For better or worse, we are surrounded by electronics. Even when I’m tucked in the deepest corner of the woods on a backpacking trip, I like to make sure my phone, camera, and watch are charged. I have been a camper all my life, and for years I resisted portable power banks because I thought they were too expensive and too burdensome. In addition, most off-grid power used to be gas-powered (i.e. loud and polluting). But when I got my first portable power bank a few years ago—a Jackery Explorer 500—it totally changed the game for me.
Now a reliable, high-quality power bank or portable power station is one of my most recommended pieces of gear for anyone who likes to get outside. Even better, many units function well for home backup use in case of a power outage.
What You Need to Know About Power Banks and Portable Power Stations
With so many options and sizes on the market, there can be a steep learning curve when it comes to portable power. It’s best to cover some basics before diving into the best choices for every type of adventure.
The portable power banks and stations included in this article use lithium-ion batteries of varying sizes to supply juice. In essence, these units are all just batteries, but they utilize a battery management system (BMS)—much like the ones found in electric cars—and an inverter to send electricity to outlets, from which you can charge or run other electronics.
The inverter changes the direct current (DC) power of the battery to the alternating current (AC) power our devices utilize. The best, safest inverters deliver pure sine wave power (essentially, high-quality electricity that’s similar to what you’d get from an outlet at home).
Power Banks vs. Power Stations
While some brands may use the terms “power bank” and “power station” interchangeably, most differentiate the two based on size, output, and capacity. Basically, portable power banks are smaller and often measure their output in milliamp hours (mAh), whereas portable power stations are larger and measure their increased output in watt-hours (Wh) or even kilowatt-hours (kWh).
These stats will help you compare different models. A measurement of watt-hours tells you how much power output (in watts) the unit is rated to supply for one hour.
What About Solar?
One of the key advantages of many power stations and power banks is you can recharge their batteries via solar power. While solar panels don’t come cheap, most of the big brands in portable power sell coordinating panels you can use to charge up your power station.
Solar can be super useful for both off-grid and home backup applications, as it gives you a higher level of independence when keeping everything powered up (you don’t have to rely on the power grid to juice up your power bank). I have a panel for my Jackery Explorer 500, and it works surprisingly well—but keep in mind I live in Arizona, which has abundant sunshine.
How Much Capacity Do I Need?
The capacity and output you need out of your portable power station or bank depends entirely on what devices you need to power up. Luckily, most companies give a good rundown of what devices can be powered, and for how long, on their product pages.
It’s common practice to coordinate the capacity and peak output in a relatively linear fashion: as amp or watt output goes up, amp or watt capacity goes up. In other words, a high-usage device like a microwave will spike the power station’s watt output, so your unit will need to have a high watt output rating (north of the 1000-watt range). That output often coordinates with the battery’s capacity, so many units with a 1000-watt peak output will be rated for around 1000Wh (in theory, they should be able to steadily deliver 1000 watts for an hour). Many new power stations even offer surge peak output, so the max output can go over what they’re rated for (this helps when hooking up multiple devices or devices that draw a lot of power).
For home backup applications, I’d recommend 1000-watt (and 1000Wh) units as a low end: That will do for short outages and keeping a few things powered. That’s also right around where I think even the most electronic-laden car campers and RV campers will top out at. The exception would be if you plan to charge your camper’s batteries with your power station. For most weekend trips—and for greater portability—I recommend power banks of around 300 watts or less. No matter what your needs are, one of the power banks and portable power stations below should work for you.
1. Best Overall: Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro Portable Power Station
Trying to hit the sweet spot on cost, capacity, and output? The Explorer 1000 might be just what you need. Jackery has made a name for itself by delivering exceptionally reliable power stations at competitive costs. The new Pro units show the brand is willing to improve, too.
Compared to the original Explorer 1000, the Pro version adds an upgraded display, extra quick-charge USB ports, and (most importantly in my opinion) a much better handle design that folds flat to make the whole thing easier to stack and pack. This particular Jackery has a 1000Wh capacity and 1000-watt output with a peak surge of up to 2000 watts, which should cover basic home backups. At about 25 pounds, it is also lighter than a lot of similarly sized units, making it great for car camping, too.
2. Best New Power Station: BioLite BaseCharge 1500
I have recommended other BioLite products before, and the new BaseCharge 1500 has me singing the brand’s praises yet again. Rated for 1,521Wh and 1200 watts with a 2400-watt peak, this power station is powerful enough to use with large appliances, but small enough (26.5 pounds) to store in your rig. It has a nice display, plenty of outputs, wireless charging for your phone, and a stackable design, too. It also allows you to track and reset your power usage with the press of a button, almost like a trip odometer. My only complaint is that the built-in side handles make it difficult to carry with just one hand.
