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Published Oct. 1, 2021

The best portable power stations provide electricity whenever and wherever you need it. Unlike portable generators, they don’t need gasoline, and run virtually silently. Lightweight models can fit in a backpack, providing charge for phones and tablets. Heavy-duty versions can power refrigerators or well-pumps during a power outage.

The advantage generators have is that they will run for as long as the fuel lasts, and can then be refilled (allowing time for cooling) and run again. Portable power packs last anywhere from 2 to 12 hours, but most require at least several hours to recharge. However, even the most compact generator remains comparatively bulky. There is much greater variety among these packs, so the best portable power station for your purposes might well be more mobile and better value.

How we picked the best portable power stations

Methodology

I am a keen outdoors person and while sometimes I like to pack light and go completely off-grid, most of the time I want to charge my phone, use my tablet and run a couple lights. A small portable power pack is ideal, but once I started to investigate in greater depth I found capabilities that were beyond my existing knowledge. I considered dozens of models on the market, comparing everything from connectivity to power output and portability.

I selected a range of models to balance performance with portability and value. The type and number of outlets also impacts these recommendations. Clearly smaller devices may have a limited number of 110V AC connectors, but its important that they are appropriate for the use envisaged.

Portable power stations need fairly regular charging so I looked at their versatility. While all can be charged from a standard household outlet, having other options can be a definite benefit. Most portable power packs are very reliable but it’s not always the case. I researched feedback from actual buyers to assess which models didn’t come up to expectations.

The Best Portable Power Station: Reviews & Recommendations

Best portable power station overall: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 500, 518Wh

Great versatility and portability

Jackery portable power stations are a highly durable and reliable choice. Jackery

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Why It made the cut: The Jackery Explorer 500 is a robust unit that strikes an excellent balance between performance and portability, giving it a wide range of applications both outdoors and at home.

Specs:

  • Maximum watts: 1,000W peak, 500W running
  • Watt hours: 518
  • Outlets: 1 x 110V AC, 2 x 12V DC, 3 x USB

Pros:

  • Good range of outlets
  • AC, DC, or solar charging
  • Pass-through charging

Cons:

  • A little heavy at 13.3 pounds
  • Optional solar panel is expensive

Jackery produces a range of power stations that are popular for their durability and affordability. The Explorer 500 is roughly the size of a portable cooler but it offers tons of charging options so users can power everything from mobile phones and laptops, to a mini-fridge, TV, or CPAP unit. You can plug into the AC outlet, the car lighter-style port, two DC sockets, or one of the three USB charging ports. In total, it can hold enough charge to power your phone all the way up more than 50 times.

The Jackery Explorer 500 also offers flexibility when it comes to recharging. It takes around 5.5 hours from a standard wall or car outlet, and thanks to ‘pass-though’ technology can continue to run connected devices while charging. The solar option takes around 7.5 hours in ideal conditions but can be inconsistent. A useful screen provides input and output watts.

At 13.3 pounds the Jackery Explorer isn’t the lightest model but remains the best portable power station overall. It is a great all-rounder for outdoor-related activities, RV trips, etc. It falls a little short of running power-hungry household devices like electric grills or toaster ovens, or corded power tools. It even offers protection against some of the most common problems, including over-current and thermal issues.

Best budget portable power station: Marbero Portable Power Station 80W 88Wh

Cheap fills

It’s an affordable addition to your emergency kit. Marbero

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Why it made the cut: Primarily designed to keep personal devices like smartphones and tablets working, it has the versatility for emergency support of larger items. Plus, it has a flashlight.

Specs:

  • Maximum watts: 80
  • Watt hours: 88
  • Outlets: 1 x 110V AC, 1 x 12V DC, 1 x USB C, 2 x USB QC, 2 x USB-A

Pros:

  • Tremendous portability
  • Emergency lighting
  • Affordable solar panel option

Cons:

  • Low 80W maximum
  • Slow charging

Weighing just 2.4 pounds, and only 6.5 inches long, this best budget portable power station by Marbero is among the lightest and most compact models on the market. It can slip into a bag or backpack and provide power for phones and tablets for remote study, working on the move, trekking or camping. It also has an LED flashlight with three brightness levels, and a flashing SOS mode.

