Three Types of Power Stations Engineered for Emergencies

How to select a portable power source for those times when you need power off the grid—or when the grid goes down.

Portable power station
Portable power stations are lightweight, easy to use, and a true asset in severe emergencies. Jackery Jackery

What do you get when you integrate modern batteries and solar power generation? Electricity, whenever and wherever you want it. Modern power stations are portable—some weigh less than seven pounds—so you can take one practically anywhere. You can charge one up at home, and then use a portable solar array to recharge it if necessary. If the sun’s out, you’ll be able to provide power indefinitely.

That’s more than simply a convenience for things like laptops and lights. With a power station, your cell phone will always be charged up, so you can call for help if need be. The larger stations will power a CPAP machine, either off the grid or when your home power goes out due to a storm. You’ll be able to provide heat, keep your refrigerator running to save your food, and work with power tools to make repairs.

Power stations differ in size, output, and usage options. Choose the best one for you by determining what you want to do with it, where, and for how long. Here’s a guide to help you pick one.

The Weekender

This unit weighs 6.6 pounds and is ideal for charging phones and laptops and powering small electronics. Jackery

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If you want a power station to recharge your phone and laptop, power LED lights, watch a television, or run an electric cooler, you can easily get by with one rated for appliances up to 200 watts. Such small power stations are perfect for day-long picnics, overnight camping trips, beach outings and the like because they’re compact and weigh less than a gallon of water.

Home-Away-From-Home Unit

This device has USB and standard plugs, can be recharged at home, in your vehicle, or by the sun. Jackery

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If you want power on an extended camping trip, or if you need power at a work site in a remote area, invest in a power station with a 1000-watt rating. That will allow you to run a small refrigerator, power tools, fans, and multiple lights. Such power stations are perfect for bringing along to an off-the-grid cabin for a few days, because you’ll be able to enjoy the primitive allure of the cabin but still have some of the comforts of home.

The Backup

A large unit can have as many as six plugs, and still be easy to charge. MAXOAK

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Some power stations have multiple outlets along with plenty of power, which makes them ideal for use as backup generators. Running extension cords from the outlets allow you to power multiple devices—a coffee machine, microwave oven, refrigerator, television—and keep cell phones and laptops charged up. Such power stations are perfect if you live in hurricane-prone regions, where the power may go out for days after a storm, and you want to keep your food unspoiled, your clothes clean, and your lights on.