The Best Solar-Powered Generators for Both Off-Grid Adventures and Power Outage Emergencies
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Though we love our minimalist adventures, off-grid outings don’t just mean an ultralight pack setup and cold-soaked oats in a dew-soaked tent. Overlanding, glamping, and van-based remote work have grown in popularity over the past several years, allowing more versatility in the items you bring for comfort and convenience. This often means battery-powered items, whether it’s a smartphone, computer, rechargeable lights, or even a powered cooler or fridge.
These days, you have options beyond running a gas-powered generator to keep the lights on and the computer charged. Solar-powered generators—also called portable power stations—are a growing sector of the power market and offer clean, efficient charging systems for off-grid adventures and power outages.
The past few years have seen significant advancements in portable charging stations, with units becoming more compact, affordable, and with better charging capabilities than before. Think of them as giant versions of battery power banks used to charge phones during travel or when outlets are scarce. Each unit holds a certain capacity for charging devices, measured in watt hours, or WH.
Most power stations can be charged in a wall outlet, a car’s 12-volt port, or with solar panels (often sold separately). Once the charging station is juiced up, you can charge battery-powered gadgets on the go, or keep lights running off-grid. Some of the more high-powered units can even run household appliances during a power outage.
We’ve rounded up the best models on the market, taking into consideration charging capacities, ease of use, weight, and different people’s power needs. Lastly, “solar-powered” doesn’t mean you need the sun to charge these power stations. They all have the capability to charge with solar panels, but almost all of them can charge in an AC wall outlet or with a 12-volt car adapter.
Best Solar-Powered Generators
The Expert: I have been traveling in the outdoors for as long as I can remember, and I’ve spent the past decade reviewing camping gear, overlanding items, and other outdoor equipment. I take multiple extended car-camping trips each year with a portable, convenient setup that includes barely more than a bin of car-camping goods, a piece of memory foam, and the topper on my truck.
Since I’m usually working while I’m on the road, my main charging needs are personal devices like a phone, laptop, and headlamp. My go-to portable power solutions are typically mid-range in size and capacity, as I don’t need a ton of charging on the road like someone powering the lights in a trailer or RV would need.
What to Consider
How Much Charging Do You Need?
One of the main differences in these models is how much charging capacity they each have. Consider the electronics you plan to pack, and how much juice you’ll need for each one. This can also pertain to generators you keep at home for power outages.
For instance, running a refrigerator will take a lot more power than recharging your phone or powering your lights. Consider making a list of the items you’ll need to charge or power, and how much each one needs to run. From there, consider how much time you’ll be off grid, and how long the solar-powered generator will take to recharge once it is depleted.
This goes hand in hand with your needs. Once you figure out what you’ll be charging, you can start comparing capacities per full charge on each unit. The price goes up as the capacity increases, but most people heading out for an off-grid weekend will want at least around 40 amp-hours, or 500 watt-hours.
If you’re looking for a home-powering backup for power outages, look for a model with at least 100 amp-hours and we recommend 200 watts of solar panels for recharging. Keep in mind that solar panels are not usually included with the unit, and we recommend buying both at the same time for maximum efficiency in charging.
We listed the watt hours as “wh” in the specs for each model for easier comparison.
While weight and size don’t directly connect to the technicalities of power banks, they impact the convenience of each model. Many campers and overlanding setups have limited space, so the more compact models have a higher appeal.
That said, most units weigh at least 10 pounds, and the weight and size increase quickly with greater capacities. Before purchasing, consider where you plan to store the power bank, and the space in your vehicle or camper where it will live while you’re on the road.
How We Selected
As we chose the best solar-powered generators, we compared charging capacity, weight, and power input. We chatted with overlanding experts and car campers, and looked for a range of models that would suit everyone from users with less charging needs and space to people looking for a backup for household appliances.
It’s all about compromise, which means balancing charging capacity with weight and price. The heavier models with lower charging capacities and longer recharge times didn’t make the cut, and we did our best to balance the criteria for a variety of models that suit different needs.
Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station
This all-around winner has a max capacity of 1,002 watt-hours, which is lower than others on this list, but still has the ability to power items for longer than other higher-capacity models. This is an ideal power station for smaller items and off-grid camping, but with the lower output, you won’t be able to run larger appliances.
This model has eight ports, including two AC outlets, two USB-C ports, a 12-volt car port, and two standard USB-A outlets. It can charge a typical laptop eight times and power a small refrigerator or powered cooler for over 15 hours.
This unit can be charged with solar panels or a 12-volt outlet in your vehicle while you’re on the move. It has fairly standard charging times, with 11.5 hours in a car outlet, 6.5 hours for solar panels, and just 5.5 hours to fully charge in a wall outlet.
Explorer 240 Portable Power Station
For smaller charging needs, this portable, lower-powered charging station is a solid choice. This is one of the less expensive (but still reliable) options on the market, perfect for people heading out for an overnight or weekend but want to keep lower-powered devices charged. It’s also a great backup to leave stashed in a vehicle for emergencies, as it doesn’t take up too much space.
The Explorer 240 can charge five devices at once, with a USB-C port, two USB-A ports, and a 100-watt AC outlet. It weighs just over 6.5 pounds, and charges quickly with a wall unit or portable solar panels.
Yeti 200X Solar Generator
Weighing in at just 5 pounds, this squat little power bank fits into a car camping bin or tucks into a cabinet as a backup for short trips or quick power outages when you need to recharge small items. We love this generator for charging phones, portable speakers, headlamps, cameras, and earbuds, providing peace of mind for weekend trips where you aren’t hauling a portable fridge or trying to keep a camper lit up.
This charges in just 8 hours via the 12-volt car charging port, and can be fully charged in 3 hours with solar panels and a sunny day. It does only have four ports—a 12-volt outlet, an AC port, and two USB ports—but it will suffice for most quick needs.
Bluetti EB240 Portable Power Station
For extended trips, longer anticipated in-home outages, or big items, this high-powered generator is a surefire pick. The Bluetti EB240 comes with an MPPT (maximum power point tracker) built into the unit, which helps optimize energy flow between the solar panels and the generator. This allows it to charge to full capacity in less than 10 hours with good conditions, pretty incredible for such a large-capacity model.
The unit is capable of accepting a 500-watt input, which is higher than other units and helps get the piece charged faster. It can be fully charged via a car’s 12-volt outlet, a wall outlet, or through solar panels.
We love this model for longer road trips and as a backup for home emergencies, as it’s strong enough to power a refrigerator during a power outage. We’d like to see a better charging unit for the wall outlet, as this one is the same as the lower-powered Bluetti model with 1500 watt hours, and takes upwards of 12 hours to charge in a wall outlet.
Yeti 1500X Solar Generator
Optimized for campers who spend extended periods of time off-grid, this high-powered generator has a 600-watt input, allowing it to fully charge in just a few hours with the right equipment. This model will run a full camper or serve as a reliable backup for home power, and the simple interface and charging adapters make it even more appealing.
We love the adaptability of this unit, which comes with additional add-ons like the Home Integration Kit, which allows users to hook it up to an in-house circuit breaker, and the Expansion Module, which gives it the ability to charge it via your vehicle’s alternator on the road.
This is one of the best-selling power stations on the market, with enough juice to run a full-size fridge for more than 28 hours and charge a smartphone 127 times. It has over 1,500 watt-hours of capacity, making it a stellar option for running a camper. It can be recharged in anywhere from six to 14 hours in a wall charger, depending on what gear you have.
This model comes with a few different options for solar panels—just be sure to read the specs and charging time before deciding which one to get. The Goal Zero’s 100-watt solar panel takes roughly 18 to 36 hours to recharge the power station, depending on conditions.
Delta Portable Power Station
The EcoFlow Delta has the most ports (13!) out of any power station on this list, which means more charging efficiency and easier tracking of charge drain, perfect if you need to power and charge several devices in a short amount of time. This is a beefy generator—with 1,800 watts of total output and over 1,200 watt hours, this is powerful enough to charge anything you would bring overlanding or camping. It can even power up an electric vehicle if you get stuck with no charging station in sight.
