The EcoFlow Tech River: Portable power wherever you need it

Keeping all your tech charged can be a neverending struggle, which is why portable charging accessories come in all shapes and sizes. A battery pack that's compact enough to throw in your backpack is a great personal accessory, but sometimes you need something a little more substantial.

The EcoFlow Tech River is a stylish looking mobile power station that houses an impressive 412Wh battery (equivalent to 114,000mAh) with 11 output sources that should basically let you charge any electronic device you own. What's more, it's got a DC/AC inverter that gives you two outlets for plugging in other electronics or smaller appliances like lamps or fans. There's even an optional solar panel to keep the River charged while camping.

I've spent a good amount of time using the EcoFlow Tech River as a mobile source of power around the home as well as testing it out in the "real world". I'm impressed by its versatility, build quality, and ease of use, but it'll also set you back about as much as that smartphone you'll likely be using the River to charge.

What sets the EcoFlow Tech River apart from the rest?

Beefy power stations like this are nothing new. In fact, EcoFlow Tech kind of has an uphill battle to win over consumers as an upstart company in a competitive space, with the Anker Powerhouse and Goal Zero Yeti offering similar off-the-grid power solutions at a lower price.

But the EcoFlow Tech River does a lot of things better than the competition and it starts with the design. Whereas most portable power stations look utilitarian — like a car battery with some outlets on the front — the EcoFlow Tech River stands out with a design that flows from front to back. The majority of ports are located on the front, below the LCD display that's bright enough to read in direct sunlight. The AC outlets and 12V port are located on the back along with the recharging port. It weighs in at just over 11 lbs. but doesn't feel cumbersome to lug around thanks to the curved, built-in carrying handle.

No matter which phone or cables you have on you, you should be able to find an orientation that'll charge your phone.

Beyond the look and feel of the EcoFlow Tech River, you're simply not going to find a more adaptable power station when it comes to charging smartphones. Among the six USB ports on the front, you get two standard 5V/2A ports, two Quick Charge compatible ports, and two USB-C ports. No matter which phone or cables you have on you, you should be able to find an orientation that'll charge your phone. Got five friends who all want to charge their phones at the same time? The River can handle that with ease — I was able to fully charge five devices simultaneously. There are also two 12V DC outputs up front which I didn't test but presumably would be used for connecting other devices, and EcoFlow Tech included a handful of adapters for powering different devices.

With its output maxed out at 500W, you won't be able to use the River to power anything that uses a heating coil, like an electric kettle, hairdryer, or heat dish. Nor can it be used to jumpstart a car or anything like that. However, it's still significantly more powerful than it's top competitors and in turn will allow you to power more of your devices simultaneously if you please. It also has a "smart" system that automatically adjusts power output to each specific device's wattage, regulates temperature so devices don't shut down, and connects individually to each output port to avoid a surge affecting your connected devices.

When it comes time to charge the EcoFlow Tech River itself you've got options. You can use the included wall charger get a full charge in about six hours, use the included car charger and top up in roughly nine hours if you're on a road trip, or opt to buy the solar panel add-on and charge wherever you are in 10 to 15 hours — weather permitting, of course.

Real-world testing

With a portable power station as versatile as this at my disposal, I knew there was no better way to test it than to take it out into the wilderness on a short camping trip and do my best to drain the River — especially after watching some of the promotional media for the River.

So that's what I did. I booked an unserviced campsite and invited some friends out with the goal of using the EcoFlow Tech River to power all the fun. Beyond using the EcoFlow Tech River to ensure that everyone kept their phones charged, we used it wherever possible — the 12V port was used with an electric air mattress pump for its designed purpose, but also later in the night when rain was threatening to douse our campfire, it came through as a surprisingly effective makeshift bellows for keeping the fire stoked. We also used one of the AC outlets to power a string of LED Christmas lights that provided much needed ambient lighting throughout the night that put barely a dent in the River's battery except for the power drawn for the AC inverter.

For all the fun you can have with this power station, it may also serve as a crucial piece of tech for your and your family in an emergency situation.

Easily my favorite test for the EcoFlow Tech River was plugging in and rocking out on an electric guitar in the middle of a forest. I think I fell in love with the EcoFlow Tech River the moment I struck that first chord and heard the echo carrying over the treetops. It was cool to watch the power usage spike on the display the louder and faster I played. Eventually, out of respect for our camping neighbors, we retired the electric in favor of an acoustic guitar, but EcoFlow Tech claims we could have jammed out for up to 20 hours and that's music to my ears.

Now it was all fun and games for my time testing the EcoFlow Tech River, but the whole while I was having fun I also tried to keep in mind how practical this device would be as part of an emergency preparation kit. EcoFlow Tech says that the River will keep a positive charge stored for up to a full year, which means it will be ready in cases where the power goes out, or it's something you could throw into the trunk of your car long road trip. For all the fun you can have with this power station, it may also serve as a crucial piece of tech for your and your family in an emergency situation. That can be a huge selling featured if you live in a part of the world that occasionally gets slammed by tropical storms or other natural disasters.

Is it worth buying?

The EcoFlow Tech River looks slick and is incredibly useful for both practical and impractical purposes, but how much is this thing going to cost? If you were fortunate enough to back EcoFlow Tech during their Kickstarter campaign, you could have snagged a unit for under $500. At that price, it would be an easy recommendation to make

The crowdfunding window has passed, however, leaving the rest of us to pay the full retail price of $650 for the EcoFlow Tech River — and that's before considering the optional 50W or 21W solar chargers, or the IP63 certified carrying case that's water resistant, dustproof, and shockproof. It's a steep price to pay, but in return, you get a very intelligently designed power station with more ports than you'll know what to do with.

Whether you're looking to boost your next camping trip with portable power or want it for your emergency preparation kit, the EcoFlow Tech River will serve you well.

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Marc Lagace

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.