In the past few years, the best camp generator has undergone a type of technological makeover that has boosted their performance level dramatically. So, if you’re considering getting a new generator for your next camping trip, or a model you can use to power all of the appliances on your RV, you’ve come to the right place. All of the units below convert DC to AC, or alternating current).
These models can easily outperform portable generators and have a lot to offer campers and RV users who are in need of a quiet running model they can use at a local campsite.
And that’s the thing with portable and conventional generators. They’re simply too loud. This is where the camp generator shines.
We’ve reviewed dozens of the leading models in order to provide you with the top five generators on the market.
Camp generators, also known as inverter generators, not only offer impressively quiet operation, but they’re also packing more power than ever before.
The New Age of the Generator
While these generators can’t quite compete with the type of runtime or watts that a conventional generator offers, they do offer an excellent runtime, portability, and the ability to power up essential appliances and devices that you’ll need during your next outdoor adventure.
The newest of the new are solar generators, essentially batteries that are charged by connecting them to solar panels or other power sources. Then, the solar generator can be used to power electronics when off the grid.
Why Camp Generators are Dominating the Market
When you think of a generator, you probably picture a large, loud, bulky unit that hogs up quite a bit of floor space. But the camp generator has changed all of this.
Quieter, compact, smaller, these generators use top of the line technology to transform DC to AC power using a high frequency. This innovative process works to effectively eliminate any fluctuations in power that often occur with conventional generators. These days most conventional generator manufacturers also produce inverter generators, which are available in different power capacities and sizes.
While a conventional generator works at a constant speed the inverter is able to adjust its speeding accordingly, based on power requirements. Because of this, these generators are more fuel efficient compared to conventional models.
As you can see, the camp generator offers a lot of benefits and performance standards that you won’t get with a conventional model.
What You’ll Need to Look for In Your Next Model
So, how did we go about choosing the leading models on the market?
It wasn’t easy. Since their surge in popularity, manufacturers are working overtime to produce competitive models loaded with some great features.
More than any other feature, consumers are interested in runtime. This is the length of time the generator can run on a full tank. While some people are fine with a smaller tank that has a runtime of two or three hours, others are searching for models equipped with a tank that’s large enough to allow the unit to run throughout the night. This is especially important to RV users who need a new generator to power their AC.
Aside from runtime, wattage is also important. You’ll base your decision on whether or not a model is right for you based on this spec. You’ll need to do your own research to determine how much wattage you and your family will need each day during your travels. We’ve included just how to do that below in our buyer’s guide.
We’ve also gone over what to look for in terms of features, power, size, and more in our buyer’s guide, in order to educate people on what makes these innovative devices tick and how to tell a good model from one that will last for only one season.
Finally, solar generators have earned their way onto the list this year, too. Our final pick is a solar generator and panel paired that you’ll want to be sure to check out, too.
Advanced Technology in a Compact Package
Our site is designed to give you an in-depth look at everything the camp generator has to offer and what you can expect in terms of power, performance, reliability, and overall quality.
We’ll begin by going over a brief summary for each of our top-rated models before we move on to the buyer’s guide.
Best Camp Generator
Westinghouse iGen2200 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator
Our Rating: (5/5)
The iGen inverter generator was rated as the best camp generator on the market. Equipped with some innovative features and offering whisper quiet operation, it’s easy to see why. This model is the perfect choice for RV’ing, camping, and even as a power backup source at home. It’s also approved for parallel operation, so you can enjoy twice the power. This model is easy to install, maintain, and offers a power-efficient operation that makes it one of the most reliable inverter generators around.
If you’re looking on the small size, you may also want to check out our list of the Best Ultra-Portable Generators, too.
Warranty: 3 Years Limited
Top Electric Start Inverter Generator for Camping
Generac iQ3500 – 3500 Watt Electric Start Inverter Generator
Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Generac is all but synonymous with building high-quality generators. This model, the Generac 7127 iQ3500 is an excellent example packing more power and features into a compact package. It costs a bit more than our other picks, but it is well worth it.
Things we love: 3500 peak watts (3000 running), two standard 120V 20A 5-20R duplex outlets, two USB ports, two engine speeds and one 120V 30A twist-lock output. And, Generac offers a generous 3-year warranty. Fuel capacity is 2.6 gallons, allowing the inverter generator to run for 14.1 hours at 25% load and 8.9 hours under 50% load.
What’s not to like? It weighs in at just under 110 pounds. So, while it’s portable, and includes two handles, this isn’t one of the less portable camp generators we are recommending. Depending on your use, this may be just what you need – it is in our book!
Warranty: 3 Years (Residential or Commercial Use)
Dual Fuel, RV Ready Camp Generator
DuroMax XP5500EH RV-Ready Dual-Fuel Inverter Generator
Our Rating: (4.7/5)
The DuroMax XP5500EH is an excellent RV-ready, 50-state, dual-fuel inverter generator that can run on gas or propane. We picked the 5,500 watt (4,500 watt running) model as one of our best camp generator picks from the many options in the DuroMax XP lineup.
The powerful 224cc OHV engine allows the generator to run at 120V and 240V simultaneously, or at 120V with full power. If you’re looking to power an RV when boon-docking, a full-size refrigerator, home air conditioner, several high amperage tools, or any other number of power-intensive needs, the DuroMax line is a great option.
Outputs on the unit’s power panel include two 120V household GFCI outlets, a 120/240V 30A twist lock outlet and charging posts for connecting and charging external batteries. Looking for more (or less) power, size or weight? Click through and checkout all of the options available. There’s several to choose from.
