If I Can’t Carry It, It’s Not a ‘Portable’ Power Station

Portable power stations are on-the-go battery banks, capable of powering our electronics without having to be near a wall outlet. One of the best parts about portable power stations is that they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There’s a power station for nearly any occasion. 

I recently visited CNET’s Testing Labs where we house and test 90 different portable power stations. After handling dozens of them, I found many were too heavy for me to lift on my own. This got me thinking about what actually makes a portable power station “portable.”

To your average person, like me, portable implies I’ll be able to pick it up or toss it in my bag and head out the door. But portable doesn’t always mean liftable in the world of power stations. You’ll find plenty of power stations weighing 50 to 100 pounds or more that are labeled as portable. 

Calling something that I can’t lift on my own “portable” seems like a bit of a stretch, but the reasoning behind the label is actually pretty simple. It all comes down to a little marketing and the differences between different types of energy storage products.

What portable means to me

If the word “portable” is slapped on a product, my expectation is that I’ll be able to pick it up and take it out the door. It doesn’t necessarily have to be light enough to throw in a backpack. But it shouldn’t require a lifting buddy. Just me and my noodle arms. 

We all have different levels of strength. Your definition of “portable” will likely be different than mine, which is perfectly fine. As someone who lacks any sort of muscle mass, the cutoff for something I can lift on my own is in the 30-40 pound range. (Not very impressive, I know.) 

For me, I draw the line of portability at around 35 to 40 pounds. If you’re stronger than me, and you probably are, your definition of portable might be a bit higher. Lifting over 60 pounds of power station might not be the most comfortable carry though. 


The Goal Zero power station I’m sitting on and the tiny Jackery power station I have in my hand are both considered ‘portable.’

Katie Collins/CNET

What ‘portable’ means to the manufacturer 

The manufacturer’s idea of what makes a portable power station portable is pretty simple: If it’s not nailed down or stuck to a wall somewhere, then it’s technically portable. 

This might sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but when you think about other options you have for home backup power, like generators and home batteries, these power stations start to sound a lot more mobile. 

And while manufacturers and I tend to disagree on what makes a power station portable, I understand their side of the argument. Some portable power stations are able to function like a gas-powered generator or a home battery. Both of these are designed to supply power to your home during an outage. The problem is home batteries and standby generators aren’t made to be moved. They become a permanent part of your home’s electrical system. Large-capacity portable power stations (power stations with a large power and energy storage capacity) sort of close the gap. 

These power stations can help during a blackout and can be taken on the road with you. Some can even supply power to your RV and are must-haves if you’re wanting electricity on an off-grid road or camping trip. When put in this perspective, you start to see how these products are indeed portable. Plus, it looks nice in marketing material. Or, as a representative from one power station company told one of my colleagues at CES 2024, their biggest battery was transportable, if not portable.

More energy storage capacity means more weight

As a general rule of thumb with power stations, the higher its capacity, the heavier the weight. Most portable power stations contain lithium-ion batteries or lithium iron phosphate. These batteries have a high energy density, meaning they can store lots of energy without taking up a ton of space. But when you have a bunch of them packed into a small space, they can get pretty heavy. 

Manufacturers are very much aware that some of these power stations aren’t exactly liftable. This is why you’ll usually find pull-out handles and wheels on power stations that weigh over 50 pounds. Or at the very least, you should expect to see two grip handles on either side of the power station for an easy team lift. It’s up to you to determine what’s worth the hassle and what isn’t. 

The bottom line

I get why these heavy power stations are labeled as portable, even if I might not be able to lift them on my own. Heavier power stations tend to have a higher power output and more energy storage capacity. They’re almost like a mobile home battery. You don’t even have to take them out of the house if you don’t want to. High capacity portable power stations can be helpful to have around your home during an outage. They might even be able to keep your fridge powered for a couple of days.

But these high capacity power stations are very expensive and might not be necessary for your situation. If you’re not really concerned about running energy-intensive household appliances (this includes things like your air fryer and coffee maker), there are plenty of smaller, lightweight portable power stations that will keep your electronics powered on and charged up while outside or on the road.