best in class

The Very Best Portable Generators

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

In this article

A portable generator is one of those things you don’t much appreciate until the moment you come to need it, say during a blackout following a storm or when your devices die during a camping trip. Fortunately, with many great portable generators on the market today, all you need is a bit of planning (and a few dollars) to never be without power again, whether you’re at home in the dark or out in a field.

The picks below are based on expert recommendations and my own firsthand testing (done both at campsites and in my home during a multiday blackout). Generators can be powered a few different ways: with gasoline, by burning both gas and propane, or even with the sun when you use solar power for a battery inverter generator — a newer option that’s a great choice if you’re looking to run a generator indoors.

“Gas-powered generators create exhaust fumes, limiting the use to the outdoors,” says Corey Dandy, a manager with the hardware chain Aubuchon Company. “Battery generators are completely safe indoors, or even in-tent.”

What we’re looking for

Total power output capacity

The first thing to consider when shopping for a generator is just how much power it puts out. A generator’s capacity is labeled using watt hours, a measure of energy that determines how much power a device can deliver, for how long. Essentially, it’s the amount of work a generator can do — for example, a generator rated for 100 watt hours could power a 100-watt lightbulb for one hour. (And would be a very small, weak generator!) Watt hours are always calculated assuming the generator starts with a full tank of gas or a full charge in its batteries.

Number and type of outlets

Many of the battery power stations out there these days have myriad different outlets, from AC outlets, which are the same as those in the wall of your home, to USB and USB-C ports, for devices ranging from computers to phones, to direct current (DC) ports, which are often used to recharge a battery generator via a vehicle or solar panel. (You may know DC ports as the style that used to charge cars’ cigarette lighters.) If you need a portable generator to keep multiple large home appliances running during a blackout, you’ll need a generator with several 120/240-volt AC outlets; to keep phones and lanterns charged, a much smaller unit with fewer ports is fine.

Weight

Just because a generator isn’t permanently fixed in place doesn’t mean it’s necessarily portable. For our purposes, we are only considering units that could reasonably be moved from place to place thanks to their lightweight or built-in wheels and handles, because the mobility of the hardware is of paramount importance here. Thus, we have included information about the weight of every inclusion considered — and, when applicable, notes on how size may be an issue with some of the larger units.

Best overall

Capacity: 1024 watt hours / Outlets: 6 AC, 2 USB, 2 USB-C, 2 DC / Weight: 27 pounds

Though I have three different battery power stations charged and ready at all times, it’s my EcoFlow DELTA 2 I grab first, whether the electricity has gone out or I just want to power some speakers and a fan in the backyard. It is the most reliable and easiest-to-use battery generator I’ve ever owned or tested. With all of its outlets — and the ability to be charged via an AC plug, a vehicle, or off solar power — the DELTA 2 is easy to keep charged and rapidly recharge as needed. I have used ours to keep both a fridge and deep freezer running all night long during a blackout, and it still had plenty of watt hours left when the power came back on. I’ve used it at campsites aplenty in the past and, as noted, around home just for fun. And perhaps best of all, when I haven’t used this battery generator for months at a time, I still find it more than 99 percent charged and ready when I need it.

Best (less expensive) overall

Capacity: 268 watt hours / Outlets: 2 AC, 2 USB, 1 USB-C, 1 DC / Weight: 10 pounds

At $300, this affordable and lightweight power station is small enough to be tucked on a shelf or into the trunk of even the smallest vehicle, yet it generates enough power — via a rechargeable battery — to run a smaller fridge or comparable appliance for about three hours, power up multiple phones multiple times, or keep a computer going for hours. And while small, it’s a reliable piece of hardware. This generator uses the LiFePO4 battery, which Alex Yu of power-product brand DEENO calls “safe, stable, and durable.” Its bright screen gives you real-time info on its battery life and energy output, so you know when you’ve got plenty of power left or when the juice is running low.

