The Best Portable Power Stations for Outages and Outings

portable power stations
The Best Portable Power StationsPopular Mechanics; Courtesy


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Whether you’re an avid camper (who still enjoys some creature comforts) or you feel better knowing you have an emergency power source backup at home for unexpected outages, a portable power station can come in handy. While generators are typically powered by gas and are only for outside use, these power stations provide electricity from large batteries that are safe to use indoors. Plus, they’re a bit more portable, so you can actually take them with you on off-the-grid excursions.

Read on for buying advice and our reviews of the best power stations on the market, ready to rev up your power tools, charge electronics, or even keep appliances running when the power’s out at home.

The Best Power Stations

Gas Versus Battery Power

Power stations are battery operated (with some able to recharge using solar energy), while gas power sources are generally known as generators. Though gas generators are typically less expensive and provide more energy for a longer period of time, they tend to be noisy and can be used only outside, a safe distance from your home, to keep carbon monoxide exhaust from getting inside. Gas generators are a great solution for temporarily providing power during an outage, but they—plus the fuel you need to run them—can be cumbersome to take on camping trips.

Battery-operated power stations are often more expensive, but they also come with a slew of benefits. They are more eco-friendly—particularly when powered by solar panels—quiet, and safe for indoor use. They typically come in a variety of sizes, so you can get a smaller, more portable pack for short camping trips or a day by the lake. For a battery station to get as powerful as a gas generator, though, you will have to spend big bucks—often well over $1,000. While these batteries are rechargeable, some may take more than 8 hours for them to charge.

What Size Power Station Do You Need?

It’s important to know what you intend to plug into a power station in order to choose the right size. Many manufacturers have a chart with estimated power requirements for common appliances and devices to help add up what’s required. You can also calculate the figure by tallying the power consumption of specific devices and adding them together. To calculate watts, multiply voltage (usually 120 volts) by the amps (amperage) required to run the appliance (usually found on a tag attached to the appliance). Do this for each item the generator will power.

About Charging with Solar Panels

Some manufacturers sent us solar panels to charge up their power stations. While we weren’t testing them specifically, we did try them out to see how well they worked and how easy they are to use. In general, we found that it’s difficult to reach the maximum charging capability of any given solar panel. This is due to a couple of reasons, but mainly because conditions are rarely perfect. We tested in eastern Pennsylvania on a mostly clear, sunny day and typically reached 60-70 percent of any given panel’s current generation potential. And since it generally takes multiple hours to recharge a power station, we had to reposition the panels frequently to maintain optimal orientation to the sun. This is not to say solar panels aren’t viable options for charging, just that if you’re going to rely on them, you need to plan accordingly. You may need more panels than you expect if you’re simply going by the numbers the panels are rated at to estimate how long charging will take.

How We Tested and Selected Power Stations

To test these power stations, we timed how long it took to discharge and recharge their batteries. To do this, we created a constant 450-watt load that we could run on each model to keep things consistent. To get to 450 watts, we selected four, 42-watt incandescent light bulbs, one three-speed pedestal fan, and a small personal heater. Where applicable, we also paired the power stations with apps on smart phones and monitored them remotely. We assessed performance, as well as ease of use and the feedback and data provided by each model’s display screen.

When choosing portable power stations for this list, we wanted to offer a variety of choices that will fit both your needs and your budget. Small, basic power stations start around $500, but larger models can cost over $3,000. We included options at both ends of this range, as well as a few middle-of-the-line choices. Though we haven’t tested the Jackery Explorer 1000 yet, we included it because it’s highly regarded among consumers, with popular and promising features based on our experience with other models.

Capacity/output: 1,500 watts | Two standard 120-volt, 16.5-amp AC outlets | Two USB-A ports, 12 watts each | One USB-C port, 18 watts | One USB-C PD port (input/output), 60-watts | One 12-volt, 30-amp DC outlet | One 12-volt, High Power Port (HPP) | Two 12-volt 6mm ports | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Charging input options: Standard 120-volt AC plug, solar 11-150-volt at 15A (panels sold separately), automotive 12-volt plug | Weight: 42.5 lb

EcoFlow’s Delta Pro is a massive power station that rivals the output of gas-powered generators. The brand claims it will power nearly any appliance, and after testing, we’re inclined to agree. With an output of 3,600 watts, it can handle multiple appliances, and if you need more power, you can bump up to 4,500 watts with its built in X-Boost technology. In our testing, running with a continuous 470-watt load, as indicated on the Delta Pro’s display, it provided power for 6 hours and 57 minutes. Of course, in a home back-up during a power outage situation, we would run only what we needed to conserve power. To that end, we used it to power a full-size, 25-cubic-foot refrigerator—which it did for a remarkable 51 hours and 24 minutes.

