Is this Solar Powerhouse an Innovative Generator or Overweight Battery?
Written by Ryan Lee Price on September 5, 2019
This article originally appeared in Issue 15 of our magazine.
If you’re reading this magazine, there’s a good chance you’ve considered fortifying your food supplies and beefing up your home security. And if you’re a serious prepper, you’ve already done those things in addition to buying a backup generator for when the power cuts out. Usually powered by gasoline or diesel, a portable generator can provide electricity where a plugin isn’t available (e.g. a tailgate party) or if there’s a grid-down situation.
However, there are drawbacks. Portable generators give off poisonous carbon monoxide fumes, not to mention noise pollution that can attract unwanted attention (i.e. marauders or the desperate). Too bad there isn’t a silent, zero-emission generator that doesn’t require fuel to work. Or is there?
Enter Goal Zero, an industry leader in sun-powered illumination solutions. The Yeti 400 is the middle of three tiers in the company’s lineup of solar-powered generators, and we recently got hands on with it to see how effective it’d be at providing juice from a prepper’s point of view.
Goal Zero Yeti 400 Specifications
Dimensions 10.25 x 8 x 8 inches
Weight 29 pounds
Editor’s Note: In the time since this article was published, Goal Zero has also released a new Lithium series of Yeti portable power stations. The original AGM-powered Yeti 400 is still available, and MSRP has been reduced from the as-tested price of 660 to a current price of 450.
In the heart of the beast lies a 12-volt, 33-amp/hour sealed lead-acid AGM battery. Developed for military aircraft where weight and safety are important, an Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) battery contains a thin fiberglass mat, sandwiched between plates and saturated with battery acid. The mat and plates are slightly compressed, then welded in place.
AGM has very low internal resistance, is capable of delivering high currents on demand, and offers a relatively long service life — even when deep cycled. AGM batteries are maintenance free, reliable, and lighter than the flooded lead-acid type.
Goal Zero suggests that it remain connected to a power source when in storage and then nearly drained every three to four months.
Power In, Power Out
The Yeti can receive power from three input sources: a 110-volt wall adapter, a 12-volt car charger, and the 8mm plug ported to a solar array. When fully charged (it took a little over five hours to fully charge out of the box), the Yeti has a power capacity of 400-watt hours, meaning it can theoretically power anything from a 4-watt device for 100 hours to a 400-watt device for one hour, without taking into account power lost to the inverter or other system limitations. For example, it took 2 watts of output 16 minutes to charge an iPhone 6S from 88 to 100 percent. The Yeti is also designed to be chained together with other 12-volt batteries. It won’t increase the wattage, but it’ll increase the runtime.
The output ports are plentiful: 12-volt cigarette lighter-style port, two 1.5-amp USB ports, two 12-volt, 10-amp 6mm ports, and two 110-volt AC ports. After plugging in a device, push the associated button for that output port and the display comes to life. It’ll show you exactly how many amps are being used. The one-button display (backlit for nighttime) is simple to use. There’s an indicator for input, one for output, and a battery diagram that displays remaining power.
In the Field
Construction of the Yeti is straightforward, but strong. Basically, it’s a car battery with a tough carrying case and inverters for the output. It feels and looks like it can take a beating and still function. There are no buttons to break off, though the LED display could easily find a sharp rock if it tipped over. The handle is robust and sturdy and recessed into the top, and wide rubber feet keep it from sliding on smooth surfaces. Each corner has a slight indent for lifting the unit. Replacing the battery (which averages a four-year life span) is easy via the four Torx screws on the top.
The best feature is that it’s so simple to use. Breeze through the directions, then just plug it into the wall, charge it up, and start using it.
When the Yeti begins to beep or when the display reads around 20 percent left, plug it in again. It’ll provide you with hundreds of life cycles. As long as you don’t exceed the limits of the unit, you can plug in and power as many things as there are ports to do so. A note of warning: Don’t leave the AC button switched on if you’re not using it because the inverter draws 5 watts when idle.
Sitting next to the unit as it silently powered our gear, we realized it’s a misnomer to call it a generator because it doesn’t actually generate power by itself. Instead, it converts and stores power much more like a fancy battery. Without source of electricity to replenish what has been used — whether solar or 110 volts from the wall — it would become useful as a doorstopper and not much else. If you’re going to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere, make sure to be stuck with solar panels or a really, really long extension cord. Need to power up your laptop? You’ve got only about 20 hours of use (three or four charges on a 50-watt/hour device).
But this is no flashlight battery. At 29 pounds, it’s hefty, and you’re not going to tuck it into the of your pack and whip it out whenever your iPad goes dead. This sits in a closet of a cabin in the woods or in the trunk of your get-out-of-Dodge vehicle.
This is a dedicated survival/adventure tool to provide power when you need it. Best used for camping, emergencies, disasters, and those times when the local utility surprises you with rolling blackouts.
Above: The Yeti 400 generator can be juiced up using Goal Zero’s Nomad 100 solar panel and pairs up nicely with the Light-A-Life LED lights below. (Both items are sold separately.)
Sold separately is the Nomad 100, a four-panel solar array that’s a plug-and-play unit, compatible with the 8mm input port on the Yeti. The Nomad 100, which can collect 100 watts of power on a bright, sunny day, will take about 12 hours to fully charge the Yeti. The supplied 8 feet of cable means you have to keep the Yeti and the Nomad in close company the whole time — not ideal in foul weather. Not to mention keeping the Nomad properly aimed at the sun for optimal charging. A downside of the Nomad, despite its canvas cover and the loops for securing it (or hanging it), the flap doesn’t snap closed, and there’s no carrying handle.
Also sold separately is the Light-A-Life 350 LED light, named for its 350 lumens of light. It can be converted from a spotlight to a lantern, has a built-in carabiner so it’s easy to hang, and has impressive reach with its retractable 8-foot cable. Most importantly, you can chain eight of these lights together, and they only use 4.5 watts each (on high mode). These are bright and energy-efficient.
By itself, the Yeti 400 is only useful as a temporary solution to your electronic problems. It needs to be renewed, and there’s no point in dragging it along if you don’t also bring source of power (solar panels, etc.). There are plenty of other more portable solar-related devices that can charge your smartphone or tablet if you’re on the move.
This large power bank is best reserved for those items in your kit that can’t easily be powered or for when you’re hunkered down with no ambition to bug out — think blackouts or civil unrest.
Aside from bugging in, the Yeti 400 is ideal for adventures where electricity might be spotty or scarce, such on campgrounds, during an RV road trip, or while cruising on your boat. Depending on the gear you have and its watt/hours requirements, you’ve got 400 watt/hours to spread around, so do it wisely. And if you lost or forgot the solar panel, well, you could always use this generator as an anchor.
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Written by Ryan Lee Price
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X Inverter Generator Review
Whether you’re looking at job site, recreational, or emergency power applications, you’re unlikely to find a better overall package than what Goal Zero offers with the Yeti 3000 without moving to gas generators.
As gas tools make way for battery-powered options, outdoor power equipment is seeing a significant shift. Gas generators represent one of the high-value sectors in that market. Technology continues to move forward and while the Kohler enCube left us wanting in some areas, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000X promises a better experience.
Editor’s Note: Check out our best generator reviews article for our top picks.
