Camping with Electricity: 8 Power Sources for Your Tent

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If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best power source for camping with electricity is, we recommend the EcoFlow DELTA Portable Power Station.

Many of us would be lost without our creature comforts, especially when nature becomes our home for a few days. A tent A/C or fan can help your shelter stay cool when it’s hot, and a camping lantern or string lights can provide a cozy ambiance for your outdoor living space. But you know what all these things have in common?

They require electricity!

The wilderness is notorious for having a lack of electrical outlets, though, which is why you’ll need to take matters into your own hands. If you want to go camping with electricity, you’ve got to bring a portable power source – fortunately, we’ve reviewed some of the best below.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following power sources for camping with electricity:

Why Do You Need a Power Source for Camping?

woman at table with generator and solar panels

When you think of camping, you probably don’t imagine electricity being part of the equation. After all, isn’t the point of camping to get away from distractions (like computers, phones, iPads, etc.) that are powered by electricity?

Yes and no.

For starters, electricity isn’t the villain in this scenario. If you’re someone who wants a peaceful, tech-free camping experience, you have to recognize that your laptop isn’t the only item that needs power. Think of your camping fan, lantern, and the endless number of creature comforts you could bring with you. While some of them could be battery powered, many are rechargeable, requiring a power source for continued use. On longer camping trips, you’ll be happy to have a battery, generator, or power bank to keep certain equipment up and running for longer.

Secondly, I’m sure there are many of you who actually want to have your tech while camping! Lots of campsites are starting to offer Wi-Fi to their patrons, allowing them to work, browse the internet, or watch funny cat videos from the comfort of their tent. RVers have quite a few appliances that need to stay powered off the grid as well. After a long day of adventuring, it can be nice to unwind around your favorite TV show, online game, or Kindle e-book.

Off-Grid Power Sources for Camping

We know the benefits of camping with electricity, but what options are available to make this a reality?

Quite a few, actually.

And what you end up going with will entirely depend on how mobile you want to be, what you want to power, and how much electricity you think you’ll need for the trip. Here are a couple of broad categories you can choose from:

man with hat and blue shirt sitting on rock with laptop and generator by alpine lake

Portable Power Bank
By far the most popular method for bringing power to a campsite, portable power banks are lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and small enough to fit just about anywhere. For backpacking trips, this is going to be your best option for keeping your phone charged, along with any other small electronics.

The downside is that their battery is only so big. Trying to power anything more than your phone and lantern for a few days straight is going to be a monumental task for these little guys. They’re only compatible with USB charging as well, so any electronics that require a 12 volt outlet or AC socket are going to be out of luck.

Generators
A good camping generator is a reliable source of power that can handle a much heftier load than a portable power bank. If you have a TV, fridge, portable A/C unit, laptop, or other piece of equipment that requires a lot of power, the right generator would be a great addition to your camping checklist.

Despite being powerful, generators aren’t without their flaws either. Depending on the fuel type, you’re limited by how much propane or gasoline you bring. Solar generators are a nice alternative, but you’re still dependent on sunlight – a finicky resource, especially on cloudy days.

Gas generators tend to be pretty noisy as well, which can ruin the peaceful setting that you’re probably looking for. Not to mention, you might have a few angry “neighbors” start complaining about the racket. It’s just another reason why I like solar generators the best for camping, since they’re completely noise free.

Portable Power Stations
A portable power station is kind of like a giant battery pack. You can typically recharge them from a wall outlet or a 12V socket, and depending on the size of the battery, a full charge shouldn’t have any trouble giving you power for your whole trip.

What I like about portable power stations is that they’re quiet, compatible with pretty much any electronic, and fairly dummy proof. Conversely, they do tend to be pretty heavy and expensive, making it a classic case of “you get what you pay for.”

Weight

man lying down with cpap in blue tent

Generally speaking, camping with electricity is something you only do at a campground, in your backyard, or a dispersed site that you can drive to. I say this because, frankly, generators and portable power stations are very heavy.

Considering the weight of these items can sometimes exceed 100 pounds, it’s important to make sure they have wheels and handles for easier transportation. Or at the very least, bring a strong friend who can share the burden.

Portable power banks are the exception to this rule, as they often weigh between 1-2 pounds. But again, given their smaller size, you’re trading performance for weight reduction in the long run. It’s not a problem if you just want to charge your phone every now and then, but for more intense jobs, you’ll have to find a way to manage the weight of a generator or power station.

Capacity

When we talk about the capacity of a battery, we’re specifically looking at the watt hours. A watt hour is equivalent to the power consumption of one watt for one hour.

For example, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000x has a battery capacity of 3032 watt hours. If you’re trying to power a laptop that has an energy consumption of 60 watts per hour, that means the Yeti 3000x could keep your laptop alive for just over 50 hours of constant usage.