Warranty: 3 Years Residential, 1 Year Commercial Use
Best Camp Generator: Solar Kit and Generator
Jackery Solar Generator 1000 (Jackery 1000 + 4 x SolarSaga 100W)
Our Rating: (4.7/5)
For the camper, overlander, or van-life crowd we highly recommend going solar. At the top of the food chain is Jackery, known for their high-output solar generators and high-powered, portable solar panels to match. Jackery has several packages available which pair a solar generator (essentially a battery and inverter with different power outputs) with their own solar panel design. The 1000 package is in the middle of their solar generator product range – there are excellent packages with both higher and lower capacity.
TIP: If you prefer to buy direct you can purchase this or any of Jackery’s products from their website.
The generator itself has a massive 1002 watt-hour capacity, 1000 running wattage and zero emissions. There’s no pollution whatsoever, environmental or noise. The solar panels are 2 100-watt panels which fold and have handles. And, while fairly small for 100-watt panels, they charge very efficiently. We also love the thoughtful touch of having USB-A and USB-C ports on the panels themselves. This means if you just want to top off your phone, a hunting GPS, bluetooth speaker, or other USB chargeable device, you don’t have to pull out the generator, just one panel.
Outlets include 60W USB-C ports, 2 USB-A ports (including QC3.0), and 3 AC outlets. The result? The capability of powering 7 appliances at the same time.
Charge time on the solar generator is impressive. The two solar panels can completely charge the generator in 8 hours. That’s not far behind connecting it directly into an AC wall outlet which would take 7 hours. When plugged in to a vehicle 12V outlet charging from empty would take 14 hours. But, using the included 12V charging cord is a great way to keep things topped off when driving. If you’re looking for a solar generator for use at camp, check out Jackery.
Warranty: 2 Years
Camp Generator Buying Guide
When you hear the words camp generator, you’re probably thinking of a small generator that can only be used to power a coffee pot. While there are some super compact models of generators out there designed for that specific purpose, the generators we’ll discuss here are perfect for both camping and RV use because they’re seriously powerful. Many models can handle powering major appliances such as microwaves and air conditioners, and larger stoves. But they can also handle powering delicate electronics, such as phones and laptops, which normally shouldn’t be used with a regular generator because the power current isn’t stable.
These handy generators offer an innovative design that’s much different than what a conventional generator has to offer in a number of ways.
We’ve made it our goal to check out the five top-selling models of camp generators on the market.
Why? Because we know how hard it is to find an inverter generator that actually delivers the type of stable power all manufacturers promise. There are plenty of inverter generators out there that claim to pack serious power, yet they can only handle a small appliance for a few hours. We looked at the most versatile models on the market simply because we know that’s exactly what campers and RV users need and want. If you love roughing it but you also enjoy having some of the comforts of home close at hand, then an inverter generator is the perfect solution.
We love camping, we love exploring nature, setting up camp for a month or two and doing some serious hiking and exploring, but we also love a fresh cup of coffee in the morning and the ability to charge our laptops, so we can keep in touch with friends and family. When we travel in our RV, we want to know we have a generator handy to keep our rig powered up at all times. So, if you’re tired of buying generators that only last you more than a season, read on to learn everything you need to know about the best camp generator, where you can find one for less, and which models have the power it takes to make it to our top five list.
Is It Tough Enough?
The best camp generator for you will depend on a variety of factors. There are currently several models available to choose from, but there are only five that qualify as the best. Is the noise level the most important factor for you? Or will you be trying to power a massive air conditioner? Fortunately, we’ve found the top five best camp generators on the market that are rated for both power and a lower than average noise level.
These generators are much quieter-running compared to a standard RV generator. These recreational generators can provide power in remote parts of the country. But in the past, they got a bad rap because they were pretty noisy. But not anymore.
Newer models of camp generators utilize inverter technology, which is what makes them significantly quieter compared to old-fashioned generators.
While you can still use an emergency generator at your camping site, the electrical current just isn’t clean enough for use with electronics such as laptops or smartphones. Additionally, the noise they produce will drive your family and anyone else in the campsite crazy.
What is an Inverter Generator?
An inverter generator is perfect for tailgating, camping, boating, and any other type of outdoor adventure.
These generators are incredibly quiet because they use a special type of alternator to generate clean power. The alternator used in these generators also allows for a more compact, lightweight generator.
Just as important, the generator’s engine can also operate at varying speeds, which significantly reduces fuel consumption and the noise level.
Related: See our picks for smallest generator with electric start!
These clean-running highly portable generators are much smaller compared to the type of generators designed for home use, so they’re easy to carry around and transport. Additionally, if you need more power you can also purchase a second generator and connect them.
These generators are a great option for camping, obviously, but they can also be used during an emergency power outage, boating, or an outdoor party.
Compact models of inverter generators typically produce anywhere from eight hundred up to one thousand watts of power. This is just enough juice to power a couple of appliances at the same time.
Other models of inverter generators can produce up to two thousand watts of juice and they’re designed to power multiple appliances at the same time. If you have a high-demand appliance or need to power several appliances at the same time, then look for a generator with this type of wattage.
Even with the high wattage these generators are able to produce you won’t be able to power an entire house with one. Instead, if you use an inverter generator at home during an emergency, you’ll need to prioritize and power only important items in the home, such as lights or an electric stove.
While these generators aren’t the best option for home use, they’re perfect for camping.
Because many types of electrical devices can surge, we strongly urge you to check the product information that comes packed with the generator. These surges can occur when an electrical device is switched on for the first time. A generator’s product information sheet often states the wattage that it’s able to produce during regular use, in addition to the wattage produced during a surge.
Many popular models are loaded with some great features including eco-modes, remote start, digital gauges, and parallel kits.
