Everyone should own a portable power station; a unit designed to provide 120 volt AC power for extended periods of time in case of a power outage, a need for power remotely (such as power tools in the field), camping, or an emergency. Even powering your entire router-wifi setup in the midst of a power outage! But for van lifers, a decent, high-quality portable power station is a must-have.
A portable power station is like having a portable wall outlet with you at all times. Essentially it is a large lithium-ion battery that is powerful enough to actually run 120v electronics.
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To be clear, these are NOT those noisy gas-powered generators you see sitting outside of RVs at the campground! These are silent! They are large battery units that you charge up ahead of time with a wall outlet at home, solar power, or through your car’s alternator. Then use the stored power to operate AC electronics.
A portable power station does not use gasoline or kerosene to operate, and it doesn’t produce annoying exhaust gases. These can be run indoors and in enclosed spaces without worrying about carbon monoxide poisoning.
From camping, living in your van or RV, spending the weekend at the beach or the ballfield, a portable power station will keep your electronics juiced up and ready to go!
Top 5 picks for Best Portable Power Stations
The following is the list of the top 5 picks for best portable power stations:
- BLUETTI (Model#EB240) – 2400Wh/1000W Portable Power Station and Inverter
Jackery (Model# Explorer 500) – 518Wh/500W Portable Power Station AC Outlet
ROCKPALS (Model# 500W) – Portable Power Station, 520Wh/500W Backup Power
- Jackery (Model# Explorer 240) – 240Wh/200W Backup Lithium Battery, 110V AC
BLUETTI (Model# EB150) – 1500Wh/1000W Portable Power Station
How to Choose a Portable Power Station
These are great for charging your battery operated electronics like phones, cameras and laptops, these units also have the power to operate larger 120 VAC electronics like small refrigerators, projectors, lights, and etc…
Some common use cases for one of these portable power stations includes:
- Camping – Setting up an outdoor movie night in some remote location – powering a computer, projector and possibly a small refrigerator for keeping beverages cool.
- VanLife – Living the nomad lifestyle, free as a bird! Using power for charging phones, laptops, small heaters, fans, TV’s and radios.
- Photographers – Supplying power for a small business owner who needs to power things like laptops, cameras and lighting.
- Drone Operators – Bring a portable power station to recharge drone batteries and laptops.
- Remote Work – Building a shed on the back 40 – use the power station to power electric drills, skilsaw, etc…
How long does the power station last before needing a recharge?
The amount of time that a power station will last before needing to be recharged again depends on the number of things you have plugged into it drawing power, as well as how much each of those devices is drawing. There is a simple formula to determine this.
Usage Time = (Capacity of Power Station) x 0.85 / (Wattage of Your Device)
For example, if you are using a MaxOak Bluetti EB240, it has an output of 2400Wh. If you are using an 800W refrigerator, it can be powered for:
Usage Time = 2400 x 0.85 / 800 = 2.55 hrs
Portable Power Stations – Specifications
The following comparison charts show the difference between the different power stations recommended.
Capacity and Maximum Power
The capacity represents how much energy the power station holds, and translates directly to how long it can power your electronics (see the formula above). The max power represents the largest power draw the unit can handle.
The following are typical power draw values for some common household electronics.
- Hair dryer: 800 – 1800W
- Microwave: 600 – 1200W
- Electric drill: 500 – 1000W
- Blender: 500 – 750W
- Mini-fridge: 50 – 500W
- Laptop: 50 – 80W
- Cell Phone Charger: 2 – 4W
Below are the Capacity and Power specifications for these power stations:
Size and Weight
Here is a comparison of the size and weight of these power stations.
|Model||Weight (lbs)||Dimensions (in)|
|Bluetti EB240||48.5 lbs||19.4 x 6.5 x 14.4|
|Jackery 500||13.32 lbs||
11.84 x 7.59 x 9.2
|Rockpals 500||14.33 lbs||
12 x 7.8 x 6.9
|Jackery 240||6.6 lbs||
9.05 x 5.24 x 7.87
|Bluetti EB150||37.9 lbs||14.6 x 6.5 x 14.4|
All of the power stations in the list have a least one 110V AC power outlet. In addition, they have different output ports for various other applications such as charging phones and laptops.
Charge Time and Recommended Solar Panels
Below are the typical amount of time required to charge up the power station to full capacity using a normal wall outlet. Charging with solar power typically takes about twice as long as a wall outlet charge, but of course depends on how bright the sun is, the angle of the solar panel, etc…
The recommended solar panels for each unit are also shown.
|Model||Charge Time (AC)||Recommended Solar Panel|
|Bluetti EB240||15 hrs||BougeRV 180W (no extra cords needed)|
|Jackery 500||8 hrs||Jackery SolarSaga 100W|
|Rockpals 500||7 hrs||Rockpals 100W Foldable Solar Panel Charger|
|Jackery 240||~ 5 hrs||Jackery SolarSaga 60W|
|Bluetti EB150||10 hrs||BougeRV 180W (no extra cords needed)|
Reviews – Detailed Descriptions
The following are more detailed reviews of each of these portable power stations.
Maxoak manufactures the Bluetti EB240 and this is a VERY beefy unit. If you are the type of person who tends to go all-in on things, with the high-end, best solution, this is the unit for you. This thing is a beast (it weighs almost 50 lbs – a nice handle on the top and a slim form factor helps)! The instruction manual and specifications can be downloaded here. This is a perfect unit for using in a converted vanlife van or RV.
