In order to sustain an acceptable level of comfort and convenience on a camping trip, there are certain items one should possess. The essentials are important, such as a first aid kit, food, and electronic devices for communication. But how will you charge everything in situations where there’s no power available?
Camping generators, also known as portable power stations, can provide power to essential items brought along during camping: smartphones, laptops, and cookware being among them. If you’re planning for an upcoming camping or RV adventure, check out the five camping generators below. Each power station has unique features that’ll keep your electronics powered as if you were back at home. Let’s look further!
This comparison chart specifies the primary differences between each product’s wattage, weight, and output. Be sure to pay attention to whether or not the power station is a pure or modified sine wave (more on this later).
Top 5 Best Camping Generators / Portable Power Stations
FlashFish 60000mAh Portable Power Station 300W – Best for Long Camping Trips
The FlashFish is a grey-colored power station, suitable for use in any outdoor environment (indoors, too).
For a small generator, it works very well to deliver approving electrical power to all portable devices. Since electricity is processed as pure sine wave, there are no worries of frying any of your most sensitive belongings. That means everything from CPAP machines to high-end computers is safe to plug into one of the power station’s two AC outlets. When it comes time to charge up your smartphone, simply place it into one of the three USB ports provided; its battery should fill up in less than 30 minutes.
The FlashFish included a useful solar panel, great for on-the-spot charging in times where you’re not around other sources for charging the power station. Simply place it next to your campsite, RV, or camper and allow it to charge for as long as you need it to. With the solar panel, you’re looking at around five to six-hour for it to reach a full charge during daytime hours.
On an electrical or DC outlet, it’s much faster. Carrying the unit around is easy to do. There’s one luggage-like handle at the top that’s padded. It makes hauling the 5.6-pound station much easier on the wrists during hikes. But don’t settle there if you don’t want to. The dimensions are small enough for it to fit in most medium to large-sized camping backpacks.
What about the areas of improvement? There aren’t many. If you’ve used portable power stations with a digital display before, it could come as a surprise to know that no indicators exist for AC and DC usage. It will show you how much battery life is available but not what’s causing it to drop. In the most likely case, your AC adapters would suck up power than DC plugs will.
There’s also no auto on/off feature provided. If you leave it on and forget to turn it off, you’ll probably wake up with a dead power station. So as long as you don’t mind keeping an eye on the battery and estimating your wattage consumption, you’ll find the FlashFish to be a perfect little companion on your next outdoor adventure.
- Comes with a solar panel for recharging in situations where no power source is available
- Durable carrying handle that won’t age or break from tugging
- Although weighted, is light enough to fit in most general-sized backpacks and luggage pieces
- No indicators for AC and DC power consumption on the digital display
- No feature for automatically turning the generator off or on
Paxcess Portable Camping Generator 330W – Best for Pass-Through Charging
Want something that’s a bit smaller than the previously reviewed product? Try the Paxcess Portable Camping Generator instead.
The dimensions give it a similar shape to a small toaster oven. Better yet, you could bring it alongside the power station if you wanted, and it would cook your food just as it does in your home. All jokes aside, this is a power station for people that camp away from RVs and campers. In such a situation, every item that you carry must have a purpose, and this will certainly come in handy.
The physical makeup of the generator is very nice. The durable orange and black exterior are built to withstand hot and cold climates. There’s only one 110-volt AC outlet in the front. The maximum wattage is 330. That’s enough to keep your portable gadget charged, but strong enough to power on a television set for as long as five hours.
Ports and Charging
It has three USB ports in the center, along with one Type-C. As a result of the Type-C, it’s capable of charging and powering more electronic devices without the need for you to do it on your laptop. For another with newer model smartphones, wireless charging is also an option. Simply place your phone at the top (right above the digital display) and wait for the mobile’s battery to fill.
The digital display indicates input/output of DC and AC power, with a battery indicator to the left of it. This is important given the fact that pass-through charging is possible.
You can simultaneously “power” the power station and use the outlets. Sure, it might take the product a bit longer to reach full battery when connected to a solar panel, but the burden of waiting to use it after charging won’t be an issue. Panels up to 200 volts can be hooked to the power station; there are lots of options for you to choose from if purchasing one alongside the Paxcess.
Be prepared to see excessive drops in power when you’re not using the Paxcess. Although this can happen with almost any power station, it’s very noticeable here. People going camping with sources of electricity to power the generator likely won’t be affected by this. But if you’re not bringing along a solar panel and have no means of charging the product, expect depletion levels higher than 3% every day (without charging anything).
Still, don’t let this keep you from trying out the Paxcess for yourself, it does lots of things right and strongly recommended for campers expecting to sleep the night out in a tent.