The fuel gauges found on today’s inverter generators have come a long way compared to generators of the past. While it’s possible to look up specs for a specific generator in order to try and determine how much fuel you have left, generators of today use more effective methods.
Some models will come equipped with digital gauges while others will have standard analog gauges. Pricier models will have multiple gauges that can tell you how many hours of run-time you have left. They can also determine the amount of time you have left by measuring fuel consumption on one gauge and by measuring the current watts being used on another in order to auto-calculate the remaining run-time.
Electric start is a feature often found on the best camp generators. This feature can really come in handy when you’re camping because it allows the user to power up all their essential appliances with just the push of a button.
However, electric start is also considered a great safety feature. On some generators, the electric start can also shut the generator down if the oil level has reached a dangerously low level. Some models will allow the user to power up the generator from as far as three hundred feet away using a wireless remote.
This is another nice feature that’s found on smaller models of inverter generators. This mode is designed to reduce fuel consumption by cutting the RPMs as much as possible.
This mode can be switched on or off easily. So, the user can opt to shut it off if they need more power for an appliance that needs a higher starting wattage. When extra power isn’t needed, switching on the eco mode can help to save a lot of fuel. Additionally, because the generator has switched to lower RPM use, the motor is even quieter.
Benefits of Camp Generators
As we briefly touched on earlier, camp generators have a reputation for their quiet operation. When you’re camping at a campsite surrounded by other families, the last thing you want is to create too much noise and draw attention to yourself. It’s important to be respectful of other campers in the immediate area, which is why so many people opt for this style of generator. We should also mention that many campgrounds now limit generator noise to less than sixty decibels at fifty feet.
The camp generator’s portability is another huge plus for campers. Many of the leading manufacturers have designed camper inverter generators that are a perfect fit for most outdoor activities. Many of these generators can be run in parallel if you’re in need of some extra power.
It’s also important to note that these generators are considered extremely energy efficient especially compared to larger generators designed for RVs or home use.
A generator’s weight will affect its overall portability. Generator weight for inverter models tends to vary from as little as twenty pounds up to fifty-five pounds.
The amount of time your generator can run per tank is another important spec you’ll want to pay attention to before you buy. The best camp generator should provide at least eight hours of run-time. With a full tank of fuel, you’ll be able to rely on a steady flow of power throughout the night. You don’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night to refuel a generator. Unfortunately, this can vary depending on how many appliances you’re running and their power consumption. Before you purchase a generator, read camp generator reviews and learn what other campers had to say regarding their true runtime. You’d be surprised to learn how many manufacturers tend to exaggerate this feature.
Runtime will be one of the main specs a buyer looks for because it can determine how powerful a generator is and whether or not an extra generator is needed. There are models that can run just a few hours per tank, and others that can run twelve hours or more.
If you’re looking for a generator that can power the air conditioner in your RV during the night, then obviously you’ll want to look for a model that offers the longest runtime possible.
When it comes to camp generators, the price can vary based on several factors. There are low-priced generators available that are priced at a few hundred dollars, but a reliable generator is going to come with a higher price tag.
Parallel Generator Use
One of the biggest selling points for any model of camp generator is their ability to connect with a compatible generator for parallel use. These days, many models now offer this feature, however, some lower priced generators do not.
So, why would anyone want to run two generators?
The demand for power these days is more than what it was just five years ago. A basic portable model can power some essential appliances for a short period of time, however, running several generators parallel will increase the volume of power you can use for one particular appliance or several smaller appliances that have lower power needs.
Additionally, it’s much easier and more affordable to run a couple of camp generators than it is to use a large traditional generator.
If you want to power an air conditioner in an RV, you’ll want to use generators that are lightweight, powerful, and portable. These generators have all the benefits of larger models, with the added bonus of portability and a lightweight design. They’re simply the best option for powering any essential appliance when you’re away from home, or in the event of an emergency.
If you already own a camp generator, you can purchase a compatible model, which can be tethered to the original one via a set of cables. Most models of camp generators can be paralleled to another generator easily, instantly upping your generator power.
As long as the generator you purchase is designed to be paralleled, it’s perfectly safe to hook it up to another model, just as long as you follow the manufacturer’s directions and use the right type of required cables, ensuring that the generators you’re using to parallel are compatible.
Is an Inverter Generator Right for Me?
When you’re shopping for a generator, the biggest factors will be fuel that the generator needs, power output, and size. Before you hit that buy now button, we recommend first assessing the situation in terms of the type and amount of power you need to replace.
How Inverter Generators Work
The camp generator works in a different way compared to a conventional generator. Home generators are large, in order to accommodate massive petrol or propane tanks. The fuel powers the motor that’s coupled with an alternator. The alternator is what produces electricity.
The inverter generator is designed to use modern methods of creating electricity. These three-phase generators produce an alternating current, which is converted into a direct current. The direct current is then converted to alternating current. This three-phase process results in the production of cleaner electricity.
The generator’s three-phase power system is the key here. The power in your home and what comes out of an inverter is single phase, meaning that it involves a single sine wave that changes in a regular pattern with voltage and time.
The three-phase power system involves three electrical signals, or sine waves, that overlap each other. This offers more power using the same amount of time and it’s considered more efficient.
These generators will convert the high frequency using a solid-state rectifier. From there, the electricity will go into a conventional sixty Hz sine wave inverter.
The generator’s three-phase power produces more electricity for each rotation, which means the generator can use a very small motor to produce a large output of power. Additionally, engine speed is not critical with this type of generator. As the loads change, the engine is able to idle down or power up in order to meet power needs.
As engine speeds change, the frequency of the output changes.
Are There Any Camp Generator Drawbacks?