Recharging the power station from 0 percent using a standard 120-volt home outlet, we were able to get back to full capacity in 2 hours and 36 minutes. You can also charge the system, with the included adapter, at EV charging stations, with solar panel chargers (sold separately), a car charger, or combinations of these to speed things up.

The Delta Pro’s display screen provides all the important of information you need to manage you power consumption. We frequently checked the screen during testing to see the unit’s charge level, current load, and estimated run time at the current discharge rate. All of this information is also accessible through EcoFlow’s app, which was the most intuitive and easy to use of those we tested. We connected the app both locally using Bluetooth and via Wi-Fi remotely to monitor the power station from anywhere. We could also toggle outlets on and off remotely, which is super helpful if you’re trying to manage power station output to extend the battery life.

While we tested just one Delta Pro, you can pair two together to double the capacity.

Capacity/output: 1,500 watts | Two standard 120-volt, 16.5-amp AC outlets | Two USB-A ports, 12 watts each | One USB-C port, 18 watts | One USB-C PD port (input/output), 60-watts | One 12-volt, 30-amp DC outlet | One 12-volt, High Power Port (HPP) | Two 12-volt 6mm ports | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Charging input options: Standard 120-volt AC plug, solar 11-150-volt at 15A (panels sold separately), automotive 12-volt plug | Weight: 42.5 lb

The Yeti 1500X is the bridge between emergency home backup and off-grid power for camping, tailgating, or remote excursions. We ran it from 100 percent down to 0 using a 459-watt load over 3 hours and 11 minutes. For reference, that’s like running four refrigerators, continuously, for the same amount of time. We actually did use the Yeti 1500X to power one refrigerator during our testing, and we were able to keep it going for 28 hours and 17 minutes before the battery died.

When we recharged the Yeti from a wall outlet with the included AC charger, it took 13 hours and 11 minutes to go from 0 to full. You can cut that down to as little as 3 hours (claimed) with an optional 600-watt power supply. You can also charge from your car with Goal Zero’s optional car charger, or using a Boulder Solar Panel Briefcase.

Using Goal Zero’s free app, we were able to pair the Yeti 1500X via Bluetooth and set it up to access via Wi-Fi remotely. Being able to monitor charging, as well as battery levels, remotely made things easier for testing. That convenience translates well to home or camping use, being able to know how much longer the battery will last—or when the power station is back up to a full charge.

One thing we learned testing power stations is that cable management can be a hassle. With multiple charging cords, plugs, and adapters, we often got cables mixed up. We didn’t have that problem with the Yeti, though, because it has a built-in cable storage compartment—a welcome feature, to be sure.

Capacity/output: 500 watts | Four standard 110-volt AC outlets (500 watts, combined) | Three USB-A ports, 12 watts each | One USB-C port, 60-watts | One 12-volt, 30-amp DC outlet | Connectivity: N/A | Charging input one port for: Standard 120-volt AC adapter or automotive 12-volt plug | Weight: 14.25 lb

Anker’s 535 Portable Power Station is intended for smaller power needs and ideal for use as a mobile charging station for all your devices. It’s not designed for loads over 500 watts—so that means no hair dryers, toasters, or coffee machines. We used all four 110-volt outlets to run a total load of 424 watts, as calculated by the 535, for exactly an hour before the battery kicked it, which matched the estimated run-time on the display to the minute.

Admittedly, our test load is higher than what you might typically run off the 535, but we use the same load across all power stations we test. Note that devices using 100 watts or less can run 5-10 hours. More in-line with typical use, the 535 will charge laptops and tablets several times over and mobile phones dozens of times. When it comes to recharging your devices, one of our favorite features, power-saving mode, automatically shuts the 535 down once devices reach a full charge. We timed recharging, from 0 to 100 percent, at 4 hours and 56 minutes from a standard wall outlet. It can also charge from your vehicle with the included cable.

We found the information displayed on 535’s screen helpful in managing power consumption and charging. Data it provides include current power in watts—coming in during charging or going out during use, estimated run-time, battery charge level, and which outlets are in use.

