There are many portable generators available competing 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 a challenge when you’re many 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?
- A Model That Suits Your Needs: 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 wide spectrum. For this reason, pay close attention to a unit’s size and weight to ensure that you can utilize the portable generator in the way that you want. Don’t forget, even heavier generators can be quite portable if they have wheels and an easy-to-move design.
- Power Output: To determine the amount of power that you’ll need a generator to maintain, it’s a good idea to list the items that 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.
Won’t 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 definitely more campsite-friendly than others in terms of operating volume. Thus, if you’ll be using your generator primarily for camping, it’s always a good idea to make its noise level a primary purchasing factor. 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 iGen2200 Super Quiet & Lightweight Portable Inverter Generator, 2200 Peak Watts & 1800 Rated Watts, Gas Powered, Parallel Capable, Long Run Time
This portable generator gets the most out of its 1.2-gallon fuel tank and is ideal for use with electronic devices such as TVs and computers. It's also extremely quiet while operating.
Pros: Despite its lightweight and easy-to-carry design, this portable generator offers an impressive 2,200 peak watts and is safe to use with your favorite electronic devices. It scores points for its simple, one-pull starting, and its dual AC outlets and USB ports offer a bit of flexibility for powering devices off the grid. Under a half load, this generator is remarkably quiet, so you can still have a conversation or get some shut-eye when it’s running in the immediate vicinity.
Cons: While this generator doesn’t possess a whole lot of negatives, it does seem to sputter a bit when running at low RPM and shouldn’t be used at under 30% power for the sake of the unit’s longevity. Additionally, while the generator itself is top-notch, its manual leaves a lot to be desired. Thus, you might have to hunt online for key details regarding breaking in your generator and providing general maintenance.
Bottom Line: This portable generator offers a great deal of value in terms of its dependability, ease of use, and portability, especially when factoring in its budget-friendly price tag. However, those seeking something heavy-duty to power all the appliances in their RV will have to look elsewhere for something that’s suitable for high-wattage applications.
TogoPower Portable Generator 1000W
This lightweight generator is a great choice for those who are not turned away by its lower wattage capacity.
Pros: Featuring a lightweight design that’s perfect for camping, fishing, or carrying around your property, this generator has ample power for those who prefer to travel light. It also comes with a detailed manual that makes setting your generator up a breeze. Additionally, at its price range, it’s doubtful that you’ll find another portable generator that’s this reliable or rugged.
Cons: This generator utilizes a two-stroke engine, so naturally, it’s not going to be the quietest or most powerful option around. However, compared to other two-stroke models, the volume really isn’t a deal-breaker for campground use. That being said, 800 watts of operating power will leave you somewhat limited as to which devices can be powered at any given time.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for something lightweight and simple to use that’s suitable for running camp lighting and other low-wattage devices, this is a great choice. However, this generator’s noise level might be better suited for remote camping destinations, where other camping parties are few and far between.
Generac GP2500i Inverter
Featuring impressive power output and an incredibly quiet design, this generator is made for camping.
Pros: Given this generator’s impressive power output, it runs incredibly quietly, even when undertaking a near full-capacity load. It’s also easy to crank and sports a very fair price, considering its impressive load capacity and high-quality construction. At 56 pounds, this generator is also very easy to move around the campsite.
Cons: Compared to generators with similar output, the Generac’s fuel efficiency is definitely below-average, making it a tough sell for those who are seeking long-term savings. Additionally, at this price range, it’s nice to see generators include a fuel gauge and a simple means to change oil, while this one doesn’t.
Bottom Line: Although it has its drawbacks, in terms of operating volume, portability, and power output, this generator will meet the needs of a wide variety of campers. However, in light of the areas in which it could see improvements, some might find the price tag to be a bit much if they don’t foresee getting a lot of use out of it.
Champion Power Equipment 4250-Watt Open Frame Inverter Generator
Sporting a high-capacity engine and a surprisingly quiet open-frame design, this generator offers tons of value for its price point.
Pros: Featuring a power capacity that’s tailor-made for RV camping and clean electricity that won’t harm your electronics, this Champion inverter generator is one of the best values at its price range. It’s also surprisingly easy to set up and, despite its open-frame design, operates fairly quietly so that you won’t be forced to set it up far away from your RV.
Cons: While this generator is by no means loud compared to similar units, its open-frame design does allow more sound to escape. Thus, if you’re running it at night, it’s a good idea to find a secluded camping area. Also, at 75 pounds, this generator can be difficult to get in and out of your RV, depending on your level of physical fitness.
Bottom Line: It’s extremely rare to find a generator with this kind of output at this price range. Seeing as this product doesn’t have a lot going on in terms of drawbacks, it’s definitely one of the easiest decisions that many RV owners will ever have to make.
Craftsman 3000i Inverter Generator
This generator offers an excellent power-to-weight ratio, making it great for RV and camping use.
Pros: At only around 60 pounds, this Craftsman generator is surprisingly light given the impressive amount of power that it generates. In fact, this generator is a great choice for RV camping and should be able to handle most RV air conditioning units with ease. Thankfully, this product also scores points in its fuel efficiency, making it an attractive option for those who are seeking an elevated starting capacity.
Cons: While this generator isn’t exactly hard to start, it’s not uncommon for it to take several pulls in order to get it started. It can also be pretty loud under a full load, but this is to be expected given the amount of power that it generates.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a generator for your camping or RV travels, this one sports a power-to-weight ratio that makes it a very versatile option. Despite this, it’s heavy enough to likely cause problems for some, so make sure that you can effectively handle it before deciding to make the investment.
When looking for the perfect portable generator for camping, it’s usually necessary to make some compromises. While it would be nice if there was a portable generator out there that 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.