- The digital display shows wattage depletion and consumption levels
- The unit is 50% charged when it arrives (approximate)
- There are two USB ports embedded to the power station, both of which will quickly charge laptops and smartphones
- Capable of charging electronic devices while being charged itself (pass through charging)
- Compatible with solar panels up to 24 volts and 200 watts
- The battery loses approximately 3% of its power when not in use
Enginstar Portable Power Station 300W – Best for Extended Hiking
The Enginstar Portable Power Station is for people that don’t need fancy perks and wish to stick to the basics. First off, it has a weight of just a little over seven pounds, perfect for storing in a backpack or other camping luggage. With this machine, you can charge everything from a small cooler to your RVs TV set. It has 12-volt DC outlets and can receive power from your vehicle in this manner.
But when you’re out in the tent, a 12-volt solar panel can get the battery back full in about ten hours. The handle on the power station is very nice, big enough to grip the palms without digging into the skin. Assuming you won’t be carrying it around with you on hikes, you probably won’t hold it for long. But in case you must, doing so won’t be a pain.
What you Can Charge
It has two 110-volt AC outlets, two, USB ports, and a Type-C port. Having a capacity of 300 watts, you can have your laptop, phone, and stove all plugged in, with room left over. When you choose to power your items is up to you; there’s an LED light at the top to illuminate your tent in the evening hours. Being a pure sine wave, all devices will work in the same manner as they would in your home.
With the Enginstar, it’s recommended that you use DC power as often as you can. Use a DC adapter in the outlet for any device that’s compatible with them; you’ll find that the battery uses DC power much slower than AC.
For example, expect a CPAP machine to run for 24 hours non stop when attached to a DC plug (when other devices are charged to a minimum). The digital display in the front is bright, both during the day and night. People with glasses won’t have to squint just to see what bar the battery indicator is showing.
Try to watch how you handle the Enginstar. It’s exterior pieces feel quite frail. This isn’t to say that it’ll break if you accidentally brush against it, but that you won’t want to drop it on a hard surface. The majority of the outside consists of plastic parts. It’s good for people that want a power station for specific electronic devices, or those planning on powering them with a DC plug.
- Not a burden to carry around when hiking; its weight is manageable
- Can charge electronics nearly 24 hours when using a 12-volt DC adapter
- The digital display is easy to make out; numbers and letters aren’t too small
- Fragile plastic exterior
OMORC Pure Sine Wave Camping Generator 300W – Best for Durability
The OMORC Camping Generator almost resembles a construction worker’s toolbox. Which is a good thing, especially if you’re looking for a power station that’s built to withstand brief camping trips. On the side of the machine, you’ll find two AC ports capable of delivering a total of 300 watts in power.
Everything from smartphones, tablets, DSLR cameras, and laptops will power up with no risk of failure. It’s a pure sine wave and passes electricity through whatever you change, without turning it off. Two DC-out outlets are embedded next to three USB ports, with a Type-C port in the upper-right. To use them, you can press either the “AC” or “USB” buttons located underneath the ports.
Built for any Camping Terrain
The generator is sturdy, and won’t lose its balance when sitting on a flat, relatively smooth surface. It produces little heat when running and won’t heat up small tents to a noticeable level. This includes when plugging in AC outlets. The bottom of the power station is rubbed with rubber padding and adds lots of strength to the overall body of the product. Place it outside on the dirt, then wipe it down when you’re done powering/charging your belongings.
Light packers are in for a special treat with the OMORC. Dimensions are about the same as a lunchbox, with a total weight of just five pounds. If placed in your hiking/camping backpack, you might even forget that it’s there. And since it doesn’t heat up, none of your snacks taken along with you on the trip will be affected when stuffed inside the same bag.
Don’t be surprised when you find yourself charging the power station for much longer than is indicated by the product on its description page. The claim is about 5 hours for DC, and seven for AC. In actuality, expect charging times of 15 hours or more. There’s no pass-through charging here, the generator shuts off outgoing power for the duration that tit received power. In any case, the OMORC remains a riveting product that’s perfect for short camping getaways, or as an emergency generator for an RV.
- Unit stays cool at all times, even when running electronics through the AC port
- Contains rubber padding on the exterior, making it suitable for extended camping trips
- It’s small dimensions make the power station appropriate for light packers
- Charging time is much longer than indicated by the brand
SUAOKI Portable Power Station S270 – Best for Short Camping Trips
The Suaoki ends the list as the product most recommended for campers that need a portable generator that uses power sparingly. To start off, this power station is a modified sine wave, which might not be suitable for some particular electronic devices. With this in mind, you can still do a lot of things with it.
Truthfully, few people would be able to tell the difference between a modified and pure sine wave generator, and this is true of the Suaoki. Plug in your devices and charge them as normal. Since more people use portable generator outlets sporadically, there’s really nothing to worry about.
You can charge it using three methods, either through solar, AC power, or DC power. Thankfully, all three adapters for charging are included with the product. This might seem like a no-brainer until one realizes how common it is for some competing brands to refrain from including them with their generators.