- High battery capacity
- Quick charging for its class
- Easy-to-use Wi-Fi-based app
- Lighter than lead-acid models
- No maintenance, no emissions, no noise
- Limited to sub-13-amp tools/products
- Cart is tough to roll on anything other than hard surfaces
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X Size and Capacity
The biggest physical difference between the Kohler enCube and the Goal Zero Yeti 3000X is size. The Yeti is a much smaller package that weighs about 25 pounds lighter with more than 150% greater energy storage capacity. With 3,075 watt-hours of storage capacity in the lithium-ion cells, it blows the Kohler enCube’s 1,200 watt-hours away by miles. As products like this make the transition to lithium-ion, we can expect greater power density. That means more power and run-time for less weight.
Here’s what came in our test package:
- Goal Zero Yeti 3000X Lithium Portable Power Station with Wi-Fi
- 2 wall chargers
- Pre-installed MPPT module
- Rolls Cart
- 200W Solar Briefcase
Advantages of Goal Zero Yeti Over Gas
The Goal Zero Yeti 3000X is a very capable lithium-ion power station given its power output and excellent capacity. It moves us closer to powering corded tools but still falls short as you close in on 13 amps. Whether you’re looking at jobsite, recreational, or emergency power applications, you’re unlikely to find a better overall package than what Goal Zero offers with the Yeti 3000X unless you move to gas generators.
- Silent Operation
- Zero Emissions
- Little to No Maintenance
- Inexpensive to Recharge or Free with Solar Panels
- Higher Surge Wattage Compared to Similar Power Class
Lithium-Ion Advantages Over Lead Acid
- Deeper Discharge
- Faster Charging
- No Need to Keep on a Constant Maintenance Charge
- Much Lower Self-Discharge Rate
- Lighter Weight
- Can Have Longer Life with Quality Cells
Disadvantages Over Gas
- Much Longer Recharge Times Compared to Refueling
- Heavier for Similar Power Outputs
- Currently limited to the sub-2000-Watt Power Class
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X Key Features
Dual Charging Ports
2 is better than 1, right? For wall charging, the Yeti 3000X gives you two charging ports to help you recharge faster.
MPPT stands for “Maximum Power Point Tracker” and a unit comes pre-installed on the Yeti 3000X. You’ll get up to 40% faster charging that a standard charging port and you’ll see your biggest efficiency gains when solar charging.
On the standard ports, I get 63 watts with 1 charger and 127 watts with both. Flipping those over the MPPT, it’s 75 and 145 watts, respectively. That’s roughly a 13.5% gain between the two.
With the Boulder 200 panels at high noon, I get 134 watts on the standard port and 165 watts with the MPPT. Not only do those numbers exceed the charging rate from a wall outlet, it’s a 23.1% efficiency gain when you switch to the MPPT.
The beauty of Goal Zero’s Yeti App is in its simplicity. For Android, the download is less than 11 megabytes, so it’s not horribly bloated like all the social media apps. The interface is simple as well. There’s just one screen to worry about. It shows you your remaining battery capacity, current watts in and out, time to empty, and port status with on/off toggles for each of them.
What you don’t see is Goal Zero’s ability to update your firmware wirelessly. With computer-controlled electronics, an update can make a big difference in the performance or efficiency of a battery-powered device. If Goal Zero finds something helpful, you’ll get the upgrade without the need to visit a service center.
- USB A port: 5V, up to 2.4A (12W max), regulated
- USB C port: 5V, up to 3.0A (15W max), regulated
- USB PD port: 5V, 12V, 20V up to 3.0A (60W max)
- 6mm port: 12V, up to 10A (120W max)
- 12V car port: 12V, up to 10A (120W max)
- 12V Power Pole port: 12V, up to 20A (240W max)
- 120V AC Inverter: 120VAC 60Hz, 12.5A (1500W, 3000W surge)
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X for Jobsite Use
Like gas generators, you want to protect the Goal Zero Yeti 3000X from unfavorable weather conditions. It’s also more sensitive to dust and mud than most job site generators, so you’ll want to keep that in consideration. Fortunately, you can bring it inside with you since you don’t need to worry about emissions.
However, the solar panel cord is only about 6′, so you may want to look into an extension if you intend to keep them connected most days.
As soon as I stepped off the pavement and onto the grass, it became obvious that the cart’s wheels the Yeti’s weight are best on hard surfaces. It’s tough to roll it across anything else. Bigger, wider wheels – maybe even pneumatic – would give it better offroad abilities.
The Goal Zero Yeti 3000X produces 1500 watts of continuous power and 3000 surge watts. While this is technically less than the 3600 surge watts the enCube boats, I was able to run more powerful tools. The largest is a 12.5-amp surface grinder without any kind of soft start. I peaked at 11 amps with the enCube.
Successfully Tested Job Site Tools
You’re still shy of the 15 amps you need to run circular saws, table saws, and miter saws, among others. So what’s the call here?
The Yeti won’t turn all your corded tools into cordless on its own. For a residential construction site, I like this for keeping your cordless tool and device batteries charged primarily. It’s also great for running work lights – just stick with LED to keep the power draw down. You can run fans as well, though our favorites are all cordless models.
It is feasible for the Yeti to stand in as a power source for tools less than 13 amps that you might not have a cordless version of. You can also run your large drum fan. Just keep in mind that you’ll be drawing more power when you use them and will limit your overall runtime.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X for Recreational Use
The capacity of the Goal Zero Yeti 3000X makes it an outstanding choice for recreational use when you’re in an area without power. It does weigh 75 pounds and the solar panels add another 42 pounds, so it’s best when you’re driving to your destination. If RVing is out of your budget range, it’s a big car camping win.
Favorite Recreational Uses
- LED lights
- Small fans
- Small refrigerators for short periods (tailgating)
- Device charging
Using the Goal Zero Yeti 3000X for Emergency Power
Whether it’s a winter storm, hurricane, or tornado that knocks power out, what you can expect from Yeti 3000X is dependent on how long the outage lasts. I plan for week-long power outages here in hurricane country. Given the limitations of how fast I can recharge with the solar panels, here are the items I plan on running along with some other common concerns.
Storm Prep Uses
- LED lights
- Batteries for cordless fans/lights
- Phones, two-way radio batteries
- Modem/wireless router if the internet comes back before the power
- Mini fridge for temperature-dependent medicines only
- CPAP or other medical devices
Notice What’s Missing
When you plan to be without power for a week, some items draw too much energy and risk leaving you without power for what’s actually necessary. However, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000X is capable of running the items on my “missing” list for a period of time. It’s up to you to judge the difference between need and want along with balancing how long you’ll be without power.
If you’re looking to run the appliances and household items that make life comfortable, a gas generator is still the way to go.
The Realities of Solar Charging
Solar charging sounds like a great way to go on the prepper websites. To be effective, you need a large solar array. If you can swing the cost, great. If you’re looking for a gas generator replacement, the cost might be more than you’re willing to spend.
The enCube’s 60-watt panels were way too small – I was only able to recharge at a maximum of 45 watts and 30 watts was close to my average. Goal Zero has a kit option with their Boulder 200-watt briefcase. In peak sun, I’ve been able to pull 165 watts. But that’s still going to take 18.5 hours to recharge such a large battery if I can maintain peak charging conditions.
You can combine up to 600 watts of solar panels, potentially bringing your total charge time down to 6 – 7 hours if you’re willing to make the investment.
Keep in mind that you only have 6 hours of peak sunlight or so—even on a good day. You’ll also have to haul those panels around and ensure you protect them from damage.
In my conversation with Goal Zero, they recognize that this is a limitation, and they’re not trying to hide the facts. Currently, solar recharging is primarily designed to reduce the amount of wall charging time you need when you get back to a power source rather than as a primary means of keeping power flowing to the inverter.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X Pricing
The Goal Zero Yeti 3000X costs 3499. 200-watt solar panels will add another 575 or so to the price. Obviously, that’s a large premium over what you’ll pay for gas. Compared to other options available in the battery power station market, it’s competitive.
