To a certain degree, camping means disconnecting. You can spend your days going on hikes or splashing in lakes rather than scrolling on your phone or being tied to the desk with piles of work to do. Immersing yourself in nature and letting go of technology for a few days feels euphoric.
There are a few things that make your camping experience much more comfortable and much safer that require additional backup power. Even though it is possible to go “completely off the grid”, if you have a solid battery bank and electrical setup with solar, it’s always nice to have a portable power station as a backup. We’ve also found that power stations are great for running things like a small portable AC unit without having to tap into your main battery bank's power. Having a small portable AC unit running all night in your van can make a difference between sleeping comfortably and overheating during the summer months.
Campers and RV’s have traditionally used gas-powered generators, but these power sources can be dangerous if used incorrectly, emit toxic fumes, and require a fair bit of maintenance. To protect your health and the health of the environment, opt for a portable power station instead. They are easy to use and come in various sizes and capacities, allowing you to choose a station that best fits your needs.
Below, we have listed our favorite portable power stations, as well as some background information that is helpful to know.
What Is a Portable Power Station?
Simply put, a portable power station is a larger and more powerful rechargeable battery. They take everything you love about having a small rechargeable battery in your pocket and make it bigger and better. They are typically about the size of a countertop microwave oven but come in many different styles and varieties.
The most attractive quality of these power stations is their ability to function indoors, and portable generators can emit toxic fumes and must be kept outside. Solar power for your complete van electrical system can work on cloudy days, but it's less effective than when the sun shines. Portable power stations are a great backup or additional power option to your van's complete battery system, especially if you tend to run many appliances or electronics when you're off the grid.
The larger the power station, the more devices, gadgets, and appliances they can power. However, generally, they each can support a few different small appliances at once.
Why Do I Need One?
If you aren’t convinced yet that you need easy access to additional power during a weekend camping trip, here are some moments when it could come in handy.
Unfortunately, the accessibility and understanding of physical maps are significantly decreasing as time goes on. We, as a society, have become extremely dependent on GPS services to help us get where we need to be. While this dependence on modern tech might be frustrating, it can also be life-saving.
If you think you have enough charge in your vans battery system, but run into issues with your solar charger, you might need some assistance. With a portable power station on hand, you can immediately regain emergency power and safely charge up your cell phone.
If you are camping during the hot summer months, you need to come up with a few different ways to keep your van cool. Staying in an enclosed space with sweltering temperatures can be dangerous, so you always need to have a plan. If you have a portable power generator, you can constantly run a fan or portable air conditioner to keep the air in your van fresh and cool.
We understand if you feel averse to the idea of “glamping,” but there are a few little luxuries that will make your camping trip more comfortable that may require additional power. If you are a coffee lover, you might want to ditch the instant packets and bring a coffee maker. Want to make smoothies each morning? Pack a full-size blender and power it via your portable station. Typically items like full-sized blenders can use up a lot of juice, or they require a robust inverter, but, you don’t need to worry about that if you have an additional portable power station at your disposal.
How Are They Powered?
The portable power stations will give you power to use, so how do they get power in the first place?
Here are two different ways:
The simplest way to charge your portable power station is with a standard outlet. You can charge it using a household outlet before you hit the road or plug it into your adventure van’s 12-volt outlet to let it charge.
This is certainly the fastest way to charge a portable power station.
Using solar panels by themselves or to power a portable power station is becoming increasingly popular. People are turning to portable solar generators because they are a reliable source of renewable energy and are easy to transport.
Most portable power stations have portable solar panels that they are compatible with. When you have both the mobile power station and portable solar panels, you can plug the panels into the station, position them directly under the sun, and let your power station charge.
Solar panels are straightforward and have the added benefit of functioning wherever there is sunshine — no other power source is required. This means that on an extended off-grid camping trip, you won’t have to worry about running out of a power supply. You can use up all of the energy stored in your power station and charge it again with solar panels.
What To Look For
Now that you understand the importance of having additional power on hand and the benefits of using a portable power station, it’s time to pick the best option for you.
Here are a few key features to look out for while shopping.
The most important quality of a portable power station is the capacity it can hold for power. The amount of power these stations can hold is measured in wattage and watt-hours. Mobile power stations can range anywhere from 50Wh to 6,000Wh, and the higher the number, the more power it can hold to charge your devices and power your appliances.
Consider what you will need to power while on the road and for how long. For example, a 500-watt portable power station can power and charge your laptop and phone simultaneously with no problem.
