Going off the grid, but want to enjoy creature comforts as if you were home? Get a generator. Since generators tend to be large, noisy, and just overall unpleasant to operate, most people these days opt for a portable power station. You know… those compact devices sized like a boombox from the old days that you can use to plug in any appliance or electronic device you happen to have brought along.
Equipped with a reasonably large battery, these devices allow you to plug in appliances and electronics without a grid-connected power outlet in sight, allowing you to enjoy cool air from a fan on a hot summer afternoon, a cold drink from a portable fridge, or a fresh charge on your laptop, regardless of where you’re spending the day. Suffice to say, it’s the kind of thing that can make your outdoor experience infinitely more comfortable, whether you’re car camping in the boondocks, hanging out in the beach, or holding an outdoor cookout at a nearby park.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
Measuring 5.2 x 9.1 x 7.7 inches and weighing 6.5 pounds, Jackery’s 240Wh power station is one of the most convenient to keep around, whether you’re camping right next to your car, walking up a short trail to your campsite, or just stashing one in the closet for use in case of a power outage. It bears arguably the perfect combo of power and size, all while allowing you to plug in up to four devices at a time via two USB ports, one DC car port, and one AC outlet. It even comes with an MPPT controller, so you can hook up a solar panel to replenish the battery throughout the day.
According to the outfit, a fully-charged unit can power a laptop up to four times and a smartphone up to 24 times, all while powering a fan or a TV for a couple hours. Do note, the 200W power output isn’t strong enough to let you use a blender or an electric stove, so you might want to look for something bigger if you plan to use those appliances. It’s a great option, though, if you have modest power needs.
A mid-sized power station, the Delta is the rig you want to bring along if you want to use power-hungry appliances in your trip. Equipped with a 1260Wh battery, it offers six AC outlets, two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, two fast-charging USB-A ports, and one DC car port, with support for using all power outlets at the same time. According to the outfit, it has an output of 1800W (3300W surge), so it doles out as much power as any home outlet, allowing it to power even the most demanding electric appliance. Of course, you’re still limited by the battery capacity, which can power a freezer for up to 20 hours, heat up an electric stove for up to 1.5 hours, and keep a laptop running for up to 23 hours, with the ability to recharge up to 80 percent in an hour and 100 percent in two hours. Yes, it supports solar charging, too, in case there’s really no grid-connected outlet in the area you can hook up with.
Probably the most powerful electric power station out there, this 3000Wh rig is equipped with wheels and a telescoping handle, allowing you to drag it like a rolling luggage, instead of lifting its 78-pound frame. Yes, it is pretty big. For the size, though, you get a 2000W AC outlet that lets you power everything from fridges and blenders to an electric chainsaw, if you feel like cutting trees in the jungle.
It has two AC inverters, two 12V ports, a 60W USB-C port, an 18W USB-C port, and two USB-A ports, so you can hook up a good load of stuff in one go. According to the outfit, it can keep a fridge running for up to 55 hours, a 42-inch LED TV for up to 30 hours, and an 11W light bulb for almost 12 days straight, all while charging a smartphone for 253 times. When hooked up with three of the outfit’s Nomad 200 solar panels (chained together), it can draw a full charge in six to 12 hours, too, depending on how much sun you’re able to get in your location.
If you’ve looked at the above options and found the large-capacity battery units a bit too expensive for your liking, then a gas-powered generator might prove to be a better fit for your need. For a combo of portability and utility, it’s hard to do better than this 2000-watt model that measures a reasonably compact 17.3 x 11.5 x 17.7 inches and weighs just 38.6 pounds when empty. Of course, you’ll have to bring a supply of gas to get it running, too, with the tank holding a gallon at a time, which is enough to power appliances for up to 10.8 hours at a quarter of its maximum load.
Won’t a gas generator be too loud? Well, this one uses a relatively quiet 79cc four-stroke motor that operates at a very tolerable 51 decibels at quarter load, although it does get much louder if you’re pushing it to its limits by using a cooking stove, a blender, and other power-hungry devices concurrently. It has three 120V outlets, one 12V port, and two 5V USB ports, with the device limiting total harmonic distortion to under 1.2 percent, so it’s safe to plug in smartphones, laptops, and other sensitive electronics, too. Just make sure you have enough gas to last you through your stay, especially when you plan to go on extended adventures, since you won’t be able to replenish this with a solar panel.
Do note, while it looks a lot less intimidating than the monstrous gas generators of old, it is still definitely one of them, so it’s going to generate fumes, which makes it unsuitable for use inside the RV, the lakeside cabin, or any other closed spaces. Simply put, keep the darn thing outside at all times, unless you want to suffocate and stuff.