Take the enCube for example. It’s a little over 1000 for 1200 watts of capacity and the 60-watt panels bump it up 200 if you’re shopping on Amazon. Push that forward proportionally and you would pay several thousand dollars to match the Yeti 3000X specs. The trade-off is that you’re dealing with a lead-acid battery instead of lithium-ion, so you need to factor those advantages in as well.
Compared to other lithium-ion options, the Yeti 3000X doesn’t have much direct competition with such a high capacity. Considering their 1400-watt version where there are more options, the price compares favorably.
The Bottom Line
The Goal Zero Yeti 3000X is a very capable lithium-ion power station given its power output and incredible capacity. It moves us closer to powering corded tools but still falls short as you close in on 13 amps. Whether you’re looking at jobsite, recreational, or emergency power applications, you’re unlikely to find a better overall package than what Goal Zero offers with the Yeti 3000X unless you move to gas generators.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X Lithium Power Station Specifications
- Model: Goal Zero Yeti 3000X
- Power Source: Lithium-ion
- Charging: 120V AC or solar
- Capacity: 3075 watt hours
- Weight: 68.6 pounds (77.5 pounds with cart)
- Solar Panel Weight: 42 pounds (Boulder 200)
- Dimensions: 10.1 x 15.3 x 13.1 inches
- Operating Temperature Range: 32° – 104° F (0° – 40° C)
- Warranty: 12 months
- Price: 3499 (without panels)
REVIEW: Goal Zero Yeti 3000X, Is It Worth It? Top 3 Alternatives
The Goal Zero Yeti 3000X has a lot of people wondering if it’s a good choice for emergency or off-grid solar power.
This high-powered solar generator from the well-known manufacturer Goal Zero provides loads of renewable solar power anywhere in the world for emergencies, remote worksites, or even just a weekend camping trip or two.
What many people may not know, however, is that there are many options for the best solar generator for any given person’s electrical demand and lifestyle.
At Shop Solar Kits, we tested nearly every solar-powered generator on the market ad felt it necessary to review the new Goal Zero Yeti 3000.
Here, we take an in-depth look at the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 solar generator and compare it to the other top solar generators available today to determine whether the Yeti 3000 is worth the price tag.
What are solar generators?
First, a quick background on solar generators in general. If you’re new to this sort of thing, a solar generator is essentially the same as a traditional gas generator, except that they are fueled with the power of the sun via solar panels.
So, instead of twisting off the fuel tank cap and pouring in fossil fuel, you connect solar panels to fill up your electric battery bank.
Today’s solar generators, also known as portable power stations, are compact devices that you can transport just about anywhere so you can use electricity in any indoor or outdoor space.
How does a solar generator work?
A solar generator has an internal battery that you charge by attaching solar panels (and/or an AC wall charger or 12V car charger) to the generator and setting them out in direct sunlight to put DC power into the battery.
Electric devices can be plugged into the generator through various output ports (AC, DC, USB, etc), and a built-in inverter regulates the amount of electricity output through traditional wall plugs.
For more information on solar generators, feel free to see our complete guide on choosing the best solar generator.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000X Full Review
Okay, let’s get to it! Here is our full and honest review of the new Goal Zero Yeti 3000 solar-powered generator. We break down every critical feature below.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Battery and Inverter
First, the battery and the inverter of the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 solar generator are among the largest capacity in the portable solar generator market today. In fact, they’re so big that the device weighs nearly 70 pounds! Thankfully, each of its solar generators comes with a two-wheeled cart for easier transportation.
The massive reserve capacity of the Yeti 3000 makes it a seemingly endless source of power for low-demand devices, such as cell phones, laptops, lights, and more.
Plus, the 2000W continuous inverter makes it possible to run high-demand appliances, such as refrigerators, power tools, medical devices, and more.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Input Output Options
The Goal Zero Yeti 3000X includes adequate options for charging and using the generator’s power capacity.
Like in most of today’s devices, you can charge the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 using either solar panels or a traditional AC wall plug.
Once the battery charges, you can power pretty much any device as the power station has AC, DC, USB, and 8mm ports on the front. Here, two AC ports seem a bit limited knowing how massive the inverter is; however, the variety of ports is good overall.
As a bonus, you can also charge the Yeti 300X using a vehicle, making it great for van life and RV setups. However, we should note that the 12V DC car charging cable is not included when purchasing the generator.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Price Point
The price point is one of the most obvious and defining features of the Yeti 3000. At right about 3,200 for just the generator, this device is not your morning coffee.
Of course, a greater than 3,000 investment in anything is a bit daunting.
If you want a small solar-powered generator to keep devices charged on camping trips, during festivals, or at a tailgate, it is pretty clear that the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 is probably too expensive. You would likely be paying for an oversized inverter that your power demand does not require.
Instead, a solar generator at this price point should be considered by someone looking for large amounts of clean energy for power tools, off-grid living, and other high-demand scenarios.
When investing in such a device, users should make sure they won’t have to replace it in the near future, bringing us to our next critical feature: lifecycles and product ROI.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Lifecycles, Product ROI. Is It Worth it?
The number of battery life cycles is the most important thing to consider when purchasing a solar generator, especially the Goal Zero Yeti 3000. The Yeti 3000’s battery is rated to last 500 life cycles at 80% battery capacity.
Although the battery storage is massive, 500 lifecycles is simply not a lot of power. Think about it. If you use the Yeti’s full battery capacity every two days, the battery’s performance will critically drop in less than three years!
Even if this seems like a decent timeline, there are many batteries on today’s market that are rated to last over five times as long as the Goal Zero Yeti 3000.
Consider this, it becomes clear that the return on investment for the Yeti 3000 is not great. It is simply not built to last and will need to be replaced much sooner than other generators.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Shelf Life
Lastly, we’d like to point out the Yeti 3000’s three to six-month shelf life, meaning that you must recharge the battery every three to six months to maintain a reserve capacity.
If you only want the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 for emergency situations, you will have to recharge the Yeti two to four times every year.
Alternatively, many other solar generators have shelf lives of a full year, making it easier to always have power in the event of a blackout and prevent strain on the battery from quarterly charging.
How do you charge a Yeti 3000?
From 0% to 100% of battery capacity, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 has the following charge times:
- AC wall outlet: 14 hours
- Solar (by rated solar wattage in ideal sunlight)
- 100W: 36-72 Hours
- 200W: 18-36 Hours
- 400W: 9-18 Hours
- 600W: 6-12 Hours
- 800W: 6-9 Hours
- 1200W: 6 Hours
Although the battery of the 3000X is massive, these long charge times are still less efficient than other premium solar generators on the market. Feel free to jump to the alternatives section below for more details.
How long will a goal Zero Yeti last?
What can the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Power and for how long?
With its massive battery bank and inverter, Goal Zero Yeti 3000X can power almost anything you will use in a home or RV.
Although it has a limited number of outlets, it would actually be very challenging to overpower this device as its 2000W inverter handles most plausible loads with plenty of battery for extended powering times.
For a few real-life examples, the Yeti 3000 can power:
|Smart Phone (12 Wh)||253 charges|
|Tablet (30 Wh)||101 charges|
|Laptop (50 Wh)||61 charges|
|Microwave (1000 Wh)||3 Hours|
|Portable Fridge (25 Wh)||122 Hours|
|Full-Size Refrigerator (55 Wh)||55 hours|
|Circular Saw (13 Amp) (1500 Wh)||2 hours|
How Much Does The Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Cost?