Different power stations use different types of batteries, which can impact the longevity of the product and its functionality. Now, one of the most popular batteries that portable power stations use is a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery.
This newly developed battery is designed to give your power station a lifespan that is six times longer than it would be without. This is accomplished by increasing the number of battery cycles, which are the number of times they can be charged and recharged, the unit can withstand.
Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries have 1,000 to 10,000 cycles in them — compare this to the 500 to 1,000 cycles in lithium-ion batteries.
Take some time to think about why you want a portable power station and when you will be using it most. If you need a heavy-duty station to power your blender,portable AC unit, and laptop while parked off grid, consider a higher-capacity option. Although this might be more expensive and heavier to carry, it will give you all the additional power you need beyond your van’s battery system.
Conversely, if you want to be able to throw your portable power station in your bag for a long hike or you will only use it to charge your phone, you can get a smaller option. A lower-wattage power station will also be cheaper and easier to carry.
Power Outputs and Inputs
Each power station also comes with its own design of outlets. Take a look at the devices and appliances you want to bring with you on the road, and make sure the power station you purchase is compatible.
The power station can have any number of:
- USB-A outlets. These are the standard USB ports compatible with most chargers for phones, tablets, cameras, etc.
- USB-C outlets. These newer technologies are smaller but can supply higher amounts of power. These will be compatible with any charging cord for new model technology. This outlet usually accommodates fast charging.
- AC Outlets. These are standard plug-ins that you would find in your house. These require much more power than USB outlets, so there are usually fewer of these on portable power stations.
Best Portable Power Stations
It’s time to find the portable power station that is the best fit for you! Be sure to have a good understanding of what you will use your station for, how long you will use it, and what features are most important to you.
Here are some top picks for charging options on the go:
Jackery Explorer 1000
If you are looking for a portable power station that can provide power in your RV, as well as on a tent camping trip, this is the option for you. The Jackery Explorer 1000 is known for its compact and durable design, weighing only 22 pounds and taking up only 12.5 x 8 x 8.5 inches of space. However, you won’t sacrifice quality for the conveniently small size.
This option comes with three AC, two USB-A, and two USB-C output ports, which is more than a lot of power stations come with. You won’t have to worry about fighting for an outlet, as it can handle many devices charging at once.
It features a digital screen that displays the input/output wattage and how much power is left, taking away any guesses at when it will need a recharge. The rated capacity is 1,000 Wh, providing you with plenty of power.
Anker Powerhouse II 800
The Anker Powerhouse II 800 is slightly less powerful than other portable power stations on the market, but it is lighter and less expensive. Although you might not be able to power a vacuum or microwave, you can charge your devices and use small appliances. It has a 777 Wh capacity and only weighs 18 pounds.
The portable design and durable exterior will stay strong through many camping trips, and the variety of port options will take care of any device you need to power. You can use the two AC outlets, four USB-A outlets, and two USB-C outlets all at once if you like.
It comes with a built-in flashlight on the side for middle-of-the-night emergencies and a mood light on the back with three different brightness settings.
Jackery Explorer 300
For a mini power station that will take care of minor power needs, the Jackery Explorer 300 is the best choice. This small and sturdy power station only weighs seven pounds making it easy to bring with you to a park or on a long hike. The 293-watt-hour capacity will give you enough power to run a fan, blow up an air mattress, or charge an iPhone, Bluetooth speaker, lantern, and more.
Think of this portable power station as a handy pocket knife: it’s small, convenient, and gets the job done when you are in a pinch. While it won’t be able to keep your portable AC running all night, this is one of the best small power stations.
Small and lightweight, this power station still comes with two AC outlets, two USB-A ports, and a USB-C port. Additionally, it can be paired with portable solar panels for a portable and eco-friendly way to charge.
MARBERO 88Wh Portable Power Station
If you want something even smaller and more portable than the Jackery Explorer 300, the MARBERO 88Wh Portable Power Station is for you. This ultra-compact option weighs in at only two pounds, making it easy to throw in your ski bag, and re-charge your phone or Airpods on the lift.
Conveniently, it doubles as an LED flashlight with three brightness modes that are sure to light up any dark, remote campsite.
Take advantage of the 88-watt-hour capacity by plugging into the four USB-A, one USB-C, and two AC ports. This small but mighty power station can fully charge your phone six times, your laptop once, and a desktop-sized fan for a few hours.