While these generators are pretty impressive, there are some disadvantages you should be aware of before you buy.
If you need a lot of power, then the camp generator may not be the best option. Even the biggest inverter generator will top off at seven kilowatts and will cost thousands of dollars.
Until camp generator technology becomes more affordable, most top models will feature a practical limit of three thousand watts. This type of wattage should be more than enough for most users, but don’t expect this type of power to be able to run any type of heavy-duty power tools. If you’re looking for more power for on the job use than your best option may be a diesel generator.
Unlike conventional generators, there is also a higher risk of theft with these small, compact, lightweight, easy to carry generators. This is just something to keep in mind when you’re camping. Never leave your campsite unattended if you have valuables, such as an inverter generator, lying around.
The inverter generator is sold under dozens of different brand names. Some models are very competitive in terms of quality and price, but the market is now so flooded with cheap knockoffs that it can be difficult to find a leading model that will last. The difference between a knockoff and a leading model is simple. Knockoffs will begin to have problems from the get-go because the manufacturer has cut corners in order to keep the price low. Like all other things in life, you really do get what you pay for.
Because of this, we recommend spending more on a solid unit, one that won’t break down the first time you use it.
Inverter Generators Versus Traditional Generators
If you’ve never purchased a generator before, then you may be confused regarding the differences between an inverter generator, a standard generator, and an inverter.
The Conventional Generator
A conventional generator has been around for years and the basic concept behind this style has basically remained unchanged. This type of generator consists of an energy source such as gasoline, propane, or diesel, which powers the motor attached to the alternator, which produces electricity. The motor runs at a constant speed, which is why this type of generator is significantly louder than an inverter, and one of the main reasons you wouldn’t want to be caught dead with it at a campsite. Typically, the conventional generator runs at around 3600 RPMs to produce the standard current that most homes use. Should the RPM output fluctuate, so will the electrical output.
What’s an Inverter?
An inverter draws power from a DC source, usually a solar panel or car battery. The inverter will then utilize an electronic circuit in order to convert the power into AC power. This converted power can be at any type of required frequency and voltage with the use of appropriate equipment, however, the most common combination involves taking a twelve-volt DC battery from an RV, car, or boat and making it into the one-hundred-and-twenty-volt AC power that’s required for most appliances in the home.
The Rise of the Camp Generator
Also known as the inverter generator, this type of generator is relatively new and made possible by high-tech magnets and advanced electronic circuitry. These are usually three-phase generators that output AC current just like a conventional generator, however, the current is then converted to DC and converted back to AC power.
Because the camping generator uses both technologies used by a conventional generator and an inverter, they’re called inverter generators.
So, what’s the difference between an inverter generator and a conventional generator? Are the newer inverter style generators better than conventional? There really is no clear winner here. In fact, you’ll need to consider a number of factors before you can determine which type is right for you.
This generator’s extremely quiet operation makes them perfect for camping use. An inverter generator is lightweight, so you can take it pretty much anywhere. They’re easy to transport because they usually only weigh twenty to fifty pounds. Their compact design also allows you to store them in tight spaces, such as the trunk of a car.
The conventional generator comes equipped with a heavy, large fuel tank, which means it offers a much longer runtime compared to inverter generators. Camp generators have a limited fuel capacity because of their compact body. However, they also have engines that are more fuel efficient compared to conventional models. This can help to save fuel while also reducing exhaust emissions. The best camp generator can last up to ten hours and can save as much as forty percent fuel.
In terms of noise, camp generators are much quieter, thanks to their sound dampening technology and special mufflers designed to minimize noise.
The noise level is what really separates these generators.
As we mentioned the conventional generators must run at a constant speed in order to create higher levels of electricity, using variable speeds. This constant, fast engine speed also means that noise is constantly generated as well. This noise is more apparent when the generator is run at full power.
On the other hand, camp generators use specialized internal components, such as microprocessors that allow the generator to adjust the electric characteristics of the power produced. They don’t have to run at full power in order to produce enough electricity to power an appliance.
This allows the camp generator’s engine to throttle back when the workload is light. The result? The camp generator is much quieter and can save you fuel at the same time.
Runtimes and Fuel Efficiency
A conventional generator is usually designed to transport a determined amount of power where it’s needed and to keep the power going. Factors such as the size of the generator aren’t usually important. This is why most models can accommodate larger fuel tanks, which means a longer runtime. The camping generator is usually designed with a compact lightweight construction in mind. This means they don’t come equipped with a bulky, heavy fuel tank. So, the obvious result is a shorter runtime due to the limited fuel capacity.
Regardless, the inverter generator features engines that are fuel efficient and have the ability to adjust the engine speeds to the load. This means they tend to make better use of their fuel. For their applications, their runtime of eight to ten hours is usually more than adequate. Additionally, since these generators are more fuel efficient, this results in reduced exhaust emissions.
Max Power Potential
Generators are available in a variety of sizes, which you should choose based on your power needs. With inverter and conventional generators, the wattage can range from as low as two-hundred watts up to fifty thousand watts. Obviously, the higher wattage conventional models are much bigger than compact inverter generators.
Conventional generators are nothing more than engines that are connected to alternators that run at speeds that produce the ideal AC frequency, regardless of load size.
With inverter models, the engine is connected to an alternator that produces AC electricity, just like a traditional generator, but a rectifier is also used to convert the AC to DC. Capacitors are also used to smooth it out to a certain level. DC power is inverted back into the clean AC power at a desired voltage and frequency, so regulation is very good. And the result? Cleaner power. The cleaner power that’s produced is actually much better than what’s produced by a standard generator. But why is cleaner power more important?
