Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the Strategist in October 2018, and over two years later, it remains an example of a product that does what it’s supposed to do — exceptionally well. So we’re republishing it today as part of Ingenious Design Week.
My first reaction to the River solar generator was skepticism. About the size and weight of a 12-pack of beer, the River claimed to be able to run 11 full-size electrical devices at the same time. Having used lots of charging products over the years, including solar backpacks, hand-crank chargers, and battery packs, I didn’t believe it. How could it outperform so much hardware that it wasn’t much bigger than?
So I put it to the test. I plugged in my paper shredder, switched it on, and sent a piece of paper toward the blades. Next I connected my phone, which of course immediately began to charge, then shredded more. No drop off of function. I plugged in my MacBook, a speaker, and charged a smaller battery pack, just for good measure, and still the River’s output was completely steady.
In one swoop, the EcoFlow River rendered all of the battery packs I usually bring camping obsolete. I typically lug all manner of chargers — a bunch of little guys for phones, a slightly bigger one for larger devices, plus a generator in case of a storm. But the River takes the place of all those. Once charged, it can hold its juice for a year, allowing it to charge the average phone 30 or more times, or keep a mini-fridge humming for more than ten hours. Under the right conditions, you can even fully charge it with a 50-watt solar panel in 10 to 15 hours — or just use a car’s DC battery or wall outlet, which would take six. It’s not as powerful as a gas generator, but those are noisy and can’t be used indoors (for obvious reasons).
All of the River’s 11 outlets — two AC ports, four USB ports, two Type-C ports, two DC 12V ports, and a vehicle 12V output — can also be used at the same time. That means you can connect two phones, two tablets, two laptops, a small lamp, a battery pack, a projector, a speaker, and a camera all at the same time. And while you can’t use it to run power-hungry devices like a large fridge, an electric hybrid car, or a hair dryer (which actually runs above 500W), it’s about the only thing I’m ever going to need for camping or outdoor parties (and less fun stuff like blackouts and hurricane season).
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