Van Living and Portable Power Banks, a Love Story

vanlife rv life digital nomad portable power banks

I’m just going to come right out and say it, I am not a huge fan of spending money.

In fact, I hate it.

So when it came time to outfit the electrical system in our van, we kept it really simple. While some VanLifers go with big expensive solar set ups, we survive with a small house battery and inverter.

It does everything we need it to do without a ton of cash involved.

Cut jumper cables for van inverter
Felt cute, might cut up some jumper cables for my inverter later, idk…

Our 52 ah battery is enough to provide us with heat, fans, lights, and the electrical on our 3 way fridge for two whole days.

Not too shabby for a battery that cost us less than 100 bucks!

Portable Power Banks Are A Van, RV, and Digital Nomad Must Have

Of course, there are other things that we want to have charged that aren’t essentials.

Things like our computers, Dusty’s beloved Nintendo Switch, and our cell phones need juice, but they aren’t important enough to drain our main house power when we’re living off the grid for days at a time.

night time photography sparklers
When he’s not playing with sparklers, this dude Nintendos!

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When push comes to shove, I’ll choose heat over Dusty’s Switch every time.

This is where portable power banks come into play. 

For the longest time we have been using our Goal Zero 400 backup battery as our main source of “entertainment” power. It powers our T.V., the aforementioned Switch, the phones, and our computers.

And at 400 watts, that sucker lasts for DAYS.

But there are two big drawbacks on this battery. Number one, is the cost. I explained in my 11 Things You Need For VanLife post that the only way I felt good about purchasing something that expensive was if I got it from REI because of their end of year dividends. At the time it was a whopping $500 smackaroos, so getting that nice little check from REI the following year was fantastic.

The second big drawback is the sheer size of it. At almost 30 lbs, this thing is an absolute beast! It’s certainly not something you can just pop into your backpack when you go on a hike unless you are my personal hero, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

goal zero back up battery
I would have taken it down to photograph, but my arms are so weak…

Which is why I recently went in search of something smaller and much, much cheaper.

Back in May I purchased an Anker Powercore 20000, and boy is it cool. Click here for current pricing on Amazon.

At 13 oz and just under 7″ long, I can easily pop it into my backpack and take it wherever I need to go.

According to the specs on Amazon it will charge a new iPhone 4.2 times, a Samsung S10 4.5 times, and a Macbook Pro 2016 1.2 times with it’s one standard USB port, and 1 USB-C.

I am not a fancy phone person by any means, but my Macbook Pro is my life. And I need it to have a charge so I can record my audiobooks in remote locations.

Also, I spend entirely too much time on my phone perusing Reddit.

I decided to invest in this sucker not only for living in my van, but also because I’ve been traveling international recently.

That’s right! Look out world, Sparky is coming for ya!

We started out in Peru, but in a few days we will be heading to Chile to see the Solar Eclipse.

How do we afford this lavish lifestyle? Because we live in a van down by the river!


Anker Portable Power Bank
Sleek AND Sexy

Power Bank Issues and Glitches

Now, I’m not going to say the Anker power bank has been the answer to all of my hopes and dreams.

In fact, far from it.

This device worked amazing for the first two weeks I used it. It was only in the beginning of week 3 that it went to shit. You see, the USB-C port technology is new to small battery devices and I just don’t think they have worked all the kinks out.

There are other Anker batteries out there that only use the standard USB ports, and they are far and away the best portable power banks on the market. It’s only once the USB-C was introduced that they seemed to take a minor hit in the quality department.

I wanted to LOVE this little battery so much, but that damn port didn’t want to work for me. The other USB port however, works great! I’m able to charge my phone, my camera battery, and Dusty’s vape pen just fine.

My MacBook, however, is powerless.

I should have known from the reviews that this could be an issue, but I thought what every person thinks, “But it won’t happen to me..” and yet here I sit in a Peruvian hostel with a 13 oz paperweight that I can’t return for another 3 months.

Luckily the Anker customer service is AMAZING. Reading through reviews on Amazon actually warmed my heart a little at the lengths they seem to go through to make sure their customers are happy.

If I was in the U.S. and this failed, I would still be 100% happy with it because of their customer service alone.

Should You Buy a Power Bank For Your VanLife?

Hell yeah!

While my device wasn’t perfect, I am absolutely impressed with the amount of battery life they are packing into these tiny little boxes. And I didn’t even know that something like this existed until I was packing for my trip to South America.

For less than a hundred bucks you can get something that will keep your phone, tablet, or computer charged for days.

For those of us on the road, that’s a deal that can’t be beat.

Pisco sours
Let’s be real, I’m only here for the free Pisco Sours