Despite the larger capacity, this model can be charged with four 100-watt solar panels in just 4 hours with optimum conditions, and 8 hours in most conditions—impressively fast for a unit of this size. It charges fast in a standard wall AC outlet as well, going from zero to 80-percent in just an hour.
This is on the heavier side, but with that much power and so many charging options, it can be worth it for a one-and-done power setup.
Yeti 500X Solar Generator
Goal Zero has a stronghold on the power bank market, and for good reason. It has charging stations available in a range of sizes and capacities, and the Yeti 500X is the perfect middle ground for weekends off grid. It works seamlessly with the brand’s solar panels, which also come in a variety of powering capabilities. We love the built-in solar-charge controller, which makes tracking and charging easy.
Like the EcoFlow Delta, this unit comes with an inverter to power standard household appliances, and despite the smaller size, it can recharge a smartphone over 40 times and a laptop 10 times on one charge.
As far as charging the actual unit goes, it can be fully charged on a Boulder 100 panel in 6 to 12 hours, depending on conditions, but it will charge faster in a car’s 12-volt outlet. This is an update to tester Bryan Rogala’s favorite Goal Zero’s Yeti 400 Lithium, which he used to charge and power small devices like rechargeable lights, his phone, and a camera.
A relative newcomer to the larger solar-powered generator game, BioLite’s model weighs just 26.5 pounds and has a sleek interface with easy-to-read metrics that let you know the charging status and available power at a glance. It also has a top-deck wireless charging pad that streamlines charging devices without a tangle of cords.
The ergonomic design includes side handles that provide easy carry as well as ventilation to prevent overheating. Like some of our other favorite models, this has the integrated MPPT that optimizes charging and accelerates the process to a full charge.
I tested this model on extended off-grid camping trips, using it to charge phones, speakers, headphones, and a laptop, and also to power a small refrigerator during the testing period. It charges via a 100-watt solar panel in just 4 hours with good conditions, and also can be fully charged in an AC outlet or the car’s 12-volt port, though it will be quite a bit slower.
BioLite also makes a weekend-optimized version of this model, with 622 watt-hours and a low weight of 13 pounds.
Charging Tips to Keep Your Solar-Powered Generator Running From Expert Maggie Slepian
What are your priorities when choosing a solar-powered generator?
I am a low-maintenance camper, and most of my background is in lightweight backcountry travel. That means I prioritize space-saving and ease-of-use, so my go-to power banks have between 500 to 800 watt hours, and weigh less than 15 pounds.
This is perfect for a weekend trip, with the on-the-go (car or solar) charging capabilities to put my mind at ease for longer trips. Mostly I’m charging small items, so one charge lasts a long time. However, plenty of people in the van-life and remote-work world are powering their RVs and vans, and relying on multiple laptop charges. For that, I’d recommend one of the larger units.
What can a solar-powered generator charge and power?
A solar-powered generator can charge and run almost anything that requires power—it just depends on the capacity. These generators can charge power tools in the shop, laptops for remote work, and personal devices like bluetooth headphones and speakers.
A solar-powered generator with a higher power capacity can even power household appliances in the event of a power outage. And the fact that these are solar-compatible means you aren’t reliant on the electrical grid to recharge them.
What is the best way to charge a generator?
Every unit on our list has multiple charging options, including wall (AC outlet), car (12-volt), and solar. Each input method charges your unit at a different speed, and solar also depends on the conditions.
I try to charge up my power banks whenever I can, so I’m never caught off guard trying to leave on a trip with a dying power bank. If this happens (which it has), I’ll charge it in my car’s 12-volt port while I’m driving, though this is often slower than solar or a wall unit.
Solar power is the most sustainable and typically fastest way to power these, just be sure you have enough wattage in the solar panels to make it effective. I recommend keeping the generator stored with at least an 80 percent charge, and unplug them once they’re fully charged—keeping them plugged in longer than necessary can degrade the battery.
Most units will have a simple readout display showing the remaining battery charge, and it’s a good practice not to allow your battery pack to get below 20 percent.
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