On Goal Zero’s website. the Yeti is 3000x listed for about 3,200 for the standard solar generator unit, which includes a convenient roll cart for easy transportation. For 300 more, you can also purchase the device in combination with a 200W solar suitcase and carrying bag.
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Pros
- Massive Battery Storage
- High Capacity Inverter
- Convenient Rolling Cart
- Huge Solar Input Capacity
- 24 Month Warranty
- Good Variety of Outlets
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Cons
- Slow AC Charging
- Relatively Slow Solar Charging
- Limited Number of Outlets
- Short Shelf Life (Recharge every 3-6 months)
- Very Short Product Life (500 battery cycles)
- High Price Point
Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Specs
Although we’ve touched on most of these components so far, here are the numbers for the Yeti 3000X, plain and simple:
- Li-ion NMC 3032Wh (10.8V, 280.8Ah) Battery
- 120V AC Inverter: 120VAC 60Hz, 16.5A (2000W, 3500W surge) (output, pure sine wave)
- MPPT Charge Controller
- 2 AC Outlets
- 1 DC car outlet
- 2 USB ports
- 2 USB-C port
- Monitoring Screen (with App capabilities)
Top 3 Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Solar Generator Alternative Options
Even after doing a ton of research, you may be wondering, “Should I buy the Goal Zero Yeti 3000x?” We cannot recommend the latest from Yeti, but here are a few other solar-powered generators that make great alternatives.
Lion Safari ME Gold Solar Generator Kit. 3,995
Today, the Lion Safari ME Gold Kit is perhaps the closest thing you can get to a Yeti 3000 clone with a few bonus features. The Lion Safari ME has a similar price point, battery capacity, inverter size, and output options.
The Safari ME has approximately five times the lifespan of the Yeti 3000 with 2,500 cycles on the main unit’s battery. Beyond this, the Lion Safari ME comes with a detachable storage battery (3,500 cycles) for added convenience.
Here’s a quick look at how the Lion Safari ME stacks up against the Goal Zero Yeti 3000:
- Battery: 2,970 Wh vs 3032Wh
- Inverter: 2000 W vs 2000W
- AC outlets: 2 vs 2
- Shelf Life: 1 Year vs 3-6 months
- Charging Cycles: 2,500 (3,500 for extra battery) vs 500
The EcoFlow Delta 1800 Quad Kit. 1,799
If you don’t need quite as much power as the Yeti 3000 provides, we highly recommend the Eco Flow Delta. as a popular solar generator alternative. Although the battery and inverters are slightly smaller, the Delta comes at nearly a third of the price of the Yeti 300X.
Beyond this, the Delta’s groundbreaking charging speeds leave the Yeti 3000 in the dust. While the Yeti needs to be charged overnight essentially, the Delta can fully charge its battery in the time it takes you to pack the car for your next trip.
Here are the solar generator specs for the EcoFlow Delta vs the Goal Zero Yeti 3000:
- Battery: 1,300 Wh vs 3032Wh
- Inverter: 1,800 W vs 2000W
- AC Charge time: 2 hrs vs 14 hrs
- AC outlets: 6 vs 2
- Shelf Life: Up to 1 Year vs 3-6 months
- Charging Cycles: 800 vs 500
The Bluetti AC200 EB240 Solar Generator Kits. 2,199
Lastly, MaxOak manufactures a great line of solar generators known as “the Bluetti.” The company’s latest Bluetti AC200 stacks up well against the Goal Zero Yeti 3000, offering similar specs with noticeable improvements. The AC200 has more AC outlets, faster solar charging times, and a guaranteed longer lifespan.
Numbers don’t lie, and here are the Bluetti AC2000 specs vs the Goal Zero Yeti 3000:
- Battery: 1,700 Wh vs 3032Wh
- Inverter: 1,800 W vs 2000W
- 700W Solar Charge time: 3.5 hrs vs 6-10 hrs
- AC outlets: 6 vs 2
- Charging Cycles: 2,500 vs 500
It’s clear that the Bluetti AC200 is much better for continuous solar energy generation and use. Alternatively, one may consider the Bluetti EB240.
In the EB240, you exchange a larger battery capacity for a smaller inverter. With this in mind, the EB240 is perfect for powering low-demand devices like lights, phones, and tablets for extended periods of time.
To get the maximum ROI, consider bundling the Bluetti EB240 in a Quad Kit with solar panels and wiring included.
Ultimately, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 is simply not the best solar-powered generator that you can buy for the price.
The massive battery bank and inverter may make the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 somewhat attractive, but in the long run, there are better options for long-lasting solar energy production.
Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out today! Give us a call at 877-242-2792.
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A portable power station will charge your devices and generate electricity using a solar panel, a standard electrical outlet, or even a gas-powered inverter generator.
By Timothy Dale and Tom Scalisi | Updated Jun 14, 2023 5:05 PM
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Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila
A portable power station stores an electrical charge in an internal battery to charge various devices, such as a tablet, phone, or flashlight. You can charge these portable power supplies in several ways, including using a solar panel, a standard electrical outlet, or even a gas-powered inverter generator.
The best portable power stations for camping trips, storms, and outages vary depending on the power output, charging capacity, and preferred energy source. Take a look at the following options for an emergency power station or portable energy supply. Read our portable power station reviews on the top models below, along with important factors to consider before selecting the best portable power station.
And, to help, we put the top-rated power stations through hands-on testing. We spent hours with some of the smaller models and days with some of the larger ones. We even took some on road trips to baseball tournaments and other events. Keep reading to learn more about what we found from the following models.
- BEST OVERALL:Goal Zero Yeti 1000X Portable Power Station
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Craftsman 150-Watt Power Inverter
- UPGRADE PICK:EcoFlow Delta Portable Power Station
- BEST ELECTRIC:Baldr P330 Portable Power Station
- BEST GAS-POWERED:Wen 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter
- BEST SOLAR:Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT:Marbero 83W Portable Power Station
- BEST FOR DEVICES:BioLite BaseCharge 600 Rechargeable Power Station
- BEST COMPACT:Aimtom PowerPal 155 Portable Power Station
- BEST FOR TRAVEL:Scosche PowerUp 32K Portable Power Station
- BEST REPLACEABLE BATTERIES:Ryobi 40V Portable Battery Power Station
- BEST FOR ROAD TRIPS:EcoFlow River 2 Pro Portable Power Station
- BEST OFF-GRID:BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Rechargeable Power Station
- BEST QUICK-CHARGING:Ugreen 1200W Portable Power Station
Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Portable Power Stations
We wanted to ensure that we were only suggesting the best power station for each award. We developed a series of tests and trials to put these power stations through, taking note of their performance at each step.
We used the smaller power stations to charge devices like our phones and laptops, paying close attention to how quickly they drained relative to the speed at which the devices filled. We also ran a desk fan and a lamp off of each model (separately, as they each only had one standard outlet). We compared these models based on size and portability, ranking them by weight and size.
The tests were quite different for the larger models. The timing of this test was good, since the transformer at the end of the street blew five times within 2 weeks after receiving the models. They all saw work as an emergency power station, keeping refrigerators, TVs, routers, lights, and household devices up and running.
We also tested the larger models with the most power-hungry appliances we could think of: an air conditioner and a space heater. We waited for a 90-degree-Fahrenheit day and cranked our window air conditioner to its coldest temperature setting and highest fan setting. We then did the same for the space heater (talk about energy consumption). We noted how quickly each model drained and which models (there was just one, but we mentioned it below) weren’t able to handle the compressor kicking on.
The results of all these tests gave us the background we needed. We could assemble a list of the best power stations, giving each model that passed an award based on its strengths.