A higher battery capacity (or fuel capacity, in the case of some generators) will allow you to stay off the grid for longer. As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend going with an option that has a higher capacity than you think you’ll need, simply because there are some inefficiencies that you need to take into account. Also, while you might be getting a power source for camping, you may find yourself using it at home during a power outage as well. In that case, you’ll be glad you bought something powerful enough to keep your fridge/freezer cold, the computer and Wi-Fi working, and the phones charged.

Portability

solar panels and generator by orange jeep and tent in woods

We’ve briefly touched on it, but portability is one factor you really need to consider. Campsites can be remote and hard to get to, even if you have a vehicle to shuttle you most of the way. You may think the quarter mile hike from the car to the tent won’t be an issue, but can you really say that as you’re lugging around a 100 pound generator?

Backpackers, I’m sorry to say that portable power banks are your only option. Car campers, your options are wide open, but dependent on the campsite that you choose. Standard campgrounds are typically the most accessible and can accommodate nearly any electrical setup. Dispersed campsites are where things can get trickier, though there will be some that can handle a generator or power station that is unbearably heavy.

Durability

The wilderness can be tough on your gear, and your portable power sources are no exception. Most are made to last, and will stand up to rough weather conditions without too much of a problem, but it’s still good to be gentle with them as much as you can.

Set them in sheltered locations, whether that’s inside your tent or in a protected area outside your tent. Do your best to reduce the amount of wear and tear they receive, and you’ll be satisfied with the lifespan they provide for you.

Price

Are more expensive power sources for camping better than others?

Again, the answer is: It depends.

How are you planning on using it? Where do you want to take it? What do you need to power? The Yeti 3000x is certainly expensive, but it’s a fantastic option for those of you who require a lot of power. But if you just want to charge your phone and tent fan? It’s going to be massive overkill.

More expensive power sources are usually more reliable, have better capacity, and last longer. At the same time, they’re large, heavy, and often strong enough to power a whole RV for a couple days. Pick the option that best suits your needs, whether it’s the most expensive or least expensive product available to you.

Best Portable Power Supplies for Camping – Reviewed

Dometic Portable Lithium Battery

  • Weight: 16 Pounds
  • Recharging: AC, DC, and Solar
  • Watt Hours: 512

Though it was primarily created as a power source for the Dometic CFX and other electric coolers, this portable battery can do so much more than that. At full charge, it can give you a reasonable 512 watt hours of power, which should be enough to keep your electronics alive for a couple days.

It’s a simple design, compatible with nearly any plugin, from USB to a 2 pin DC outlet. Charging capabilities are a bit more versatile, whether you want to plug it into an AC wall socket, a 12V, or solar panel.

And really, simplicity is what I most appreciate about this particular product. It’s a lithium battery that doesn’t make any noise, and at 16 pounds, it’s not too hard to carry either. There aren’t many confusing parts, and the LED screen makes it easy to know how much of a charge you have left. Whether you’re camping, overlanding, or just hanging out at the beach, it’s a reliable method for powering your must have items.

Pros:

– User friendly
– Good capacity
– Simple to use
– Can be charged via AC, DC, or solar
– Reasonable weight

Cons:

– LED screen likes to glitch in hot weather
– Charging with solar can be frustrating

EcoFlow DELTA Portable Power Station

  • Weight: 31 Pounds
  • Recharging: AC, Car, and Solar
  • Watt Hours: 1,250

Compared to the Dometic portable battery mentioned above, the EcoFlow DELTA is just…more. The capacity is more than double, it’s several pounds heavier, it can simultaneously power more devices, and yes, it’s more expensive too.

Overall, it’s a classic case of “you get what you pay for.” With several AC plugins, USB ports, and an intuitive design, I would say that the price is entirely justified. You can even charge the battery itself in a variety of ways, whether you want to top it off at home through the wall outlet, or bring a few solar panels to keep it running off the grid. Charging time has never been faster, as the battery can be fully refilled from solar panels in about 4 hours. If you happen to have access to a wall outlet, you can shave that time down to 1.6 hours.

It’s a powerful unit that can keep your most demanding electronics alive for several days at a time. And given the large capacity and inverter load, it’s entirely possible to power home appliances as well. Just make sure they’re under 1,800 watts and you’ll be good to go.

Pros:

– Powerful
– Compatible with most electronics
– Can be charged via AC, car, or solar
– Durable
– Fast charging

Cons:

– Price

Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 3000X Portable Power Station

  • Weight: 69.8 Pounds
  • Recharging: AC, 12V, and Solar
  • Watt Hours: 3,032

It might be the most expensive product in our review, but don’t let the stiff price on the Yeti 3000x scare you off before you see what it can do. Naturally, if you can’t afford to shell out a few grand for a camping power source, I’d suggest moving on to another product in our lineup. But if you’re willing to make an investment that will comfortably power the contents of your tent, RV, or home, you’ll love what Goal Zero whipped up here.

