7 Cool Camping Gadgets that can help in an Energy Crisis
It’s no secret that the UK is in the grip of a cost of living crisis with rising fuel costs and facing threatened power cuts – but with the right outdoor gear, campers could be better equipped than most to tackle it.
Here’s some great camping gadgets that could prove really helpful if the lights go out in 2023.
A head torch is something, for whatever reason, most men seem to love!
We therefore have a number of them in our house – but there is a good practical reason for them – whether moving around on a field during a night-time set up, or scrambling around in the dark to put the bins out every week, they provide very bright light while keeping your hands free.
Prep ahead: Know where your head torch is, make it the first thing you find because it will help you find everything else! Make sure it has plenty of battery life left in it too – and keep spares.
2. Other Camping Lights
Let’s be honest, we all started our first camping trips with battery operated lighting, like torches and lanterns – and if yours are anything like ours, they are still useable years later and aren’t particular heavy on battery use. Bringing them indoors could give you the essential light you need to get your other ‘electricity emergency’ kit found and started – because if you are anything like us, most of the candles, lights and batteries aren’t anywhere near the sofa.
However, these days, as camping moves towards a more sustainable future, there are also purpose-made rechargeable camping solutions that tend to be more robust and reliable than their garden equivalents. We like the Vango Lunar 250. It’s charged and next to my chair, we have lots of better solutions to keep functional in an outage, but rather than having a huge pile in the lounge, the little light will help us move around safely while we gather the stored items we need.
Vango Lunar 250, Chargeable via Solar and Mains, Charlies Outdoors, £24.99
Prep ahead: Make sure any lights are handy and good to go, with batteries in and fully charged.
3. Power Banks for your Phone – and your fish!
In a perfect world, we would have plenty of notice of a power outage, but those of us who experienced them in the 70’s will remember they often came without warning and at the worst time possible. Which means you can guarantee that at least some people will have them hit when their phones are not charged. Our power bank (super cheap from E-Bay) can give you two full charges – it’s perfect for off grid camping (or like us, in your pocket in case you play too many games on a long journey and argue about the car charger).
We actually have about 5 of them for all our devices and this is similar to the ones we bought 18 months ago. However, if you are hoping to charge a more powerful device, like an ipad Pro, you’ll need something more substantial – we’d only buy something that specifically mentions the ipad Pro.
Now, you heard me mention camping lights – you can also use your power banks to power anything that changes via a USB – and that includes many camping lights these days.
However, it can also help fishkeepers – a 3 hour outage is a nightmare for them. This Amazon filter will power a tiny pump to keep your fish tank oxygenated for short periods.
This tiny USB pump, available on Amazon can be powered by a powerbank in a power outage. (It won’t replace a proper filter long term but it will help buy your pets a little time and give them a bit of oxygenation in an outage.)
Prep ahead: keep your power banks charged and handy and ensure everyone knows where they are. If you are out and about, they also fit handily in a pocket for emergency phone charging!
4. Sleeping bags
If it’s really cold and your heating has gone off, sleeping bags offer a lot more warmth than your duvet – and you can snuggle in them and put the duvet on top.
It’s worth mentioning here that not all sleeping bags are equal and when buying them, check to see what season and temperatures they are rated for – the higher the number of seasons they are rated for, the warmer they will be. That said, if you aren’t actually climbing Everest, you won’t need to spend hundreds of pounds – try to match the temperatures you will face indoors and you will be fine. A 2 or 3 season bag will tackle most camping trips and winter indoors – if however you plan on sleeping outdoors in winter (and it could definitely be fun!) you’ll definitely need a 4 season bag to keep you warm.
Here’s a great high quality sleeping bag from Outwell – the Camper Lux 3-4 season bag – £84.99 from Newquay Camping
Prep ahead: Store sleeping bags indoors to protect them from damp, so they are ready to use if you need them – and if your storage is anything like as chaotic as ours, make sure you can get to them quickly!
5. Camping Lighter – filled and good to go
We all know how handy that camping gear will be for cooking when the home services are down. You’ll need to remember however that most camping items can only be used outdoors, so you will have to wrap up warm.
