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)
- LONG LASTING ENDURANCE: The Explorer 500 portable power station is built with the lithium-ion battery pack, in a safely designed frame structure to maximize, and long last the power for every single use of outdoor adventures and home use.
- THE PERFECT CAPACITY: With a 518 watt-hour (24Ah, 21.6V) capacity, it is ready to power many appliances - heater, blanket, projector, lamp light, and TV.
- SUPPORT PASS-THROUGH CHARGING: This power station features 1* AC outlet (110V 500W 1000W Peak), 3*USB-A ports, 2* DC ports, and 1*car port. Its Battery Management System governs each individual cell, improving the battery life cycle while being pass-through charged.
- DESIGNED FOR PORTABILITY: Same size as a basketball, this Explorer 500 is easy to carry with its solid handle, making it a compact and reliable choice for scenarios of camping, road-trip, RV, and home backup.
- WHAT YOU GET: 1* Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station (518Wh Power Station), 1*AC adapter, 1* car charger cable, 1* user manual.
TOP PICK: Portable Power Station (300W)
- [POWERFUL PORTABLE POWER STATION] Renogy Phoenix 300 generator empowering your off-grid adventure, 2* pure sine wave 110V AC outlets deliver stable 200W power for charging anything small appliances at the push of a button.
- [REVOLUTIONARY SPEED] Equipped with a 60W quick charge Type-C port and 18W USB-A port for a 60% faster charging time, will meet the power supply needs for all your devices lower than 300W, at top speed will revive your MacBook Air in less than 2 hours.
- [Durable & Secure] With a UL-listed lithium-ion battery, it is able to reach more than 1000 life cycles and using pure sine waves to output clean, silent, and stable AC power.
- [3 Recharging Methods] The Phoenix is able to be recharged with a carport via its DC 12-25V input port, wall outlets and the fast-charging 60W PD Port. Alternatively, connect directly to a solar panel(excluded) and recharge using sunlight directly.
- [What You Get] 12 months warranty. Package includes --- 1* Renogy Phoenix 300 Portable Power Station, 1* USB-A to USB-C Cable, 1* USB-C to USB-C Cable, 1* Solar Connectors to 5.5mm DC Adapter Cord, 1* AC/DC Adapter, 1* User Guide.
TOP PICK: Entry Level Power and Price (200W)
- BUY WITH CONFIDENCE: The Jackery Explorer 240 portable power station has been featured as the "Best Portable Power Station for use in the outdoors" by Digital Trends. A classic choice for your pick.
- EASY TO CARRY: This entry-level portable power station is equipped with a 240Wh lithium-ion battery pack, weighing only at 6.6 pounds. The solid handle makes it easy to carry around for outdoor adventures such as Tent Camping, Road Trip, Backyard Camping, etc.
- VERSATILE POWER SOURCE: 1* Pure Sine Wave AC outlet (110V 200W 400W Peak), 2* USB-A ports (5V, 2.4A), and 1* 12V DC car port to charge your road trip essentials such as smartphones, laptops, cameras, fans, lights and so on. Pass-through charging is supported.
- GREEN POWER SUPPLY: The power station can be recharged by the Jackery SolarSaga 60 solar panel. Its built-in MPPT controller enables the solar panel to operate at its max power point for the power station to be recharged at its highest efficiency. TWO alternative ways to recharge: through the wall outlet or the car outlet.
- WHAT YOU GET: 1* Jackery Explorer 240 portable power station, 1*AC adapter, 1* car charger cable, 1* user guide.
TOP PICK: High-output, Pro-Level Power Station (1000W)
- MASSIVE CAPACITY & IMPRESSIVE ENDURANCE: With the 1000W wattage and 1002Wh capacity, this Explorer features 3 PURE SINE WAVE AC outlets, 2*USB-C, and 1*Quick Charge 3.0 port. It will power your full-size refrigerator, TV, heater, electric grill, blanket, and more for your outdoor and home needs.
- UPGRADE ENDLESS SOLAR POWER: As an option to own the endless solar power, the Explorer 1000 can gear up with two Jackery Solarsaga 100W solar panels, upgrading into a Solar Generator 1000 System. The revolutionized MPPT technology provides a 23% higher conversion charging efficiency.
- POWERFUL & VERSATILE PORTS: The Explorer 1000 features 3 standard PURE SINE WAVE AC outlets, which will provide extra capacity to power more AC devices and appliances. Extra bonus for the built - unlike most other portable generators, this supports PASS-THROUGH CHARGING while its battery life is protected.
- NOISELESS, STRONG & SAFE: At a such large capacity, this Explorer will leave you with VERY LITTLE to NO noise, giving you the peace and power all at once. Its interior/exterior is well designed to ensure the product’s safety, while your devices and appliances are protected while being charged.
- WHAT YOU 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 Manual.
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.