Our Top Picks
The following products rank among the best portable power stations in terms of quality, dependability, and price.
Goal Zero Yeti 1000X Portable Power Station
Folks looking for a versatile power station solution will want to consider the Goal Zero Yeti 1000X portable power station. This model provides 983 watt-hours of power and offers a maximum output of 1,500 watts, ensuring there is enough power on tap for any need. It can handle everything from charging devices off-grid to running refrigerators or air conditioners at home.
This model from Goal Zero features two standard 120-volt outlets, two USB-C outlets, two USB outlets, and several 12-volt outlets. It also has solar inputs, allowing it to charge with solar panels (not included in our kit). It comes with the base model and an 8-millimeter charging port, and it charges from a standard 120-volt outlet in 9 hours. However, you can build upon the Yeti 1000X with home expansion kits and power banks to serve as a home backup as well.
If we’re being totally up front, we didn’t expect to love the Yeti during our testing. There were other models that we were more excited to test. However, this model’s digital display and power won us over. It had no problem powering our air conditioner, power tools, and devices. We even used it to charge some of our smaller power stations, all the while tracking their draw and the battery level. After all that, we learned about all of the available expansion kits, and we couldn’t help but appreciate this model for its possibilities. One thing we didn’t appreciate? It is very heavy.
- Wattage: 1,500 watts
- Dimensions: 12.7 inches high by 18.1 inches wide by 13.1 inches deep
- Weight: 37 pounds
- Outlets: 2 standard, 2 USB, 2 USB-C, and 4 12-volt outlets
- Power storage: 938 watt-hours
- Plenty of power
- Expansion possibilities for the entire home
- Digital display provides real-time information
Get the Goal Zero portable power station at Amazon, The Home Depot, or REI.
Craftsman 150-Watt Power Inverter
Craftsman blends affordability with portability and sprinkles a bit of capability on top with its 150-watt power inverter. This budget-minded model snaps onto any 20-volt battery from Craftsman, turning it into a compact power supply that you can take anywhere or store in a tool box.
This power inverter features three ports: USB, USB-C, and a standard outlet. It also has a built-in work light to shed a bit of light on a workbench. Runtime will be determined by the size of the battery it’s on, but with a 150-watt output, it can handle lamps, cell phones, and other devices.
In our opinion, this affordable little inverter is ideal for the jobsite. It can quickly turn any 20-volt Craftsman battery into a power station, allowing folks to charge their phones, power drop lights, or even a laptop when there isn’t a battery source nearby. Is it full of possibilities? Not quite, as it’s limited to the battery it’s attached to, but we think anyone with Craftsman batteries ought to consider adding it to their tool box for its convenience and affordability alone.
- Wattage: 150 watts
- Dimensions: 4 inches high by 2.5 inches wide by 3 inches deep
- Weight: Depends on the battery it’s attached to
- Outlets: 1 standard outlet, 1 USB, and 1 USB-C
- Power storage: Depends on the battery
- Compact design fits in a tool box
- Uses 20-volt Craftsman batteries
- Includes a standard outlet
Get the Craftsman portable power station at Ace Hardware or Lowe’s.
EcoFlow Delta Portable Power Station
EcoFlow’s premium-priced Delta portable power station offers the high power of a gas-powered generator without the noise and harmful fumes. It features an impressive maximum power output of 350,000 milliamp hours (mAh) and charges from 0 to 80 percent in 1 hour on a standard AC outlet. A full charge takes less than 2 hours. It also charges on a compatible solar panel (sold separately) or a 12/24-volt port in a vehicle.
The product powers up to 13 devices at once through its six standard AC outlets, four USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, and one 12-volt outlet. EcoFlow’s appliance features a durable reinforced aluminum chassis, rubber grips, and a built-in handle that allows for the transport of the 31-pound unit.
When it comes to possibilities, we found the EcoFlow Delta to be unmatched. Not only does this model offer plenty of portable power on tap, but it also has more outlets than any other model in our test. Plus, it also had excellent features such as Bluetooth capability and an emergency power supply function that allows it to act as switchgear and a generator all in one. We loved the digital display, and the app was easy to use to connect the Delta to our Wi-Fi. It had no problem running our air conditioner or power tools, though ours did show a maintenance light that the owner’s manual or app does not explain.
- Wattage: 3,300 watts
- Dimensions: 15.7 inches high by 8.3 inches wide by 10.6 inches deep
- Weight: 31 pounds
- Outlets: 6 standard AC outlets, 4 USB-A ports, 2 USB-C ports, and a 12-volt outlet
- Power storage: 350,000mAh
- 350,000mAh power storage
- Achieves a sufficient charge in 1 hour
- Supports up to 13 devices simultaneously
- Multiple charging options
Get the EcoFlow portable power station at Amazon or Lowe’s.
Baldr P330 Portable Power Station
Electric portable power stations, like the Baldr P330, offer several advantages over gas-powered generators that make them ideal for use in the workshop, at home, or on the road. For one, this electric power station runs silently while it charges up or powers electronic devices. What’s more, it does not produce harmful fumes.
A helpful fold-down handle makes it easy to transport the 9-pound station. A built-in flashlight and battery-management system optimize the function of the device. It powers up to nine devices with 66,000mAh of power and one standard AC outlet, three USB ports, one C-type port, three 12-volt outlets, and a wireless charging pad for compatible devices.
During our test, we found the Baldr to be capable of charging smaller devices, power-tool batteries, and our desk fan. We especially liked the wireless charging pad on top of the unit for keeping phones topped off while working at our test bench. It did take us a while to realize that there was a flashlight built into the handle, but that ended up being one of our favorite features. Unfortunately, this power station wasn’t compatible with our solar panels.
- Wattage: 330 watts
- Dimensions: 7.7 inches high by 11.6 inches wide by 8.3 inches deep
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Outlets: 1 standard AC outlet, 3 USB ports, 1 C-type port, and three 12-volt outlets
- Power storage: 66,000mAh
- Comes with wireless charging pads
- Lightweight at 9 pounds
- Built-in handle (with built-in light!) for portability
Get the Baldr portable power station at Amazon.
Wen 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter
An excellent pick for camping or tailgate parties, Wen’s Super Quiet inverter runs for up to 7 hours on a single gallon of gas. The portable power station’s inverter generator puts out up to 400,000mAh at a quiet 51-decibel volume. An automatic fuel shutoff function prevents blockages and reduces wear by ensuring the machine uses the remaining fuel from the carburetor before shutting down. Low-oil and low-fuel shutdown functions help preserve gas. Two standard AC outlets, two USB ports, and one 12-volt outlet power up to five devices.
We had to set our Wen generator up outside, which is really the downfall of this model. And, because it doesn’t store power, it’s not exactly a power station. All that aside, we found this model to be plenty sufficient. It was able to run power tools and charge batteries, and we even used it to recharge some of our power stations. It’s not as quiet as Wen might market it to be, and you need to be prepared to fill it with oil and gasoline before they need it, but this generator could easily keep up with a few appliances in an emergency.
- Wattage: 2,000 watts
- Dimensions: 17.7 inches high by 11.5 inches wide by 17.3 inches inches deep
- Weight: 39 pounds
- Outlets: 2 standard AC outlets, 2 USB ports, and a 12-volt outlet
- Power storage: 400,000mAh
- 400,000mAh power output
- Supports up to 5 electronics at once
- Automatic shutoff function for gas preservation
- Operates for 7 hours on a tank of gasoline
Get the Wen portable power station at Amazon or Target.
Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station
Folks who’d prefer to take their power off-grid, or simply like the idea of a reusable power source, will want to consider the Jackery Explorer 1000 portable power station. This power station is compatible with solar panels and will recharge in about 6 hours with two 100-watt panels in full sun.
The Explorer 1000 features both a 1,000-watt output as well as a 1,002-watt-hour capacity. It has three standard outlets as well as two USB, USB C, and 12-volt DC ports. The digital display keeps you up-to-date on the Explorer’s battery percentage, output, and input. And, for when the power goes out in the middle of the night, the Explorer 1000 has a built-in flashlight to guide the way.
The Jackery Explorer was truly one of our favorite models in the test. We’ve been using this model for over a year now, and it came with two solar panels that are easy to set up and plug into the power station. Also, the Jackery Explorer lasted the longest of all the models in our air-conditioner test, and that’s truly saying something considering it’s been drained and recharged a few times in the past. But, beyond the solar panels and capacity, the Jackery is very easy to use, and the digital display is clean and simple to read. Just keep in mind that solar panels can be expensive.
- Wattage: 1,000 watts
- Dimensions: 11.1 inches high by 13.1 inches wide by 9.2 inches deep
- Weight: 22 pounds
- Outlets: 2 standard, 2 USB, 2 USB C, and a 12-volt DC port
- Power storage: 1,000 watt-hours
- 1,000 watt-hours and 1,000-watt output
- Compatible with solar panels (ours came with them)
- Easy to set up and use
Get the Jackery portable power station at Amazon or Lowe’s.
Marbero 83W Portable Power Station
Keep electronics charged without adding unnecessary weight. At only 2.2 pounds, Marbero’s station makes a great companion on hiking, camping, and road trips (but keep it out of the water). Just grab it by the built-in carrying handle. Making super-efficient use of its light weight, the unit includes a 562-lumen flashlight—one less thing to pack in a backpack. Use it on SOS mode to signal for help in emergencies or simply illuminate the campsite for over 12 hours on a full charge.
When the power station runs out of energy, recharge it with a nearby electrical outlet, plug it into the 12-volt car charger, or use a compatible solar panel (sold separately). Charge up to five devices at one time with the built-in outlets (including one standard AC outlet, two USB-A ports, and two USB-C ports) and 22,500mAh of power output.
The Marbero proved to be a neat little package. First, the light is every bit as bright as it’s made out to be, and that can be a huge boost during a power outage or camping trip. Also, it handled charging our large power-tool batteries without a problem. Our biggest complaint is that it doesn’t have a digital display to detail the input and output or battery life, but it does have a four-LED bar to give a rough estimate of the remaining battery life.
- Wattage: 120 watts
- Dimensions: 5.6 inches high by 5.7 inches wide by 2.7 inches deep
- Weight: 2.2 pounds
- Outlets: 1 standard AC outlet, 2 USB-A ports, and 2 USB-C ports
- Power storage: 22,500mAh
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Use 5 devices at 1 time (under 120 watts)
- Built-in flashlight with SOS mode for emergencies
- Charge with a wall outlet, car adapter, or solar panels
Get the Marbero portable power station at Amazon.
BioLite BaseCharge 600 Rechargeable Power Station
Device and tech-savvy shoppers looking to add a portable power station to their stable of gear should check out BioLite’s BaseCharge 600. This midsize power station provides 600 watts of output as well as 600 watt-hours of capacity, allowing it to charge laptops, phones, and camera batteries with ease. It can also handle larger appliances like microwaves and refrigerators, too.
The BioLite BaseCharge 600 can charge several devices at once, as it has two standard outlets, two USB ports, two USB-C ports, and three 12-volt ports. There is even a wireless charging pad on top. It’s compatible with solar panels, and the digital display makes monitoring input and output simple.
During our test, the BioLite didn’t offer as much oomph as the other larger models, but the beauty of this power station is in its flexibility. It can charge so many devices, and we’re huge fans of wireless charging pads, so we found devices to be in its wheelhouse. It originally tripped and failed when our air conditioner compressor kicked on, but we knew we were pushing the BioLite’s limits. It’s far better for devices.
- Wattage: 600 watts
- Dimensions: 7.9 inches high by 12.2 inches wide by 7.9 inches deep
- Weight: 13 pounds
- Outlets: 2 standard, 2 USB, 2 USB-C, and three 12-volt ports, with wireless charging on top
- Power storage: 600 watts
- Can charge larger appliances
- Charges many different devices
- Comes with a wireless charging pad
Get the BioLite BaseCharge 600 portable power station at BioLite.
Aimtom PowerPal 155 Portable Power Station
Charge up to seven electrical devices at once, and even power a built-in flashlight, with this compact and lightweight portable power station. A solid top handle makes it easy to carry this 3.5-pound power station to the campsite, a tailgate party, or around the house. It charges in just 7 to 8 hours in a standard electrical outlet. It also works with compatible solar panels that can be purchased separately.
Aimtom’s unit features one standard AC outlet, three USB ports, and three 12-volt outlets with a maximum power output of 42,000mAh. A built-in battery management system protects the device against overcurrent, overvoltage, and high or low temperature extremes to help extend the operating life of the power station. Priced to sell, this unit won’t break the bank.
The first thing we noticed about the Aimtom is the universal power plug outlet, which we assume is designed to work overseas as well as in the United States. It’s a little intimidating to look at, but have no fear: It can safely receive a standard plug. We also found it a little strange that the button labeled “AC output” is essentially the “on” button for all of the ports, but it works nonetheless.
We appreciated this model mostly for its compact size and flexibility. We also liked the built-in flashlight, and although it doesn’t have a digital display, the battery bar splits into five sections rather than four, allowing for a bit more accuracy.
- Wattage: 150 watts
- Dimensions: 7.5 inches high by 6.7 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep
- Weight: 3.5 pounds
- Outlets: 1 standard AC outlet, 3 USB ports, and three 12-volt outlets
- Power storage: 42,000mAh
- Supports up to 6 electronics at once
- Built-in battery monitor offers overheat, overvoltage, and temperature protection
- Multiple charging options, including fast charging with outlet
Get the Aimtom portable power station at Amazon.
Scosche PowerUp 32K Portable Power Station
Vacations and travels can be unpredictable, but with Scosche’s PowerUp 32K, power will always be at the ready. This power station is compact, measuring just over 6 inches high by 4 inches wide by 2 inches deep, allowing it to fit into a backpack or carry-on. And, since it weighs just over 2 pounds, it’s light enough to forget that it’s there (but be sure to remember it at security!).
This power station features four charging ports, including one standard outlet, two USB-C ports, and one standard port. It offers 115 watt-hours or 32,000mAh, and produces 100 watts of power. The built-in handle allows for sure handling, and the built-in flashlight will light up a hotel room or tent. It even comes with a handy travel case with enough room inside for some spare cords.
We used this device over and over again during our test. We liked how compact it was and that it fits well on a desk, but mostly we loved how easily it fits in a bag or backpack. The design is solid and it felt like a high-quality piece of equipment from the start. We really liked the digital display as it provided a helpful battery countdown, though it doesn’t provide input or output values.
- Wattage: 100 watts
- Dimensions: 6.1 inches high by 3.8 inches wide by 2 inches deep
- Weight: 2.1 pounds
- Outlets: 1 standard outlet, 2 USB-C, and 1 USB port
- Power storage: 115 watt-hours
- Compact and lightweight design
- Solid, high-quality construction
- Built-in flashlight
Get the Scosche portable power station at Crutchfield or Scosche.
