If you’ve been debating buying a portable power station, let me help you out: get it. Odds are, there’s a reason you would be thinking about it. With power outages becoming more frequent due to extreme weather events, the never ending list of electronics to keep charged, and the greater accessibility of medical devices that need uninterrupted power, having a portable power supply is getting to be less of a luxury and more of an essential item.
When BLUETTI contacted me to review the BLUETTI EB3A Power Station, I jumped at the chance. The timing was impeccable as we were getting ready to leave for a road trip about a week(ish) long. This was our first trip of the year and we were going to be boondocking the entire time. That meant no power hook-ups so we had to be completely self-supported. That became even easier with a camping power supply to test.
For this trip, I was bringing my laptop, camera, action camera, and phone as well as my 12V cooler should I find anything that needed to be cooled. All of these devices would be used to put the charging capabilities of this unit to the test.
Disclaimer: while BLUETTI did provide me with an EB3A Power Station to test, they had no input in this review and all opinions are my own.
How did the BLUETTI EB3A Power Station fare? And what happens when you pair it up with a set of solar panels?
We got the opportunity to add a set of PV200 solar panels to our kit shortly after.
Stay tuned for how they worked together.
But first, the specs and details according to the BLUETTI website:
EB3A Portable Power Station
183 mm h x 180 mm w x 255mm l / 7.2” h x 7.09” w x 10.04” l
4.6 kg / 10.14 lb
600 W Pure Sine Wave Inverter (1,200 W surge)
430W Max. Fast Dual Charging (Solar + AC)
LiFePO4 Battery with 2,500+ Life Cycles to 80%
6 ways to recharge (AC/Solar/Car/Generator/AC+Solar/AC+Adapter)
9 Outputs for charging multiple devices at once
Smart Control & Monitor in BLUETTI App
200W Max. Solar Input
24/7 UPS (unlimited power supply)
What it will power and charge:
What comes in the box:
EB3A power station
AC Charging Cable
Solar Charging Cable
I have included photos of the deep-cell marine battery that came with the trailer next to the BLUETTI EB3A for comparison.
PV200 Solar Panels
Folded - 590 mm h x 630 mm l / 23.2" h x 24.8" l
Unfolded - 590 mm h x 2265 mm l / 23.2" h x 89.2" l
7.3 kg / 16.1 lbs
Power: 200 W
Lamination: ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene)
Cell Type: Monocrystalline Silicon
Cell Efficiency: Up to 23.4%
Voltage at Max Power(Vmp): 20.5V
Current at Max Power(Imp): 9.7A
Open Circuit Voltage(OCV): 26.1V
Short Circuit Current(Isc): 10.3A
Operating Temperature: -10 - 65℃ (14-149℉)
Best Working Temperature: 25℃ (77℉)
Cable Length: 118in (3m)
Certifications: FCC, CE, ROHS
What comes in the box:
I’ll be honest: I don’t know what all those specs mean. I’m not a tech person; I’m a “bash things up and press all the buttons to see what happens” person. While there are many reasons why a person would seek out a battery charger and portable solar panels, I was focusing on its use as a portable power station for camping.
The first thing I noticed was how light the power station is. It is smaller than a marine deep-cell battery but is disproportionately lighter. The handle folds down flat, making it a compact unit. There are four rubber feet on the bottom to reduce slipping.
The user manual is almost a non-issue for the most part. I’m not saying don’t read the manual (always read the manual) but you don’t have to keep it in your pocket in order to figure out how to work this device. That’s how user friendly this power station is.
The different outputs and inputs have a line around each group and a separate power button to control each set of outputs and the light. Make sure you’re not looking at the light when you push that button because it is retina-searing bright. If you make that mistake once you won’t make it again.
The first time I plugged it in to charge, I noticed that there was a slight odour of burning plastic. The only time that I heard the fan was when it was charging. I wasn’t bothered by the sound but I also have a lot of background noise from multiple sets of dog feet and a snoring Boston Terrier.
