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Best Portable Power Station/Solar Generator For Camping 2020

Best Portable Power Stations For Camping/RV Living

Portable power stations, also known as solar generators, have grown in popularity in the past couple of years. A big reason for that is that the lithium batteries usually found inside of these portable batteries have become more affordable.

Lithium batteries are more lightweight than the old deep cycle lead-acid type battery, which makes a power station a convenient and easy way to stay powered while camping.

Depending on the size, a solar generator can power not only phones, tablets, CPAP machines and TVs, but kitchen appliances as well like an Instant Pot, microwave, refrigerator and freezer, even a whole travel trailer.

Related Post: Goal Zero Vs Jackery, The Ultimate Power Station Battle

A power station/solar generator is a box with a battery, a solar charge controller, and an inverter that changes 12V DC power to 120V AC power. That’s what on the inside. On the outside, there are usually AC outlets, USB ports, DC outputs, a screen, sometimes a light, and DC inputs where you can plug in a wall charger, car charger, or a solar panel.

Most solar generators don’t come with solar panels, but they’re still compatible with portable solar panels that will let you charge the battery without using a wall or car charger. Being able to charge your device with solar panels is a pretty cool feeling, and I am solar-powered 90% of the time as I travel the country fulltime in my travel trailer.

In today’s post, we’re reviewing and comparing the most portable power stations on the market right now. These won’t be able to power kitchen appliances but are targeted towards people that need to charge and power smaller devices like phones, tablets, laptops, CPAP machines, TVs, and lights.

If you’re interested in larger and more powerful power stations that can do more than above, please leave a comment and let me know what you need to power and I will do my best to help you find the right option for your needs.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions about a specific section of the table.

Most Portable
NEXPOW Portable Power Station, 48000mAh Solar Generator Lithium Polymer Battery Emergency Backup Portable Power Source with 110V/120W(Peak 150W) AC Inverter Outlet, USB-C PD 3.0, for Outdoors Camping
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 160, 167Wh Lithium Battery Solar Generator (Solar Panel Optional) Backup Power Supply with 110V/100W(Peak 150W) AC Outlet for Outdoors Camping Fishing Emergency
Slim Design
SUAOKI 200Wh Solar Power Station, S200 Portable Generator Lithium Battery Backup Pack with 120W Pure Sine Wave AC Outlet, 120W DC, Quick Charge 3.0, 45W Power Delivery USB C for Fishing Camping
nrgGo 400 Portable Power Station, 411WH Portable Lithium Battery Emergency Power Station, Outdoor Solar Generator, 120V AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter, 12V Car Port, 6mm, USB C PD, USB A Port
MAXOAK Power Station 500Wh 300W Solar Generator MPPT Sine-Wave Wireless Charging Emergency LED Lighting w/ 2AC Outlet 120V,PD 45W USB-C,DC12V Lithium Battery Backup for Outdoor RV Van Travel Camping
Top Pick
Goal Zero Yeti 500X Portable Power Station, 505Wh Portable Lithium Battery Emergency Power Station, Outdoor Solar Generator, 120V AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter, 12V Car Port, 6mm, USB C PD, USB A Port
Battery Capacity (Watt-hours)
178Wh
167Wh
200Wh
400Wh
500Wh
505Wh
AC Outlet Output (Inverter Rating)
120W/150W surge
100W/150W surge
120W/200W surge
300W/1200W surge
300W/450W surge
300W/1200W surge
AC Outlets
1
1
1
2
2
2
USB Ports
3 (1 USB C)
3 (1 USB C)
3 (1 USB C)
3 (1 USB C)
5 (1 USB C)
4 (2 USB C)
Max Input Watts
45W
42W
60W
160W (8mm: 100W, USB C PD: 60W)
120W
180W (8mm: 120W, USB C PD: 60W)
Solar Charge Controller Type
PWM
PWM
MPPT
MPPT
MPPT
MPPT
Lithium Battery
USB C Port
Pure Sine Wave Inverter
12V Cigarette Port (Might Require Included Adapter)
Regulated 12V Cigarette Port
Can Be Used While Charging
Includes Solar (MC4 to DC) Adapter
Weight
3.1 lbs
4 lbs
5.9 lbs
12.3 lbs
13.6 lbs
12.9 lbs
Size
8.9 x 3.1 x 4.1 in
7.4 x 4.6 x 6.8 in
7.6 x 2.5 x 10 in
9.3 x 6.5 x 9.7 in
11.6 x 7.5 x 7.7 in
7.5 x 11.3 x 5.8 in

Most Portable

NEXPOW Portable Power Station, 48000mAh Solar Generator Lithium Polymer Battery Emergency Backup Portable Power Source with 110V/120W(Peak 150W) AC Inverter Outlet, USB-C PD 3.0, for Outdoors Camping
Battery Capacity (Watt-hours)
178Wh
AC Outlet Output (Inverter Rating)
120W/150W surge
AC Outlets
1
USB Ports
3 (1 USB C)
Max Input Watts
45W
Solar Charge Controller Type
PWM
Lithium Battery
USB C Port
Pure Sine Wave Inverter
12V Cigarette Port (Might Require Included Adapter)
Regulated 12V Cigarette Port
Can Be Used While Charging
Includes Solar (MC4 to DC) Adapter
Alternatives by Same Company (Link)
N/A
Recommended Solar Panel (Link)
Weight
3.1 lbs
Size
8.9 x 3.1 x 4.1 in
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 160, 167Wh Lithium Battery Solar Generator (Solar Panel Optional) Backup Power Supply with 110V/100W(Peak 150W) AC Outlet for Outdoors Camping Fishing Emergency
Battery Capacity (Watt-hours)
167Wh
AC Outlet Output (Inverter Rating)
100W/150W surge
AC Outlets
1
USB Ports
3 (1 USB C)
Max Input Watts
42W
Solar Charge Controller Type
PWM
Lithium Battery
USB C Port
Pure Sine Wave Inverter
12V Cigarette Port (Might Require Included Adapter)
Regulated 12V Cigarette Port
Can Be Used While Charging
Includes Solar (MC4 to DC) Adapter
Alternatives by Same Company (Link)
Recommended Solar Panel (Link)
Weight
4 lbs
Size
7.4 x 4.6 x 6.8 in