Ryobi 40V Portable Battery Power Station
Power station shoppers with a garage full of Ryobi 40-volt tools should seriously consider putting them to good use in the Ryobi portable battery power station. This power station uses the brand’s 40-volt batteries and allows shoppers to take advantage of their stored energy. You can plug four batteries in at a time, allowing for plenty of runtime.
This model from Ryobi produces 1,800 watts of power, though watt-hours will depend on the individual batteries attached. You can monitor the batteries using the Bluetooth function, linking with the Ryobi Gencontrol app. The digital display provides runtime and load level and monitors the individual batteries plugged in using a four-bar battery chart. And, when the Ryobi isn’t in use as a power station, it converts to a charger when plugged in, topping off four batteries at a time.
We felt there was a lot to like about the Ryobi portable power station. We appreciated the display with its clear battery-life indicators and load level. We also liked the Bluetooth monitoring and the fact that it runs on the brand’s popular 40-volt battery lineup. Just be aware that with four batteries attached, this model can be quite heavy.
- Wattage: 1,800 watts
- Dimensions: 14.1 inches high by 13.9 inches wide by 18.5 inches deep
- Weight: Depends on batteries
- Outlets: 3 standard outlets, 2 USB-C, 4 USB ports
- Power storage: Depends on the batteries
- Digital displays
- Operates as charger and power station
- Uses brand’s 40-volt battery lineup
- Bluetooth monitoring
Get the Ryobi portable power station at The Home Depot.
EcoFlow River 2 Pro Portable Power Station
Adventurers, vacationers, and over-the-road workers might find the EcoFlow River 2 Pro to be the answer to their highway power supply woes. This power station has been approved and certified by TÜV Rheinland, which is the stringent vehicle inspection agency of Germany, ensuring this device is safe enough for vehicle use. You can place it in your vehicle, plug it into your car’s charging port, and have relatively unlimited power while traveling.
This power station has an 800-watt capacity but also features an X-Boost mode that temporarily increases power output to 1,600 watts. This allows the unit to power larger devices that might draw more power upon start-up. It features 11 ports, including four standard ports, three USB-A ports, one USB-C port, one vehicle port, and two DC-5521 ports. It also supports standard wall charging, solar charging, vehicle charging (it comes with the plug), and USB-C charging. You can connect to the River 2 Pro via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and control the settings for customized use.
Bringing essentially a box of electricity anywhere always has its risks, but knowing that the River 2 Pro is certified by one of the most stringent vehicle agencies in the world offers a big boost in confidence. We liked that this device fits in the back of a quad-cab pickup and provides plenty of power for all of the devices a family can run on a road trip (a laptop and several personal devices, usually). We did think that the display might be slightly off of calibration; it didn’t register any output for our test heater’s low and medium fan settings (not using heat). However, when plugged into a vehicle on a road trip, this should not be an issue.
- Wattage: 800 watts
- Dimensions: 9 inches high by 10.25 inches wide by 10 inches deep
- Weight: 17.2 pounds
- Outlets: 4 standard outlets, 3 USB-A, 1 USB-C, 2 DC5521, 1 car outlet
- Power storage: 768 watt-hours
- Rated for stringent TÜV Rheinland safety certifications, ensuring it’s safe for vehicle use
- Runs multiple devices at once, including those that draw up to 1,600 watts on start-up
- Comes with car charger so you can recharge when driving while also charging devices
- Features Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity so you can monitor and change settings from your phone
Get the EcoFlow portable power station at Amazon or EcoFlow.
BioLite BaseCharge 1500 Rechargeable Power Station
People who take their adventures off the beaten path might prefer a high-capacity power station like the BioLite BaseCharge 1500. This unit provides a lot of power—1,500 watts of regular power and up to 2,400 watts of surge power for large devices—potentially providing all-day use for camping or cabin stays.
This power station has multiple ports and charging features, including three standard outlets, one car port, two DC5521 ports, three USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, and one wireless charger for phones and other devices. It can handle wall charging, solar charging, vehicle charging, and USB-C charging. You can even plug the AC charger into the wall and a USB-C charger in at the same time to charge even faster.
We found the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 to be an absolute beast of a unit. It ran our heavy-duty space heater for twice as long as some of the other units, and double-charging is a nice feature (though we always felt like we were on the verge of tripping a breaker). It’s definitely an armful at almost 30 pounds, but the amount of power this unit contains makes it a great choice for off-grid life. We brought it to a baseball tournament and used it all day to run a fan and charge devices, and it still had power left to charge our devices on the way home. Our only complaint is that it doesn’t have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which can be a big deal considering how much the charger costs.
- Wattage: 1,500 watts
- Dimensions: 8.2 inches high by 14.4 inches wide by 12.2 inches deep
- Weight: 28.5 pounds
- Outlets: 3 standard outlets, 1 car port, 2 DC5521, 3 USB-C, 2 USB-A, 1 wireless charger
- Power storage: 1,521 watt-hours
- Tremendous capacity for all-day use running or charging devices at a campsite
- Offers 2,400-watt surge capacity to run large devices, power tools, and other high-draw electronics
- Double charging; plug in the wall charger and a USB-C charger to cut charge time dramatically
Get the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 portable power station at Amazon, BioLite, or REI.
Ugreen 1200W Portable Power Station
Ugreen’s portable power station 1,200-watt unit could be the fastest way for folks to get power on the road. This unit charges from 0 to 80 percent in just 50 minutes using the wall charger. This allows you to plug it in as you’re getting ready to leave and benefit from a mostly charged unit in very little time. Other chargers with similar capacities can take twice as long.
This model has other features to offer, as well. It provides 1,200 watts of power and a maximum surge capacity of 3,000 watts. It features six standard wall outlets (far more than most other units), as well as two USB-A, two USB-C, two DC5521 ports, and one car port outlet. It also features Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to control the settings from your phone. It can charge with the AC adapter, a solar panel set, and vehicle power, and it comes with a wall charger, a car charger, and a solar adapter—all of which store in an included bag.
We liked a lot about the Ugreen. We appreciated the fast charging as we plugged it in, mowed the lawn, and came back to a fully-charged unit. We also really liked the app, which is full of settings to toggle for plenty of customization. It’s worth noting that this is one of the only units that came with a bag for the included cords. We’re not totally sure it’s really a 1,200-watt unit since it did drain down faster than the other models. Also, some of the advertising contradicts itself, such as stating it has a 3,000-watt boost and a 2,400-watt boost, as well as having a 4-stroke gas engine. Ultimately, the app makes this unit a great deal for anyone looking for a medium-capacity power station with mobile-controlled settings and readings.
- Wattage: 1,200 watts
- Dimensions: 10.6 inches high by 13.4 inches wide by 8.7 inches deep
- Weight: 25.4 lbs
- Outlets: 6 standard outlets, 2 USB-A, 2 USB-C, 2 DC5521, and 1 car port
- Power storage: 1,024 watt-hours
- Charges from 0 percent up to 80 percent in just 50 minutes
- Great mobile app interface supports lots of adjustments and settings
- 3,000-watt surge power allows this model to run power tools and other high-draw devices
- Battery life might not be on par with other 1,200-watt units
- Other advertising discrepancies have us wondering what the facts are
Get the Ugreen portable power station at Amazon or Ugreen.
Types of Portable Power Stations
The top portable power stations fall into three broad categories based on the method they use to collect and store energy: electric, gas-powered, and solar.
Electric power stations, also known as battery-portable power stations, operate like a large battery. Simply plug the portable power station into a wall outlet and it charges quickly. Some power stations may also charge in a car power outlet, provided they have the correct adapter, but this takes longer than it does in a standard outlet.
Electric power stations work best for indoor purposes and devices with low power requirements, such as cell phones or flashlights. Some products pair with a compatible solar panel to charge using solar energy.
