Many portable generators compete for a place at your next campout, so finding the perfect one for your needs can be tricky. We made this guide to answer the burning questions that you might have and to showcase the best portable generators that promise to make your next camping trip a success.
Why buy a portable generator for camping?
While it’s nice to get off the grid and spend time away from our smartphones and other electronic devices, modern conveniences such as air conditioning, refrigerators, and lighting can help make a camping trip an enjoyable experience for everyone. However, providing electricity for these devices can be challenging when you’re miles away from civilization. Thankfully, portable generators are more affordable than ever and provide a simple way to generate electricity to power your electronics. With a high-quality portable generator, you can power the appliances in your RV, charge your smartphone, and even provide electricity for the perfect cup of drip coffee.
What should you consider in a portable generator?
- Model: While certain heavy-duty portable generators might be perfect for keeping the many appliances in your RV powered up, a more lightweight and budget-friendly option can serve you well if you just wish to power a floodlight and keep your phone charged. To determine which portable generator is suited to your needs, pay close attention to its size, fuel source, number and type of power outlets, rated and peak wattage, and operating volume.
- Portability: In terms of weight, size, and overall portability, generators marketed as “portable” cover a broad spectrum. For this reason, pay close attention to a unit’s size and weight to ensure you can utilize the portable generator however you want. Don’t forget that even heavier generators can be portable if they have wheels and an easy-to-move design.
- Power Output: To determine the amount of power you’ll need a generator to maintain, it’s a good idea to list the items you might want to run on your generator and their running wattage. Also, remember that not all electrical appliances will list their surge wattage (the elevated amount of energy that a product will use to power up) so be sure to account for this when calculating your power needs to make sure that the generator you end up with has a sufficient amount of juice.
Will a portable generator create a racket and disturb other campers?
Thankfully, portable generators have gotten much quieter over the years, even as technology has progressed to afford them more power in increasingly compact packages. However, some portable generators are more campsite-friendly than others regarding operating volume. Thus, if you’ll be using your generator primarily for camping, making its noise level a primary purchasing factor is a good idea. Finding a portable generator for camping that sports a sound-dampening design will ensure that your generator isn’t ruining the vibes around the campsite or disturbing other campers.
Westinghouse WGen3600v Portable Generator
This reliable portable generator is RV-friendly and a great choice for emergency power-outages.
Pros: Featuring 3,600 running watts and 4,650 peak watts, the Westinghouse WGen3600v Portable Generator offers impressive juice for its affordable price tag. This portable generator impresses in terms of its easy-to-use control panel, and its 4-gallon fuel tank is large enough for overnight use without needing to add fuel constantly. In terms of outlets, this generator comes with an RV-ready TT-30R 30-Amp outlet for quickly hooking up to your travel trailer, as well as two 20-amp AC outlets for your electronic devices. While this isn’t the quietest generator in its class, it’s incredibly easy to start and has the power and reliability to make it excellent for both the campsite and emergency preparations.
Cons: Compared to other portable generators in its class, this one from Westinghouse is quite heavy and can be tricky to move without the optional wheel kit, which doesn’t come included. It can also be quite loud when under a full load, with some noting that they felt a bit guilty running this generator at night.
Bottom Line: While this isn’t the easiest generator to haul into your RV or pickup truck, its versatile array of outlets and impressive running wattage offer more than comparable generators for the price. Factor in this portable generator’s user-friendly design, and you can see why so many have found the Westinghouse WGen3600v Portable Generator a reliable option.
MARBERO Portable Power Station
This portable power station makes it easy to charge your devices on the go.
Pros: If you’re in the market for a quality power station that won’t break the bank, the MARBERO Portable Power Station is worth a look. This portable charging solution sports a wide array of ports, including two Quick Charge USB 3.0 ports and a USB-C port with Power Delivery. As such, it’s a powerful option for getting multiple smartphones charged as quickly as possible. It also sports a nifty battery meter that’ll let you know when it’s time to recharge. Speaking of recharging, this product pairs nicely with the MARBERO solar panel, so you can recharge your power station even while off the grid.