Most gas items will need a lighter or spark to ignite them – but you’ll need to make sure the lighter has gas in it ahead of time (we’ve all had those ‘damn it needs more gas’ moments!) Just because that’s how luck seems to work, in an emergency, a lighter in need of gas will offer a pathetic squib of a flame for a moment then you’ll be there clicking furiously with no effect.
However, there is an alternative.
This lighter is around £13 on Amazon and uses electricity from it’s charge to safely light candles, camp fires and whatever else you fancy! A quick charge via USB will give you 100 sparks, and when flat, just recharge! It works great on candles, firepits etc. and unlike gas they are completely safe to store.
Its perfect for camping, and will gladly light candles, firepits, BBQs and whatever else you need – and if it runs out, you can charge it on your emergency powerbank fairly fast.
Prep ahead: whether using this lighter or a gas lighter, keep it full/charged and ready to go!
6. Camping Cookers and BBQs
There are all manner of cooking gadgets for camping and we have probably tried most of them (and have parted with very few!). In practice, when we camp, there’s just two of us, don’t judge us, apart from the camping brekkie, no matter what the intentions, we normally wind up in a restauarnt – and use the camping gear in our garden in summer!
Most camping gear is great for cooking, everything from the Cadac to the humble stove to the amazing Cobb – campers won’t be short of things to cook with, however all these gas appliances are only suitable for use outdoors because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The electric stuff is great (no surprises we have that too), but it’s not much use in an outage.
Speaking of humble stoves, you can boil an old fashioned kettle for a cuppa and use a flask to keep the water warm.
If gas is an issue at home, or if you can’t get hold of any, for both keeping warm and cooking, we’ve been impressed via the Biolite stove, which is portable, can be powered by logs or charcoal, doubles as a fire and comes with lots of cooking accessories. However, it’s not cheap and if you aren’t a camper, probably not worth the investment.
If you don’t have much storage, don’t want to get gas and are looking for something to just use in an emergency, check out this little HiGear stove – it costs £27 (though often much less when there’s an offer on, so wait til Jan!) It stores completely flat and makes a handy fire or BBQ for outdoor use.
Finally, it may seem odd but if it’s really cold, or you want to save money, an amazing product designed for hot climates makes a great bet! The wonderbag is designed to slow cook using the minimum of fuel.
You can get your meal started outdoors on a camping stove, then bring it in, cover with the insulated wonderbag and wait – the insulation will continue to cook your meal for hours. It’s perfect for slow cooked comfort food like stews without the need to stand outdoors watching a stove for hours – and there’s nothing like a slow cooked stew to warm you up and make you feel better. Unfortunately if you don’t own one already, they are currently out of stock, but keep your eye on this site when they return: UK Shop | Wonderbag™ (wonderbagworld.com) It’s on our must buy list!
Prep ahead: Whatever you plan to cook with, in an extended outage you would need to access your equipment quite quickly, so make sure you know which outdoor box you have them kept in and make sure you have the gas/charcoal handy to use them. You can also use your BBQ – remember, there are no laws saying you can only cook outdoors in summer.
7. Portable Power Stations
There is no shortage of options when it comes to portable solar panels and leisure batteries, however there are massive differences when it comes to quality, time to charge, and durability. Hopefully we’ve given you an introduction below
7.1 Streetwise 6 in One Portable Power Station
I have always been fascinated by ‘camping power stations’ and my first buy was this rather hefty looking 6 in 1 12v tool. It’s a good buy because it will charge your phone using an adapter, it has a decent light, it has a compressor to pump up tyres, and it also has standalone power when camping. It will power a pump to inflate your tent, it will power a camping fridge (for a few hours) and it will start your car when the battery is flat. It also has a standard mains socket to power devices up to 200w, which isn’t a lot when it comes to indoor appliances but fine for things like phone and laptop chargers.
The fact this offers so many functions makes it worth keeping in your boot for emergencies. It costs around £145, and it’s easily available on the high street. For very short outages, it’s a good little back up to have.
However it does take a very long time to charge – we charged overnight when flat, a total of around 10 hours. It’s also far bulkier than other units but this is down to the level of functionality. I’d buy it again!