Slim Design

SUAOKI 200Wh Solar Power Station, S200 Portable Generator Lithium Battery Backup Pack with 120W Pure Sine Wave AC Outlet, 120W DC, Quick Charge 3.0, 45W Power Delivery USB C for Fishing Camping
Battery Capacity (Watt-hours)
200Wh
AC Outlet Output (Inverter Rating)
120W/200W surge
AC Outlets
1
USB Ports
3 (1 USB C)
Max Input Watts
60W
Solar Charge Controller Type
MPPT
Lithium Battery
USB C Port
Pure Sine Wave Inverter
12V Cigarette Port (Might Require Included Adapter)
Regulated 12V Cigarette Port
Can Be Used While Charging
Includes Solar (MC4 to DC) Adapter
Alternatives by Same Company (Link)
Recommended Solar Panel (Link)
Weight
5.9 lbs
Size
7.6 x 2.5 x 10 in
nrgGo 400 Portable Power Station, 411WH Portable Lithium Battery Emergency Power Station, Outdoor Solar Generator, 120V AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter, 12V Car Port, 6mm, USB C PD, USB A Port
Battery Capacity (Watt-hours)
400Wh
AC Outlet Output (Inverter Rating)
300W/1200W surge
AC Outlets
2
USB Ports
3 (1 USB C)
Max Input Watts
160W (8mm: 100W, USB C PD: 60W)
Solar Charge Controller Type
MPPT
Lithium Battery
USB C Port
Pure Sine Wave Inverter
12V Cigarette Port (Might Require Included Adapter)
Regulated 12V Cigarette Port
Can Be Used While Charging
Includes Solar (MC4 to DC) Adapter
Alternatives by Same Company (Link)
N/A
Recommended Solar Panel (Link)
Weight
12.3 lbs
Size
9.3 x 6.5 x 9.7 in
MAXOAK Power Station 500Wh 300W Solar Generator MPPT Sine-Wave Wireless Charging Emergency LED Lighting w/ 2AC Outlet 120V,PD 45W USB-C,DC12V Lithium Battery Backup for Outdoor RV Van Travel Camping
Battery Capacity (Watt-hours)
500Wh
AC Outlet Output (Inverter Rating)
300W/450W surge
AC Outlets
2
USB Ports
5 (1 USB C)
Max Input Watts
120W
Solar Charge Controller Type
MPPT
Lithium Battery
USB C Port
Pure Sine Wave Inverter
12V Cigarette Port (Might Require Included Adapter)
Regulated 12V Cigarette Port
Can Be Used While Charging
Includes Solar (MC4 to DC) Adapter
Alternatives by Same Company (Link)
Recommended Solar Panel (Link)
Weight
13.6 lbs
Size
11.6 x 7.5 x 7.7 in

Top Pick

Goal Zero Yeti 500X Portable Power Station, 505Wh Portable Lithium Battery Emergency Power Station, Outdoor Solar Generator, 120V AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter, 12V Car Port, 6mm, USB C PD, USB A Port
Battery Capacity (Watt-hours)
505Wh
AC Outlet Output (Inverter Rating)
300W/1200W surge
AC Outlets
2
USB Ports
4 (2 USB C)
Max Input Watts
180W (8mm: 120W, USB C PD: 60W)
Solar Charge Controller Type
MPPT
Lithium Battery
USB C Port
Pure Sine Wave Inverter
12V Cigarette Port (Might Require Included Adapter)
Regulated 12V Cigarette Port
Can Be Used While Charging
Includes Solar (MC4 to DC) Adapter
Alternatives by Same Company (Link)
Recommended Solar Panel (Link)
Weight
12.9 lbs
Size
7.5 x 11.3 x 5.8 in

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Overview And Review Of Each Power Station


Nexpow 178Wh Portable Power Station

NEXPOW Portable Power Station, 48000mAh Solar Generator Lithium Polymer Battery Emergency Backup Portable Power Source with 110V/120W(Peak 150W) AC Inverter Outlet, USB-C PD 3.0, for Outdoors Camping

Check Price at Amazon

Features

The Nexpow power station is a very portable option with a handle on top that makes it very easy to carry.

It has a 178 watt-hour battery capacity, which means that you could power a 50W device for a little over three hours. The single AC outlet can output up to 120W, so you can power tablets, laptops, CPAP machines, TVs and other small electronics.

There are three USB ports on the solar generator, and one of them is a USB C PD port that supports both input and output.

In addition to the AC outlet and USB ports, there is a DC output as well. Nexpow includes a DC to cigarette female port adapter so you can power electronics you would usually plug into the cigarette port in your car.

A small screen shows the battery percentage, and there is also a small LED light so you can use the power station as a flashlight when camping in the dark.

Charging

The Nexpow 178Wh power station has a 5.5×2.1mm DC input, this makes it compatible with a lot of different portable solar panels on the market.

