rv campers using a portable power station

Ultimate Beginners Guide To Portable Power Stations

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You should never have to sacrifice your need for electricity. Whether you are camping deep in the woods or struggling through the latest power outage at home, there is a simple solution. A portable power station.

rv campers using a portable power station

Not only do these amazing devices supply power for emergencies, but they also provide enough power to get you through a weekend off-the-grid. If you have been struggling to find a reliable solution to your power dilemma, look no further.

If you have been considering purchasing one of these amazing machines but still have unanswered questions, this is the article for you.

Let’s jump in…

What Is A Portable Power Station?

A portable power station is a device that stores power in a battery and provides you with electrical power output when you need it. A fully charged power station can have enough power to run small appliances, C-PAP machines, and charge numerous electrical devices for hours at a time.

When searching for the right portable power station to meet your needs, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind.

Not all portable power stations are created equally. The differences in models range from number of outputs, portability, and charging capacities.

camper using portable power station for cpap machine

Types Of Portable Power Stations

There are four main categories for portable power stations. These categories are electric, solar, gas powered, and portable power packs.

  • Electric power stations are essentially a large battery. In fact, they are also referred to as battery-powered inverter generators. Charging these types of portable power stations is done quickly by using a standard wall outlet. In some cases, the power station may also be charged by using a 12V vehicle plug (cigarette lighter outlet), or by using solar panels. If you are planning to use your power station indoors, the electric power stations are going to be your safest choice as they do not emit harmful exhaust fumes like a gas-powered station does.
  • Solar power stations as you may have guessed, harness the power of the sun to charge the battery bank. Many electric power stations will have a solar option for charging. However, this will take longer than plugging into a wall outlet, and the solar panel is of no use after dark.
  • Gas power stations are typically the heaviest and least portable of all power stations. However, these portable power stations generally produce the most output and can be used to power RV campers, small appliances, and anything else you can think to plug in. Unlike the electric power stations, this type CANNOT be used in an enclosed space like a tent or a home.
  • Portable Power Packs are small pocket-sized battery packs that are a great addition to your hiking gear. If you use a digital camera or other electronic device on your trip, staying charged is very important. You don’t want to miss that perfect shot because of a dead battery.
Jeep with solar power station

Things To Consider Before Buying A Portable Power Station

As we stated above, there are a few key things you must consider before you decide to invest in a portable power station. While you should take the time to do your research, we have researched this topic thoroughly to hopefully save you some time.

Price

Consider your budget when considering a portable power station. These units sell for as little as $85 and can exceed $2,000. From what I have noticed, the less expensive models have much lower power outputs for charging things like phones or cameras.

Keep in mind that many of these inexpensive units are manufactured with very low-quality batteries. These low-quality batteries pose a serious safety risk if they are unprotected which can cause them to malfunction when over-charged.

In addition, lower quality batteries typically take longer, and do not hold, their charge.

In contrast, the higher priced models use high quality batteries, have more safety features, and produce a considerable higher amount of power.

Portability

Of course, portability is very important when it comes to portable power stations, it’s in the name. What we mean here is the degree of portability. Pay special attention to the size and weight of the units.

For example, if you are going to be hiking or tent camping deep in the wilderness, a bulky gas-powered generator probably would not be the best choice.

However, if you are going to be supplying temporary power to your home after a major storm, one of the larger portable power stations would be suitable to run the fridge and a few other devices.

When it comes to portability of a power station, look for a unit that is manageable, has enough power for your needs, and has the additional features that you require. (more on that below)

Power Output

Another very important factor to consider is the power output of a portable power station. The power output of these devices is measured in Watt Hours (Wh), Milli-Amp Hours (mAh), and Watts (W).

EcoFlow defines watt-hours as “the size of the battery in terms of how much electricity it can provide. Capacity is measured in watt-hours (Wh) or amp-hours (Ah). It is measured in hours because turning on a light bulb for one hour versus 10 hours uses different amounts of electricity.”


