If you’re gearing up for camping, hunting, overlanding or want a quiet power source for any other reason, a solar generator is the perfect power source. While providing the same service as their portable gas-powered generator predecessors, these solar variants provide electric power that is stored in a battery inside the unit.
Since there is no motor generating the electricity, they operate silently, making them a pick for any outdoor application. Solar generators are also referred to as portable power stations or portable solar panel batteries.
The units in this roundup are not intended for long, demanding hikes. They are best when used at a campsite not too far from transportation, at home, or in a remote location where they won’t be constantly moved.
Understanding solar generators
Solar generators are essentially a battery and inverter contained in a portable package. The units have standard outputs for powering appliances or electronics with standard plugs and most also include USB ports, too.
As opposed to running a motor to generate electricity, these power stations are charged-up from another electric source, usually solar panels, a vehicle battery or an adapter and cord to plug into a wall receptacle.
- Providing the quietest power possible
- Hunting, where a gas-powered generator might scare animals
- Camping, RV-ing, van life, off-roading or overlanding
- Powering electric heaters or camping stoves
- Tailgating or hosting other outdoor events
- Emergency power, including small refrigerators, appliances and medical equipment
- Hard-to-reach areas where providing a constant gas or propane fuel supply is cumbersome
Our Portable Solar Generator Picks
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Best All-around Solar Generator (500W)
- Founded in California in 2012, Jackery specializes in providing solar generators for the explorers. As an industry leader in eco-friendly portable power, Jackery aims to developing green, quiet and convenient energy solutions that provide off-grid power. Wish everyone enjoys the outdoor life.
- [MASSIVE CAPACITY 518Wh]: Jackery Explorer 500 is equipped with a 518 watt-hour (24Ah, 21.6V) lithium-ion battery pack. It features 1* AC outlet (110V 500W 1000W Peak), 3*USB-A ports, 2* DC ports and 1*car port to power many aplliances including mini fridge, air pump and TV from low power to high power with pure sine wave inverter.
- [POWER STATION DESIGNED FOR PORTABILITY]: The Jackery portable power station Explorer 500 is about the size of a basketball and has a solid handle. It's easy to carry, and its compact design makes the Jakery Explorer 500 perfect for enjoying RV camping and road trips.
- [EASY SETUP SOLAR GENERATOR]: With a built-in MPPT controller, Jackery Explorer 500 can easily get recharged with the efficient solar panel, Solar Saga 100W (sold separately) to provide green power.You can also use other flexible recharging ways with wall outlet and car outlet.
- [WHAT YOU GET]: You will receive 1* Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station (518Wh Portable Power Station), 1*AC adapter, 1* car charger cable, 1* user guide and 24 months customer service.
TOP PICK: Portable Power Station (300W)
- [Revolutionary Speed]The PHOENIX 300’s USB-C port features a Power Delivery (PD) technology that can pump out up to 60W power to compatible devices. Quick Charge (QC) technology allows for up to 18W of output power from the USB-A port.
- [Versatile Powering Options]The PHOENIX 300 is equipped with multiple commonly used output ports to power essential gadgets and small appliances, while a D-Tap port is at the ready for your photography and videography equipment.
- [Pure Sine Wave]Produce clean, silent, and stable AC power up to 200W with the pure sine wave inverter to power delicate electronic devices efficiently and safely.
- [Ultimate Safety]The battery management system (BMS) commands voltage control, temperature control, short circuit protection, and overcurrent protection to keep both the power station and your devices safe from damage.
- Power source type: Battery Powered
TOP PICK: Entry Level Power and Price (200W)
- Included in the "Best Portable Power Station for use in the outdoors" by Digital Trends.
- MULTIFUNCTIONAL OUTPUTS: Jackery Explorer 240 is equipped with a 240 watt-hour (16.8Ah, 14.4V) lithium-ion battery pack. It features 1* AC outlet (110V 200W 400W Peak), 2* USB-A ports and 1* DC car port to power many equipments such as phone, laptop, light, fan, mini cooler and so on with pure sine wave inverter.
- ENTRY-LEVEL EXPLORER 240 FOR OUTDOOR SCENES: Jackery Portable power station with solid handle, easy to carry and easy to operate wherever you go. A solid portable power can power your iPhone, laptop and camping light up, when you enjoying weekend camping or working from home.
- GREEN SOLAR GENERATOR:Jackery Explorer 240 with built-in MPPT controller that can get the maximum recharging efficiency can easily get recharged with the efficient solar panel, Solar Saga 60W (sold separately) to provide eco-friendly clean power.There are other flexible recharging ways with wall outlet, car outlet and generator.
- WHAT YOU GET: You will receive 1* Jackery Entry-level Explorer 240 (240Wh Portable Power Station), 1*AC adapter, 1* car charger cable, 1* user guide,2 year customer service.For a better customer experience, we will optimize the product from time to time.
TOP PICK: High-output, Pro-Level Power Station (1000W)
- Founded in California in 2012, Jackery specializes in providing outdoor green power solutions for explorers. Jackery portable power station, power outdoors.
