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(The Gear Loop) - Let’s get a few facts and figures out of the way first. The EcoFlow River can charge a smartphone 11 times, top up a MacBook Air’s battery five times and boil an electric kettle for almost half an hour… continuously. That's a lot of tea.

You might be thinking: "that’s all well and good, but what’s the point in dragging a 5kg box around with me?" and to that we retort, "have you ever been on a camping holiday with kids or teenagers?"

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The Gear LoopEcoFlow River review photo 1

Venturing off-grid for several days awithout access to power can be a drain, both physically and mentally, as friends and family squabble over the scarce USB outlets in a car when on the road or are forced to ration evening time on the laptop due to rapidly demising battery reserves.

The EcoFlow River combats this by acting as a portable power station that is not only charged up itself in an impressive time (under an hour) but then holds a full charge for up to a year, before delivering its 288Wh to pretty much any device you can think of seamlessly and easily.

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It features all of the cooling and safety functionality to prevent any surging and packs numerous outlets, allowing an entire group to make the most of its power delivery simultaneously.

Our quick take

We didn’t think we would get particularly excited about a portable power station, but the EcoFlow River is a fantastic piece of design that is very simple to use and comes in handy when venturing off-grid.

At 5kg, it’s far too heavy to consider taking on a proper expedition or thru-hike, but we’d argue it’s worth every penny if travelling by car, motorcycle or e-bike (at a push), as it offers a solid glut of power for a multitude of devices. 

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The integrated carry handle is sleek, while the screen at the front is crisp and easy to read. Users can go the extra mile and download a smartphone app for full control, but we rarely found the use for this.

What’s more, the the modular design of River means you can effectively double the battery capacity by bolting on an additional unit that takes it from from 288Wh to 576Wh. 

For anyone thinking of embarking on that #vanlife experience, it could be a much simpler and infinitely more portable system than fitting an inverter, a leisure battery and the electrical gubbins to make it all work. When paired with a cigarette lighter or, better still, solar panels, it’s arguably all the battery most will need, so long as you aren’t powering fridges and other power-sapping appliances for long periods of time. 

Check the UK's official supplier of EcoFlow units for more information here.

EcoFlow River review: a powerful box of tricks

EcoFlow River

5 stars - The Gear Loop editors choice
For
  • Compact design
  • Easy to read screen
  • Simple to use and charge
  • Powerful enough for most
Against
  • It weighs 5kg
  • Won't power fridges and things for long
  • Torch isn't great

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In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the EcoFlow River

  • A 288Wh portable power pack that can be effectivley doubled with additional battery
  • Can charge up to nine devices and appliances
  • Boasts a crisp and easy to read display
  • River accepts charge from AC wall socket, solar panels or 12V cigarette lighter
  • Control it via an app for remote on/off
  • Weighs 5kg but easy to carry
  • USB-C, USB-A, 12V and AC outlets
  • Box comeswith all leads and easy start guide

Who is in charge here?

The EcoFlow River is really about as simple as things get, packaged in such a way that everything you need to get started is immediately available and, better still, really bloody obvious.

There’s a kettle-style cable for plugging it into the wall, where it will ingest electricity like a hungry hippo. There’s a gentle whoosh as the fans do their bit to keep systems cooled, while the sharp digital display gives a read-out of remaining charge time and charge levels.

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The side of the box that deals with all the inputs is clearly marked and the package comes with an AC charging cable, a clever lead for attaching solar panels (more on that later) and a car charging lead that plugs into the standard 12V cigarette lighter socket. 

The latter allows you to effectively trickle charge the EcoFlow River as you travel to a destination, while the solar panel leads allow users to harness the power of the sun by linking up to two 110W solar panels. From here, a full charge takes anywhere between an hour and a half and three hours, depending on how sunny it is, obvs.

The Gear LoopEcoFlow River review photo 5

Easy does it

Interacting with the River is also a very simple affair, with all the outlets at the front of the unit clearly marked. Here, you’ll find USB-C at 100W, two USB-A slots and a fast charge USB-A outlet. You’ll also find a 12V cigarette lighter outlet, should you have things like pumps for air beds to run.

The AC outlets hang out around the side of the unit and these are activated by pressing a small button. Once fired up, you’ll be able to run 10W lights for 25 hours, run a fridge for up to three hours and even boil a kettle, like we did here, multiple times.

The Gear LoopEcoFlow River review photo 6

Of course, running AC appliances probably isn’t the best use of the innovative block, but we were suitably impressed at how it handled a little, and arguably very inefficient, travel kettle. We boiled it three times for various cups of tea and still had 70 per cent battery left to top up phones, laptops and a flagging Garmin adventure watch.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have any solar panels to hand (and we were in Wales where the sun hasn't been invented yet), but we can imagine receiving even the faintest charge from these when set-up at basecamp will add a huge amount to power reserves, especially over the duration of longer camping trips.

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What’s more, we found that plugging the River into the car’s 12V lighter socket when travelling (it might drain the vehicle’s battery if you do it when parked up) added a considerable charge and improved the usefulness massively. It's light enough to throw in a footwell or pop in a passenger seat.

Feature packed

If you want to get really fancy with the River, it’s possible to download an EcoFlow app and pair the unit to a smartphone. From here, you can check things like remaining charge and current energy usage, but it also allows you to control outlets remotely.

The Gear LoopEcoFlow River review photo 3

There are several use cases, but plugging lights into one of the outlets seems like an obvious one, as you’re then able to switch them on and off from wherever you are in camp.

Finally, there’s a small torch on the front of the River too. It’s perfectly fine and boasts a few different illumination modes, but it’s not particularly bright. Plus, with the River weighing 5kg, it’s not like you want to walk around a campsite with it either. Probably best to recharge the battery packs of a head torch with it instead.

The Gear LoopEcoFlow River review photo 14

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To recap

This 288Wh portable power pack makes a fantastic companion to any trip off-grid, as it can power up to nine devices from a variety of outlets. Fast charging USB-C outlets top up phones and other devices in minutes, while EcoFlow’s own X-Stream technology means the unit itself takes less than an hour to charge from 0 per cent to 80 per cent from an AC wall outlet. Alternatively, it takes solar power inputs and even runs some home appliances thanks to the proprietary X-Boost technology.

Writing by Leon Poultney.