didn’t work with my fridge; it powered itself off once the fridge’s compressor kicked in. It also won’t power coffee makers, ceramic space heaters, or other items that require a huge power draw.
Where the portable power station and solar panels really shine for the prepper or survivalist is being utilized in your long-term preps to keep vital electronics running. Communications gear, tablets with databases of information, BOL lights, CPAP machines, car battery booster packs – all of these items can be topped off using the Rockpals Rockpower power station.
Where the solar/power station combo works best for the homeowner/family man (or woman) is by keeping the devices we depend on for entertainment and communication up and running during a short or potentially long-term power down event, such as a natural disaster. The Rockpals PS300 portable power station and a set of solar panels will keep your kids’ cellphones, tablets, and rechargeable gaming devices topped off for maximum entertainment and distraction, while keeping your cellphone powered for vital communications from family and government.
Any system that uses circuitry and batteries is certainly susceptible to damage during an EMP, but (I hope!) the likelihood of needing a portable power station during a hurricane is far greater than the possibility of an EMP burst knocking out almost anything electronic. (though it gives you an excuse to buy a Mission Darkness Faraday Bag!) A large-capacity portable power station can be used camping, during a power outage, if you want to recharge your drones in the field, while travelling…you get the drift. As the name so cleverly belies, it’s portable power when and where you need it. The additional solar panels just add to the flexibility of the system during a long-term event – whether it be a camping trip or power grid attack/crash.
A serious power supply is a must for those of us dependent on devices to work, communicate, or play. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to go out and spend a few days camping or overlanding with the Rockpals Rockpower PS 300 portable power station, but my time spent with it so far confirms its outright versatility and utter ease of use. I feel confident that this Rockpals portable power station will stand the test of time and find an honored place in the preps and camping gear. If it doesn’t, you’ll be the first to hear about it here on SHTF Blog.
Do you run a power station with solar? We want to hear about your power setups! Sound off in the comments below!
Review by Drew Forge