The Best Portable Solar Generators/Power Stations


Good at Many Things, Great at None
Known by various names — portable solar generators, portable power stations, portable generators, power banks — these devices feature impressive versatility and act as super-high capacity multi-functional power banks. In addition to a regular AC power outlet, they are chargeable from solar panels (where the term “solar generator” comes from) and car cigarette sockets. Many have pass-through charging capability (capable of charging and supplying power simultaneously) and come with USB ports, flashlight lamps, and sometimes even cables for jump-starting a drained car battery. Although these products are ideal for power outages or camping trips, they cannot fully replace the gas generator due to their need for recharging.

Still, these are not “generators” in the true sense of the word —  they are simply large power banks that can be charged various ways (solar panel, car cigarette outlet, AC wall outlet). That’s why our preferred name for them is “portable power stations”, a name that suggests they are one rank in size above power banks, which are primarily intended for mobile devices.

Our Picks
Best for Most:
300W rated (330W peak) power output. 222Wh power capacity. USB x 3 and USB-C x 1. Two AC outlets. Will power most everyday electronics.

Pros
  • High power capacity and output for its weight
  • Includes LED light
Cons
  • Cannot run high-power devices above 300W (330W peak)
Upgrade Pick:
1600W max. power rated for running even high power devices. 768Wh power capacity. USB x 3 and USB-C x 1. Four AC outlets. Quick charging (70 min).

Pros
  • 1600W extremely high power output for running virtually all devices
  • Quick charge function (70 min)
  • Four AC outlets
Cons
  • App required to update firmware
For Low-power Needs:
150W rated (300W peak) power output. 2 (two-prong) outlets. 194 Wh capacity. USB x 2 and USB-C x 1.
Cannot power all electronic devices — Intended for low-power devices up to 150W.

Pros
  • Compact and lightweight power station
  • Includes LED light
Cons
  • Two-prong outlets — you can’t plug in your three-prong devices
  • Cannot run high-power devices above 150W (300W peak)

Contenders
Although it was not a top pick, Jackery, the top seller of portable power stations, offers a full line of reliable, highly-rated portable power stations. In our judgement, our picks offer higher cost performance, but if you want more choices, Jackery’s lineup is still worth checking out!
Dengawa is also a newcomer to this field, but they have an impressive power station that can sometimes be grabbed for a great price when it’s on sale.
Selecting the Best Portable Power Station
First, decide how many watt-hours (Wh) you’ll need and can afford (see the section below).
Next, decide what devices you’ll need to power and add the total estimated wattage (to get the maximum output (W)).
Then, take into consideration the size, weight (portability), and other features (USB ports, flashlight, solar panel voltage input range, etc.).

How Long Will My Devices Run? Calculating with Wh
Portable power stations express their capacity as watt-hours (Wh), where 1 Wh means that 1 watt is used for 1 hour.
Because about 10% to 15% of power is lost during power conversion, which is normal for all power stations, use the following formula to calculate how long a selected power station will run your device.
(Power capacity of power bank (Wh)) x 0.85 / (Device wattage (W))
And so, if your device is averaging 60 W usage, for the 250 Wh power station above, we get 250 Wh x 0.85 / 60 W= 3.54  hours.

Notebook computers can vary widely between 25W and 230W (power-hungry gaming machines) and more. Tablets and cell phones typically use 3W to 6W.
Refer to this page for the wattage of typical household appliances, or you can use the Kill a Watt electricity usage monitor to measure your actual usage patterns at home to better plan for what to use in an outage.
Don’t be foolish and plug in a power-hungry heating device. Assuming even that the auto power-off function of the portable power station is not activated, you could use up your stored power in less than an hour. For example, a typical electrical blanket at 200 W would use the power of the 300 Wh generator in only 1.275 hours (300 x 0.85 /200). Then, the generator would need to be recharged (taking about 7 hours usually), but if it has pass-through capability, you can still use it while charging.

Not a Replacement for Gasoline Generators
But don’t get rid of your gasoline generator yet! These portable power stations CANNOT fully replace a gasoline generator.
A full gas generator can run at least TWO to THREE times longer than the highest capacity power station below. Plus, it can be recharged (= refilled with gas) in minutes, compared to 7-8 hours for the power station. To see what we mean, let’s compare the Honda EU1000i (model with inverter for providing safe power to your electronics) with the high-end Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000 from the top seller of outdoor portable power stations.