The different plugins for AC, 12V, and USB are all clearly defined and easy to figure out. The wheels and integrated handle make transportation easier, since it is on the heavier side, and the mobile app makes setup quick and simple. It does take awhile to charge the battery, but once it’s full, you’ll be surprised by how long it will last you. Keep the TV, fridge, Wi-Fi, and lights on for hours at a time without even burning through half the capacity of this power station.

Sporting a 2,000 watt AC inverter, you can power quite a few items at once, even if they demand a lot of energy. Overall, this is going to be your best option for running large outdoor events, powering your RV, or proving electricity to a few camping items for a long period of time.

Pros:

– Large capacity
– Wheels and handle make transportation easier
– 2,000W AC inverter
– Mobile app compatible
– Multiple plugins
– Rechargeable via solar, AC, and car

Cons:

– Price
– Takes awhile to charge the battery

Anker 737 Power Bank

  • Weight: 1.3 Pounds
  • Recharging: Wall Outlet
  • Watt Hours: 25600 Milliamp Hours

A tiny powerhouse that can easily be tossed inside your backpack, the Anker 737 is the perfect option for people on the go. Ultralight backpackers will cringe at the 1.3 pound weight, but when it comes to portable power, you could do much worse.

You’ll have to remember that a small power bank like this will only get you so far. This is the sort of thing that can be used to charge your phone a number of times while you’re on the trail, not your portable A/C unit, TV, and fridge. Although in the case of the Anker 737, your laptop is one item that can still receive some extra battery life.

To keep an eye on how much juice the Anker has left in it, there’s a radial display instead of an LED one. This feature just follows the pattern of simple and effective that the 737 likes to follow, keeping things sleek and minimalistic.

Recharging the Anker is as simple as plugging it into a wall outlet with the included charger and cable. 2.5 hours later, you’ve got yourself enough power to serve as a second laptop batter, or as a backup for your phone, lantern, or fan.

Pros:

– Portable
– Fast charging
– Compatible with most phones and laptops
– Simple, minimalistic design
– Good capacity for the size

Cons:

– A bit heavy

Jackery Explorer 240

  • Weight: 6.6 Pounds
  • Recharging: AC, DC, and Solar
  • Watt Hours: 240

Jackery is well known for their generators, but did you know that they make power stations as well? The Explorer 240 is a great entry level option for people who need a power source for camping, but don’t want to go all out with something like the Goal Zero Yeti 3000x. With a capacity of 240 watt hours, it’s not the largest battery out there, but that’s okay. We’re not all trying to power a full RV, or a dozen electronics that require a lot of electricity. If you have a full battery, you’ll still be able to full charge your phone 24 times, or your laptop twice.

The smaller size also helps keep the weight down. At 6.6 pounds, you’re probably not going to find a lighter power station that can perform as well as this one. But while portability is certainly one of the main selling points of this particular power station, it’s not the only feature that I like about it.

The Explorer 240 was designed to be recharged using solar energy, specifically through the use of either the SolarSaga 60 or SolarSaga 100 panels made by Jackery. As long as you have sunlight, it’s an efficient and reliable way to keep your battery full. And if you don’t feel like buying the solar panels separately, or you’re stuck with cloudy skies, the Explorer can be charged from an outlet or car 12V.

Pros:

– Lightweight
– Decent capacity
– Solar panel compatible
– Great entry level product
– Portable

Cons:

– Not the most powerful battery out there

Goal Zero Venture 35 Solar Kit

  • Weight: 1.8 Pounds
  • Recharging: Solar and Wall Outlet
  • Watt Hours: 35

The ultimate “all in one” kit, Goal Zero’s Venture 35 is perfect for charging USB compatible devices off the grid. With a 35 watt hour capacity, it won’t be powering your bigger items, but that was never the point of having a power bank like this anyway. If you’re going this small, you just need something to keep your phone, camera, and tablet alive.

Perfect for long backpacking trips, you won’t have to worry about the Venture running out of juice. As long as you have clear skies, the included Nomad 10 solar panel will recharge the power bank’s battery indefinitely. With enough direct sunlight, it should be easy to fully charge the Venture in a matter of hours.

The solar panel is lightweight, and it comes with an adjustable kickstand for added stability. As a kit, this product is one of the most versatile options you can go with, especially if you have no need for something strong enough to power a fridge.

Weight might be an issue for some, but you can only cut so many ounces when it comes to power banks. Batteries are heavy, and when you look at one this size (along with the weight of the solar panel), it’s amazing they managed to keep it all under 2 pounds.

