How to Choose a Portable Power Station

A portable power station is like a ‘mini power grid’ that you can take anywhere. Before making your purchase, it’s essential to think about size, portability, battery life, inputs and outputs. You also need to know exactly what types of devices you’ll be charging. We’ve compiled hours of research and personal experience to create this guide designed to make the process easier.
Portable Power Stations Being Used at a Campsite

What is a portable power station?

A portable power station (or battery pack/portable generator) is essentially a ‘mini power grid’ that you can take anywhere. It’s small, and efficient, with a multitude of outlets to charge all sorts of devices. Portable generators are useful in tons of different activities, from eco-camping to outdoor events to unexpected power outages. They can also be easily recharged from an AC wall plug, solar panels or even your car’s 12-volt port.

There’s so many choices in the backup battery market that it can be super confusing to decide which brand to go with. Before making your purchase, it’s essential to think about size, portability, battery life, inputs and outputs. You also need to know exactly what types of devices you’ll be charging. We’ve compiled hours of research and personal experience to create this guide designed to make the process easier.

How to choose a portable power station

Step 1. Determine battery capacity

How to choose a portable power station

    • Make a list of devices and wattage

Your first step is to make a list of the devices you plan to charge and figure out how much power each one needs. This may seem like overkill, but you’ll really appreciate that you spent the time figuring this information out in advance. It’s very common for people to buy a portable power station that doesn’t have enough battery capacity to actually charge their gear.

    • Calculate total wattage to figure out what battery capacity you need

Next, add the total wattage of all your devices. For example, if you want to charge your phone (5 watts), flat screen tv (55 watts), Bluetooth speaker (10 watts), and electric space heater (300 watts), at the same time, your power station needs to have a minimum battery capacity of 370 watts.

    • Calculate a single use cycle so you know how long the portable power station will last between charges

Now that you know your capacity requirements, your next task is to figure out how long a power station will be able to run your gear during a single charge cycle. This just tells you how long the portable generator will last before it runs out of juice itself and needs a recharge.

Portable power stations come in a wide range of battery capacities, which are measured in watt-hours (Wh). To get a rough estimate of how long one will last, divide the watt hours by your total wattage. For example, if you have a power station with 2000 watt hours and your devices require 370 watts, that power station should last around 5.5 hours before needing to recharge (2000 / 360 = 5.5).

    • Get more capacity than you think you need

Keep in mind that this is just a rough estimate, as the actual runtime will depend on other factors such as the efficiency of the power station and the age of the battery. It’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and choose a power station with a slightly higher capacity than you think you need.

Step 2. Consider portability

Portable Power Station Size and Weight

    • Figure out if the size + weight of the portable generator will work for you

Portable power stations come in different sizes, from less than 1 pound to more than 100 pounds. The bigger and heavier the power station, the more battery capacity and charging capabilities it will have. 

If you’re traveling long distances or going on a backpacking trip, you may prioritize having a lightweight battery over having lots of battery capacity. However, if you’re powering heavy-duty appliances, you’ll need a large battery with lots of charging capability.

Power stations that weigh less than 50 pounds are best for small devices like phones, Bluetooth speakers and LED lights. Large power stations over 50 pounds can power big items like household appliances and even electric vehicles.

    • Make sure the power station can handle your environment

Durability is important if you’re planning on using your power station in rough or outdoor conditions. Look for a model that’s built to last and can withstand the elements, such as rain or dust. A power station with a sturdy, shock-resistant case and reinforced outlets will be more likely to stand the test of time.

Step 3. Look at the available outlets and ports

Wall outlets & USB ports

    • Compare your device cables to the power station’s outlets and ports

Make sure the portable power station you choose has enough outlets to plug in all of your devices. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not uncommon to accidentally select a power station that doesn’t have enough outlets for everything they need. To avoid this, figure out how many devices need to be plugged in, and make sure what you buy can accommodate all of them.

All power stations have some combination of the following inputs:

    • AC: Wall outlets that you’re used to seeing in your home. The majority of everyday devices are powered this way, everything from fans to refrigerators. Power stations usually have anywhere from 2 to 6 AC outlets. These are some of the most prized outlets on a power station, because they are so versatile.
    • DC: Typically used for powering things like fans and lights. They are very handy when you’re camping or working on a construction site. You’ll typically find between 1 – 3 DC outlets.
    • USB-A: Standard ports that you use to charge things like your cell phone, wireless headphones, and speakers.  Power stations usually give you between 2 to 6 USB-A ports.
    • USB-C: Newer version of USB ports which are becoming more common. They’re capable of faster charging than USB-A. You’ll probably get 2 to 6 of these ports.
    • Fast charging outlets: USB-A or USB-C ports that have been designed to charge devices more quickly than standard outlets. You will usually get a small number between 1 to 4 fast charging ports.

Step 4. Check the battery type and charging time

    • Choose the battery cell technology

Portable generators may use a few different types of battery cell technologies including, lithium-ion (Li-ion), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and lead acid. 

Li-ion are the most popular and widely used because they’re lightweight, can store a lot of power  in a small package, and can be recharged lots of times without degrading. Li-ion batteries also have a longer lifespan compared to the other types. 