- With a higher 1000W wattage and larger 1002Wh capacity, the Jackery Explorer 1000 features 3 standard PURE SINE WAVE AC outlets, which provide extra capacity to power more AC appliances simultaneously. Note that the total rated wattage should be under 1000W (surge 2000W). 2*USB-C and 1*Quick Charge 3.0 port can charge all your small digital devices like tablets and phones effectively.
- Power your outdoor recreation time from this instant solar generator. Designed for: (1) RV-ers: With no extra setup, powers your mini space heaters, cooling fans, mini-fridges, portable ovens and coffee makers, etc. (2) Outdoor parties: Power blenders, pellet smokers, small household ice shavers, and TVs to extend your grilling and game time. (3) Home backup power: Support emergency appliances such as refrigerators, CPAP/Bi-PAP, computers, radios, and phones to help keep your life as normal.
- Professional MPPT technology provides faster solar recharge rates. The Explorer 1000 can be quickly recharged within 8 hours by connecting two SolarSaga 100W solar panels together with an adapter cable(package included). If connecting only a single panel, the approximate recharging time is 17 hours. It is also possible to recharge from AC outlets and 12v vehicle accessory ports. Time for full recharging is approximately 7 hours from an AC outlet, or 14 hours from 12v car ports.
- What you Can Get: 1* Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station (1002Wh Portable Power Station), 1*AC Adapter, 1* Car Charger Cable, 1*SolarSaga Parallel Adapter Cable, 1* user guide.
TOP PICK: Extreme-Output (1500W)
- Innovators in portable power | Goal Zero created the portable power station category 10 years ago, presenting a new way forward in portable energy use at home, on the job, and off grid. Our products are engineered with precision here in the U.S. Every feature has a purpose, designed with a real-life use case in mind. Power everything from campsites to field work to outdoor events and essential circuits at home when the power goes out.
- Empower human potential | We are driven by a vision for success defined by our impact on people and the planet. To date, we’ve reached 31,000+ people around the world with our community empowerment and disaster relief projects. Our team is based along the Wasatch front in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Professional grade power | Built to last and survive. Field-tested in a wide range of environments, from the Arctic to job sites to the home. Seven different output ports let you power a range of devices including phones, laptops, refrigerators, medical devices, coffee makers, blenders, and power tools. 2 USB-A, 18W USB-C, 60W USB-C PD, 6mm, 12V, 12V Power Port, 2 120V AC Inverter. 1500 watt hours of lithium power charges your phone 127 times and lets you run a full-size fridge up to 28 hours.
- Industry-leading technology | Dependable power you can rely on in any situation. Our industry-leading 2000W AC inverter is the most powerful inverter on the market. Plug in and power anything you can from a wall outlet. Control and optimize your Yeti 1500X power usage from anywhere with the Yeti App 3.0. Integrated MPPT charge controller increases charge efficiency by 30% when recharging with a Goal Zero solar panel.
- Safe and user-friendly | We prioritize product safety, backed up with multiple layers of protections. Over and under voltage protections, temperature protections, battery management system to monitor individual cell and battery pack health. Yeti 1500X comes backed with a 2-year warranty. All elements of the product from physical construction to user interface are designed for ease of use.
What to look for when buying a solar generator
- AC Output – AC output is expressed in the output voltage, watts and sometimes also includes peak watts. An example would be 110V, 200W (400W Peak).
- Battery Technology – Look for current technology, specifically lithium-ion batteries.
- Input/Charging Options – Units have various input connections for different methods of charging the solar generator and vary by unit. Common input methods include DC input which plugs into a standard wall receptacle and vehicle (car lighter) input. Solar panels input may use the DC input or another input altogether.
- Output Connections – All solar power stations have standard household plug receptacles. Most also have USB outputs and some have other output connections, too. Be sure to check not only the type of outputs but also the number and how much power they deliver in watts and amps.
- Physical Size – When hiking or camping you are likely. more conscious about size than if you’re stowing the unit inside a vehicle. Photographs can be deceiving, especially when shopping online. Be sure to check dimensions carefully.
- Warranty – While all the brands we have reviewed above offer highly reliable products, a warranty is always a sign of a purchase you won’t regret.
- Output – How many watts the unit provides and for how much time dictates which, and how many, electric devices you can run. This is expressed in watt-hours (Wh) Certain devices, whether they have a plug or not, simply can’t be run based on the wattage output, too.
- Weight – Since these units are basically a big battery inside a case, the more power they provide usually equates to more weight.
Frequently asked questions
A solar generator is essentially a battery and power inverter. The units have outputs for various electric devices that use standard 120V receptacles. Many also have USB outputs for charging telephones or other USB-powered devices including mobile phones and tablets.
There are four main charing methods and most units support all of them. First, they can be plugged into a standard 120V power source. Second, charging can be achieved by connection solar panels to the unit. Third, power stations can be connected to a vehicle’s electrical system with an adapter that connects to the lighter or another 12V connection. Finally, and somewhat ironically, a traditional gas-powered generator can be used to charge a solar generator.
No. While they can power some electronics used in a home, they couldn’t meet the needs of an entire house. In fact, some appliances, such as an electric dryer or air conditioner require more power than any portable power station provides. Solar generators are better suited for emergency power of a few appliances or off-grid use.