Capacity/output: 2,000 watts | Three standard 120-volt AC outlets | Four USB-A ports | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Charging input options: Standard 120-volt AC plug | Weight: 42 lb

Ego is known for producing cordless outdoor power equipment like mowers, chainsaws, and leaf blowers—all using interchangeable 56-volt batteries. And its Nexus Power Station can use up to four of those batteries. (You can buy it alone, with two 7.5-Ah batteries, or four 5-Ah batteries.) If you’re already invested in their platform, the Nexus may be an opportunity to leverage that using batteries you already have, or to expand the runtime of your existing tools with additional batteries.

We tested the Nexus Power Station with two 7.5-Ah batteries, although at its highest, capacity is four 10-Ah batteries. Using a constant load of 462 watts, as measured by the Nexus Power Station, we were able to run it for an hour and 32 minutes. Using the display screen to monitor the power station, we determined the projected runtime, the number of batteries connected, outlets in use, and the current total load, displayed as a gauge.

In order to view the current load precisely in watts, we had to use the Ego Power+ app, which also showed us the current charge status of each individual battery, as well as total battery level as a percentage. We connected the app directly to the power station via Bluetooth, and while it can also sync over Wi-Fi, we had inconsistent results doing so. Speaking with representatives at Ego, we learned there may be a firmware and iOS update coming—which is good news, because any changes can be pushed out and available to all devices.

Using the power station with four 10-Ah batteries will greatly extend the Nexus Power Station’s runtime. Based on our testing, with four of these batteries, we estimate you would get up to 10 hours of use powering a full-size refrigerator. While the cost with a full bank of batteries may seem high, if you’re already invested in Ego’s platform with other tools, the Nexus is actually be a cost-effective path to emergency backup power. Plus, it essentially doubles as a charger for four batteries.

Capacity/output: 500 watts | One standard 110-volt AC outlet, 500 watts | Three USB-A ports, 2.4-amps, each | One 12-volt, 10-amp DC outlet | Two 12-volt, 7-amp, 6.5mm x 1.4mm outlets | Connectivity: N/A | Charging input, one port for: Standard 120-volt AC adapter or solar panel/charger (sold separately) | Weight: 13.25 lb

The name says it all for Jackery’s Explorer 500. Ideal for camping and travel, it’s designed for low- to medium-power devices—anything under 500 watts. That means skip the toaster oven or microwave. The Explorer 500 only has a single 110-volt outlet, so we had to use a power strip to test with the same devices used on other models. The display gives you the critical information you need: power coming in during charging, power going out during use, and battery charge level. According to the display, out testing load totaled 478 watts, which ran for 1 hour and 2 minutes before depleting the battery. Using the Explorer 500 as a mobile charging station, you can expect to recharge a laptop up to five times or a mobile phone up to 50 times.

We timed recharging the Explorer from a wall outlet at 7 hours and 1 minute. It can also charge via an included adapter for your car or using an optional solar panel. Jackery sent us a Solar Saga 100 to try out with it. While solar is a great option to charge your power station or keep it topped up, to get the most out of solar charging, you need to keep the panels oriented toward the sun. In our testing day in Pennsylvania with the sun lower in the sky, it took 2 hours per 10 percent of battery charge and required moving the panels to keep them oriented for the strongest sunlight.

Capacity/output: 1,000 watts | Three standard 120-volt AC outlets | 2 USB-C ports, 1 USB-A port, 1 quick charge USB 3.0 port | One 12-volt, 10-amp DC outlet | Connectivity: N/A | Charging input: one standard 120-volt AC adapter or solar panel/charger (sold separately), 1 Anderson port | Weight: 22 lb

The Jackery Explorer 1000 is a highly popular portable power station with a max capacity of 1,002 watt-hours. With a relatively light weight for its size, it’s a great option for camping, barbecues, outdoor parties, and sporting events. It has three standard AC outlets, two USB-C ports, a 12-volt car outlet, and two USB-A outlets. Jackery says it will power a mini fridge for 17 hours, charge a laptop eight times, and run an electric grill for 50 minutes. Like other portable power stations, it can recharge via a solar panel (sold separately), an AC outlet, or your vehicle’s 12-volt outlet, and takes 6.5 hours, 5.5 hours, and 11.5 hours to recharge, respectively.

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