    • Determine how long it takes to recharge the power station

When it comes to charging time, most take about 3-5 hours to fully recharge, depending on if you use an AC outlet or solar. Some newer batteries have super fast charging that can recharge in less than 1 hour. 

As a general rule, the more devices that you power, the shorter the battery life will be. However, a full charge on the average portable power station can last several days if used moderately.

    • Invest in dual charging – it’s worth it!

If you’re a person with a lot of gear, consider investing in a power station with dual charging. This allows you to simultaneously charge the power station and your devices at the same time. Older power stations don’t allow to do both at the same time.

    • Go solar 

Another feature to look for is solar panel compatibility. This gives you the ability to charge the power bank using sunlight. This can be extremely useful when you’re camping or spending lots of time outdoors.

 

Step 5. Additional features

  • Check the bonus features 

Some power stations come with built-in LED flashlights, which can be extremely useful when you’re camping or working in low-light conditions or a power outage. Some even have different brightness settings, so you can choose the level of light that works best for you.

Many portable power stations also have mobile apps that allow you to control the device from your phone, change the settings, check battery level, and even turn on and off the lights. This feature can be incredibly useful when you’re out and about, as it allows you to check on the status of your power station without having to physically check the device.

  • Check the safety features

You also want to look for additional certifications or safety features like FCC, CE, and RoHS, which means they’ve been tested and approved for safety and quality. It is also good to look for features like overcharge and over discharge protection, as well as temperature control to ensure the safety of both you and your devices.

What are some of the best portable power station brands?

  1. Ankar
  2. Bluetti
  3. Goal Zero Yeti
  4. Jackery
  5. EcoFlow Delta Pro

Final Thoughts

When it comes to choosing the best portable power station, there are a lot of factors to consider. From the number and types of outlets, to the type of battery, charging time and battery life, to additional features like LED lights, built-in flashlights, mobile app compatibility, and certifications or safety features.

By considering all of the important options, you will be well on your way to finding the solution for all your off-grid adventures. Don’t be afraid to shop around, compare options, and choose the power station that’s right for you.

FAQs

What are the different types of portable power stations?

Portable power stations come in various shapes and sizes, with different features to suit individual needs. The most common types include:

    • Lithium-Ion Battery Powered – These are the most popular type of portable power station due to their lightweight design and long battery life. They usually have multiple USB ports for charging phones, tablets, laptops and other small electronics as well as AC outlets for powering larger items such as TVs or fans.
    • Fuel Cell Powered – These are more powerful than lithium-ion battery powered models but also heavier and bulkier due to their large fuel cell tanks which need refilling periodically. They offer higher wattage output than lithium-ion models so they’re better suited for running larger items like refrigerators or air conditioners during an outage or while camping off the grid.

What are the benefits of using a portable power station?

The main benefit of using a portable power station is convenience; you no longer have to worry about finding an outlet when you need it because your device will always be ready whenever you require it. Additionally, these devices provide peace of mind knowing that if there ever was an unexpected blackout situation, you would still have access to essential electronics such as lights and medical equipment even without access to traditional electrical sources like wall outlets or generators.

Other benefits include being able to take them anywhere (they’re often designed with handles) making them great companions for outdoor activities such as camping trips where access may not always be available; plus they save money over time since buying disposable batteries every few months can add up quickly.

Finally, many models come equipped with additional features such as surge protection which helps protect your valuable electronics from sudden spikes in voltage levels caused by storms or faulty wiring systems.

What is a solar generator?

A solar generator is charged by both solar energy and a lithium battery. They are an excellent option for those who want to use renewable energy. They are powered by solar panels that collect energy from the sun.

How to Use a Portable Power Backup

  1. Charge the Station: Before using the power station, make sure it is at least charged to 80%, and preferably to 100%. You can charge the station by connecting it to an AC outlet, solar panel or 12 volt car adapter. The AC outlet will be the fastest, and the 12 volt the slowest.
  2. Connect the Devices: Once the power station is fully charged, you can connect your device. Most power stations have multiple USB ports, so you can connect multiple devices at the same time.
  3. Monitor the Battery: Make sure to monitor the battery level as you connect devices. When the battery level gets too low, make sure to recharge it.
  4. Turn Off the Station: When you are done using the power station, make sure to turn it off. This will help conserve the battery and extend the life of the station.

Maintenance Tips

  • Clean the Station: Make sure to regularly clean the power station. Use a damp cloth or brush to clean the exterior of the station and make sure to keep it free of dust and debris.
  • Check the Battery Capacity: Make sure to check the battery level of the power station regularly, especially if you haven’t used the power station in a while. Batteries tend to leak capacity over time and could have less power output than you realize. Check the battery in advance so that you’re not caught by surprise.
  • Store the Station Properly: When not in use, make sure to store the device is placed in a cool, dry place. This will help preserve the battery and extend the life of the station.
  • Check the Cables: Make sure to check the cables regularly. Look for any signs of damage or wear and tear and replace them if necessary.

Accessories

  • Solar panels are an essential accessory and can be used to charge the station and provide a reliable power source.
  • Inverters can be used to convert DC power to AC power.
  • Cables and adapters are used to connect to a variety of inputs, including RVs and electric vehicles.
  • Storage bags are used for storage and transport.

Kristina M.

Kristina M.

Providing shopping recommendations for organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly products.

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