Prep ahead: This great little tool needs to be kept charged because you are only likely to use it in an emergency. It’s also therefore important to keep it somewhere it can be accessed quickly.
7.2 Ebay ‘Bargains’ from China
I’d love to say I found them. Sadly this isn’t to be, in our experience, buying cheap means buying twice, our ‘1500w’ solar panel from an auction site was tiny and didn’t even pull 15w on a very sunny day. It wouldn’t even charge a phone. After purchasing I saw lousy reviews – so buyer beware and read reviews (and check they are for your item) before you buy.
7.3 Trusted brands with good reviews
If you are looking at buying anything solar-related, and I mean anything, if you don’t know what you are doing, I advise looking at well known brands with trusted reviews. However, it helps to know that there are different systems available.
7.4 High Quality Portable Power Stations – which brands to trust
Portable power stations usually have a built in inverter which takes the power generated from a portable or fixed solar panel (or from mains power) and stores it in the battery. They are an easy solution that doesn’t require much knowledge about off grid power to use.
Many people use a portable power station as a back up in their home or as an alternative to a hook up when camping. It’s usually an easy, all in one unit and can be charged on mains or on solar, so you can either buy with a compatible solar panel to charge ‘free’ or just keep them mains charged and use as needed.
Well known brands include Jackery, EcoFlow, Bluetti (PowerOak) and Goal Zero and all of these brands have their merits, they are tried and tested rugged units that perform well and have been well tested in the field by full time caravan and RV owners. If you can stretch to one with a lithium-ion type battery, it normally performs better.
My personal favourite is EcoFlow, because their units have the fastest charging times by quite some margin – but all these brands are trusted and you won’t be disappointed with any of them.
We loved our first River Pro so much we are finding our collection growing fast! We have now bought all of the EcoFlow River models and love them – we bought them so we have energy security, but can’t wait to take them camping in 2023! You can find the Ecoflow website here: EcoFlow Portable Power Station – EcoFlow UK
We were able to charge our first one – the River Pro in about 1 hour 15 mins on the mains, and it took about 3 and a half hours on EcoFlow’s 160w solar panel on a sunny day. (It doesn’t matter if it’s cold but cloud will significantly impair solar charging times). It was our first buy and holds the charge very well.
We’ve tested what it can power in the event of a power cut – very easy to do because the app will tell you approximately how long you have left: 2 x 32″ monitors, a laptop and the wifi router will get around 7 hours continuous usage on the River Pro, losing one of the monitors improves this to 15 hours – and losing both and just using the laptop will give us a few days!
It’s easy to see where your power goes with the app, and owning the River Pro has made us far more energy conscious generally!
While working is important to us, we’ve also bought a River 2 (for around £240 on a black friday deal) to keep the lights on for a few hours, and a River Max (priced at £449) so we can power an electric blanket and TV for a few hours in our bedroom too – but this is our newest model and we haven’t tested it yet. Unfortunately electric heaters and cookers will eat into your battery in less than half an hour, so an electric blanket on medium setting is a better alternative.
For long term in-home usage, or more powerful appliances, Ecoflow’s Delta range is much praised and we’ll be looking to get more powerful panels and at least one Delta Pro next year – but we’ll have to save a while first! Long term, our goal, despite renting, is to become energy independent in the Summer months, and Ecoflow is part of our strategy to do this. Once we are off the grid, we won’t be dependent on anyone else to keep us powered.
Prep ahead: If you buy a portable power station, test what your device can power when you AREN’T in an emergency situation. This will ensure you are aware of usage and can plan accordingly – and make sure you keep your device charged. Remember, if it’s flat, it’s not a back up!
Your biggest asset in any emergency situation is being prepared – so we hope the above has got you thinking.
While all the above will be excellent in helping you stay warm and comfortable in an emergency, make sure you have these items stored in an accessible place and practice finding them in the dark – because you never know when the power will fail.
Our hope is that the threatened outages won’t happen – but at least if they do, campers will have the upper hand in getting through them!
Image credits: all images are from manufacturers/websites linked in the text. Header image from Depositphotos.com
All of these products are owned by us and we haven’t been sponsored to recommend them.