Skip to main content

I tried to ruin a camping trip with 130 pounds of batteries

You’re probably familiar with portable power stations that you can bring along on camping trips to charge your phone and power string lights. You’re probably also familiar with home backup systems like the Tesla PowerWall that can keep your entire house running when the electricity runs out. But you’re probably not familiar with the Bluetti AC500, which combines the power of the latter with the portability of the former. And it’s nuts.

Sized like a cooler and every bit as heavy, the AC500 can kick out a peak of 5,000 watts, which is more than double what the typical outlet in your home can deliver without popping a breaker. If that sounds like way, way more juice than you’d ever need in the woods, it is. Which is why I had to contrive an absolutely absurd scenario to test it.

Bluetti's AC500 is the size of a large cooler and takes up a ton of space in a vehicle.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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

I heaped my van with an obnoxious menagerie of gadgets and drove to Eastern Oregon to test the capacity of modern battery chemistry, and the bonds of my friendships.

Stupid thing to power: Refrigerator

Power consumption: 88 watts

Group reaction: Eye-rolling acceptance

My first appliance pick was also my most pragmatic: A mini fridge. While companies like Dometic sell compact, efficient 12-volt fridges for overlanding, the AC500’s prodigious 120V output allowed me to pluck the mini fridge off my back patio and deposit it in my van without even removing the beer. It was almost convenient enough to justify the damage this may have caused my back.

That was really where the convenience ended, because the fridge in question was really too small for food, the door dragged on the sandy ground, and everyone seemed to prefer beer plucked from the icy depths of a cooler. Or maybe they just hated the cheap beer I stocked the fridge with. No matter, it still seemed like an eminently reasonable thing to bring in 97 degree temps. Alas, the fridge’s continuous need for power, combined with the idling drain of powering the Bluetti’s AC circuits, made this my thirstiest electrical indulgence.

Stupid thing to power: Blender

Power consumption: 1,501 watts

Group reaction: Genuine enthusiasm

With scorching weather at our campsite on the water, making blended cocktails seemed downright obligatory. Yes, you can buy “cordless blenders” on Amazon, but with a mere 300 watts on tap, these glorified soup stirrers would be lucky to lacerate a stalk of celery. The AC500’s surfeit of juice allowed me to pack a 1,200-watt NutriBullet that was sure to 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.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While my friends greeted the blender with furrowed brows, their skepticism melted with the first batch of piña coladas from this beast. Cups, I’ll concede, would’ve been a smarter accompaniment than the cocktail umbrellas I ordered last-minute on Amazon, which looked less festive nested in crusty coffee mugs. The blender’s real feat, though, was transforming 20 pounds of fresh watermelon into pitcher after pitcher of watermelon juice, which went down like, well, water.

Stupid thing to power: Boat motor

Power consumption: 120-plus watts

Group reaction: Unrestrained mocking

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 is outfitted with an electric trolling motor that I’m accustomed to babying to stretch out a full day on the water. Not so with the AC500, which literally has eight times the capacity of the batteries I normally use. Full speed ahead!

An electric trolling motor mounted on an inflatable boat.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Or so I imagined. After talking up the capacious B300S battery pack and lugging all 80 pounds of it to the boat, I confidently sped away from the beach, only to scramble in horror as the motor died five seconds later. Weathering a barrage of heckling from shore, I realized that the motor’s peak draw exceeded the 10-amp limit of the Bluetti’s DC output. There was nothing else to do but row to shore in shame and nurse my injured ego with the cheap beer nobody else wanted.

Stupid thing to power: Microwave

Power consumption: 1,849 watts

Group reaction: Disdain, redemption

Camping brings to mind fond memories of soup simmered over the blue flame of a Coleman stove and hot dogs lovingly roasted over a wood fire, which made the microwave by far one of my most obnoxious camping picks. “A microwave?” my friends cringed. I had simply gone too far. For 24 hours, the unwelcome box perched atop the fridge, neglected.

Until dinner on day two. Like the Rudolph of camping appliances, it was simply waiting for its time to shine. The humble Panasonic rose to the occasion of rapidly heating two enormous bowls of beans during the dinnertime crunch when stove space was at a premium. More importantly, in an environment when every crusty dinner dish has to be Brilloed by hand, it achieved this feat without dirtying any extra pots or pans. The cooks did rejoice.

Stupid thing to power: Coffee maker

Power consumption: 961 watts

Group reaction: Props given

Everybody loves a hot cup of coffee in the morning, but providing coffee for 12 people with a French press feels like digging a post hole with a soup spoon. Enter my household drip coffee maker, which would whip up 12 cups with the press of a button. But would anyone appreciate the humble machine?

Uh, yes. On-demand coffee for bleary-eyed campers is manna from heaven, and this machine pumped out carafe after carafe. My only regret was running out of coffee on day two, since I didn’t anticipate using it nearly as much. The warming function also eroded my battery life pretty aggressively, if I didn’t remember to kill it when the pot was empty.

Stupid thing to power: Water kettle

Power consumption 1,501 watts

Group reaction: Relief

Smitten as I am with the turbo boiling power of the isobutane-powered Jetboil, electric kettles are faster still. And I had room for one, so why not? I packed it inside the microwave to avoid shattering the delicate glass.