Pros:

– Small and portable
– Lightweight
– Comes with solar panel
– Great for phones, cameras, and tablets
– Charges quickly

Cons:

– Only has USB plugins

Bluetti Solar Generator

  • Weight: 61 Pounds
  • Recharging: AC and Solar
  • Watt Hours: 2,000

Next to the Goal Zero Yeti 3000x, the Bluetti solar generator has the highest capacity out of any power station we’ve reviewed. At 2,000 watt hours, I don’t think many of you will be draining it dry very quickly. Even if you do use up a lot of power, Bluetti has something that the Yeti 3000x doesn’t have (included, at least).

And that would be the addition of 3 solar panels. With these, you’ll be able to stay well charged during the days and weeks ahead, as long as you have access to direct sunlight. Unlike many other Bluetti models, you can actually charge the generator with just one panel, though it will take a bit longer that way. Bear in mind that everything combined is rather heavy, so you’ll want a helping hand to assist in unboxing and transporting the generator.

The sheer number of charging ports is something to be admired, as there are 6 AC plugins, 4 USB ports, a car plugin, and several others. With a hard plastic exterior, my confidence in its durability could be better, but it’s strong enough where you shouldn’t have any problems if you take care of it. The external power brick, on the other hand, seems a lot more fragile than the main body of the generator itself. It’s unfortunate, but still easier to change than an internal charger placed within the generator itself.

Pros:

– Good power
– Comes with solar panels
– Well made adapter cables
– No noise or exhaust
– Can be fully charged in a handful of hours

Cons:

– Heavy
– A little lacking in durability
– Sometimes gives inaccurate power readings

WEN 56380i Inverter Generator

  • Weight: 99 Pounds
  • Recharging: Gas
  • Watt Hours: N/A

We’ll finish off our review with the first and only gas-powered generator to make the list. At 100 pounds, the WEN 56380i generator is very heavy, but it’s also one of the most reliable and powerful ways to experience camping with electricity. The only reason we haven’t included more gas generators in this review is because we’ve already written up a piece on camping generators that you can find here.

But back to WEN. The 212 cc 4 stroke engine produces 3,400 rated watts – an impressive amount of power, all things considered. On top of that, all of the power that the generator produces is considered “clean,” which means that sensitive electronics won’t be damaged by it.

As it is a gas generator, you’ll notice that it’s quite a bit noisier than anything else that we’ve talked about so far. Don’t let this scare you off, though, as the overall noise is still fairly minimal as far as these types of generators go. You can feel comfortable running it in a quiet campground without disturbing the neighbors too much.

The electric start works great and fires it up right away. You can expect to get about 8.5 hours of half load run time out of the 2.2 gallon fuel tank, which is a pretty decent amount. I’d still suggest bringing spare fuel in a couple of jerry cans anyway, just in case you end up needing to use the generator more than expected.

Pros:

– Powerful
– Durable
– Quiet, for a gas generator
– Pure sine waves
– Reliable ignition

Cons:

– Very heavy

FAQ

Do You Need More Than One Portable Power Outlet When Camping?

How many people and devices are you trying to provide power to? If the answer to either of those is more than “one,” you’ll probably want multiple charging ports.

Believe it or not, you can actually get electricity at some campgrounds. However, it’s a pretty rare occurrence, and you’re starting to push the boundaries of glamping in the process. Most often, if you want to go camping with electricity, you’ll need to bring your own power source, like the EcoFlow DELTA.

Solar is clean, renewable, and quiet, making it a crowd favorite source of power for a reason. However, labeling it the “best” might be taking it a little too far. For all of the benefits you get from it, there’s no denying that it’s the least reliable source of power out there. After all, you are dependent on the sun.

Batteries and gas-powered generators are better options when you need something to work no matter what. Of course, they’re not as clean or quiet, but you have to give and take when it comes to power sources.

Final Thoughts

If you had the option to bring power into your campsite, wouldn’t you take it? While disconnecting from technology is the part of the reason we go camping, there are just too many other items that we depend on that require electricity. Fans, lanterns, and GPS all have a reasonable battery life, but they’ll die eventually, especially on longer camping trips.

To help you stay connected, we recommend going with the EcoFlow DELTA portable power station. It’s a good middle ground battery that works well for both veterans and novices alike, providing enough power to satisfy most users. Both the weight and the price aren’t excessive for what you get, and it’s never been faster to charge a portable power station. In terms of sheer performance, lack of noise, and ease of use, nothing beats the DELTA.


Spencer Yeomans

Spencer Yeomans

A lover of the outdoors, and especially the mountains, Spencer has always enjoyed pushing people to step outside their comfort zones. His mission is to help others get out of their homes to have fun and stay active in nature.

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