Best compact

Capacity: 2200 watt hours / Outlets: 2 AC / Weight: 46 pounds

If you’re looking for a compact, quiet, and reliable generator for powering a few appliances during a storm, running a few tools at the worksite, or keeping smaller devices running at a campsite or tailgating party, this is the generator for you. With a full tank of gas, the EU2200i can run for more than eight hours, and during that time it provides steady power via two 120-volt outlets. Of the noise, Generator Bible’s Paul Melville says that it’s quiet, operating at 57 decibels, which is comparable to the volume of a normal conversation. Any reasonably able-bodied adult should be able to move this generator about with ease as it weighs less than 50 pounds, and anyone will be able to operate it, too. It uses an easy pull-start ignition system and can be powered off by an onboard switch or remotely via app as this is a Bluetooth-enabled generator. It’s too small to tie into a home AC system or run any other larger power users that call for 240 volts (such as an oven, washer, or dryer), but for most people and most applications, it’s a great choice. Need more power? Consider purchasing another one; per the Aubuchon Company’s Dandy, “the EU2200i has a unique feature that allows the user to link a companion generator,” which effectively doubles the output power.

Best solar-powered

Capacity: 1036 watt hours / Outlets: 3 AC, 3 USB, 2 USB-C, 2 DC / Weight: 32.6 pounds

Almost all battery generators can be powered by solar panels, but what sets the DEENO X1500 apart is just how well it takes a charge from the sun. On a clear, sunny day, when you connect its 200-watt solar panels, you can expect the X1500 to be fully charged up in six hours. And when fully charged, it can power your many devices for well over twice that time; in fact, it could power a full-size refrigerator for more than 14 hours, or nearly a dozen smaller devices for even longer. I own this battery generator myself and, because of that amazing solar-charging capability, it’s my go-to for camping. We use it for phones, lanterns, a speaker, and even to power a coffee-maker in the mornings. At home, I skip solar charging in favor of the wall outlet because it’s just so much faster, and it holds a nearly full charge for months. The X1500 also features a bright built-in LED light, which can be super helpful during blackouts or at night in the woods. When purchased with the solar panel, this is a pricey piece of hardware at around $1,100 — alone it’s $700 — but it’s rated to last for an impressive 3,500 charge cycles and is covered by a five-year warranty.

Best dual fuel

DuroMax XP4850EH Generator
$519
$519

Capacity: 4850 watt hours / Outlets: 3 AC / Weight: 122 pounds

This surprisingly affordable (given the capabilities here) $599 DuroMax generator can be powered by propane or gasoline, so it should never be hard to secure fuel for it. And don’t worry about that low cost; this is a high-quality machine. Generator Bible’s Melville calls it “one of the most popular brands on our website” specifically because it can keep a home’s central air system running in the event of a power outage. It can also be used to keep an entire RV powered up, as the source of electricity for powerful tools, or to keep appliances humming along for hours on end. It will run for 10.5 hours with a full four-gallon tank of gas or for nearly nine hours when hooked to a standard 20-pound propane tank. (Note that while gas spoils eventually, propane can be stored indefinitely, so this generator and tanks of propane are an ideal setup for anyone who wants to be prepared for anything.) The XP4850EH is heavy at 122 pounds and will eat up some garage or shed storage space as it measures two feet wide, two feet long, and 21 inches tall. But it’s built on wheels and can be rolled around easily, making the storage space well worth it when it keeps on the lights (and fridge, AC, and TV).

Best heavy duty

Capacity: 9500 watt hours / Outlets: 4 AC / Weight: 209 pounds

If you need to keep your entire home running like the power never went out or you need to supply electricity to a bustling job site, a television shoot, or multiple campsites at once, this burly generator is the one for you. Generator Bible’s Melville trusts the Westinghouse brand following years of positive experiences with its generators. The company is “really efficient when it comes to product support and warranty support,” he says. Not that you’re likely to need help on that latter front, as the WGen9500c is a remarkably reliable machine. The generator can run for up to 12 hours when under modest load — say, running a fridge, a TV, and a fan — and can perform for eight hours at half-load, which could still mean powering multiple tools and/or appliances at once. Start-up is done via switch or remote control and is 100 percent electric — no need for pulling a cord. The generator self-monitors while running, shutting down if the oil runs low or if it detects carbon-monoxide buildup. Heavy but well balanced, the generator is easy to move about on relatively flat, even ground thanks to its wheels, so you can get power wherever you need it. It may seem like more power than many people need, but Aubuchon Company’s Dandy advises, “I always said overkill in this case is not a bad thing.”

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

The Very Best Portable Generators