It turned out to be a lifesaver when my ground coffee ran out, since someone with more foresight had brought a large supply of instant coffee. Like the microwave, it was downright impressive to watch the kettle’s high drain and relatively long run time massacre my battery, and it was this very device that knocked my battery life to 0% on day three.

Can you have too much power?

Look, there might be a reason most power stations this big aren’t portable. Besides the weight and expense of hauling this much lithium into the woods, the gaggle of gadgets I dragged along took their toll. They gobbled up space in my van, made the campsite look like a QVC set, and required constant babysitting for battery life.

Appliances and a Bluetti AC500 power station stacked on a beach.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

But you’ve gotta hand it to Bluetti: This thing does what nothing else will. Besides the boat motor, which exceeded the limit of the DC output on the battery alone (it goes up to 30A when paired with the inverter), nothing even came close to using all 5,000 watts the AC outlets can deliver. I mean, there is an outlet on this thing that can power a dryer.

If I have one key complaint, it’s the idle draw of the AC inverter, which nibbles away about 1 percent of battery life every hour or so, even with nothing drawing power. That’s a lot of wattage for nothing, and with all the brains in this thing, it should really have an option to automatically power that circuit down after enough disuse. The screen, barely legible in sunshine, is another knock, but the sleek mobile app is an easy fix for that.

So did it ruin my camping trip? No, and I think my friends would agree — if you caught them with a piña colada in hand. The novelty of 5,000 watts actually added a fun twist to camping, even if I’m still finding sand in my microwave.

Editors' Recommendations

Nick Mokey
As Digital Trends’ Managing Editor, Nick Mokey oversees an editorial team delivering definitive reviews, enlightening…
Speed up your daily commute with these e-bike deals
ENGWE EP-2 Pro e-bike right side shot next to an unmowed field.

The best electric bikes have come a long way in recent years and we don't just mean in terms of the miles you travel. With technology changing quickly, there are also an increasing number of electric bike deals around and we've picked out some of the very best. Electric bikes are a great way of getting around more easily and without necessarily needing to use as much stamina as a regular bike. Below, you'll find fantastic e-bike bike deals from many different retailers. There'll be something for every need here. Let's take a look at them.
Jasion EB5 Electric Bike -- $430, was $750

With a 350w brushless motor, the Jasion EB5 Electric Bike can achieve a top speed of 20 MPH with a range of up to 25-40 miles per charge. It has four working modes with a PAS mode where the motor assists with a moderate amount of power as you pedal, along with a Pure Electric Mode, a Pedal Mode, and a Booster Mode where the bike assist on hills and anywhere else you might be struggling. 26-inch puncture-resistant tires provide excellent durability while there's a high-strength front fork suspension, Shimano 7-speed gears, dual lights, and an LCD display. The latter offers controls for adjustable backlight brightness with one of five levels, along with mode controls.

Read more
Jackery graduates from pioneer to sustainable master with latest launch
Jackery 2000 Plus used outdoors while camping

This content was produced in partnership with Jackery.
In 2012, at a critical time when sustainability efforts were ramping up everywhere, Jackery was born. The prevailing vision behind its creation was to provide accessible green energy to everyone. Years later, in 2016, Jackery launched the world's first outdoor-friendly portable power stations, and soon after, introduced the world's first portable solar panels. They would change many lives for the better but also transform an entire market that's now dedicated to green, sustainable energy solutions. Today, over 11 years later, Jackery is still going strong, and getting ready to launch one of its most advanced products to date, the Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Plus.

Ideal for outdoor applications, portability, and emergency backup usage, the Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Plus delivers some incredible features that honor Jackery's original mission -- "to make green energy accessible anytime and anywhere". More importantly, it offers safe and reliable power independence for all, thanks to a combined software and hardware defense system, which we'll explore in more detail below, and industry-leading fast-charge technology to get you working, playing, or back in the game as quickly as possible.
Learn More
Advanced technology for a better anywhere experience

Read more
From $500 to $210: This Segway electric scooter is $290 off for Prime Day
segway hoverboard scooter black friday deals amazon max

Gas is getting expensive. All around the world people are exploring alternative transportation methods that are cheaper, better for the environment, and more fun. One method that has exploded recently is the electric scooter. E-scooter ride share apps have descended on cities. If you've tried one out and want to get your own, Prime Day deals provide a great opportunity to snag one for cheap. Right now the Segway Ninebot Electric Kickscooter is down to just $210 from its usual price of $500. That's over 50% off! It's also the lowest price it has ever been. Before this, the cheapest it's ever been is $295. Read more about the scooter below, then check out the deal yourself before Prime Day is over.

Why you should buy the Segway Ninebot Electric Kickscooter on Prime Day
Segway is most famous for the two-wheeled balancing devices that got popular in the mid-2000s. They were seen as futuristic and a bit goofy. They never really took off, and the similar but less goofy (if more unstable) hoverboards were the devices that blew up (figuratively and literally). Today we see Segways mostly in science fiction movies and on city sightseeing tours. They were discontinued in 2020.

Read more