The development of good portable solar generators may have been a little slow to begin with, but today, there’s no stopping their progress. Sure, traditional electric generators still offer more as home backup solutions, but when it comes to camping and all kinds of travel, a portable solar generator is your best friend.
The best portable solar generators offer clean and intelligent solutions to power up devices you typically take with you when you travel. We’ve put together a list of portable solar generator reviews to help you choose the most suitable option for your needs.
GOAL ZERO Yeti 400 Lithium
GOAL ZERO Yeti 1400 Lithium
SUAOKI 400 Portable Generator
- 1 Best Portable Solar Generator Reviews
- 2 Solar vs. Electric Generator for Camping
- 3 The Essential Components of a Portable Solar Generator
- 4 How Much Battery Storage Capacity is Enough?
- 5 How Long Does It Take to Charge a Portable Solar Generator?
Best Portable Solar Generator Reviews
Travelling and camping, in particular, are all about freedom. For limited periods of time, you pack the essentials and leave behind urban noise in favor of the peace of nature.
Still, you’ll probably need your phone, a tablet, a music player, or even your laptop, all of which require power in order to work. This is where the following portable solar generators step in.
1. GOAL ZERO Yeti 400 Lithium
This portable solar power system by Goal Zero is our top pick because it strikes a handsome balance between quality, battery capacity, weight, and price. It’s highly versatile and powerful enough to keep your devices going for extensive periods of time.
As its name suggests, the Yeti 400 features a battery that can store up to 400Wh or 0.4kWh, which is enough to charge your phone about 15 times over and to power a laptop for approximately 5 hours. It includes 2.4A USB, as well as 120W 12V ports, and can charge up to 7 devices at once.
The battery can be replaced, if necessary, or otherwise charged using an AC wall outlet (for 7 hours) and compatible solar panels (for 8 to 16 hours, depending on the weather conditions). The incorporated LCD display is easy to read and will always let you know how much power you’re currently using vs. how much is left.
Finally, the generator weighs only 17lb or just under 8kg and makes virtually no noise when operating. It is, in other words, ideal for camping, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.
- Decent battery capacity with a full charge of 400Wh
- Can charge a variety of devices at the same time
- Can be recharged using solar panels or an AC wall outlet
- Battery capacity is not high enough to charge large appliances (such as a fridge) on its ownCLY 60 LED Solar Flood LightsIdeal for camping, but can only be used as a backup home generator if coupled with other identical batteries
2. GOAL ZERO Yeti 1400 Lithium
If you’re looking for a unit that can power a small TV when you travel, but also serve as a backup generator when you return home, this is the best portable solar generator for you.
It weighs 43lb or just under 20kg, which means you can only bring it with you if you travel by car. However, its battery can store up to 1400Wh or 1.4kWh, which is enough to power an average fridge for up to a day, keep a laptop running for up to 18 hours, or charge a number of small devices several dozen times over.
The Yeti 1400 can be recharged at home, using an AC wall outlet, or on the go, using any compatible solar panels. It comes with 10 versatile ports, including USB, USB-PD, USB-C, AC, and 12V, so that you can use it to power all kinds of devices.
Its LCD display will always let you know how much power you have left, but the unit can also be connected to your phone via WiFi.
- Most portable solar generator reviews will feature the Yeti 1400 as one of the highest battery capacity units available on the market
- Can be recharged using an AC wall outlet or solar panels
- 10 Versatile ports that connect to all kinds of devices
- Heavier than other options and therefore not suitable for backpacking
3. ECOFLOW RIVER Portable Power Station
One of the best portable solar generators currently competing against Goal Zero’s Yeti, the EcoFlow River power station is your best pick for a light unit that can still charge most devices.
This portable solar power system weighs only 11lb or 5kg, while its design makes it easy to carry even when backpacking. Though super light compared to other models, it comes with a battery that can store up to 400Wh or 0.4kWh. You can’t use it to power up a fridge, but you can use it to charge your small devices a dozen times over during a trip.
The unit can power up to 11 devices at the same time and its ports include USB, USB 2.0, USB-C, AC and DC outlets, as well as a 12V car port. To recharge this portable solar generator, you can plug it into an AC wall outlet, use its 12V car charger, or connect it to the EcoFlow solar panel charger (sold separately).