In an amazing feat, the company has managed to create a camping device that can harness power from the sun to a full battery in less than four hours. And the box won’t cause you to sweat when you’re tucked away in your sleeping bag. It works without radiating a lot of heat.
As indicated earlier, this is a modified sine wave. For high-end laptops and medical devices that must be relied upon, try out some of the other power stations. It’s a general-purpose charging and powering of devices for a short period and doesn’t deliver the same amount of electricity as a pure sine wave.
So as long as you’re not reliant on any medical devices and aren’t planning on having your MacBook plugged in one of its outlets for hours on end, the Suaoki will serve you well.
- Charges by solar, AC, and DC power, with all adapters for doing so included with the power station
- Doesn’t significantly heat up the climate inside of small tents
- Charges in about two-to-three hours on a solar panel
- Modified sine wave (not suitable for long-term charging of sensitive electronic devices, such as laptops or CPAP machines)
- No safeguards for protecting the power station for overcharges (must be monitored when charging)
Camping Generator – Buyer’s Guide
Here are tips to help you shorten down your choices of the power generators featured.
How does a Portable Power Station Work?
A portable power station is essentially a small generator. Think of it as an inverter that doesn’t need to be attached to a vehicle for power. Instead, you can charge the generator and use it away from the power source. Most contain around 200-400 watts of electricity and built with several AC, DC, and USB ports. Others may even contain wireless charging stations.
Why Do People Need These Generators for Camping?
Because of their portability and small size, portable power stations are well-suited for camping activities. Many brands are small enough to be placed inside of backpacks, with a majority under 400 watts in capacity weighing less than ten pounds.
They can charge mobile devices, cookware, radios, and even power television sets. As a plus, they’re great for receiving backup power in emergency situations, either outdoors, in an RV, or at home.
Who Should Buy a Camping Generator?
Camping generators are great for frequent travelers, particularly those with an affinity for outdoor camping. Tailgating is another great use for camping generators. Hunters and fisherman and either chill or cook their favorite meals immediately, before ever leaving the area of activity.
But such power stations are also useful at home. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, are seasonally snowed in, or stay in an area at risk of forest fires, having a quick, power source is a must. And since many power stations today are chargeable with solar power, you won’t even need to rely on your vehicle to keep the battery full.
Why It’s Important to Choose the Right Generator for Camping?
There are two types of portable power stations. The most common is a pure sine wave, which carries an electric current in a non-stepped waveform. Pure sine wave is what’s commonly used by electric companies in residential areas throughout the world. This allows anything powered by the device to receive a constant stream of electricity without any downtime.
On the other hand, modified sine wave has frequent periods of a stepped waveform. While modified sine wave will work for most electronic devices, equipment being powered in this manner will charge slower and receive smaller doses of electricity. Lights, for example, would be dimmer when plugged into a generator with a modified sine wave. The biggest difference that users would notice is power. Pure sine wave generators will consume power much faster than modified.
Portable generators like those featured above do not require fuel to run. You’ll need either an AC/DC adapter or solar panel. Depending on the brand, the recommended panel may change. Most will take 100-watt panels, though some could go higher.
The quickest way to charge a power station with either AC or DC power. For power consumption, the most efficient is DC. Always go with your DC adapters when camping, if you can. You’ll find that the generator’s battery depletes much slower.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Camping Generator
How Long Does It Take for Solar Panels to Charge Portable Generators?
This is heavily dependent on the portable generator being used. As a rule of thumb, always expect solar power to be the slowest way to charge. This means that you’ll probably invest at least ten hours in charging the generator. If this could be an issue, look for a generator that allows pass-through charging.
Is It Safe to Place a Portable Generator Inside a Tent?
Yes. Not only is it safe, but encouraged. Many of the latest portable generators contain LED lights that can illuminate your tent if nothing else is available. Most models won’t cause the tent’s interior to heat either. Just use the same precautions that you would with any electronic device; avoid getting the generator wet and keep any electric conductors away from the unit when powered on.
What Portable Generator Is Best for CPAP Machines?
CPAP machines are used by many people to allow easier breathing during sleep. If you’re dependent on a CPAP machine, you can choose either pure or modified sine wave generators. However, your machine will have to work harder to operate when plugged into a power station with a modified sine wave. This could damage it over time. If you’re only going to be using the power station for short-term camping trips, either choice will suffice.
Which portable generator do you think is the best? Five were shown, with each containing great features worthy of consideration by any adventurous outdoorsman/woman or camper. If you want the most dependable in terms of battery life, ease of storage, and power efficiency, try the FlashFish (number 1 review). But for fast charging with solar panels with pass-through capabilities, the Paxcess in number 2 is the way to go.
The alternatives are good as well, specifically for people needing a modified sine wave generator one that uses power sparingly. But take comfort in knowing that whatever ends up at your door will make your next camping trip a more enjoyable experience.