While not designed to power larger items, it has wide-ranging connectivity options. It could run a laptop for an hour, for example, recharge a drone or hand-held games console, and even keep a CPAP machine going for a brief period.

Recharging the Marbero portable power station is either via an AC adaptor plugged into an ordinary household outlet, or via Marbero’s own solar panel. As is usually the case, the latter is not included. While not especially durable, it does have an impressive life expectancy of 5,000 recharge cycles.

It will automatically shut off if something goes wrong with the current or the thermal performance, which is a good safety feature for an affordable charger.

Best portable power station for camping: AIMTOM 100W 155Wh Power Station

Mobility with Flexibility

This pack shoves a lot of power into a 3.5-pound package. Aimtom

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Why it made the cut: The lightweight Aimtom portable power station is great for those who want more than just an emergency backup. It provides useful power on the move with minimal bulk.

Specs:

  • Maximum watts: 100
  • Watt hours: 155
  • Outlets: 1 x 110V AC, 3 x 12V DC, 3 x USB-A

Pros:

  • Light and compact
  • Multiple charging options
  • Flashlight included

Cons:

  • Charging takes 7 hours or more

The Aimtom is the best portable power station for camping and also very affordable, and at only 3.5 pounds is easy to take anywhere it’s needed. The 100W of power may not seem huge, but it can run a laptop (or CPAP machine) for several hours, charge multiple small devices at the same time, or power DC gadgets like car vacuums, inflators and small coolers. It has the adaptability to provide useful support for business people who regularly work on the move, or for campground use.

Charging can be done via household wall outlet, 12V vehicle power port, or solar panel. The latter is an optional add-on. While none of the smaller portable power stations we looked at charge particularly quickly, the Aimtom can be 7 hours or more which some find frustrating. However, it does have pass-through charging which allows it to be used at the same time. That’s not much help in the woods, however, so be sure to top up before you head out.

Best portable solar generator: EF Ecoflow Portable Power Station Delta 1260Wh

Sun salutations

The EF Ecoflow offers high performance and extensive connectivity options.

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Why it made the cut: Stepping up to the EF Ecoflow Delta gives power output that’s comparable with gas-powered generators. It also makes particularly efficient use of solar panels for recharging.

Specs:

  • Maximum watts: 1,800
  • Watt hours: 1,260
  • Outlets: 6 x 110V AC, 1 x 12V DC, 2 x USB Fast Charge, 2 x USB-A, 2 x USB-C

Pros:

  • Long running time
  • Tremendous connectivity options
  • Super-fast charging

Cons:

  • Quite heavy
  • Expensive

The EF Ecoflow Delta is the best portable solar generator because in theory, it could power up to 13 different devices simultaneously. While that’s unlikely in practice the combination of multiple outlets, and high performance make it a versatile choice for a wide variety of users. At 31 pounds it is quite heavy, and the built-in handle is not the most comfortable, but it’s not too difficult to move when necessary.

Power aside, the outstanding feature of this model is how quickly it charges. It will reach 80% from a wall outlet in around an hour. Using solar panels (not included) is typically the slowest option, yet it can take as little as 4 to 6 hours. Considering the capacity, that’s quite remarkable.

The EF Ecoflow does require a considerable investment but this model could run a laptop or CPAP for over 20 hours, or power-hungry household devices like electric grills and toaster ovens. It could also be a viable option for general contractors when there’s no power on the job site.

Best portable power station for home: Yeti 3000X Portable Power Station, 2982Wh

Maximum juice

The Yeti 3000X is one of the most powerful models on the market.

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Why it made the cut: The immense power and wide-ranging connectivity of the Yeti 3000X makes it a viable option for running essential home equipment in the event of a blackout.