Here are some compatible solar panels that I recommend: Paxcess 50W, Rockpals 60WRockpals 80W.

If you want to use a solar panel with MC4 connectors, you need an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). With the adapter, you can use rigid solar panels like the Renogy 50W and Renogy 100W.

The USB C PD port makes it possible to charge the battery with a RAVPower USB C PD charger.

It takes up to 5 hours to charge the Nexpow battery with the wall/car charger, and up to 10 hours with a 50W solar panel.

In The Box

Nexpow includes a wall charger, a car charger, a DC to cigarette lighter female adapter, and a USB Type-C cable.

Conclusion

The Nexpow 178Wh is a great portable power station that will keep your electronics charged and powered. With a 178 watt-hour battery capacity, a 120W AC outlet, and USB C PD charging, it’s exactly what most people are looking for in a portable battery.

I like that a power station this small has a screen that shows the battery percentage.

Pros

  • USB C PD port (45W In/out)
  • Built-in handle
  • A screen that shows the battery percentage
  • Flashlight

Cons

  • Not a pure sine wave inverter
  • Unregulated 12V cigarette port
  • PWM charge controller

Jackery Explorer 160 Portable Power Station

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 160, 167Wh Lithium Battery Solar Generator (Solar Panel Optional) Backup Power Supply with 110V/100W(Peak 150W) AC Outlet for Outdoors Camping Fishing Emergency

Check Price at Amazon

Features

Jackery is a popular power station brand, and a big reason for that is because they make batteries in a lot of different sizes so there is one for every kind of camper out there.

The Explorer 160 is their smallest portable battery with a 167 watt-hour battery capacity, and an AC outlet that can output up to 100W.

That’s enough to power a 60W TV or laptop for almost 2.5 hours.

Three USB ports and one DC output can be found on the front, while the AC outlet has been placed on the side of the unit.

One of the USB ports is a USB C port that is rated at up to 15W, it can not be used to charge the Jackery.

Jackery always does a great job with the screens on their solar generators, and the Explorer 160 has a screen that shows input and output watts, and the state of charge in both a percentage and battery bars. Next to the screen is a little button that lights up the backlit screen.

To make the Explorer 160 easy to carry around, Jackery has put a big handle on top.

Charging

The Jackery Explorers have 8mm inputs, so they’re compatible with a lot of portable solar panels on the market.

Here are some compatible solar panels that I recommend: Paxcess 50W, Rockpals 60W, Jackery SolarSaga 60W, Rockpals 80W.

See Also: Review Of Rockpals 80W Portable Solar Panel

If you want to use a solar panel with MC4 connectors, you need an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). With the adapter, you can use rigid solar panels like the Renogy 50W and Renogy 100W.

It takes 5 hours to charge the Explorer 160 via wall, car, and solar.

In The Box

Jackery includes a wall charger and a car charger.

Conclusion

The Jackery Explorer 160 is a popular power station because it has what people are looking for, which is portable power in a portable package.

It has one of the most useful screens on any of the power stations on the list today, and with one AC outlet, two USB A ports, one USB C port, and a DC output, you’re going to be able to power a lot of your small electronics at the same time.

Pros

  • USB C port (15W out)
  • Built-in handle
  • A screen that shows the battery percentage, input/output watts
  • Flashlight

Cons

  • Not a pure sine wave inverter
  • PWM charge controller

Suaoki S200/200Wh Power Station

SUAOKI 200Wh Solar Power Station, S200 Portable Generator Lithium Battery Backup Pack with 120W Pure Sine Wave AC Outlet, 120W DC, Quick Charge 3.0, 45W Power Delivery USB C for Fishing Camping

Check Price at Amazon

Features

Suaoki is another well-known power station brand that makes batteries in different sizes. The S200/200Wh is one of their most portable options that has a slim design with a robust handle on top that makes it easy to carry around and store in small spaces.

With a 200 watt-hour battery capacity and a 120W AC outlet, it can power a 60W laptop or TV for almost three hours.

The screen on the S200 shows input watts, DC output watts, and AC output watts. So if you’re powering one device with the AC outlet, and one with the DC outlet, you can monitor power energy usage on both separately.

There are three USB ports on the Suaoki 200Wh, one being a USB C PD port capable of outputting up to 45W to quickly charge phones, tablets, laptops, and portable gaming consoles. The USB C PD port can not be used to charge the battery.

A button below the screen turns on and off the power station, and two separate buttons control the DC and AC ports.

Charging

The DC input port on the Suaoki 200Wh is an 8mm port which makes it compatible with a lot of portable solar panels on the market.

Since the Suaoki S200 has an MPPT solar charge controller, it will be a much more efficient power station to charge with solar panels compared to the two power stations above. For more information about MPPT vs PWM, check out the frequently asked question section on the bottom of this post.

Here are some compatible solar panels that I recommend: Paxcess 50W, Rockpals 60W, Jackery SolarSaga 60W, Rockpals 80W, Suaoki 100W.

If you want to use a solar panel with MC4 connectors, you need an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). With the adapter, you can use rigid solar panels like the Renogy 50W and Renogy 100W.

It takes up to 8 hours to charge the Suaoki with the wall and car charger, and up to 7 hours with a 60W solar panel.

Since it has a 60W max input, I recommend using at least an 80W solar panel to max out the input when the sun is out. Then you would be able to charge the battery in less than four hours.

In The Box

Suaoki includes a wall charger, USB C cable, cigarette lighter adapter, a DC output adapter, and an MC4 to DC adapter.

Note that a car charger is not included.