Cons: While this portable power station’s 24,000-mAh battery and an array of convenient ports make it a great value, its 80-watt AC ports aren’t exactly tailor-made for demanding electronics like laptop chargers or hair dryers. For those with heavy-duty needs, it’ll probably be wise to up your investment to have your needs met.
Bottom Line: While a power station like this can never replace a dedicated portable generator, this little beast provides much value and can help keep your electronics running when you’re left without power for hours. It’s not exactly suitable for large, power-hungry electronics, but those seeking a stellar power station will find a lot to love in this product.
WEN 56235i Portable Inverter Generator
This ultra-portable gas generator stands out for its quiet operating volume and lightweight design.
Pros: Featuring an ultra-quiet, sound-dampening design that’s perfect for nighttime use, the WEN 56235i Portable Inverter Generator is one of the quietest generators you can buy in its class. Despite its quiet operation and lightweight design, this portable generator packs some power, so buyers will receive 1,900 rated watts of stable power that is safe for sensitive electronics. This ultra-portable generator also scores points for its outstanding fuel economy, and its large, side-access fuel inlet is easy to fill even when working with a full gas can.
Cons: This generator’s one-gallon fuel tank will be seen as a liability to some, as it’ll make it harder to run this product all night without needing to wake up from your sleep and refuel. It’s also worth mentioning that much more powerful generators are available at this product’s price point. However, they will be hard to lift and much louder than the WEN 56235i.
Bottom Line: Compared to other portable inverter generators in its class, this is one of the lightest and quietest models you can buy. As such, those who value a quiet operating volume and optimal portability over a high wattage will find a lot to love here. However, be sure to add up the power demands of your devices carefully to ensure that this product will provide the requisite juice.
DuroMax XP5500EH Electric Start Portable Generator
This heavy-duty generator can be run on gasoline or propane for greater fuel flexibility.
Pros: Looking for a heavy-duty generator that’s perfect for emergency use but can also be employed during your next camping trip? The DuroMax XP5500EH is a model well worth considering. This nifty portable generator sports an electric start and is super efficient whether you’re using gasoline or propane to power it. Serving 4,500 running watts of power, it’s also an incredibly versatile option to keep your home’s most important appliances functional during a blackout.
Cons: The generator’s assembly instructions aren’t the clearest, so it might take a while to assemble everything and ensure the generator is oiled and ready to go. Also, remember that this is a heavy-duty generator, so lifting it after it’s been assembled may take several people, which limits its portability quite a bit.
Bottom Line: Given this portable generator’s impressive wattage output and convenient dual-fuel flexibility, it’s safe to say that you’ll get a lot of value for your investment if you choose this model. While this generator’s weight makes it more difficult than some to travel with, it’s fairly quiet while operating, making it a great heavy-duty option for the back of your RV.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
Power up your devices on the go whether you're camping, hunting, or traveling.
Pros: This portable generator is highly versatile and has a pure sine wave AC outlet, two USB-A ports, and a 12V DC car port to plug into your vehicle for recharging. It also supports pass-through charging, which means you can charge devices while the power station is charging. You can use it as an environmentally friendly power source, as it can be recharged using the Jackery SolarSaga 60 or SolarSaga 100 solar panels. Its built-in MPPT controller allows the solar panel to operate at its maximum power point, ensuring the power station is recharged at its highest efficiency. It weighs only 6.6 pounds and has a solid handle, making it easy to carry around during outdoor adventures.
Cons: The USB connector isn’t the best and tends to break easily. There’s a noteworthy lack of accessories, namely the solar panels for recharging the generator; they don’t come included and must be purchased separately. The battery also has issues holding a charge at times.
Bottom Line: Overall, you’ll love the Jackery portable power station for its compact size and portability. Many have found it useful for charging devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops and even for powering CPAP machines while camping.
When looking for the perfect portable generator for camping, it’s usually necessary to make some compromises. While it would be nice if a portable generator out there was inexpensive, reliable, powerful, whisper-quiet, and lightweight, you can usually only expect a generator to possess a few of those qualities at the expense of others. The key is determining which characteristics work best for you and your lifestyle so that you can choose a generator that’s a joy to bring to the campgrounds.