Specs:

  • Maximum watts: 2,000
  • Watt hours: 2,982
  • Outlets: 2 x 120V AC, 2 x 12V DC, 2 x USB-A, 2 x USB-C

Pros:

  • Outstanding performance
  • Renowned reliability
  • Mobile app for remote monitoring

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Movable, but not really portable

Few power stations can compete with the Yeti 3000X as the best portable power station for home. While other models offer more AC outlets, they won’t run the connected equipment for anywhere near the same length of time. The Yeti 3000X could run a full-size refrigerator for 55 hours, or a laptop for over 60 hours. It can accommodate power-hungry power tools as well.

Those considering RV use will be interested to know that a kit is available to allow recharging via the vehicle’s alternator while driving. A reflection of the tremendous capacity is the optional home integration kit which can hook the Yeti up directly to the breaker panel. It won’t power everything simultaneously, but it will keep your lights and TV running, and stop the freezer thawing.

An LED on the unit provides useful consumption and charging detail that can also be monitored by remote app. At 78 pounds calling it portable is something of a stretch, but it does have wheels giving it mobility when necessary. Recharging the Yeti 3000X with the supplied 230W unit takes around 14 hours. A fast 600W charger (6 hours) is available at extra cost, as are a 12V car charger or solar array.

Things to Consider Before Making Your Purchase

While all portable power stations provide a remote source of electricity, their specifications vary considerably. The following key elements will help you choose the best portable power station for your particular needs.

Power output

A lightweight portable power station can charge your phone, tablet, and maybe run a couple camp lights. Those designed for home use might be capable of simultaneously operating TV, refrigerator and even power-hungry air con — for a while.

The number of watts (W) available tells you the power available from the unit. There are often two figures. 1,000W/500W for example. The first is the peak watts which takes into account the fact that all electric motors surge at start up. The second figure is the amount during normal running. Additionally, the number of watt hours (Wh) gives an indication of how long the portable power station will run before it needs recharging. Actual performance depends on what is plugged in and how long for, but the figure is useful for comparison purposes.

Although all electrical devices have a watt rating, it can be difficult to work out which devices can run together. The best portable power station makers will provide estimates such as how many times a device will recharge a phone, how long it will power a laptop, or run a mini-fridge for example.

Weight

When it comes to power stations, portability is a relative term. Models aimed at camping use can be as light as 2 or 3 pounds. At the other end of the scale they can reach 80 pounds. The latter still get to be called ‘portable’ because they usually have wheels.

Charging Options

A portable power station is, in effect, a big battery backup. Unlike a generator, which continues to provide the same level of power as long as it’s running, even the best portable power station runs down. How it is recharged, and how quickly, has a big impact on convenience. Plugging them into a standard household outlet is usually fastest. Many can be charged via USB and/or via the 12V DC power socket in a vehicle. Most can also be connected to solar panels. While the latter potentially provides free energy anywhere, not all systems are reliable and it is often the slowest option. It’s not always convenient either, because it means the unit has to be stationary during the day.

Battery type

Most batteries in portable power stations are lithium ion. It’s well-proven technology. However Lithium iron phosphate batteries, also known as LiFePO4 or LFP, are beginning to appear. Their main benefits are a life expectancy of up to ten years (twice that of lithium ion) and faster charging times. They are also non-toxic, non-polluting, and don’t use rare metals

Cost

Portable power stations are not a low-cost item. But then nor are portable inverter generators which are the only real alternative, are louder and burn gasoline. Taking time to assess your power needs carefully provides a better chance of maximizing value.

FAQs

Q: What should I look for when buying a power station?

It depends on your needs. The information above gives plenty of invaluable help. Prime considerations are usually the power available, the number and type of outlets, and the unit’s portability.

Q: How many years do portable power stations last?

The average is around 4 to 5 years, though it depends how often it goes through the discharge and recharge cycle. Depending on the model life expectancy can be anywhere from 500 to 10,000 charges, though few go beyond 2,500.

Q: Can a portable power station run a refrigerator?

There are certainly numerous models capable of running a refrigerator. It’s important to check the maximum watts of the portable power station, and that of the refrigerator.

Final Thoughts on Portable Power Stations

The Jackery Explorer 500 is a model that will provide what many people need from a portable power station. It offers good power, great versatility and wide-ranging connectivity. The low-cost, lightweight Marbero is the ideal model for keeping your personal devices running wherever you go.

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