It can be recharged through a wall socket or solar panels and will become a packing staple on every weekend trip from now on.
BLUETTI AC50S Portable Power Station
With a sleek and modern design, you will be surprised how much of a punch this portable power station can pack. The BLUETTI AC50S Portable Power Station has every feature you could need out of a reliable power station.
You can power and charge 11 devices simultaneously, thanks to the two AC outlets, one USB-C port, four USB-A ports, two 12V/3A ports, one DC 12V/10A car output, and one 10W wireless charging pad. With a variety of power outlets and a 500-watt-hour capacity, you won’t have a problem powering your phone, laptop, portable AC, and more.
It only takes six hours for a full charge from a car/wall outlet or solar panels. This high-capacity portable power station will never leave you without power.
Lastly, the small and comprehensive digital screen on the front of the power station will tell you the exact input/output wattage and when you should plan to recharge.
Togo 346Wh Portable Power Station
Landing somewhere in between a lower-capacity, sleek model and a higher, capacity heavy-duty model, the Togo 346Wh Portable Power Station is a wonderful option for all kinds of campers. The durable and bright exterior will stay strong through accidental drops or falls on rough terrain and will be easily spotted in a snowy campsite.
The 346-watt-hour capacity will give you enough power to power your laptops, TVs, heated blankets, and more. Additionally, you won’t have a problem plugging any of these devices in, as it comes with one standard AC outlet, two DC5525 outlets, one cigarette lighter port, and one wireless charger.
It has one USB-C port and three USB Type-A ports. This means you can charge up to nine devices at once! Weighing only 9.2 pounds, this portable power station is easy to carry and a great option to bring on camping trips.
Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
If you need some serious power to use for large-scale appliances, this option is for you. Do not expect to bring the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X with you on a hike; instead, this heavy-duty power station will stay in your van and provide you with enough power to charge up your E-bikes or other toys.
Certainly not lacking in outlets, this power station comes with two 6mm output ports, a 12V car port, two 120V AC ports, a USB-C port, two USB-A ports, a 12V high power port, a high-speed charge port, and an 8 mm solar charge port. The 6000-watt-hour capacity that this power station holds can power up your blender, coffee maker, Wi-Fi router, grill, TV, speaker, power tools, and more.
While it’s not the most portable option, it comes with a mini dolly that fits the power station perfectly and makes moving all 100 pounds of it a breeze.
Westinghouse iGen160s Portable Power Station
If you don’t want to take the risk of not having additional power on an extended camping trip, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, consider the Westinghouse iGen160s Portable Power Station. This lunch box-sized power station will give you peace of mind while on the road but won’t hurt your wallet or take up too much space in your van.
Weighing under four pounds, the 155-watt-hour capacity can easily provide you with two to three laptop charges and up to 14 phone charges. This power station doubles as a high-power flashlight, meaning you will never be without light or access to your cell phone.
Take advantage of the two AC outlets, one USB-A port, one USB-C port, and three DC outputs for all of your power needs. This power station has low voltage protection and overload protection to protect the battery pack. Depending on where you purchase it, it might come with a two or three-year warranty.
EcoFlow River Mini Portable Power Station
If you are looking for a modern power station that features a sleek design and updated charging capabilities, look no further. The EcoFlow River Mini Portable Power Station provides traditional charging outlets and ports but also features a built-in wireless charging pad for easy phone charging.
The cupped shape of the charging pad will provide a secure place for your phone, and you won’t have to worry about searching for a charging cord when you are in need of a battery power boost.
In addition to the charging pad, you can use the two AC outlets, three USB-A ports, one USB-C port, and the 12V car outlet for your other devices. With eight different ways to charge your devices, this power station weighs in at only 6.3 pounds.
The 210-watt-hours will be a lifesaver at the campsite, and the power station can be recharged via a wall or car outlet or with compatible solar panels.
If you like the EcoFlow River Mini, try the Delta Mini or the EcoFlow Delta Pro.
ISSIMO Portable Power Station
Finally, although each camper has their own preferences, the ISSIMO Portable Power Station is considered to be one of the best portable power stations for camping. One of the most important features of this power station, and what makes it such a hit with campers, is its waterproof quality.
No matter how careful you are with your belongings while on a camping trip, they are bound to come into contact with dust, snow, rain, or water at some point. Thanks to its IP63 rating, you can feel secure knowing that the ISSIMO Portable Power Station is sealed against dust and water.