DVD players, printers, game consoles, TVs, phones, and even computers use some form of microprocessor. These microprocessors are very sensitive in terms of the quality of electricity that they use. If they use a power source that isn’t considered clean, this can actually cause a device to malfunction and may lead to serious damage. That means any type of application that uses sensitive electronics will benefit greatly from a cleaner power source. So, again, the inverter generator wins over the traditional generator.
Many models of inverters can be paired with another unit in order to double their power. This parallel capability means you’ll be able to use a couple of smaller generators in order to provide the same amount of amperage and wattage that a conventional generator can, and all without sacrificing the benefits of a more portable, quieter, lighter, smaller inverter unit. The traditional generators just can’t offer this feature. Keep in mind that you’ll need to use a special cable in order to connect the generators, which is usually doesn’t come with the generator.
Why the Inverter Wins, Hands Down
The biggest issue homeowners, campers, RV users, and people in general have with the conventional generator is the noise level. Remember, these generators are constantly running. If they didn’t run constantly they would fail to generate power. But with this constant power comes constant noise. Since inverter generators were designed specifically to be quiet running, they’re definitely considered a much better choice if you’re in an environment that requires some peace and quiet, such as a public campground or RV camp. Many campsites don’t allow conventional generators these days because they’re so incredibly disruptive. Which is why the clear winner here is the inverter.
Currently, there’s no evidence that the camp generator has a higher failure rate compared to a conventional generator. According to many campers who rely on inverter generators, the simplicity of their construction and design tends to make them more appealing than conventional generators because they’re so easy and convenient to use.
While inverter generators have been available for years, they’ve only seen a significant rise in popularity over the past few years, thanks to advances in technology that makes these generators safe to use and compatible with more demanding devices such as PCs or BluRay DVD players.
Since traditional models are just motors with an attached alternator, they’re basically simple machines that are easy to repair, run, and maintain. Their motor just cranks along using a standard RPM and they aren’t equipped with any complicated controls. That being said, inverter generator technology has been well-tested, and they haven’t demonstrated any major reliability issues compared to older conventional models.
So, whether a simple design is an advantage or not really boils down to a matter of personal preference.
A Higher Price Tag
With all of the benefits that come with using a camping generator, there has to be a downside. For some, the big drawback is the cost. These generators have a higher price tag compared to a conventional generator that offers a similar power rating. So, all of the benefits such as portability, a lower noise level, improved fuel efficiency, and convenience- do come at a cost. However, when it comes to weighing the pros and cons for each style of generator, and which one is right for you, you’ll need to look at your budget and the intended applications. This will help you to determine if the higher price tag is worth all of the benefits and extra features. However, judging by the inverter’s soaring popularity each year, not to mention plenty of positive feedback, it’s pretty clear that more and more campers, homeowners, and RV users are making the switch to inverter generators.
Fast Camp Generator Facts
- Some newer models of inverter generators are solar powered, making them more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
- Models that are California Air Resources Board compliant can be used in other locations other than California. These compliant generators can still produce some level of pollutants, but they produce significantly fewer air pollutants compared to models that aren’t California Air Resources Board compliant.
- Generators that are designed for emergency use do not have to be EPA compliant.
- Utilizing variable speed allows inverter generators to vary the engine speed depending on the amount of power you need.
- The electronic current the generator produces is stable and consistent, allowing you to power electronics that are sensitive to power surges, such as laptops or smartphones.
- While these generators will work in a pinch in the event of a power outage, they are not able to power several appliances at the same time.
- Models that feature a built-in parallel kit will allow you to use two generators, so you can enjoy twice the power.
- Currently, only two generators can be paralleled, but many companies are working on models that can allow up to a total of four paralleled generators.
Before you use your new generator, it’s important that you follow the user’s manual and instructions closely.
A generator should never be run inside a garage or house. These engines give off carbon monoxide fumes, which are lethal. Additionally, the generator should not be placed near doors, vents, or windows.
You should never attempt to power your home’s electricity by plugging a generator into a wall outlet. This is a technique called back feeding and it’s extremely dangerous because it can lead to electrocution. This method can also bypass some of the household built-in protection devices. When in use, only plug appliances directly into the generator.
Always be careful when you’re refueling your generator. You should always shut it off and allow it to cool down beforehand.
The generator should also never be operated near combustible materials.
In order to avoid the risk of electrocution, don’t get the generator wet.
Most manufacturers don’t recommend leaving a generator outside in the snow or rain, as this can put the user at risk of an electrical shock. Doing so can also lead to corrosion of any internal parts in the generator that get wet. During times like this, it’s best to pack your generator away. Or you can make your own lean-to using some plywood and lean it against your RV or truck. Just make sure you’re aware of where the exhaust is going if you decide to try this.
Generators emit carbon monoxide which is a deadly gas. A generator should never be run in a contained area or inside. The exhaust should always be pointed away from the RV.
While we’ve covered the differences between conventional and inverter generators, as far as noise level is concerned, there’s only one true winner. The inverter generator will always be the whisper quiet generator compared to conventional models. Since conventional generators are designed to run nonstop at a constant speed level, the noise difference isn’t even close. Every model of inverter generator has the ability to throttle the engine speed.
The best camp generator will provide the power output you need to run a variety of appliances and devices. So what type of wattage do you need? That will depend on the type of appliances you need to power.
If you’re camping, a two-thousand-watt model is perfect for powering up appliances that need more power to run, such as a microwave or heater, both of which can come in handy when you’re camping.
Three thousand-watt models are obviously much more powerful and can even handle powering up a small air conditioner, along with any other appliance you’ll need. These models will be heavier than the two thousand-watt units because they have a bigger fuel tank.
