3 Reasons to Own a Portable Air Compressor

Whatever you enjoy doing outside, a compressor is one of the handiest, yet often overlooked, tools you should have at your disposal

man with air compressor
Most modern air compressors are easy to relocate and ready to tackle any task.Makita

Sportsmen are tinkerers. We pride ourselves on always being ready to go by fiddling with gear in the off season, taking on DIY projects, and building what we can’t find in the marketplace or afford to buy. Among all the tools that we can own, a portable air compressor probably isn’t at the top of most folks’ list. But they are one of those pieces of equipment that, once you own one, you’re shop will never be without it again. From inflating tires to blowing the dust out of gear to framing up that man cave in the basement, the utility of an air compressor is limited only by the number of accessories you choose to pair with it. Here’s a look at three common types that will help you get any job done right.

Pancake Compressors

Bostitch air compressor
Pancake compressors are portable but take a long time to build air pressure.Bostitch

The pancake air compressor is one of the most popular styles on the market. They come in a wide variety of sizes and capacities, as measured in pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. Some pancake compressors are sold as elements of a system that includes the hose and various attachments. If you are buying only the compressor, be sure to match it with a hose rated well above the compressor's maximum psi. Pancake compressors are generally lighter and more portable than cylinder units, but they often take more time to recycle and reach maximum pressure.

Hot Dog Compressors

Makita air compressor
Cylinder compressors can power almost any pneumatic tool.Makita

The cylinder or "hot dog" style compressor is the heavy-duty version of the home handyman's pneumatic shop. They'll run any tool you have, from framing nailers to paint guns and socket drivers. Just beware that cylinder models are typically heavier and therefore less portable than pancake compressors. Be sure the unit you choose has a handle for moving it around or look for a mobile unit on wheels.

Portable Compressors

Dewalt air compressor
A portable compressor is great for tackling small emergencies.Dewalt

If you don't need to run pneumatic tools, then consider keeping a portable air compressor in your vehicle or boat. They are great for re-inflating tires after beach driving or blowing up inflatable mattresses, kayaks, and paddleboards. Portable compressors that feature multiple power sources, including a built-in rechargeable battery, are most versatile.