Conclusion

The Suaoki S200/200Wh is a great portable power station that will power phones, tablets, laptops, TVs and CPAPs for hours while being small enough to fit inside a small tent, van, or camper.

I wish the USB C PD port could be used to charge the battery and that the screen would show the state of charge in percentage, but at least there is an efficient MPPT charge controller inside the S200 that pairs great with solar panels.

The fact that you can charge the battery in less than four hours with an 80W solar panel like the Rockpals 80W is a great selling point on its own.

Pros

  • USB C PD port (45W out)
  • Built-in handle
  • A screen that shows battery bars, input/output watts
  • MPPT Charge Controller
  • 60W input allows quick charging with solar panels

Cons

  • Can’t be charged via USB C PD port
  • Falls over easily
  • No battery percentage on screen
  • Unregulated 12V cigarette port

nrgGo 400 Portable Power Station

nrgGo 400 Portable Power Station, 411WH Portable Lithium Battery Emergency Power Station, Outdoor Solar Generator, 120V AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter, 12V Car Port, 6mm, USB C PD, USB A Port

Check Price at Amazon

Features

NrgGo is a newer company that makes power stations and solar panels.

The nrgGo 400 has a 400 watt-hour battery capacity and an inverter rated at 300W. That’s powerful enough to power a gaming laptop or a gaming console. With 400 watt-hours, you would be able to power a 60W TV or laptop for between five to six hours.

What I absolutely love about the nrgGo 400 is the screen that lights up and shows you input watts, output watts, battery percentage, and hours to empty/full. It doesn’t give you as much information as the Goal Zero Yeti screen, but it has everything I am looking for in a screen on a power station this size.

The hours to empty/full is helpful when you want to know how long you’ll be able to power a certain device or how long a specific solar panel is going to need to charge the battery fully.

There are two AC outlets, three USB ports, and one cigarette port on the front of the solar generator. Each type of output can be turned on and off with a button above the ports.

One of the USB ports is a USB C PD port that can be used to charge the battery, and it’s rated at 60W input/output so you can also quickly charge phones, tablets, a Nintendo Switch and newer laptops like Macbooks.

A robust handle on top makes the nrgGo 400 easy to carry around.

Charging

The nrgGo 400 has an 8mm input, which makes it compatible with a lot of portable solar panels on the market.

It also has an MPPT solar charge controller, so if you use solar panels it will charge efficiently. With a 100W maximum input through the 8mm port, you can even connect two panels in parallel to charge the battery quicker than with a single 100W solar panel.

Here are some compatible solar panels that I recommend: Paxcess 50W, Rockpals 60W, Jackery SolarSaga 60W, Rockpals 80W, Suaoki 100W, Suaoki 120W.

If you want to use a solar panel with MC4 connectors, you need an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). With the adapter, you can use rigid solar panels like the Renogy 50W and Renogy 100W.

For a quick efficient charge, you can connect two Newpowa 70W in parallel with an MC4 Y Branch, then connect the branch to the nrgGo with an an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). This would max out the 100W input during the peak sun hours of the day and quickly charge the battery.

If you max the input, it would only take four hours to charge the battery. With the included wall charger, it takes seven hours.

In The Box

NrgGo includes a wall charger.

Conclusion

The nrgGo 400 is a modern portable power station that has a lot of features for its size. With two AC outlets, three USB ports, a USB C PD port, a cigarette port, and a great screen with lots of useful information, it’s the perfect camping-buddy that will keep your devices charged and powered throughout the day and night.

Since it can power several devices at once, it’s a versatile power station that will power not only phones and tablets but larger electronics like CPAP machines, TVs, small kitchen appliances like electric whisks and mixers, while telling you on the screen how long it’s going to run until the battery is empty.

Pair it with a compatible solar panel and you won’t ever have to use the wall charger to charge the battery.

Pros

  • USB C PD port (60W in/out)
  • Two AC outlets
  • Built-in handle
  • A screen that shows input/output watts, battery percentage, time to empty/full
  • MPPT Charge Controller
  • 160W input allows quick charging with solar panels

Cons

  • Unregulated 12V cigarette port

Maxoak 500Wh Power Station

MAXOAK Power Station 500Wh 300W Solar Generator MPPT Sine-Wave Wireless Charging Emergency LED Lighting w/ 2AC Outlet 120V,PD 45W USB-C,DC12V Lithium Battery Backup for Outdoor RV Van Travel Camping

Check Price at Amazon

Features

Maxoak is a company with several power stations on the market. Their 500Wh model has a 300W pure sine wave inverter that powers two AC outlets.

A 300W inverter can power devices like phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, CPAP machines, printers, small kitchen appliances, and gaming consoles.

With the 500Wh battery capacity, you would be able to power a 60W laptop or TV for over 7 hours.

In addition to the two AC outlets, there are five USB ports, and three DC outputs on the front of the unit. One of the USB ports is a USB C PD port rated at up to 45W, and one of the DC outputs is a 12V cigarette port.

The screen on the front will tell you the input and output watts. The DC watts are separate from the AC. There is also a state of charge battery indicator made out of five bars.

One feature on the Maxoak 500Wh that you won’t see on a lot of power stations is the wireless charging pad on top that lets you charge Qi-supported devices wirelessly.

The handle on top folds down which makes it easier to store the Maxoak 500Wh in small spaces.

Last but not least, there is a large LED light on the back of the unit that is large enough to light up a whole tent.

Charging

An 8mm input can be found on the back of the Maxoak 500Wh, which makes it compatible with a lot of portable solar panels.

With a 120W max input and an MPPT charge controller, you’ll be able to charge the battery in less than 4.5 hours if you max the input watts.

