Portable generators allow you the freedom to use your RV in places that lack power or take electronics with you on your tent camping trip. A movie night in the woods is a pretty attractive idea, and thanks to generators, it’s entirely possible.
Choosing the right generator can be a daunting task, especially once you begin looking at their price tags. Price is important, but there are several other factors you’ll need to consider as well. Choosing a portable generator for camping is a lot less stressful once you’ve taken the time to understand what you’ll need and compared models within your budget.
Some generators can be quite loud, and depending on where you’re camping, that sound can travel pretty far. A sound’s volume is commonly measured using adjusted decibels (or dBA). The volume of an average conversation between two people is about 60 dBA. Believe it or not, many portable generators have an adjusted decibel rating of 60dBA or less from 20 feet away. Some generators are solar-powered or charged using other methods; these models can run silently in many cases.
If you’re tent camping, you can get away with using a tiny generator; but if you’re camping in an RV, you may need a 2500-watt generator or larger to power your appliances.
If you plan to use your portable generator, you’ll need to learn the starting wattage and running wattage of your most commonly used appliances.
The most power-hungry appliance in an RV is typically the central air conditioner. A 7,000 BTU air conditioner can take around 1700-1800 watts to start and 600-650 watts to run. If your RV has a 15,000 BTU air conditioner, its AC may require up to 3500 watts to start.
Generators are often pretty heavy. Some generators can weigh as little as 40 pounds, but if you need 3000 starting watts or more, you may end up with a generator that is 100 pounds or heavier. If weight is an issue, you may have to plan to use fewer appliances or only one appliance at a time so that you can opt for a smaller machine.
If you only need a generator with 1200-2400 starting watts, you can expect to spend between $350-$600. Generators with 3000-3500 starting watts can cost $800 or more.
This quiet generator can last up to 12 hours on a full tank of gas. The iGen 2200 has no problem powering many of the essential appliances in your RV simultaneously and has 2200 starting watts of power. At just 52 dBA, this is an exceptionally quiet generator.
This lightweight generator weighs only 39 pounds but delivers up to 2000 watts of starting power. This model is relatively quiet as well, at just 58 dBA from 23 feet.
At nearly 100 pounds, this isn’t the lightest generator out there. Still, this RV-ready model’s 3800 watts of starting power ensures you won’t have any trouble running your air conditioner or other power-heavy devices. At just 57 dBA, this option is also surprisingly quiet.
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Although this isn’t the quietest generator available, it is surprisingly quiet for its size. The easy-to-understand LEDs tell you when the machine is running low on oil. This machine can produce up to 2400 starting watts of power, but it weighs nearly 60 pounds.
Generac’s ultralight GP1200i only weighs 36 pounds. This compact option has convenient LEDs that let you know when it’s ready to use, overloaded or low on oil. The only notable drawback to this 1200-starting-watt machine is that it can be challenging to change the oil.
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At 2000 starting watts and 1,600 running watts, you won’t have trouble running a few appliances and electronics with this generator. However, you may not be able to run your RV’s AC unit. This incredibly quiet machine is engineered to last.
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Champion’s versatile generator can be fueled with either propane or gasoline and has an electric start. You’ll have no trouble starting your RV appliances, including your air conditioner, thanks to its 3400 starting watt power. This model is surprisingly quiet at just 59 bBA. If you’re camping in a 30-amp RV, you won’t have to worry about buying any extra equipment for this unit, as it’s equipped with a 30-amp outlet.
This lightweight option weighs only 39 pounds. The fuel shutoff feature maximizes the generator’s life using the remaining fuel in its carburetor before turning it off.
At $700 for 505 starting watts, this is not the generator to buy if you need to use high-power appliances. Still, this generator charges using a solar panel or your car’s battery and runs completely silent, making it perfect for tent camping.
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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.