Let’s talk portable generators!
We know—shopping for generators can be confusing. For now, let’s concentrate on portable models. These generators are essentially super-sized lithium batteries. They can be charged by an A/C outlet or solar panels–some can even be charged by your car battery. These aren’t the bigger generators that run on gasoline or propane.
So what’s best for you?
Ask yourself: what exactly do I want to power or charge?
On an extended road trip (or RV or camping), just everyone needs to charge their phones/laptops or tablets. For small electronics, we’d recommend a portable generator that is powered by a lithium battery.
What about more robust power needs? If you are tailgating and need to power a TV or other small appliances, then an inverter portable generator is a better bet. We’ll recommend one inverter generator at the end of this article.
Looking for a solar-ready generator? After surveying the camping enthusiasts among our readers and doing 8 hours of additional research comparing performance and durability, we think this is the best bet: Jackery’s Portable Power Station Explorer 240.
Yes, this generator can actually be charged by a solar panel (sold separately). And it works.
One key piece to happiness when it comes to buying a generator: setting your expectations accordingly! This model is designed to charge small electronics (that is, your phone or laptop), not a hair dryer or microwave. Here’s more on why we recommend this model:
What We Liked
• Solar panels (purchased separately) can fully charge this generator in about 7 hours.
• Works for devices at 200 watts or less.
• Lightweight at 6.6 lbs.
• Excellent for charging smartphones or laptops.
• Easy to carry around.
• Battery indicator.
• 1 A/C outlet and 2 USB ports plus 1 DC port.
• Pass through charging. Yes, this model can be charged (by solar panels or A/C) AND charge electronics at the same time.
What Needs Work
• Runs down too fast? We see some complaints this generator ran out of juice too soon for some folks. Part of this is setting your expectations—for example, this battery can run a TV for about 3 hours. Or fully charge a laptop 3 or 4 times.