Appliance Wattage Requirements
Below you’ll find a list of common appliances people normally bring along on a camping trip and their wattage requirements. This will give you a clearer idea regarding what size of inverter generator you’ll need for your next camping trip.
- Blender: 300 watts
- Coffee pot: 1,500 watts
- Fan: 100 watts
- Laptop: 100 watts
- Oven: 3,000 watts
- Small fridge: 1,400 watts
- Smartphone: 5 watts
- Stereo: 100 watts
- Toaster: 1,200 watts
- TV: 200 watts
Power and Increased Decibels
The noise a camp generator produces can increase based on power. The more power a generator has the more decibels. This means a three-thousand-watt model is going to be significantly louder than a one-thousand-watt generator. Additionally, the decibel level also increases when you add more appliances because it will require more engine power. While this all may sound obvious, it’s definitely something you should take into consideration if you plan on using your new generator the next time you go camping. However, even the most powerful inverter is still much quieter than a conventional generator.
What Can a Camp Generator Do?
These generators can do quite a bit actually. While they may not pack the same type of power that a conventional generator can, they’re still pretty powerful despite their compact size. Inverter gens can run high wattage appliances such as an AC or microwave, they can replace solar charging on overcast days, and they can even recharge an RV’s battery.
They can also provide power to any interior one hundred and twenty-volt outlet on your RV. If you’re not certain what a one hundred and twenty-volt outlet is, they’re basically the same type that you’ll find in your home.
An RV battery will only provide direct current power. You won’t have any type of alternating current power without the help of an inverter generator.
The appliances in your RV that run off the battery are typically the propane fridge, lights, and other types of electronics that come with an RV that are usually wired into the battery. These are usually twelve-volt appliances that are specifically designed to run off direct current power in RVs. These electronics can slowly drain an RV’s battery. Unless you’re always connected to shore power or electricity then you’ll need a power source in order to charge them. That’s where the camp generator comes in to save the day.
Do I Really Need a Generator When I’m Camping?
Most camp generators are used by RV drivers, but they can also be used by truck or tent campers as well. If you plan on remaining at a campground that offers power, then you don’t need a generator.
But what about those nights you plan on sleeping out under the stars, far away from city life, in the middle of the backcountry, or if you plan on spending a few amazing nights on a deserted beach?
Even when you’re camped out in the middle of nowhere in your nice cozy tent, come morning time you’ll still want to enjoy that hot cup of coffee and a large stack of pancakes.
So, as you can see, even when you’re camping out and roughing it, you’ll still need some sort of power source, so you can enjoy some of the comforts of home.
In terms of camping out in an RV, if you normally use batteries to power appliances and devices in your RV, you aren’t going to be connected to power at a campsite, and you don’t have solar panels, then you’ll need to buy the best camp generator, so you can use some basic appliances and electronics such as a radio, stove, coffeemaker and more.
Also, if you have a lot of equipment that needs to be charged and you don’t have sufficient battery power, then you can also benefit from taking along a camp generator. Since this type of generator is able to power sensitive appliances and devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets, having this type of power source readily available will ensure your phone and other tech is always fully charged. Aside from staying connected to family and posting on social media platforms, the ability to keep your gear charged is actually important in terms of safety. If you end up with a flat on a deserted highway, you won’t have to worry about a dead phone and no way to call for roadside assistance.
As you can see, these versatile generators can come in handy in a variety of situations and work for a number of setups and applications.
Charging RV Batteries with a Camp Generator
RV batteries can be charged a few different ways: camp generator, portable solar panels, and shore power.
If you plan on dry camping or you’ll remain in a national or state park that doesn’t have any utilities available, then you’ll need to use a generator unless you have an ample solar panel setup. But even if you do have solar panels there will still be times when that power just isn’t enough, such as when you’re parked under a shady tree, or on a rainy day. Because of this, it’s always smart to bring along a camp generator.
Solar panels can be a great way to keep your batteries charged, provided the weather conditions are on your side. Some campers purchase portable panel systems that they can move around their RV in order to follow the sun. Others will have a solar panel system that’s mounted to the roof of their RV.
To learn more, click here to read our article on how to mount solar panels on an RV roof.
Roof mounted solar panels are lower maintenance compared to portable panels, but you need to be careful of where you park in order to ensure the panels are always pointed toward the south in order to soak up the most sunshine. But a cloudy, rainy day will end up diminishing their effectiveness. If you have more than one rainy day in a row, then you’ll run into serious power issues if you don’t have a generator.
To learn more about solar panel setups for your RV read our epic RV solar panels buyer’s guide.
Your Solar Panel Generator Setup
You love to travel all over the country in your RV, camping out in the backcountry for a few nights to enjoy some time away from the city and enjoy everything that nature has to offer. Other nights you want to stay relatively close to city life, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds. But during this time, you’re using a lot of fuel, and more importantly, a lot of battery power. If you’re on a tight budget, you need all the help you can get, especially if you plan on staying on the road for the duration of the summer, or maybe you’re retired and want to travel all over America. A solar panel kit and an inverter generator setup is the answer to this energy problem and one that can save you hundreds of dollars a year on fuel costs.
Of course, the answer to how many solar panels do I need for my RV will depend on your family’s daily power needs, and the type of inverter generator you buy. With a more powerful generator and a four solar panel kit, you can easily get by on the amount of power this green energy solution provides.
Before you buy a solar panel kit and a new generator, make sure both components are compatible with each other.
In the end, you’ll find that this energy-saving setup is worth the higher price tag that will come with the best camp generator and a reliable solar panel system.
How to Find a High-Quality Camp Generator
While there are plenty of specs you should factor into your decision when choosing a generator, the warranty is one of the most important aspects to pay attention to. Most mid-priced models will come with a two or three-year product warranty.