Gas Generator vs. Portable Power Station
Honda EU1000i gas generator
Maximum Power Output
1000W
1000 W continuous,
2000 W peak
Run Time
2490 Wh based on:
5 hrs at 1/2 load (4.15A) on 0.5 gal of gas
1002 Wh
Advantages
  • Can provide nearly continuous operation of high-load appliances such as refrigerators (max. 8.3A) with breaks for refueling only.
  • If gasoline is readily available, it is quick and easy to “recharge” (=refill) this generator compared to the 7 hours needed to recharge the portable power station
  • Inverter provides stable power supply for sensitive electronic devices
  • Extremely low noise (sometimes slight buzzing or fan sound)
  • Lightweight (only 22.0 lb vs. 46.5 lb dry weight of gas generator)
  • No worries about gasoline spoiling, oil changes, and other maintenance
  • Can be used inside the home, whereas the Honda gas generator MUST be used outside due to danger of carbon monoxide poisoning

As you can see, with a half-gallon of gas, the Honda EU1000i Gas Generator provides (120V outlet) total supplied power of 2,490 WH (1/2 load), which is about 2.5 times as much power as a fully-charged Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000. The maximum power output of the Honda EU1000i Gas Generator is identical to that of the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000, and this means that means that they can both can run your refrigerator (typically rated 540W), heating appliances (typically 100W or more), and still have capacity to spare.

However, the power station will be out of service for 7 or 8 hours while recharging, but the gas generator can be filled up with gas in a few minutes and used again!

From my experience, portable power stations are convenient for short power outages, but you’ll still need a gas generator for extended power outages. Best of all, combine the two by using multiple portable power stations within the house and then recharging them periodically with the gas generator. (However, if you are considering this option, you may want to consider installing a natural gas generator in your home. Costs typically start at $5,000.)
Remember — although the portable power station can be used inside the home, the gas generator MUST be used outside due to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Charging from Solar Panel and Car Cigarette Outlet
Although charging from solar panels or your car is not ideal, this could be useful for camping or as a backup option.
Most portable power stations have a range of accepted input voltages from solar panels or a recommended voltage. Check that your solar panels match this range and you have the required connector, or better yet, purchase your solar panels from the same manufacturer as your portable power station for ensuring full compatibility and connectivity.
For example, solar panels are available from Egretech and Jackery in addition to their portable power stations.

Pass-Through Function — Not Recommended for Use as Full-time UPS
Although many of these portable power stations have a pass-through function which enables use as a UPS, you’d be foolish to use it as your full-time UPS. For example, the Jackery Portable Power Station and similar models feature 167 WH (watt-hours) of power and have this pass-through function, but for a similar price you can get a UPS like the Tripp Lite 1500VA UPS Battery Pack with about 70 WH. Although this UPS has less WH than the portable generator, it is packed with UPS-specific features such as LCD screen with power monitoring, surge protection, and more. Plus, the battery in a UPS can be replaced (typical lifespan is 2 to 3 years) for about $20-$25, which will save you money in the long run. The batteries in portable power stations CANNOT be replaced, and that’s why these are more suitable for occasional use, instead of the daily charging and draining that would occur as a UPS.

Instead, the pass-through function is best for situations where you need to charge your power station and also draw power at the same time, such as when camping or during an outage when you have access to a single source of power (solar, car, or electric power).

Looking for More Portability?
GreenShift – Page-Building Gutenberg BlocksIf you want something more portable (such as a size that will fit in a backpack, see our analysis of portable external batteries for gaming (high-performance) laptops.

Also, under current TSA regulations, NONE of the power stations featured above would be allowed in carry-on or checked luggage. However, please check the latest regulations before departure.

Endnote: Specifications of Products Features Here
Compact Pick
Best for Most
Upgrade Pick
Honorable Mention
Maximum Power Output
 150W rated,
300W peak
300 W rated,
330W peak
1600W (X-Boost Feature)
1000W rated,
2000W peak
Power Capacity
 194 Wh
222 Wh
768 Wh
1002 Wh
Size (inches)
 8.0 x 3.6 x 7.36
8.25 x 4.7 x 5.8
10.5 x 10.1 x 8.5
13.1 x 9.2 x 11.1
Weight (lb)
 4.03
5.5
17.2
22.04
Charge Time (outlet)
 Less than 4 hr
5 hr
70 min
7-8 hr
Solar Panel Input
Up to 22V
DC 18V-24V
DC
14V-40V/Up to 150W
5 Comments
  1. I popped over here from your other article, “The Best External Power Banks for Gaming Laptops.” I have started streaming bowling matches for my son’s high school bowling team. My setup is a Canon t8i connected to my HP Pavilion Gaming 16a0032dx. I got about an hour out of the internal battery and needed something external to power the laptop for 2-3 hours. I was wondering if the external power bank or a portable power station would give me the best bang for my buck. If so, which power station would you possibly recommend.

  2. Japandude!
    I am not sure if my previous reply posted, but I have an pavilion gaming laptop 16-a0032dx and am using it in combination with a Canon T8I to stream bowling matches for my son’s high school. I ran out of battery approximately an hour into the match and had to search frantically for an outlet. Bowling alleys are notorious for not having great places to plug in, so I have decided I need either a power bank or a power station. I feel I would get better use out of a power station. I would really like it to last about 3-4 hours to power my laptop. The power supply lists the wattage at 200. What do you think or would recommend? Thank you!

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