Average Power Consumption Of Small Appliances

ApplianceMinimumMaximum
32-Inch LED TV20W60W
Coffee Maker400W800W
Cordless Drill Charger70W150W
Fridge/Freezer150W400W
Hair Dryer/Blow Dryer1800W2500W
Microwave Oven600W1700W
Pedestal Fan50W60W
Phone Charger4W7W
Space Heater2000W5000W
WiFi Booster1W2W

Noise

If you are going to be camping off-grid, a unit that is quiet is going to be a must-have. You didn’t escape the hustle and bustle of city life to be inundated with a noisy gas-powered generator.

On the other hand, if you are boondocking in an RV, or powering your home in a power outage, a portable gas-powered generator might be more suitable for your needs.

Safety Features

While a portable power station can provide convenient or emergency power, there are certain risks involved. Many units have built-in safety features, like automatic shutoff, over current protection, and CO monitoring (gas powered units) to keep you and those around you safe from injury.

Other Features To Consider

Some other options and features to consider when buying a portable power station are number of outlets, built-in flashlights, and number of USB ports.

Many models will be equipped with multiple 120V outlets, while other models will only have one. The same holds true for USB ports as well. Will you be charging multiple electronic devices at once with the USB ports? If so, look for a model that focuses on those features.

Another great feature to have on a portable power supply is a built-in flashlight. These built-in lights are great for tent camping after dark or in case of emergency on a road trip as they tend to have strobe and SOS functions.

Solar capabilities are very important if you plan to use a solar panel to charge your power station. If the unit you are interested in does not have a solar charging port, you will be out of luck.

solar panels for portable power station

Top 5 Recommendations

Below is a list of our top recommended portable power stations that are suitable to meet the needs of any adventurer or off-grid camper.

Not only are these portable power stations great for off-grid tent camping, but they are also a great choice for RV boondocking and temporary power for your home in an emergency.

Jackery Explorer 240

One of the front runners in the market of portable power stations is Jackery. The Jackery Explorer 240 caters to the needs of outdoor enthusiasts and homeowners alike. Whether you are camping in the backcountry or getting through a power outage, the Jackery Explorer 240 is an ideal choice for a portable power supply.

Jackery Explorer 240

This entry-level portable power station packs several useful features into a compact design. It supports wall outlet charging within 3.5 hours, car outlet charging within 5 hours, and solar charging within 5.5 hours using the available 60W SolarSaga solar panels.

With a 200-Watt output and a 240Wh lithium battery, this portable power station has enough power to charge a smartphone up to 24 times. In addition, the Jackery Explorer 240 can run a 15W fan for up to 15 hours on a single charge.

Other features of this powerful unit include an LCD screen that displays the charge/discharge and battery life status, one pure sine-wave 110V, 200W outlet, with 400W surge protection, and two USB ports for added convenience and safety.

Additional Specs:

  • Safety Features include over voltage protection, short circuit protection, and a battery management system that includes temperature control
  • Weight – 6.6 lbs.
  • Dimensions – 9.05” X 5.24” X 7.87”
  • 24-month warranty

PROS:

  • Integrated Carrying Handle
  • Over-Current and Short-Circuit Protection
  • Dedicated On/Off Buttons

CONS:

  • Odd Placement Of A/C Outlet
  • No USB-C Port
  • Extended Charging Times

Jackery Explorer 500

If you have been looking for a solar-capable portable power station that can power everything you need while camping, the Jackery Explorer 1000 is worth a look. Like the model listed above, this portable power station is ideal for camping trips or powering small appliances in your home due to a power outage.

The Jackery 500 features (1) 110V, 500W outlet along with (3) USB-A, (2) 12V DC, and (1) 12 V car outlet. In addition, this unit easily pairs with SolarSaga 100 solar panels for endless charging when harnessing the power of the sun. In fact, while using the available solar panels, the battery in this portable power station will charge up to 80% in 7.5 hours.

With a 500 watt output , this unit is capable of operating a mini-cooler for 17 hours or charging a standard cell phone up to 100 times on a single charge.

Other notable features of this model are an integrated handle for increased portability, an easy-to-read LCD screen, and built-in safety features like over-current and short-current protections, just to name a few.