Emissions controlled models will often come with a two-year product warranty.
Warranty coverage will be even more important to people who live in their RV on a full-time basis or use it more than once or twice a month.
Really the type of warranty length you need will heavily depend on how often you use the generator.
Now, let’s delve a little deeper into decibels.
Decibels is one of the biggest issues you’ll come across with generators. It seems like every camper has a story about being stuck next to that one guy that had an extremely loud generator that he ran around the clock. If you do this, you’ll soon find that you’re the most hated person at the campground.
Fortunately, camp generators aren’t like conventional or contractor type generators, meaning they’re specifically designed with quiet operation in mind.
Typically, generators in the two thousand to three-thousand-watt area are the way to go if you’re looking for a model that offers quiet operation combined with power. The quietest models will have a rating that’s around fifty decibels. However, with most generators, as the power output increases, so does the decibels. For camping purposes, we recommend only purchasing a model that’s rated under sixty-five decibels.
How Camp Generators Can Protect Electronics
These days, the RV owner appreciates modern tech. It seems like pretty much everyone has a smartphone, laptop, TV, flat screen, and a gaming system. These electronics are actually pretty sensitive and can be really expensive to replace.
If you’re into your techy gadgets, then you should only ever use a camp generator to power them. These generators offer a cleaner type of electric current that’s significantly more stable, making inverter generators a much better choice for certain types of electronics.
If you use a conventional generator to power sensitive electronics, then you’re risking harming certain types of electronics because they emit an uneven current.
The only real drawback to camp generators is that they’re often more expensive than portable generators that are labeled as non-inverter models.
Connecting Your Generator to Your RV
Most models of camp generators are specifically made for RV use. Because of this, when your new generator arrives in the mail, you may find that there isn’t a plug that will fit the power cord that comes from your RV. So, what do you do now? This is actually a very simple fix. All you need to do is purchase an adapter.
If you buy a two-thousand-watt model it will come with the standard fifteen amp twenty-volt outlet, like what you’ll find at home. You’ll need to purchase an adapter that your thirty or fifty-amp RV cord will plug into in order to provide power to the RV.
If you’re not sure if you have a thirty or fifty-amp power cord, figuring this out is also pretty easy. Take a look at the number of male prongs it has. The thirty-amp cord will feature a total of three prongs, while the fifty-amp cord will come with four prongs.
RV adapters will come in the dog bone or hockey puck style.
If you purchased a three-thousand-watt generator, these often come with a thirty amp one hundred and twenty-five-volt outlet which also won’t be compatible with the power cord in your RV. Unless you have an RV that’s generator ready you’ll need to purchase an adapter that will plug into a thirty amp, one hundred and twenty-five-volt outlet. This will allow you to plug in either a fifty or thirty-amp cord.
An RV will usually come with a long power cord that’s stored close to the outside door. To use, simply pull it out and attach the female end to your rig, connecting the adapter to the RV power cord. Next, just plug in the other end of the cord to your camp generator and you’re done. It’s that simple.
Most manufacturers don’t recommend plugging an RV in until the generator has had some time to warm up, typically three to five minutes.
Once you’re connected you can use the household plugs in the RV and any major appliances such as an AC or a microwave. Of course, the type and number of appliances you can run will depend on the generator’s size and power capability.
When your gen is running, it’s also charging up batteries via the RV’s built-in charger. It’s also powering up the outlets in the rig.
Portable Generator or Inverter Generator?
If you have a need for portable power but you’re not sure whether you should choose a portable generator or an inverter, or really what the difference is between the two, then you’ve come to the right place.
The portable generator uses a type of combustion engine, which must run at 3600 RPM in order to generate an electrical output. The engine must run at a constant speed, no matter the type of load it’s dealing with. This type of generator will allow you to run important electronics when the power fails, however, they’re not just for power outage use. They can also be a good choice if you need power for DIY projects, outdoor events, power tools, and hobbies. While the portable generator offers a longer runtime and more power output, they also use a lot of fuel and are heavier to transport.
A portable generator can serve many purposes, but the inverter, with its low noise level and lightweight design, is best suited for RV use, emergency backup power in a power outage, and camping. They are also a good choice for tailgating and outdoor events.
The inverter generator combines the electronic inverter board with a gas-powered generator. This provides cleaner power and variable speed. Because it offers variable speed, the generator can vary the engine’s speed based on power needs. This means if you’re only running a light, the generator will run much quieter and will use less fuel.
The inverter generator also uses a sine wave that’s equal to the power that’s delivered by a utility. The current is stable and consistent, which allows the user to power sensitive electronics including tablets and smartphones, without voltage fluctuation.
The inverter can work in the event of a home power outage, but they can’t power a variety of heavy duty appliances.
Camp Generator for Emergency Home Use
When you’re planning your emergency preparedness, a generator can be an important consideration. If you’ve been through a power outage before, and the last solution was to use a portable generator in the garage, then the odds are it didn’t go as well as you planned. So, what’s a better solution when installing an inverter generator for home use? It’s actually pretty simple. Most pros recommend connecting an inverter generator to a home via a transfer switch. This will provide you with a safer, easier way to use your generator in an emergency.
With a transfer switch, you can easily connect the house supply to your compact generator. Using the existing electrical wiring of the house, the transfer switch will provide a simple way to utilize power. The house wiring supplies power to all the lighting points and outlets, so it offers a simple way of connecting a single outlet from the house to the generator. However, you’ll have to install a transfer switch next to the breaker box in order to safely transfer the power. This switch isn’t actually a switch, but a switch panel that’s installed next to an electrical panel. You can connect the circuit breakers of the house to the transfer switch. When the power is out, connect the camp generator to the outside wall socket, power it up, then head indoors and flip the transfer switch.