3. Best Large Power Station for Home Backup: EcoFlow Delta Pro Portable Power Station
Looking for serious power? EcoFlow has a tight grip on the high capacity segment of the power station industry. And for good reason: EcoFlow doesn’t just sell glorified batteries; the brand sells power systems.
The Delta Pro is the 3.6kWh base unit for a system that’s expandable (with the purchase of additional units) up to 25kWh—well into the realm of long-term emergency backup and power grid independence. On its own, the Delta Pro offers plenty of power for enduring short blackouts, and when plugged into a standard wall outlet, it can fully juice up in under two hours. As big as this unit is, the built-in wheels make it relatively easy to transport—plus it has a remote for monitoring and controlling it without having to access the station directly.
4. Best Midsize Power Station: Goal Zero Yeti 500X Portable Power Station
I love the 500Wh power station segment, and the Goal Zero Yeti 500X is as good as they get at this size. The combination of a compact form factor, multiple outlets, and strong battery capacity (505Wh of power) make it perfect for long weekend camping trips, outdoor events, and basic power needs at home.
The 500X weighs less than 13 pounds, has an easy-carry handle, and offers two AC outlets (many in this range just have one). Plus, Goal Zero has a longstanding reputation for quality and good customer support.
5. Best Small Power Station: Jackery Explorer 300 Portable Power Station
If you need a small unit that fits in the trunk of your car but still packs a punch, the Explorer 300 is hard to beat. My brother just picked one up on sale, and I wish I’d grabbed one, too. It offers the same quality and reliability of any Jackery unit, but it’s light enough (seven pounds) for a child to pick up—my five-year-old nephew has carried it around no problem.
This is great for a few laptop recharges, or if you have cameras, phones, and other gadgets to juice up while off the grid. It has two AC outlets, and it can even power a TV for a few hours if you want to have a backyard movie night.
6. Good Value: Bluetti AC200P Portable Power Station
Bluetti is another company that offers an expandable power system, and the AC200P allows you to cover a lot of power needs—both on its own and with extra batteries, should you decide to purchase them.
The 2000Wh capacity and 2000-watt output of this power station are significant, but you can easily expand that to over 5kWh by adding the B300 battery. It’s really reasonable considering how much power you get.
7. Best Budget Power Station: Anker 555 PowerHouse
I have always had good experiences with Anker products, from computer dongles to phone chargers, and the Anker 555 PowerHouse is another great offering. Most 1000-watt batteries cost over $1,000, but Anker delivers pretty much everything its competitors do for at least $100 less.
My favorite features are the “Power Saving” switch, which slows some of the output to preserve power, and the light bar. Some other stations have dinky flashlights, but the PowerHouse acts more like a lantern, which I find to be more useful than toting around a whole power station as a flashlight.
8. Best Large Power Bank for Travel: Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC
This might be the most exciting product on this list: The new Sherpa 100AC is a weekend warrior’s dream. It’s slim enough to stuff in a backpack for plane rides, commuting, and other light travel, and it weighs just 2.1 pounds. Goal Zero estimates you can recharge your laptop fully about two times on a single Sherpa charge, and the unit recharges on a wall outlet in just two hours. While the price is steeper than other power banks, the output and reliability are top notch.
9. Best Small Budget Power Station: Westinghouse iGen160s Portable Power Station
If you’re shopping on a budget and want something with decent output, take a look at this Westinghouse power station. While the capacity is only 155Wh and the peak output is 150 watts (not enough for large appliances), this small station can still work great for outdoor lights, small electronics, and recharging phones or cameras. At under four pounds and boasting nine output ports, the iGen160s is a solid option for the price.
10. Best Small Power Bank for Phones: Zendure Power Bank Mini Portable Charger
Sixty bucks may sound like a lot when you see how tiny this Zendure power bank is, but trust me: The power is there. I’ve never had a power bank this small that works this well. Depending on your phone, the Zendure will charge it up fully at least twice. (For me, that’s a good safety net, because I’m always forgetting to plug in the power bank). At about half a pound, it’s light enough to stick in your pocket, and it makes a helpful backup power source on backpacking trips or just while out and about.
11. Best Budget Power Bank: INIU Portable Charger
This INIU portable charger has similar output to the Zendure above at about a third of the price. At this price point, you could buy a couple of these to store in the car, in a hiking backpack, or at home. Personally, I keep a budget power bank on the coffee table so that I don’t have to stretch a cord across the room when I want to charge my phone.