Additional Specs:

  • Weight – 13.3 lbs.
  • Built-In Charging and Low-Battery Protection
  • Dimensions – 11.8” X 7.59” X 9.2”
  • 24 Month Limited Warranty

PROS:

  • Multiple Outlets
  • Can Be Charged From Multiple Sources
  • Quiet Operation

CONS:

  • LCD Backlight Turns Off After A Few Seconds
  • Long Charging Times
  • Lacking USB-C Port

Zerokor 350 Portable Power Station

The Zerokor 350 portable power station is equipped with a 296Wh/80,000mAh lithium-Ion battery pack making it more than capable of charging multiple electronic devices at once. This unit features two 110V/350W AC pure sine-wave outlets, two DC ports, two USB ports, one USB-C port, and one 12V cigarette lighter port.

ZeroKor 350 portable power station

This power supply can be charged four different ways: AC wall outlet, solar panel, 12V car cigarette lighter, or gas-powered generator.

In the short video below, Ricky Smalls of The Smalls RV Adventures YouTube Channel, performs a run-test on this unit with multiple electronic devices plugged in. He shows the maximum wattage being used as more devices are added throughout the video.

(Shout out to the Hulk with a powerful Venom voice!!)

Additional Specs:

  • Weight – 6.4 lbs.
  • Built-In Battery Monitoring System, intelligent cooling system
  • Dimensions – 8.66” X 6.5” X 6.3”
  • 12 Month Limited Warranty

PROS:

  • Can Support CPAP Machine (with recommended DC-DC converter from manufacturer)
  • Safe For Indoor Use

CONS:

  • Will Not Power Appliances Over 350W
  • 12V Cigarette Lighter Port Has No Cover

EcoFlow River 720

Like Jackery, EcoFlow is an industry leader when it comes to portable power stations. The EcoFlow River 720 is no exception.

EcoFlow River 600 portable power station

With a rated output of 600 Watts and a surge capacity of 1200 Watts, this unit is more than powerful enough to meet all your power needs. In addition, the EcoFlow River is designed for expansion. With a modular design, this portable power station is capable connecting to external batteries to increase its capacity.

This unit features three AC outlets, three USB ports, a USB-C port, one 12V DC port, a cigarette lighter port, solar input, and X Stream AC input.

Additional Specs:

  • Weight – 16.8 lbs.
  • Recharge within 1-hour
  • Dimensions – 11.4” X 7.1” X 9.3”
  • 24 Month Warranty

PROS:

  • Power Up To 10 Devices At Once
  • Built-In Handle For Portability
  • Wireless Capability (with app)

CONS:

  • High-Powered Devices Deplete Battery Quickly
  • Slow Customer Service Response With App Issues

Honda EU2200i Inverter Generator

When it comes to quiet, gas-powered inverter generators, the Honda EU2200i leads the way. This is one of the most popular portable power supply options for RVers, campers, and tailgaters who need power on-the-go.

Honda generator/inverter

The Honda EU2200i is powered by the Honda GXR120 Commercial Series engine that produces 1800 Watts of running power with a whopping peak wattage of 2200 Watts. For additional power, this portable power station can be paired with a second unit via Honda parallel cables.

With a noise level of only 48 decibels, this whisper quiet inverter generator is ideal for RV parks and campgrounds.

This unit also features two 120V, 20A outlets producing a pure sine-wave for sensitive electronics.

Some safety features of the Honda EU2200i include overload protection, low oil shut-off, and a built-in carbon monoxide detector that will stop the generator when CO levels exceed 800 ppm.

Additional Specs:

  • Weight – 47.4 lbs.
  • 1-Gallon Fuel Capacity
  • Dimensions – 16” X 20” X 11”
  • 24 Month Limited Warranty

PROS:

  • Spark Arrestor For Use In Forested Area
  • Bluetooth Shut-Off Capable
  • Molded Carrying Handle For Portability

CONS:

  • No Electric Start
  • Higher Price Than Most Battery Powered Stations

Wrapping Up

As you can see, a portable power station can be a great investment for those who need power on-the-go. Whether your adventures take you completely off-grid or if you need supplemental power at the campground, having a reliable form of backup power can be a great addition to your camping gear.

What are your thoughts on portable power stations? Do you use any that are in the list? If so, leave us a comment below and let us know what you think about it.

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