Here are some compatible solar panels that I recommend: Paxcess 50W, Rockpals 60W, Jackery SolarSaga 60W, Rockpals 80W, Suaoki 100W, Suaoki 120W.

If you want to use a solar panel with MC4 connectors, you need an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). With the adapter, you can use rigid solar panels like the Renogy 50W and Renogy 100W.

For a quick efficient charge, you can connect two Renogy 100W in parallel with an MC4 Y Branch, then connect the branch to the Maxoak with an an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). This would max out the 120W input during the peak sun hours of the day and quickly charge the battery.

It takes up to 6 hours to charge the Maxoak 500Wh with a 100W solar panel, 6-6.5 hours with the car charger, and 6-6.5 hours with the included wall charger.

In The Box

Maxoak includes a 90W wall charger, car charger, MC4 to DC adapter, and a USB C cable.

Conclusion

The Maxoak 500Wh is another great modern power station that packs a lot of features in a portable compact package. It has a lot of ports so you can charge several devices at once, and an impressive 120W maximum input so you can keep the battery charged with solar panels even when powering larger electronics like a TV.

It shines with its number of ports, and if you have kids or grandkids with phones or tablets that need to be charged daily, they’re going to love this one.

What’s missing is a regulated 12V cigarette port and the battery percentage on the screen, but it’s still a great solar generator that can keep your devices powered and charged indefinitely as long as you have a compatible solar panel to go with it.

Pros

  • USB C PD port (60W in/out)
  • 4 USB A ports
  • Two AC outlets
  • Built-in handle that folds down
  • Wireless charging
  • A screen that shows input/output watts, battery bars
  • MPPT Charge Controller
  • 120W input allows quick charging with solar panels

Cons

  • Unregulated 12V cigarette port

Goal Zero Yeti 500X Portable Power Station

Goal Zero Yeti 500X Portable Power Station, 505Wh Portable Lithium Battery Emergency Power Station, Outdoor Solar Generator, 120V AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter, 12V Car Port, 6mm, USB C PD, USB A Port

Check Price at Amazon

Features

Goal Zero is the most popular portable power station brand because they have been in the game for a long time. The Yeti 500X is one of their newest models, and it’s better than the older models because they have fixed a couple of issues people were having.

The Yeti 500X has a 505 watt-hour battery capacity and a 300W inverter. With a battery capacity like that you can power a 60W laptop or TV for over 7 hours.

There are two AC outlets, four USB ports, and two DC outputs on the front of the Yeti 500X. Two of the USB ports are USB A ports, and two are USB C. One of the USB C ports is a PD input/output port rated at 60W. So you can use the PD port not only to charge your electronics but also to charge the Yeti battery.

One of the DC outputs is a regulated 12V cigarette port. That makes the Yeti 500X a great option for car, van, and RV campers that want to be able to power a 12V fridge/freezer.

Goal Zero makes the best power station screens on the market, in my opinion, because it gives you a lot of information. This information includes input/output watts, battery percentage, battery bars, time to empty/full, battery voltage, watt-hours used, and output amps.

A robust handle on top folds down to make it easier to store the Yeti.

Charging

An 8mm input can be found on the back of the Yeti 500X, which makes it compatible with a lot of portable solar panels.

With a 120W max input and an MPPT charge controller, you’ll be able to charge the battery in less than 4.5 hours if you max the input watts.

Goal Zero makes its own solar panels with 8mm connectors, like the Goal Zero Boulder 100.

Here are some other compatible solar panels that I recommend: Paxcess 50W, Rockpals 60W, Jackery SolarSaga 60W, Rockpals 80W, Suaoki 100W, Suaoki 120W.

If you want to use a solar panel with MC4 connectors, you need an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). With the adapter, you can use rigid solar panels like the Renogy 50W and Renogy 100W.

For a quick efficient charge, you can connect two Renogy 100W in parallel with an MC4 Y Branch, then connect the branch to the Maxoak with an an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon). This would max out the 120W input during the peak sun hours of the day and quickly charge the battery.

In The Box

Goal Zero includes a wall charger.

The car charger can be purchased separately.

Conclusion

The Goal Zero Yeti 500X is the complete package. It has every feature I am looking for in a portable power station of this size. Two AC outlets, several USB ports with a fast USB C PD input/output port, a regulated 12V cigarette port, a large handle that folds down, and a high maximum input wattage.

To make it even better, it would need a larger inverter. It would’ve been great if it had a 1000W inverter so you could power a coffee maker, but there are larger Yetis for that purpose.

Pros

  • USB C PD port (60W in/out)
  • Two AC outlets
  • Regulated 12V cigarette port
  • Built-in handle that folds down
  • A screen that shows input/output watts/amps, bars, time to empty/full, watt-hours used
  • MPPT Charge Controller
  • 120W+60W input allows quick charging with solar panels and USB C charger

Cons

  • The inverter could’ve been more powerful

What To Consider

Watt Hours/Capacity – Considering how much capacity you need is the first thing to do.

If you know that your device requires 50W to run, and you want to power it for 10 hours, you’re going to need at least 500 watt-hours of battery capacity.

An easy way of figuring out how much capacity you need is to buy a Poniie PN2000 Plug-in Kilowatt Electricity Usage Monitor. This lets you plug your appliances into it and tell you how many watts each appliance is using.

So if you plug your laptop in and it reads 50 watts, that’s how many watt-hours it will be using every hour it’s plugged into the power station. If a power station then is 300Wh, we’ll do 300/50=6, and then we know that the battery will run our laptop for 6 hours at most.