I have discharged the power station several times and then charged it fully using the AC charging cable. Every time I have charged the unit, it was done in roughly 63 minutes. I thought that was a great time.
Hooking up the solar panels to the EB3A was super easy to figure out. The cable is contained in a double-zippered pouch on the back. The foldable solar panel has a red cable and black cable and the EB3A power station came with a compatible cable, also red and black. It is literally that easy. The MC4 connectors can only be connected to the proper cable and the barrel plug (or to use the correct term, the DC7909 plug) has one input on the front of the power station.
There are three legs that fold out from the Bluetti solar panels. The angle can be changed using a snap and strap and the degrees are marked out (45 +/- 5). There is a fourth snap to just barely open the legs. When not in use, they fasten down with a patch of velcro.
Once the panels are folded, two clips near the handle keeps the entire unit closed and secure.
Field Testing the BLUETTI EB3A
This is far more than a portable phone charger. The small size makes this a great power supply for camping, even with limited car space available. I was able to easily fit this among the rest of my camping gear and the sleek design makes it simple to slide in and out of the car without catching on anything else. Rounded corners also get bonus points from me because it makes it easier to wiggle in between other items and I'm less likely to hit a corner. I prefer the dark grey colour as it keeps from drawing attention to itself. I don’t want to advertise to everyone what I have in my car.
During the course of the trip, I used it to charge my phone, camera batteries, and cooler. The biggest drain on the power station was the cooler by far. It seemed as though it barely noticed the camera batteries. Not to mention the fact that I’ve gotten spoiled by the wireless charging pad on top. Who hasn’t had to scramble to look for a phone charging cable? Having all of the ports on the front (except the charging pad which was on top) means that everything is easily accessible. There was no need to worry about having enough space or moving it to plug something in. I did notice that it takes a few seconds before it registers a new device has been plugged in, especially when using the USB plugs.
I had the opportunity to get my hands on a set of BLUETTI PV120 120W solar panels and was able to test it as a solar generator as well. My trailer came with a small panel and deep-cell marine battery but I’ve never used it because of poor design. Being able to maneuver the portable solar panels is a huge benefit and makes it easy to maximize the charging capabilities. It’s hard to quantify effectiveness since I can’t measure sunlight as easily as timing an AC charge. See more about the larger 200 watt panels we tested below.
I tried to keep the power unit on solid ground or stable surfaces for a few reasons. We stayed in one campsite that was littered with super-dry leaves and I had a (maybe slightly) irrational idea that it may throw off enough heat to ignite the leaves. We ended up moving from that site because of ticks and the mere thought of ticks climbing inside still makes me shudder. Because of the dogs, especially because boy dogs do what boy dogs do, I made sure that it was out of range of their long lines. I also kept it out of the paths around the sites so that I wouldn't kick it or knock it over. I've been called many things and graceful is not one of them. But since it is so small, it's easy to find places where it can be safely out of the way.
One thing that I LOVED was that it was completely silent. There were RV’s around us at a few campsites and it seemed like the sound of the gas and diesel generators was a constant hum. Call me crazy but I really like listening to nature when I'm camping. With the soaring price of fuel, not having to keep a generator topped up is a definite bonus. The ability to charge all of my devices overnight while I slept is a huge advantage as long as it was in the car with lots of space around it and windows cracked. I didn't end up doing that but it is an option that may be available.
There is one more aspect to it that I will hopefully never have to test. Given how small and light the power station is, it could potentially be used as a defensive weapon, be it against a dog, a person, or even a bear. Low on my list of things to try but when you're on your own, it's good to know what options you have.
Overall as a camping power supply, it performed exceptionally well.
Testing the PV200 Solar Panels
The 200 watt solar panels were exceptionally easy to figure out and the adjustable legs made it very easy to move for maximum sun. While it was difficult to get a consistent charge time due to changing weather and a bad case of haze from wildfires, the best time to charge the power station was just over two hours.