The EB240 uses high-quality car-rated lithium polymer LG battery cell, and boasts a very long life-cycle of more than 2500 cycles.
This unit has 2 AC power plugs that both accept the 3-prong plugs. It also has a digital screen showing the amount of power remaining.
The EB240 is an upgrade from the extremely popular EB150 (also on this list), with upgraded capacity from 1500 to 2400Wh, which is basically like having the reliability of the EB150 with an extra battery attached to the side!
The vast majority of user reviews of the EB240 say that it exceeds their expectations. The large capacity and high-quality construction are frequently cited.
Another feature of this unit is that it can be charged with international power sources, either 50 or 60 hz, and 110 – 240v, which can be helpful if using this in a variety of locations.
Like all of the units on this list, the EB240 can be re-charged with solar in addition to AC. Solar panels are not included and must be purchased separately (input voltage must be 16V～68V). It does include the MC4 solar charging cable, which is a nice touch. I recommend using the BougeRV 180W solar panels, as they work great together, and there are no extra cords needed.
The Bluetti has a built in MPPT (maximum power point tracker) controller which is a component that automatically matches the DC power between the solar panel and the battery. The Bluetti comes with an 8mm plug that allows you to connect your panels thru the MC4 connections to the 8mm Bluetti connection.
Using 2 of the 180W panels, hook them up in parallel to keep the voltage low, since the Bluetti prefers DC inputs at 16 volts or less. Connected in parallel you can stay below 16 volts and still get more than 300 plus watts out of the two panels which is excellent.
You can use the system at the same time that it is charging, making it extremely convenient.
You can also charge the EB240 with your vehicle alternator, as long as it is a 24v alternator.
This unit also has a bunch of protections built in, so you don’t need to worry about over-charging it, with its “battery management system”.
The Jackery Explorer 500 is a very solid, practical, and functional power station. Well-designed and perfect for charging up a lot of electronics on the go (many times) and powering an AC device like a TV or blender. Download the spec sheet for the Jackery Explorer 500 here, which also includes information on the recommended solar panels.
The Explorer 500 has a nice, useful display showing the wattage, charging wattage, and charge level. It is good for RV’ing – powering fans, mini-fridges, and the like.
This unit has solar charging capability (solar panels not included), and the solar charging can give a full charge in 14 hours if you have full sun, and can be charged from your car within 16 hrs, and from a home wall outlet in 8 hrs. This unit has a lithium ion battery which are typically good for around 500 cycles.
The Explorer 500 also has electronics protections to save your electronics to safely power and charge sensitive devices like laptops and cell phones. It also has a battery management system for over-voltage and over-current protection.
The Rockpals 500W unit is a light and portable power station compared to some others on the list, it has recently been upgraded in a newer design and remains at a great price. It has a sturdy and professional look and feel. Great for camping and to have as an emergency back-up at home. Can easily keep all of your electronics charged on a typical camping trip, with power to spare. The spec sheet for the Rockpals 500W unit can be downloaded here.
One useful feature is that the readout on the unit calculates the current draw power (based on what is currently plugged into it) and gives an approximate number of hours of charging remaining. This unit also charges faster than similarly-rated power stations.
The unit comes with the necessary charging cables for the wall outlet and car charger. The solar panels (if desired) are sold separately.
One drawback of this unit is that when you are done using it, you need to turn it off manually (though there is a 10-hr auto-shut-off – which is too long in my opinion!). Not a deal-breaker, but something to be aware of.
A battery management system is also onboard to protect the unit itself as well as your electronics.
The Jackery Explorer 240 is basically a lower capacity unit similar to, and with a lot of the same features, as the Explorer 500. It is a light, quiet, eco-friendly power station great for shorter camping trips and for powering the necessities in an emergency. It even has enough power to run a portable oven for cooking on camping trips (just check the max wattage of your oven). Download the spec sheet for the Jackery Explorer 240 here, which also includes information on the recommended solar panels.
This is a great unit just to have on-hand to charge up electronics when you are out and about with no access to an AC power outlet. This also comes with a CD charger that hooks to your car’s cigarette lighter port for charging it up while on the go.
Another great use for this unit is to have it out during camping trips or barbeques for people to plug in their phones, cameras or other electronics to top them off – people will thank you!
The MaxOak Bluetti EB150 is great because of its high capacity, the number of ports it has, and its relative small and light form-factor. It is the ‘little brother’ of the EB240, and really packs a punch. Its instruction manual and specifications can be downloaded here.
This unit automatically shuts off during charging when it is fully charged, so you don’t have to keep checking on it to see if it is fully charged.
A great feature of these units is that you can arrange solar panels (sold separately) either in series or in parallel. If you’ve ever charged a battery using solar before, you know how useful this can be, as it allows you to max out the charging power for faster charging. Just as with the Bluetti EB240, I recommend using the BougeRV 180W solar panels, as they work great together, and there are no extra cords needed.
This is a fabulous unit and well worth the price. It is well-built and works very well for charging and running electronics on the go!
I hope you found this review of portable power stations helpful. I’m amazed at how far battery technology has come in the last several years. It wasn’t that long ago where battery-operated drills were considered a joke, but nowadays, I can’t live without one! These portable power stations are the next step in that evolution, in that they are now beginning to replace a lot of portable gas-powered generators!
Whichever portable power station you end up choosing, I wish you well on all your endeavors!