You can bring the EcoFlow River portable generator with you even when you expect difficult weather conditions. It is built to withstand both low and high temperatures, as well as rain or snow.
- Very light, at only 11lb or 5kg: easy to carry and suitable for backpacking
- Decent battery that can store up to 400Wh
- Can charge up to 11 devices at the same time
- Ideal for traveling and camping, but not suitable as a home backup generator
4. RENOGY PHOENIX 210 Portable Generator
Sifting through all the best portable solar generator reviews, it’s difficult not to notice this versatile design by Renogy Phoenix. The unit is an all-in-one portable solar power system that comes with in-built solar panels in addition to other components of a generator.
The Phoenix is designed as a neat suitcase that is super easy to carry and weighs no more than 13lb or 6kg. It features several ports for multiple types of devices and a decent battery capacity of approximately 210Wh or 0.2kWh. Though less powerful than other options, the battery is still more than enough to charge small devices such as a phone or tablet several times over.
When you’re ready to recharge the Phoenix, simply pop the suitcase open and expose the solar panels to sunlight. For a full battery charge, you’ll have to give it 15 hours in the sun or plug it into an AC wall outlet for 5 hours.
- Neat suitcase design, light and easy to carry
- Sold with in-built solar panels
- Additional solar panels can be connected for faster charging time
- More expensive than other optionsCLY 60 LED Solar Flood LightsFairly low battery storage capacity, though still enough for light uses
5. SUAOKI 400 Portable Generator
This model by Suaoki is not only one of the best portable solar power generators currently on the market, but also one of the most affordable. It offers battery storage capacity and quality components comparable to units by Goal Zero at a bargain, which is why you’ll find it in most portable solar generator reviews.
Suaoki’s portable generator comes with a battery that can store up to 440Wh or 0.44kWh, which is amazing considering the fact that you can buy the unit for less than half the price of other similar options. It can charge several devices at the same time and features versatile ports, including DC, USB, 12V, a cigarette lighter socket, and others.
The generator can be charged using solar panels, as well as DC power from a 12V or 24V car and AC power from a home wall outlet. It weighs just over 12lb or 5.5kg, which means it’s quite easy to carry during trips, even without a car.
- More affordable than other similar options
- A decent battery that can store up to 440Wh
- Can charge several devices at the same time through a variety of ports
- Not as reliable as other optionsCLY 60 LED Solar Flood LightsIdeal for traveling, but will not suffice as a home backup generator
Solar vs. Electric Generator for Camping
There are several reasons why you should consider a solar power generator when you travel. By far the most important is that portable solar power systems do not require fossil fuels to run, which is why they do not produce harmful greenhouse emissions. Of equal importance is that solar energy is efficient and sustainable, which will save you a lot of money in the long run.
The pressing question is whether the best portable solar generator can go toe to toe with its electric cousins?
Electric generators might be cheaper and smaller, but they require fuel to run. Whether you’re using gas, diesel, or propane, these will cost you more than what you would otherwise invest in a solar generator. Moreover, fuel imposes additional space and safety requirements when you travel. Camping with an electric generator exposes you to life-threatening risks, so you must always take additional care to keep the fuel away from where you sleep and eat.
As you will find out from most portable solar generator reviews, unlike traditional generators, these products are 100% silent. This is particularly important when you’re going on a camping, fishing, or hunting trip. Most campgrounds restrict generator usage, while fish and other wildlife will hear you from miles away if you bring a gas generator with you.
The Essential Components of a Portable Solar Generator
Portable solar power systems have several basic components, including PV (photovoltaic) panels, a charge regulator, batteries, and an inverter. The panels (which are sometimes flexible solar panels) capture daylight, convert it to electricity, and transmit it to the batteries through the charge regulator. Unlike traditional generators, nothing is actually moving in these devices, so their durability is exponentially increased. (If you’re looking for some DIY solar panel kits, click here!)
Rechargeable Battery and Storage Capacity
Battery storage capacity is crucial for the best portable solar generators. At night, when there is no daylight to be converted into electricity, you’ll rely solely on these rechargeable cells to power your phone, laptop, or lights. The type of battery is significant to proper maintenance. For instance, lead and acid batteries should not be drained under 35% of their capacity. Lithium batteries are different, but tend to be more expensive because of their compact and lightweight nature. You can take them as far down as 10% without affecting their efficiency and life span.