You can’t use an automatic transfer switch with an inverter generator, unfortunately. Instead, the only option here is a manual one. Manual switches have multiple switches that you’ll use to transfer the house power to the generator. This type of setup will allow you to only connect the circuits you need, so you can limit the load placed on the generator. When you switch one circuit at a time it protects the generator against an instant full load.
You can hire a professional or install the switch yourself, it all depends on your skill level, but it’s a fairly basic process. Just keep in mind that improper installation of this switch can cause personal injury or damage.
Having a permanent setup and installing a transfer switch to work with a single or double generator setup will help you to be prepared for any type of emergency situation. This is also a more affordable option than purchasing a large, loud conventional generator.
As you can see, camp generators aren’t just for camping. They’re commonly used now as the go-to generator for emergency power backup, mainly because they’re reliable, energy efficient, and affordable.
Maintenance and Care
If you’ve stuck with us for this long, then by now you’re probably familiar with the versatility and durability of a camp generator. But are you convinced its power will be readily available right when you need it the most?
Maintenance is crucial, and it’s a very important part of owning this type of generator. If you fail to properly maintain it, this can lead to inefficiency and hard starting issues.
So, the following tips will help to ensure that your generator is running as smoothly as it should on your next camping trip.
Oil: Like with any type of small-engine power equipment, regularly changing the oil is a big factor when it comes to maintaining a reliable performance. Believe it or not, most generators require an oil change after the initial thirty hours of use. Once the first oil change has been completed, any oil changes in the future will only need to be done after every seventy-five to one hundred hours of use. To be prepared for the future, make sure you’re well stocked up on oil.
Filters and plugs: Without a way to ignite and a way to breathe, the gas in the cylinders of the engine in a generator will be totally useless. The spark plug should be changed after every two hundred hours of use. At the very least, make sure you change it at the start of the season. A new spark plug will ensure proper fuel and air mixture and will extend the lifespan of your generator and help the engine to run more efficiently.
Charging: Not all camp generators have a battery, but those that come equipped with an electric start should be charged fully before you store your generator away for the season. If possible, the battery should be plugged into a trickle charger in order to keep it ready and fresh so it’s good to go right when you need it.
Off season: It’s always best to start your generator once a month and allow it to run for thirty minutes. Doing so will keep the components well lubricated by circulating the oil.
Some generators come equipped with a wide range of accessories, while others don’t. If the generator you buy doesn’t come with any extras, you can always purchase them separately, just make sure they’re compatible with your model.
For most, a basic generator setup should work just fine, but some of these extras will add to the convenience of using your generator, especially in colder weather conditions.
Transfer switch: As we briefly touched on earlier, a transfer switch is an electrical switch that transfers the load between the main utility power in the home to the generator. These switches are usually connected to the electrical panel in your RV or home and if the main power should fail, the generator will then carry the load.
Extension cords: An extension cord will ensure the proper delivery of electricity to your generator. You’ll need some heavy-duty cords to connect to a variety of appliances. These cords are rated in amps, so make sure you purchase the right cord based on the amp specification for the generator’s outlet.
Fuel stabilizer: This is important if you decide to store your generator for several months with oil in it. It will keep the fuel fresh and prevent gunk buildup.
Cold weather supplies: If you live in a particularly cold part of the country, then you should purchase cold weather supplies for your generator. Supplies can include a battery warmer and an oil heater. The battery warmer is placed below the battery in order to heat it up when the temperature drops. The oil heater comes in the form of a crankcase heater and works to warm up the oil, preventing it from solidifying.
Cover: Even an inverter generator can become damaged if it’s left exposed to the elements. So, if you’re one of those rebels who enjoy camping out during the colder months of the year a cover is a must. A good cover should be weatherproof, which will ensure that the generator remains free of dust, dirt, debris, and above all, remains dry. Pay special attention to the size of the cover and make sure it’s a good fit for your model.
Remote: Who wouldn’t love the convenience of being able to run their generator without having to walk out into the cold night or early morning air to switch it on? If this sounds like you, then you need a remote start. The remote start will allow you to switch on the generator from the comfort of your tent. The remote start can come connected via a long cable or they’re available in wireless form. However, wireless remotes tend to cost more.
Adapters: Most models of inverter generators come with adapters, or you can purchase them separately. These adapters will allow you to charge a phone or battery. Adapters are essential if you and your family have several tablets or smartphones. Typically, an inverter will come with just one of these adapters, so keep this in mind when you buy your next model and order additional adapters if needed. Final Thoughts
Camp generators can be complex. They’re perfect for a variety of applications, yet they may not be the right option if you’re looking for a generator you can haul to the worksite. Often, people fail to do their research and end up with a generator that offers too much power or too little. Because of this, we have stepped in to break it down for you and give you the inside scoop on what makes these generators tick, how they operate, how to use them for emergency situations, and why you need one on your next camping trip.
These generators can be the perfect choice for the right application. In fact, once you use a camp generator on your next trip, whether you’re camping out or enjoying the good life in your RV, the odds are you’ll never take a vacation without one.
Our buying guide and reviews of the leading models of inverter generators is designed to help you find the perfect model for your camping needs, whether you enjoy traveling across the country in your RV, or you love setting up a campsite in the backcountry. Wherever you go, these generators can provide the perfect amount of power and they can do so quietly.
Inverter generators are wonderful to have because they can meet all of your camping power needs, allowing you to enjoy just a few comforts of home. Now that you’re armed with all of the information you need in order to buy the best camp generator, you should have no trouble finding a model that works with your budget and power needs.