Sometimes when you’re out camping it’s helpful to have access to a bit of juice. Especially if you’re off the beaten path and plan on staying in a remote location for a while.
But what if you’re tent camping or overloading on your vehicle? Then you probably don’t carry around a generator that’s running on gasoline. A good alternative is a solar generator. They utilize solar panels and a huge battery pack to generator and store electricity.
But it can often be tough to find a reliable solar generator if you’re new to camping or don’t know much about generators. Luckily, we’ve done the testing ourselves and have found the following 5 generators to be the best on the market:
- BLUETTI AC200P (fastest charging)
- Jackery Solar Explorer 1000 (longest runtime)
- EF EcoFlow Delta (most powerful)
- Goal Zero Yeti 1000X (most durable)
- ROCKPALS (cheapest)
Without further ado, let’s dive straight into the details!
1. BLUETTI AC200P
The BLUETTI portable power station (model AC200P) is a monster when it comes to storing solar power, and providing power to your home, RV or campsite.
This compact solar generator provides enough power to operate almost all of the appliances or devices in your home, so it’s more than capable of handling your RV or camping needs.
The BLUETTI power station has 6 AC power ports, 4 USB-A ports, 1 USB-C port, and a wireless charging pad for all of your devices or camp appliances.
The power station also has a standard car outlet, an RV DC outlet and a DC5521 outlet. No matter what your device needs, this power station probably has it.
On the technical side of things, the solar generator is capable of handling up to 700W of solar power and the battery will fully charge in 2.5 hours. This is one of the fastest charging solar generators we’ve found.
- Fast charging
- Plenty of power ports
- Comes with a 2-year warranty
- Solar panels are not included
- Slightly heavy
- Requires multiple panels to charge
2. Jackery Solar Explorer 1000
Though it’s a little more expensive than some other solar generators, the Jackery Explorer 1000 solar generator is one of the most popular solar generators for off grid living.
The biggest selling point of this generator is the compact size combined with a ton of power output. The Jackery Explorer is powerful enough to run a full size refrigerator, TV, heater and electric stove with no problem at all.
It is a great solar generator for home back-up power or RV or camping power.
The Jackery Explorer doesn’t have as many power outlets as other options, with only 3 AC power outlets, 2 USB-A, 2 USB-C and a car power outlet.
However if you’re looking for a compact solar generator that has plenty of power, you’ll like this option. Also, it comes with it’s own solar panels, so you don’t have to purchase panels separately just to get started.
- Comes with solar panels
- Very long output times
- Capable of pass-through charging
- Fewer outlets than other options
- Lower input/output power
- Solar panels aren’t weather-proof
3. EF EcoFlow Delta
The EF ECOFLOW portable power station provides you with some versatility that some other solar generators do not. First, this solar generator can be charged using solar panels, OR AC power, OR your car’s battery. This is a huge win especially if you need to charge your generator on the move or want to make sure it is fully charged before you hit the road.
We like that this solar generator has a really nice display panel that gives you more system information than is offered on other solar generators.
Along with the nice display, the EF ECOFLOW Delta has 6 AC plugs, 4 USB-A ports, and 2 USB-C ports, allowing you to run most of the appliances you might need when camping or if you need to use this solar generator at home in an emergency.
The EF ECOFLOW Delta power station recharges quickly and does well at running multiple appliances at the same time. This solar generator was fairly compact and was easy to move around.
- Enough ports for 13 devices
- Charges fully in 1 hour
- Can use any solar input up to 400W
- Lower input watts than others
- Users report low output watts
- Fan unit uses quite a bit of power
4. Goal Zero Yeti 1000X
Goal Zero was the innovator of the portable power station over 10 years ago, so it makes sense that one of our 5 best solar generators comes from this company.
The Goal Zero Yeti 1000X portable power station may not be big, or provide as many outlets as some other solar generators, but it isn’t made to run your whole house for an extended period of time. Yes, you can run your RV on this generator, but it is really made for off grid power for camping or over-landing.
Just because this power station is made with off-the-grid camping or over-landing in mind, doesn’t mean that it can’t handle some of the nicer luxuries of home. On a full charge, this solar generator is capable of powering a full-size fridge for around 18-hours.
Additionally, this solar generator is made to handle some of the most extreme conditions on Earth, and has been tested in a range of environmental conditions.
- Solar, AC or car charging capable
- Can be run in pass-through mode
- Easily packable and storable
- Heavier than other models
- Not waterproof
- Fans can be noisy
Our final pick is a super compact, but really useful solar generator. The ROCKPALS portable power station is a nice option for the camper that wants to have power available for a few basic items but doesn’t want to commit to a larger unit that takes up more space.
The ROCKPALS portable power station, though small, has the ability to power 9 devices at one time. The generator has 2 AC outlets, 3 USB-A ports, 1 USB-C port, and a car charger port. For the camper that just wants to be able to charge their cell phone or use their laptop while on the go, this power station provides plenty of versatility.
This solar generator doesn’t come with solar panels, but one of the things we really like about it is the price. It is by far one of the most affordable solar generators on the market, even when you add on the solar panels to the cost.