Gas-powered power stations typically weigh in as the heaviest of these devices, but they may feature a set of wheels to take some of the burden off the user. It’s important to note that you cannot run gas-powered generators indoors or in a tent because they can produce carbon monoxide and other harmful exhaust as a byproduct of burning their fuel.
However, these gas units typically rank as the most powerful portable power supply available. They power electric pumps, power tools, and even a portable dishwasher, which lets you enjoy the great outdoors with all the comforts of home.
If camping is the primary intended use for a portable power station, then look for a portable solar power station that can charge during the day in the sun. Come nighttime, the generator will be ready to provide hours of power.
In the past, solar power stations only had the capability to charge using sunlight, which greatly limited their reliability. However, manufacturers have begun combining solar and electric portable power stations to give users the option to charge using a traditional electric outlet, a vehicle power outlet, or detachable solar panels. Steadily, this hybrid idea has become one of the best outdoor power station designs. Today, very few power stations offer only solar or only electric power.
What to Consider When Choosing a Portable Power Station
Keep these important factors and product features in mind when shopping for the best power station to keep devices charged or run appliances in an emergency.
Power output of a portable power station refers to the maximum amount of energy the station delivers to the attached devices.
Power output ratings are available in terms of wattage. How many watts a device will deliver explains how much power it can produce. The more watts a device can produce, the larger the electrical component it can run. For instance, a 100-watt power supply can power two 50-watt bulbs. However, it can’t run an air conditioner, which requires around 450 watts to run its compressor.
Power capacity is a different story, and it’s measured in milliamp-hours or watt-hours. Both terms explain how long the power station can power a device of a specific size. A power station with a 2,000mAh battery can charge or power a device that draws 200mAh for 10 hours. A station with 1,000 watt-hours can power a 1-watt device for 1,000 hours, or a 400-watt device for 2.5 hours. Generally speaking, smaller power supplies use milliamp-hours while the most powerful portable power station supply units use watt-hours.
Electric and solar generator units generally come in smaller and lighter than gas-powered generators, which makes them the ideal power station for camping and road trips. However, the best power stations that run on gas often come with wheels to offset their heavier weight, so you can simply wheel them to your destination.
Folks looking for the best portable power supply will want to look for a manageable size and weight as well as features that facilitate transport, such as wheels, a carrying handle, or even a cart for large gas-powered portable power stations.
Consider how much noise a power station will make. Setting one up inside a home or workshop means close quarters, and loud models could literally require hearing protection. A portable power station for camping should also be quiet, or else it may disturb the neighbors.
Typically, electric and solar power stations make for the quietest options available. These products don’t make much noise at all because they only transfer stored energy. They hum no louder than a mini-fridge. Gas-powered power stations, on the other hand, don’t just store energy; they also generate it. This process can be very loud, depending on the individual product.
Whenever anyone operates a device that uses electricity or gasoline, they ought to be aware of the potential risks, like overheating. Look for portable power stations that have built-in safety features like an automatic shutdown function, overload protection, and an internal high/low-temperature gauge.
- An automatic shutdown function helps to prevent premature degradation of the power station by turning the device off if it detects the fuel or oil levels are reaching a minimum.
- Overload protection disengages the portable power station from the input current if it detects the current is exceeding a safe charge capacity.
- An internal high/low-temperature gauge measures the temperature of the battery and stops all input and output functions if the battery temperature falls outside of a safe range as determined by the manufacturer.
Whether using a portable power station at home, camping, or on the jobsite, invest in a product that will withstand any method of transportation and any possible impact damage that could occur. If you’re using the power station within the home or workshop exclusively as a backup power device, then a lightweight product will be fine.
If you’re using a power station for camping, consider products that offer water and UV resistance. On a jobsite, look for a heavy-duty product that won’t break down if a wrench or hammer falls on top of it.
Battery and Charging Method
Portable power stations typically come equipped with lithium-ion batteries that hold a significant amount of stored electrical energy. Most power stations plug directly into a standard electrical outlet, but many models don’t require access to a wall outlet.
Some portable power stations charge in cars with the proper adapter—a great method for camping and road trips. With the right conditions, solar charging works well. These models need a compatible solar panel, the appropriate weather for efficient solar charging, and a suitable place to leave the portable power station where it will absorb solar energy. Power stations with multiple charging methods make an excellent resource for long camping trips because they help to ensure power in almost any situation.
Read below to find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about portable power stations.
Q. What is the optimal power output you need for a portable power station?
Everyone has a different purpose for the portable power system, which determines optimal power output. However, for the average individual, the optimal power output for an electric portable power station should be about 40,000mAh.
Q. How many devices can a portable power station charge simultaneously?
The number of devices you can charge simultaneously depends on the type of devices being charged, the power output of the battery, and the number of outlets available on the portable power station. Average portable power stations typically charge two to three devices at one time. However, if the plugged-in devices draw more power than the portable power station puts out, then the power station won’t power all of the devices simultaneously.
Q. What is the difference between a portable power station and a generator?
A generator uses gasoline or another fuel to create electrical energy instead of simply storing electrical energy. Also, generators are much larger tools that are designed for supporting a significantly higher number of electronics. Many generators supply power for an entire home, while lightweight portable power stations work best with small appliances and electronic devices, like smartphones, tablets, camp coolers, and camp stoves.
Q. Can a portable power station run a heater?
It depends on the specific heater and the specific portable power station. As long as the wattage of the heater does not exceed the running wattage of the portable power station, then the power station can run the heater.
Q. Can a portable power station run a refrigerator?
Whether a portable power station can run a refrigerator depends on the wattage of the specific power station and the wattage of the specific refrigerator, just as it does with a heater. As long as the wattage of the refrigerator does not exceed the running watts of the power station, then the portable power station can run a refrigerator.
Q. Can a portable power station run a TV?
While most portable power stations are not used to run televisions, they certainly can be as long as the wattage of the TV doesn’t exceed the running wattage of the portable power station.
Q. Can you leave a portable power station outside?
It’s best to leave a portable power station inside, or at least under some cover, as these units are not typically waterproof. However, as long as you protect the portable power station from water, you can leave it outside. In fact, it must stay outside to charge on a solar panel, preferably in a sunny location.
Q. What are the safety tips that you should remember when using a portable power station?
Some key safety tips about portable power stations include:
- Use the correct cables with the correct outlets.
- Place cables off the ground to avoid a tripping hazard.
- Do not use devices that exceed the running wattage of the power station.
- Avoid exposing portable power stations to water.
- Take breaks when carrying heavy portable power stations to avoid muscle strain.
Q. How long does a portable power station take to charge?
Charge time depends on the individual product and the charging method. For instance, a portable power station may be able to charge fully in just 2 hours when it’s plugged into a power outlet, but it may take over 8 hours to charge a portable power station fully with a solar panel.
Q. How long do portable power stations last?
The average portable power station will have a battery charge that lasts from 3 to 13 hours depending on how you use it. The power station also has an average life of about 10 years, though this varies depending on care, storage, and frequency of use.
Q. How do you properly recycle an old portable power station?
Don’t add to growing e-waste problems by throwing an old portable power station in the trash. Instead, take it to a local electronics recycling location. Usually a municipality or town will have a program for recycling electronics, and some retailers, such as Best Buy, also offer e-waste recycling programs.
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Meet the Tester
Tom Scalisi is a full-time DIY and construction writer for many of the largest websites in the industry, including BobVila.com, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Forbes. He also owns and operates a pest control blog, RiddaBugs.com.
Additional research provided by Timothy Dale.