What Is The Difference Between A Portable Power Station and a Generator?

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Jay Elliott

Chief Camping Officer

Though a generator and a portable power station have a lot in common in terms of what they can do when you are off-grid, they have some striking differences. In this brief article, we will quickly outline some of those core differences to help you make an informed decision about what will be of most use to you in your situation.

What is a Portable Power Station?

Portable power stations come in many shapes and sizes but at their core, they are some form of battery that can store electricity, inside a casing that has multiple outputs to help you access that electricity. Portable power stations are very popular portable power source in camping situations as people recharge them at home before they leave, and then use them on their camping trip to power things such as camping fridges, portable hot water systems and smartphones and tablets.

They can be charged in multiple ways. The most common ways to charge a portable power station are with a wall adaptor to be charged at home, a car adaptor to be charged from your vehicle’s 12-volt electrical system, and via a solar panel while you are at camping or off-grid in some other way.  Portable generators can also be used to recharge a portable power station.

What is a Generator?

A generator is an amazing invention. They come in many forms but often consist of some form of a combustion engine that runs on gas, petrol and As the motor runs there is technology in the generator that converts that mechanical energy into electrical energy. 

This electrical energy is then available, usually via a power point on the unit, or some other connection port.

How Are They Different?


Generators make a reasonable amount of noise, given they require the operation of a combustion engine. The noise generators make can be a contentious issue if you are camping, as many other campers do not wish to have the noise from a generator accompanying them on their camping trip.

Portable power stations on the other hand are completely silent, as they are simply a battery that releases electricity through various connections.

The Number of Connections

Most generators have a single power output, usually a power point. whereas portable power stations have multiple outputs of multiple types, given that is their focus.

Energy Security

Generators provide you with a sense of energy security comment that you cannot get from a portable power station. Portable power stations are designed to hold electricity and release it through various connections, whereas a generator is designed to create electricity as the name suggests.

If you are going to be away for numerous days you could find yourself surprised at the amount of power you consume, and the portable power station may not be able to keep up with your power demands, even if you are topping up the with a solar panel each day.

Different Purposes

Ultimately portable power stations and generators are designed to prioritise different needs. A generator is designed to be a reliable and on-demand source of power, to provide as much power as you need, whatever you need it. Whereas a portable power station is designed to store electricity and release it to you slowly through the race connections to multiple different devices as required.

Should I Buy A Generator Or A Portable Power Station?

The ultimate combination is actually to have both a portable power station and a generator. In this example, you would have to charge and use your portable power station as your main power source and rely on this to the maximum extent possible, but have the generator available in case you need to recharge your power station and have not been able to do so with solar energy or from.your.car.

In this way, you would get the best of both worlds. You have a silent and effective power source in your power station. But have the security, to know that you can recharge it at any time, no matter what unexpected power needs arise, or how the weather goes while you are away.  This is especially important if you use a portable power station to run an important medical device, such as a CPAP machine. 

But if you have to choose only one of these two, in most cases a portable power station will meet most people’s needs more effectively. However, you do need to actively monitor your power usage, and how much you are charging via solar while you are away,  to ensure you don’t run out of power prematurely.