Phil Sampson takes a look at six of the best portable power stations on the market right now, which can give you boat 240V power while cruising offshore.
When Joni Mitchell trilled, ‘You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone’ in her iconic song Big Yellow Taxi, she could have been singing about shore power.
For as every boater without an onboard generator discovers, the 240V AC we take for granted ashore soon becomes a distant dream whenever you chug out of the marina.
While some might view 240V at sea as something of an unnecessary luxury – after all, plenty of us have got by without it up until now – anyone who has spent an extended time out on the water, especially at anchor without the engines running, will know that DC power is very much a finite resource.
Cabin and cockpit lights, firing up the onboard heater, not to mention family, friends and kids repeatedly flushing the electric loo, all take a battery-draining toll.
While a fully plumbed-in auxiliary generator provides the solution for larger vessels, the same does not hold true for smaller craft where engine room space is always at a premium.
Here, owners seeking mains power have traditionally either carried a portable genset – usually a low powered, noisy and smelly petrol-fuelled unit – or have simply gone without.
But now there’s another way: The portable power station. Small enough to tuck away in a cabin, under a seat or in a locker, these units are less cumbersome than a traditional genny and less expensive, as well as being silent and emitting zero emissions.
In the same way that electric outboards are nibbling away at the market share of their hitherto all-powerful fossil-fuel-powered cousins, portable power stations are now creeping quietly into the boating world.
The capabilities of these upstart interlopers vary widely but, as a general guide, the more you pay, the more portable power you get to take away.
6 of the best portable power stations
Festool SYS-PST 1500
The big daddy of our pick of the best portable power stations, the Festool SYS-PST 1500 delivers a mighty 2,990W of permanent power and up to 11,000W in a short-term burst.
Despite this formidable performance the unit is not overly heavy or large; it weighs in at 16.5 kg and measures 396 x 296 x 187 mm. A full recharge takes 3 hours, with a built-in smart charging system protecting the battery cells while charging is underway.
In addition to a single 240V UK 3-pin outlet, the unit also provides 5-20V via a USB-C connection. Designed primarily for use in the construction industry, but well suited to many other applications including marine, the SYS-PST 1500’s lithium-ion battery stores 1,500Wh of energy.
This, Festool claims, is sufficient to run all the tools a builder typically uses for an entire working day – and as the average skipper is likely to demand much less power than a tradesman, the system should run for considerably longer on board a boat.
Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence.
Packing a 1.260Wh punch, the EcoFlow Delta is a fully-featured portable power station sporting no fewer than four 3-pin 240V AC 1,800W (3,300W surge) sockets, six USB outlets (two USB-A, two fast charge and two USB-C) and a 13.6V car cigarette lighter-style socket.
That means it is theoretically possible to run up to 11 appliances all at once, although the power would soon be drained at that rate. To put it into perspective, the EcoFlow Delta can run a mains appliance such as a microwave for 1 to 1.8 hours or a TV for up to 16 hours.
It will also power a coffee machine long enough to deliver between 50 and 60 cups. An additional bonus offered by the EcoFlow Delta is its solar panel/car cigarette lighter input which allows the unit to be recharged either by solar or car battery power.
PowerOak Portable Power station 1500Wh
The 1,500Wh of power stored by the Bluetti EB150 means it is capable of running a 1kW travel kettle (or any other 1kW appliance) for 90 minutes non-stop – which of course nobody does.
Estimating the time taken to boil a typical 2 cup travel kettle as 2 minutes suggests this stylish portable power station would serve up to 90 cuppas on a single charge.
The unit delivers its power via one of the two UK 3-pin 240V AC sockets on the back of the box which, incidentally, is available in either blue or black.
In addition, the unit has five USB ports, including one USB-C outlet. Incorporated into the design is an Liquid Crystal Display which shows charging power, AC and DC output power, AC and DC on/off status, and a battery status indicator.
EcoFlow River PRO
While the EcoFlow River PRO is supplied as a 720Wh unit with a 600W output capability, it has a neat trick up its sleeve – a second battery can be added to double the energy storage capacity to 1,440Wh.
And if you need more output power, that’s not a problem either as the unit features what EcoFlow calls its X-boost mode. This allows the River PRO to power devices up to 1,800W, which covers around 80 percent of kitchen appliances and DIY tools.
Solar panel recharging times of as little as 4 hours are possible by using two EF 11W solar panels (sold separately), while the unit can be recharged from the mains from zero to 80 percent in just one hour, with a full charge achieved in 1.6 hours.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 500
Jackery is a specialist power solutions provider which has been delivering its eye-catching orange and black products since 2012.
The company’s Explorer 500 portable power station is a 518Wh unit with three 12V DC outputs, three USB sockets and a UK 3-pin 240V plug socket.
The AC power output is 500W continuous and 1,000W peak. Keen to present its green credentials, Jackery describes its Explorer 500 as a versatile green solar generator.
That’s because when used in conjunction with the firm’s SolarSaga 100W solar panel, the unit’s lithium-ion battery pack can be fully recharged in around 9.5 hours.
Back in 2016 Jackery won a prestigious Red Dot award for the design of its products, one notable feature of which on the Explorer 500 is the large and clear LCD display showing the input/output power at any given time together with the battery charge status.
Poweroak Portable Power Station 500Wh
Our second choice at the lower end of the power output spectrum is the Poweroak AC50S. This compact 500Wh portable power station features two 240V outlets providing up to 300W of AC power, which makes it capable of running products such as a mini-fridge.
In addition, there are five USB points, including a USB-C socket, two 12V 3A sockets and a 12V 9A cigarette lighter outlet.
With an emphasis on quality, Poweroak says the unit’s onboard lithium-ion battery cell is good for more than 1,000 cycles, and an in-built multi-protection system guards against over-voltage, over-current, over-temperature and short circuit.
Recharging takes 6-6.5 hours using the included AC adaptor/generator, or 6-7 hours using Poweroak’s SP120 120W solar panel (sold separately). Rounding off the Poweroak AC50S package is an included 24-month warranty.
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.