An important thing to know is that an inverter is not 100% efficient, so if you’re going to power your device via an AC outlet (like the outlets in your home) you should expect an 85% efficiency. With the laptop example above, a more accurate estimate would be 300/50=6*0.85=5.1 hours.

Inverter Size – The inverter is what allows us to use AC outlets on the power station. It changes the 12V DC battery power to 110/120V AC power.

When I am talking about the size of the inverter, I am not talking physically, but how many watts it can handle at once.

To know how big of an inverter you need, you must know how much your appliances draw. For example, the microwave in my RV is rated at 900W. So I am going to need an inverter rated at around 900 at least, preferably more since the input and output watts of a microwave differs.

My gaming laptop charger is rated at 240W, so a power station with a 120W inverter won’t be enough. If you don’t know how many watts your appliances need, you can use a Poniie PN2000 Plug-in Kilowatt Electricity Usage Monitor.

Most small electronics like phones, tablets, CPAP machines, laptops, TVs and lights use less than 100W.

Weight – Depending on what kind of camping you do, the weight will become more or less important.

If you’re in an RV and plan on leaving the power station in one place, the capacity and inverter size will matter more. If you want a power station to bring with you hiking, the weight will be extremely important.

Solar Capabilities – To me, charging with solar is really cool. I can’t get over how great it is to be able to be out in the woods, far away from any shore power, and be able to keep all my devices and power station charged up.

Some power stations can’t take very high inputs though, so charging with solar becomes extremely inefficient and frustrating. Products like Goal Zero Yeti’s can take a lot of solar input at once. If you’re planning on charging with solar power, make sure you check how many watts it can handle and that the solar panel you buy has the right voltage and amps supported.

Outlets – If you’re only planning on charging USB devices, well maybe you won’t need an AC outlet. Then I recommend reading my article about the best portable power banks, they’re more portable and lightweight. The difference in the number of outlets in the power stations we’ve looked at today aren’t huge, but some have one or two more USB ports or one additional AC outlet. Think about what kind of appliances you will be plugging into your power station and choose the one that fits the best.

Another outlet that matters is the 12V cigarette port. If you want to use a 12V fridge/freezer with your solar generator, you should buy a power station that has a regulated 12V output. Otherwise, the fridge won’t run properly when the battery is below a certain percentage.


Frequently Asked Questions About Portable Solar Generators

How Long Will It Take To Charge My Power Station With Solar Panels?

When plugging solar into your power station, you have to be aware of what limits it has. There is often a voltage limit and an amp limit. These should be easy to find in the manual or the specifications.

Now, how long will it take to charge from 0 to 100%? First, we need to know how big the battery is in the power station, let’s say it’s 500Wh. If we get a solar panel rated at 100W, we should expect to get about 60-70W out of it in good sun. Solar panels aren’t 100% efficient, and it also matters what kind of charge controller is in the power station. But we’ll say 60W average.

What we need to do then is take 500/60 which equals 8.33. That’s how long it takes to charge our battery from empty to full if we have good sun for that long. Realistically speaking, you most likely won’t get 8.33 hours of good sun in a day, so it might take two days of pretty good sun to reach a full charge.

If we had two 100W panels, and an MPPT charge controller, maybe we would get 70W on average from each panel, 140W per hour. So we’ll do our calculation again, 500/140=3.57 hours. It’s realistic that we will get about five hours of good sun, so that would take our battery from 0 to 100% in just a couple of hours.

A battery doesn’t charge 0 to 100% at the same speeds, so you might see the power station charge 0-80% faster than the last 80-100%.

Can I Use A Power Station In Freezing Temperatures?

It depends on the power station, so I recommend reading the manual or the product specifications of a specific power station to get the answer.

In general, lithium batteries don’t like the cold very much. Most lithium power stations can be discharged in freezing temperatures, but shouldn’t be charged when it’s below freezing.

MPPT Vs PWM Solar Charge Controller?

An MPPT solar charge controller adjusts its input voltage to use as much electricity generated by the solar panel as possible, this makes it a much more efficient and useful charge controller when compared to PWM.

What Size Power Station Do I Need To Power A Whole RV/Camper?

I have a Jackery Explorer 500 and a Goal Zero Yeti 1000. I have plugged my travel trailer into both of them without any issues.

The Jackery can output 500W at most, so I can’t run anything larger than my TV and laptop at the same time since it also starts charging my house batteries which use 50-300W on its own.

The Goal Zero powers everything in my camper except for the compressor in the air conditioner. I even use my microwave and turn my fridge to electric on sunny days. Note that I have paired the Yeti with 400W of solar panels so I can use it all day while it’s charging.

There are newer power stations with even larger inverters, like the Ecoflow Delta which will power everything in a camper as well except for the air conditioner.

If you don’t need to run the microwave, I recommend the Maxoak EB240 which has a 2400 watt-hour battery capacity. My Yeti “only” has 1045Wh.

It connects to my travel trailer with a Camco 15A to 30A dogbone adapter. They also sell a similar adapter for 50A RV campers.

Do Solar Panels Work When It’s Cloudy?

Most solar panels work when it’s cloudy, but a 100W panel that generates 70W on a sunny day might only generate 5-30W depending on how cloudy it is.

How Can I Improve The Charging Efficiency When Charging My Power Station With Solar Panels?

The easiest way to improve the charging speed when using solar panels is to tilt the panel so it’s facing the sun directly. This will be important in the morning and evening hours when the sun is low on the horizon.

You should also make sure that the solar panel isn’t shaded even a little bit.

How Long Can I Use A Specific Appliance/Device?