Solar Panels and PV Input
A good camping solar panel input also defines whether a unit can be considered one of the best portable solar generators on the market. The more PV input you can get, the better, since this maximizes the amount of electricity absorbed during the day, while also lowering recharging times. There is great benefit in having portable or separate PV, since you can change their position throughout the day in order to get optimal solar input. (If you’re looking for great marine solar panels, click here!)
Solar Inverter and Inverter Rating
The importance of the solar inverter depends on how you intend to use your product. Inverter ratings dictate how much power can be drawn from the batteries at any one time. For this reason, many portable solar generator reviews specify inverter ratings in the titles of products. However, these are often misleading, since they do not indicate how much battery storage you get, but rather how much can be used at a time. It is ideal to buy a generator with an inverter charger, as the latter will allow you to plug the portable solar power system into a regular power grid when available.
How Much Battery Storage Capacity is Enough?
As you read portable solar generator reviews, you’ll notice that batteries are commonly valued in Ah (amp hours), but Wh (watt hours) and kWh (kilowatt hours) are also used. The latter two are more helpful to convert to because appliances will usually be measured by their wattage. Here is an approximation to help you convert from one to the other:
- 100 Ah ~ 1200Wh (for a 12V battery) or 2400Wh (for a 24V battery)
- 1kWh = 1000Wh
To get an idea of whether a particular portable solar generator will be enough for you, consider what you intend to bring with you on your trip and whether these devices require a lot of power to be charged.
For instance, a typical smartphone will require 10Wh (or 0.01kWh) for a full recharge, whereas working on a laptop for one hour will demand approximately 40Wh (or 0.04kWh). A standard 0.4kWh of battery storage capacity should be enough to keep small electronics powered for an extended trip. However, if you want to take a small TV with you, your energy requirements will be much higher, somewhere in the lines of 150Wh (or 0.15kWh). But if all you’re looking to keep charged is a solar lantern, your energy needs will be much lower.
How Long Does It Take to Charge a Portable Solar Generator?
The charging time for a solar generator is proportional to PV input and the efficiency of the panels themselves. The best portable solar generator will yield around 140Watt PV input or more. Assuming the unit features a 0.4 kWh battery, the total charging time will be less three hours.
Although direct sunshine will ensure that this optimal performance is delivered, cloudy or rainy weather will not necessarily be a problem. Most people think that PV panels don’t work in these conditions, but this is certainly not the case. Solar generators continue to work during bad weather, but their efficiency is naturally less than ideal.
In order to compensate for extended periods of bad weather, you can recharge most portable solar power systems in other ways, such as by connecting them to an AC wall outlet or to your car’s battery. These alternative solutions depend on the make and the model, but they have generally become common features.
How to Choose the Best Portable Solar Generator for You
The right choice for a portable solar generator depends entirely on your needs. In order to make an optimal purchase, you need to ask yourself what you’ll be using the generator for: lowering your power bill at home, keeping your batteries charged on the go, or a combination of both?
Will you also use the portable solar generator at home?
If you’re looking for a portable solar generator that can serve as a backup solution to a power outage, you’ll need more battery capacity than a single system can provide. Alternatively, for those interested in something that can take a load off the traditional power grid, a higher solar PV input will maximize the amount of solar energy you can use throughout the day.
What devices do you usually bring with you on trips?
This is an important question that can help you figure out how much energy you’ll need to recharge essential devices. A 0.4kWh generator will be more than enough to power your flashlights, smartphones, and tablets. However, if you find that you need to take a laptop and a small TV with you for those rainy nights, something in the lines of 1-1.4kWh will be more appropriate.
How light do you travel?
If you’re trekking through national parks without a vehicle, your options in terms of portable solar generators are definitely limited to very lightweight units. While a car does give you the option to carry bigger systems that boast increased storage, solar backpack systems are often enough to keep your phone and other portable devices fully charged.
Traveling outdoors can be a breath of fresh air if you spend most of your time working and living in the city. In order for these trips to remain as pleasurable as they are today, however, we must all do our part to protect our environment. A portable solar power system is a great first step in the direction of sustainability and, as you’ve already noticed throughout our portable solar generator reviews, there are plenty of options to choose from for an optimal purchase.