The legs did seem a bit flimsy and unsteady on uneven ground, but for most places that would not be a huge problem. Portable solar panels for camping will often be on more level ground than my yard, which says a lot about my yard.
The biggest problem that I think may impact their use as camping solar panels would be the weight. These may be awkward for some people because of issues with their hands or underlying joint or physical issues. Having said that, because they are in different sections, a person could lift one side into a car and then fold them one at a time if they needed to.
I've also seen some people complain that they are not waterproof. I'm not sure why that is a problem because you aren't going to get maximum sun in a rain storm. If the idea is to set them up and then go hiking for the day, the sun is going to quickly move and they are going to lose efficiency very quickly. I had to adjust them after about an hour. Not to mention that they are so light, I wouldn't want to leave them outside unattended because they could get stolen way too easily.
I kept the EB3A tucked in behind the solar panels to both protect it from being kicked and keep it as cool as I could in the shady patch behind it. The two zippers for the pouch means that you can prevent extra cable from hanging out and is another tripping hazard.
There are no sharp edges which means that you could potentially put the panels on your vehicle if you were careful. I think that the sharpest part would be the zippers and even those have rounded edges.
The handle seems to be quite secure with no give or looseness.
The BLUETTI App
While there is an app for the BLUETTI EB3A Power Station, I never found a need for it. It uses Bluetooth so you have to be close enough to maintain connectivity. We were in some pretty remote dead zones and the Bluetooth for my phone is finicky in those kinds of situations, so I’m just used to not using it. I’m actually quite glad that you don’t need the app for any functions related to the power station.
Summary and Final Thoughts
I think that overall this is a great product when you need a portable power supply that is compact, easy to transport, and quick to charge. When you add the solar panels, you have a fantastic and almost never-ending source of off-grid power.
Bluetti EB3A Portable Power Station
All outlets can be accessed from the front or top (for the charging pad)
Silent (I cannot stress how nice this was)
Light to carry
Compact and sleek design with rounded edges
Easy to use, intuitive design
Nine outputs (can charge pretty much everything)
Super bright light (high, low, and strobe)
No need for gas
Burning plastic smell when charging (it has gotten less noticeable with each charge)
The fan noise while charging
Limited use for coolers. I do realize that this is more of an issue with the cooler than with the power station but if you're looking to keep your food and drinks cold for an entire trip, it will not be able to do that on battery power alone.
Bluetti PV200 Solar Panels
Sturdy handle and clips
Adjustable and easy to secure legs
Can charge devices while charging the power station
Legs may seem flimsy
This power station excels for car camping, front country camping, for use on RV's, boats, and visits to hunt camps.
I think that this would be too large and awkward for a multi-day backpacking trip through the backcountry. However, at 10 lbs it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the power station could be carried for short hike-in sites. These solar panels would not be a good choice for backpacking given the weight and size.
It would be an asset during power outages to keep devices charged and everybody entertained; especially if there are little ones in the family. It can also be scary for children if they don’t understand why the lights are out. Keeping them occupied can help to alleviate the anxiety and keeping devices charged is far better in the long run than having the TV playing.
In fact, I would go so far as to say anyone with children could benefit from a portable charging station. Between the dependence on electronic devices for school and entertainment, it can be a huge benefit to be able to charge anywhere. I will say that it is nice to be able to sit outside on a laptop and not be glued to a wall socket too. The solar panels are a nice extra if you are anticipating long days with no power but at the very least, the power station is an asset.
Any kind of medical device that requires power to function or charge. While it may not last as long as other power stations, the smaller size and light weight does give it an advantage in the event of evacuations when you have limited space and cargo capacity.
Overall, I love the BLUETTI EB3A Power Station, not only as a valuable part of my camping gear but also as an important part of a sustainable lifestyle and are perfect for anyone who wants to go solar.