To see how long we can use a specific device we need to know how many watts it uses. That is something that is easy to check with a Poniie PN2000 Plug-in Kilowatt Electricity Usage Monitor. Plug your appliance into this and it will tell you exactly how many watts the device is drawing. I have used my 60W MacBook as an example throughout the whole post, so now let’s see how long a battery would last with my 12W phone charger.

If I have a power station like the Maxoak 500Wh which has a 500Wh hour battery, I can easily do the calculation by taking 500/12=41.66. So in a perfect world, I could charge my phone for almost 42 hours. But since my phone charger is an AC appliance, we have to count in the efficiency of the inverter, which averages 85%. We’ll take that 41.66 and multiply it with 0.85: 41.66*0.85=35.41 hours. This is a more realistic number.

How Much Battery Capacity Do I Need?

The easiest way to find out approximately how much battery capacity you are going to need is to make a list. If you’re going away for three days and plan on bringing your laptop, phone, and tablet, all three of them need to be on the list.

Let’s say that I plan to use my laptop for two hours, my phone needs to be charged every day for two hours, and the tablet needs to be charged once for an hour. If you don’t know how many watts your device use, you can use a Poniie PN2000 Plug-in Kilowatt Electricity Usage Monitor.

Here are my devices and how much they would use based on the numbers above

Laptop – 60W * 2 = 120Wh

Phone – 12W * 3 = 36Wh

Tablet – 20W * 1 = 20Wh

120+36+20=176

176*1.15 (inverter inefficiency) = 202.4 watt-hours is what I will need.

This is an easy way to figure out how much capacity you need.

What Is An Inverter?

The outlets you have in your home deliver AC power, it stands for alternating current and is 110/120 volts. The power in most RV batteries is DC, direct current, 12 volt. An inverter turns DC power into AC power and lets us use outlets, even though we’re far from the power grid.

Inverters aren’t 100% efficient, and while converting DC to AC it loses some power, which is why I often multiply by 0.85 at the end of a calculation when it comes to inverters. That way I assume that the inverter loses 15% of the power and ends up being 85% efficient.

It’s a good idea to overestimate how much power your appliances and devices use, instead of the opposite, so you won’t be disappointed when your power station won’t charge your laptop as many times as you thought it would because you assumed the inverter would be 100% efficient.

Please leave a comment down below if you have any questions. If you still don’t know what you need, let me know what devices you want to be able to power and for how long, and I will do my best to help you.

18 thoughts on “Best Portable Power Station/Solar Generator For Camping 2020”

  1. Hi Jesse, can you help me in which power station would be best for my use. I’m thinking to get a small t.v. Between 17-20ft max. I want to be able to have the receipt on while driving, I’m sure the batteries would do. But at night i might want the a/c on as well for few hours, since I’m thinking on summer trips. And if emergency preparedness.
    Your assistance is greatly appreciated.
    Sincerely ,
    Camper gypsy

    Reply
    • Hello Victoria, thanks for stopping by.

      Air conditioners use a lot of power and will unfortunately not run on any portable power station. Most RVs come with a 13,500 BTU A/C that use around 2750 watts to start up, and about 1250 watts on average to run. This means that even if you would get the biggest Goal Zero power station (https://amzn.to/2U61H3H) it would only run an A/C for about 2.5 hours before having to recharge, which makes it inconvenient.

      For running a TV and smaller devices I still recommend the Aeiusny (https://amzn.to/2WzRjhs). A 50 watt TV would run for about five hours and the unit can then be recharged in your vehicle while driving.

      Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

      Reply
    • Hello,

      The car charger puts out about 110-120 watts when set to 10 amps, so it would take about 9 hours to go from 0 to 100% with the Yeti 1000.

      Reply
  2. Hi Jesse,

    Can you help us find a power station for our needs?

    My wife and I don’t have a RV. We built a sleeper platform in a camper shell in the bed of a Toyota Tacoma,…so very minimalistic . We’re thinking of purchasing a 12 v fridge (Alpicool cf 20) for our food storage, rather than a Yeti cooler. The other items that we need powering are our phones / laptops and small fans to cool and circulate air on hot days.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hello John,

      Sure, I’ll do my best. Let’s consider your power needs.

      I did some research on the Alpicool C20 and it appears to use at most 72Ah @ 12V per 24h, which is 864 watt-hours. I’d expect it to use slightly less than that since it won’t be running the compressor 24/7. I recommend using the 12V DC cigarette plug since it’s more efficient than the 120V AC, so therefore a regulated 12V output would be necessary. Between 500-800 is what I would expect depending on the ambient temperature.

      Most laptops use anywhere from 30-150W, so if you want to charge a 70W laptop for three hours a day that would be at least 210 watt-hours. Phone chargers and small fans usually require less than 10W, so let’s say you use 100 watt-hours to charge two phones for an hour and run 2 fans for four hours.

      That puts you at 1174 watt-hours per day. Again, the 12V fridge will probably use less. With needs like that, I recommend a power station like the Sungzu 1000, Suaoki G1000, or Yeti 1000. With the Yeti, you’d need the 12V regulated cable to regulate the 12V output.

      If those sound too large for you, let’s consider an alternative.

      For example, if you would go with the Dometic CFX28 instead which only uses 0.75A per hour, it would most likely use less than 300 watt-hours per day. Then a power station like the Jackery Explorer 500 could do the job, as long as you have a way to recharge the battery.

      Let me know if you have any questions, or are interested in how you could set up solar for a specific power station on your Tacoma.