- Extra compact
- Pass-through charging capable
- Built-in MPPT for faster recharge
- The handle makes this unit less compact
- Doesn’t come with solar panels
- Only 500W
Frequently asked questions
What is a solar generator?
A solar generator is a smaller version of the solar systems that people put on their homes. Using solar panels, a solar generator collects light energy from the sun and converts it to electricity that is stored in a battery pack.
Solar generators provide similar power for camping, home emergencies, or your RV similarly to a gasoline generator. Solar generators are preferred by many campers or those spending a lot of time off the grid because they are quieter than a gas-powered generator and they don’t create fumes or odors.
How to choose the best solar generator for off-grid living
When you are looking for a solar generator for off-grid living, you need to know your power needs and then look for products that will meet these needs. The product features that we used to make our list are a good place to start when narrowing down the best solar generators for your needs.
Battery capacity is measured in watts. The larger the wattage the more electricity it can store, and this means you can run more devices for a longer time with your solar generator. Having a higher battery capacity also allows you to use your generator even when the weather is poor.
When you are looking at the battery capacity of a solar generator, you’ll want to consider the watts of storage but also the watt-hours. This will tell you how many watts are consumed in an hour, and how long you can expect the batteries to last under maximum use.
Most solar generators come with one of two types of battery: lithium-acid and lithium-ion. Lithium-acid batteries are an older technology, and are not used as often anymore. These types of batteries tend to have less power output and don’t last as long after a charge. However they are acceptable for power, and cost less so they are a good option if you’re on a budget.
Lithium-ion batteries are a much better technology and one that is newer and continues to be improved upon. Lithium-ion batteries are known for their high power input, and long-lasting, reliable power output. Solar generators with lithium-ion batteries tend to be a bit more expensive.
Really what you need to know about solar panels and solar generators is that some generators come with their own panels, and some do not. So, if price is a factor in your decision, you’ll want to look for a quality product in your price range that comes with a set of solar panels.
Solar panels come in three types – thin film, monocrystalline, and polycrystalline. All three work well, however for camping we like thin film panels because they are lightweight and easier to pack.
An inverter is a part built into your solar generator that converts the DC current from the solar panels to AC power that can be used by your devices or appliances.
Today you’ll often hear the term “clean power” in reference to the output power from solar generators. This usually means that the inverter creates pure sine wave AC currents. This type of current is more efficient and is a lot better for sensitive devices like laptops and smartphones.
When you are shopping for a solar generator, you need to know the total power needs for the items that you want to tie into the generator. Then, select a solar generator that has a power output that exceeds the amount you need. This will ensure that you have more than enough power for all of your lights, fridge, cell phones, laptops and other electronics.
Charge controllers regulate the current that passes from the solar panels to the battery. Today, most solar generators have a three-point power tracking or MPPT charge controller integrated into the generator. These will allow you to use a variety of different solar panels, or run multiple solar panels in-line without overloading your battery. If your solar generator doesn’t have an MPPT charge controller you can buy an adaptor as an add-on.
Most solar generators aren’t nearly as large as gas-powered generators, so when we talk about weight, you’re looking at a generator that should weigh less than 100 pounds. The purpose of solar generators is to allow for electric power in remote locations or emergencies, so light-weight and portable are hallmarks of solar generators.
Price is an important factor when you’re considering a solar generator. And it’s important to know that there are solar generators in a wide range of prices. The most important factor when considering price is your budget. There are great products out there with smaller price tags, just make sure you check reviews before buying. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can find some amazing generators with substantial price tags. Know what you need before you buy a generator, and make sure you stay within your budget.
What benefits does a solar generator have for off-grid living?
Solar generators are quickly becoming a favorite of travelers that like to get away from the crowds and live life off-grid (even if it’s just a few days). The reason they are becoming so popular is because they have some nice benefits beyond the ability to provide power when you’re not tied to a power source.
- Solar energy is everywhere, so when you use a solar generator, you can make power anywhere there is sun. This adds to the convenience of getting off the grid because you can spend more time away, and less time looking for fuel.
- Speaking fuel, since solar generators don’t require gasoline, you don’t have to worry about filling up gas tanks, gas spills, odors or exhaust fumes.
- Solar generators have minimal maintenance costs, and operating costs are low since solar energy is free.
- Solar generators are much lighter and more compact than gas generators.
- Solar generators are just better for the environment and your camping experience. They don’t burn fossil fuels, they rely on renewable energy, and they are quiet so they don’t contribute to noise pollution.
What size solar generator do I need for off-grid living?
To determine the size solar generator that you need for your off-grid living needs, you first need to determine the amount of power that all of your appliances and devices require for operation.
All of these items will have a wattage value, add these up to get the minimum power output that you’ll need your solar generator to have. You can stick with this value if you want, or if you know that you’ll not be running all of your items at the same time.
However, to be safe, we recommend that you select a solar generator that has a bit more power than your devices require. This will allow you a bit of wiggle room and will actually allow you to run your stuff for a longer time before the generator needs to be recharged. A good rule of thumb is to add 20% to the total power needed to get an adequate power output value.
That’s it. If you’re going camping in the wilderness and you need a bit of juice to power all of your devices, then investing in a high-quality solar generator comes in handy.