This power station comes equipped with one AC outlet, one DC port, three USB-A ports, and a USB-C port. Its lightweight quality, weighing under 11 pounds, and compact design make it easy to pack in your bag when you hit the road.
Remote Camping Spots
After buying a backup portable power source, you can go on a remote camping adventure without worrying about having to power all your devices and accessories with your van’s built-in battery system.
Here are some of our favorite remote camping destinations:
Bear Lake Campground, CO
Check out this beautiful campground for a true Colorado experience! It’s located near La Veta, Colorado, in the San Isabel National Forest. It sits at an elevation of 10,480 ft, is surrounded by aspen and spruce forests, and has incredible views of the nearby Culebra Range Mountains.
Each of the 14 rustic campsites comes with a table, a fire ring, and vault toilets. Drinking water is available. There are no electric hook-ups available here; your portable power stations will really come in handy.
A great feature of this site is that it’s connected to a 23-mile-long multi-use trail system that’s suitable for mountain biking, ATV riding, walking, and horseback riding. You can also take advantage of all that Bear Lake and Blue Lake have to offer — both are within a mile of the campground.
Dead Horse Point State Park, UT
The Kayenta Campground is tucked away within a grove of junipers at Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, Utah. Plan a stop here if you’re in search of a peaceful, shaded getaway surrounded by the desert landscape.
Twenty-one campsites are available and come complete with lighted shade structures, tent pads, picnic tables, and fire rings. The campground also offers modern restroom facilities. You’ll have direct access to hiking trails that lead to multiple points of interest in the park — check out the West Rim Trail, East Rim Trail, and the visitor center.
Cub River Guest Ranch, ID
The Cub River RV Park is an excellent spot to camp out if you are road-tripping through southern Idaho. Equipped with your portable power station, you can grab a water-only hook-up site for only $25 per night.
This secluded campground boasts plenty of mountain spring water, grassy and shaded areas, and areas for tenting, volleyball, tetherball, and horseshoe pits.
The nearby Cache National Forest is a really popular spot for all sorts of fun outdoor activities, including ATV riding, biking, hiking, horseback riding, snowshoe trails, and snowmobile trails.
Big Pine Campground, SD
The Black Hills of South Dakota is a top destination for hiking, camping, and outdoor enthusiasts. If you find yourself out this way and are looking for a secluded and serene camping experience, dock your adventure van at Big Pine Campground near Custer, South Dakota.
You can opt for one of their primitive sites and rely on your portable power station. You’ll have access to other amenities such as laundry services, bathrooms with hot showers, picnic tables, fire pits, and playgrounds.
If you’re looking for something fun to do nearby, you can check out the Mount Rushmore National Memorial or go explore the famous Wind Cave National Park.
Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground, CA
If you want to explore one of the most picturesque areas of the country, head up the California coast North from Los Angeles to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Here, you’ll find campgrounds that offer 189 parking and tent sites.
Every campsite comes with a parking area, a fire pit, and a picnic table. No hook-ups are available at any of the sites, but that won’t be a problem with your portable power station. You will have access to fresh water, showers, and toilets throughout the grounds.
Big Sur has truly earned its reputation as an “outdoor lover’s paradise.” Nearby the campgrounds, you’ll find an abundance of hiking, ocean fishing, scuba diving, horseback riding, surfing, scenic beaches, and more.
Big Bear RV Park, AK
This is a great spot to camp out if you’re up exploring the Alaskan wilderness. It’s located right in the heart of the Mat-Su Valley, not far from Palmer, Wasilla, and Anchorage. Palmer, Alaska, is known for being a small farming community, so you will get a taste of local, rural life when road-tripping through here.
There are a variety of site types to choose from, but you can opt for a no-hook-up site with your portable power station. Showers, laundry, and clean water are available to all guests as well.
In the area, you can visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Independence Mine State Historical Park, Reindeer and Musk Ox Farms, The Iditarod Trail Headquarters, and The Alaska State Fair.
Charged and Ready!
While we totally understand wanting to take on the challenge of going completely off the grid, modern-day necessities have made that nearly impossible. While you don’t need to bring every piece of technology you own, having enough additional power to charge up all your toys and accessories while camping is going to come in handy.
If you want a small and convenient way to access backup power while in your adventure van, on a hike, investing in a portable power station is the best option.
Once you have picked the best portable power station that fits your needs, all that’s left to do is pack the rest of your van and pick a remote destination that will let you unwind and reconnect with nature.