      Reply
  3. What do you think of the new Titan by Point Zero Energy. It seems quite versatile, with the cool options of having replaceable and add-on batteries. It is quite heavy, but comes in two manageable components that snap together. It has much more than I will need for my trailer (Intech Explore) but it would likely suffice as a home survival generator. It is pricey. I am impressed with how you set up Yeti to work in a cabinet.

    Reply
    • I haven’t tested the Titan yet but I have read a lot about it. It’s definitely a heavy but powerful power station, and being able to replace or add more lithium batteries is a great feature I’d like to see in more products. I probably wouldn’t put it in my camper due to the size and weight, but I agree that it’s a good option for preppers.

      And wow, that Intech Explore is neat!

      Reply
  4. First off i must say its awesome that you give such good clear advice! Feel very grateful to have stumbled across your website!
    My wife and I have a older tacoma as well as a larger tundra with a fourwheel camper on the back. The Tundra has 380watts of solar on the roof and that keeps our 2- 6 volt deep cycle batteries pretty full for the most part. In our tacoma we have a Dometic fridge (no freezer) that we want to power full time while on extended trips as well as charge 2 laptop computers, 2 cellphones, some small led lights in the evening and for about 8 hours a day a remote satellite dish and modem we use for internet. The modem and satellite maybe will pull 2.5 amps at 120 volts. We’ve been looking at the goal zero 500x or the older 400 to be our main source of power in the tacoma and a great back up option in the tundra build we have. I’ve read in some of your info that we can purchase cables that we can purchase other solar panels other then goal zero. In your opinion what might be the best way for us to go? 500x with 100 or 150 watt panel? 400 with what panel? i’d like to say money is no object but that’s just not the case. I do however want to purchase something that will work for our needs as well as get some miles out of it and keep it light and somewhat compact…maybe asking to much? lol

    I really appreciate your time and expert advice as i’d love to pull the trigger soon.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment, Charles. Nice setup!

      Hmm, that’s a tricky one. It’s hard to say for sure without knowing how much power the fridge uses. If the fridge uses 40W when it’s on, and it turns on 12 hours a day, you’ve used up pretty much all of the battery capacity in either battery. If you can figure out how much power the fridge uses in a day, it will be easier to make a list and calculate watt-hours.

      When it comes to Yeti 400 Lithium Vs Yeti 500X, I would pick Yeti 500X every time. Faster charge controller, USB C (in/out), regulated 12V output (a must for 12V fridges in my opinion), and higher resale value. It’s easy to connect third-party panels to it, and I would suggest a Renogy 160W panel that connects to the Yeti with an MC4 to 8mm adapter.

      The Yeti 500X with a 160W panel would not have any issues powering your computers (as long as they’re not gaming computers), your dish satellite, modem, phones, and lights. The big question is how much power your fridge needs.

      Let me know if I can help out further.

      Reply
      • Jesse,
        Thanks so much for getting back to me! It looks like the fridge watt’s used are ruffly around 0.87 Ah/h at 12v. I was able to talk to a friend who said they have a Yeti 500x and mentioned it not performing as well as they had hoped it would, with similar wattage consumptions as we are looking for. That being said, we are now considering the larger yeti 1000 or another brand options that will give us peace of mind. If that was the case, what would be your recommendations for paring more watt power station with a good panel? But if you think the 500x will have us covered we are def happier to save the cost and weight…lol!
        Again Jesse we really appreciate the recommendations!!

        Our best,

        Reply
  5. Jesse,
    Thanks so much for getting back to me! It looks like the fridge watt’s used are ruffly around 0.87 Ah/h at 12v. I was able to talk to a friend who said they have a Yeti 500x and mentioned it not performing as well as they had hoped it would, with similar wattage consumptions as we are looking for. That being said, we are now considering the larger yeti 1000 or another brand options that will give us peace of mind. If that was the case, what would be your recommendations for paring more watt power station with a good panel? But if you think the 500x will have us covered we are def happier to save the cost and weight…lol!
    Again Jesse we really appreciate the recommendations!!

    Our best,

    Reply
    • Sorry for the late reply, I don’t have any service where I’m camping currently.

      I understand, as somebody that has both a 500Wh and 1000Wh power station, I would recommend the larger one if you have space for it. I depend on my batteries every day, and having the extra battery capacity means that you will be prepared for a cloudy day. I have realized though that what’s even more important is doing what you can to max out the solar charging so it only takes a couple of hours to recharge the battery.

      If you could wait, Goal Zero is releasing new models soon. It’s hard to say how soon though, it might not be until late summer due to the pandemic.

      I don’t recommend buying the Yeti 1000 right now at full price since it’s an older model. If you want to order one today, I recommended the Jackery Explorer 1000 paired with a Renogy 160W via an MC4 to 8mm adapter. For extension cables, I recommend Windynation MC4 cables. You could also go with two 100W panels wired together in parallel to increase the charging speed.

      The Explorer 1000 is lighter than the Yeti, has three AC outlets, MPPT charger built-in, USB C, and a regulated 12V. The downside with the Explorer 1000 is that its max solar input is about 175W, while the Yeti 1000 can handle about 400W input or more with the MPPT upgrade. You’d have to spend extra money to add a regulated 12V output and an MPPT charge controller to the Yeti though. If you think you’ll use more than 200W of solar, let me know and I might have a better option.

      Reply
      • Jesse,

        Thanks and good to know on the goal zero 1000. i think for budget purposes we might go with the Explorere 1000. Even with the new GZ coming out soon it will more than likely be still up there in price. Not in a huge rush so maybe we wait and see what the new GZ’s go for and what the older models start to sell for…lol

        Thanks again for the great info!!

        Reply

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