Every seasoned RVer understands the importance of a good generator. Even if you don’t plan on doing much boondocking, you never know when an emergency might leave you stranded without a power hookup.
In this guide, we’ll teach you how to separate the best portable generators for campers from the rest of the products out there.
- Yamaha EF2400iSHC
- Westinghouse WGen2000
- Champion 3100-Watt
- WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt
- Honda EU3000i Handi
In A Hurry?
Our Top Pick – Yamaha EF2400iSHC
How To Choose The Best Portable Generators For Campers And RV’s
When choosing a camping generator, you’ll need to take the following elements into account:
- Decibel Level
- Ease of Use
- Gas vs. Battery
Once you’ve narrowed down your search using these criteria, it should be easier to make your decision. Fortunately, the units we’ve reviewed earn strong marks in all of these categories.
Your budget should be your first consideration. How much can you afford to spend on a portable generator? Will the units in your price range satisfy the rest of your needs?
If you find that you can only afford a cheap generator that’s too loud for the type of camping you prefer (see Decibel Level, below), it might be a good idea to wait until you can invest in a better one. It’s better to make one quality purchase than to keep throwing money after inferior products.
The next most important rule when it comes to generators: Quieter is better. This is especially true of generators used while camping, as you don’t want anything to interfere with the peace of the outdoors.
As a general rule, you should try to find a portable generator that runs at 65 decibels or fewer. To give you some idea of how loud that is, here’s a breakdown of the decibel levels for a number of common household and environmental noisemakers:
|Source||Estimated Decibel Level|
|Household Leaf Blower||110|
Essentially, your generator shouldn’t be loud enough to drown out your conversation level (or those of the people around you). By choosing one in the 50-60 decibel range, you can keep your off-the-grid camping experience from disturbing anyone—including yourselves.
How much wattage you’ll need depends largely on how many amenities you’re planning to use while boondocking. We’ll assume you plan on using at least a few of them—otherwise, you wouldn’t need a generator at all!
Fortunately, there’s no need to perform a complicated breakdown in order to find the answer. In general, you’ll only need a high-wattage generator if you plan on using your air conditioner. If you can get by without running the AC, you should be able to get by with a generator that advertises fewer than 2,000 watts.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to every situation. If your rig has a hot tub or a fancy outdoor kitchen, for example, you’ll probably want to invest in a more powerful generator. The good news? If you have an RV with those amenities, you should be able to afford it.
Finally, be aware that your unit’s microwave probably runs off the AC power. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need more wattage just to use the microwave—it just means you’ll need to pay close attention to how many appliances are running. If the microwave is the only appliance you’re using, a 2,000-watt generator should be just fine.
Ease of Use
Since the majority of generators aren’t designed specifically for RVs, you might find that the plug doesn’t fit with your camper’s power cord. That’s not a big deal—you’ll just have to buy an adapter before you can take the generator on the road. If you’d prefer to skip this step, you should make sure to seek out a generator that’s compatible with your camper.
Read all the instructions carefully before attempting to install and use your portable generator. Most are simple to operate, but it’s best to familiarize yourself with the process in advance so you don’t find yourself stranded without power.
Gas vs. Battery
Does it matter whether your generator is battery-operated or powered by gasoline? Not necessarily, but you should keep the practical considerations in mind.
Gas is the easiest fuel source to come by, and the one that most generators rely on. Unless you’re really off the beaten path, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding enough gas to fuel your generator.
Diesel is another option, and more cost-effective in the long run. However, diesel fuel is more difficult to find, and these generators are typically carry a higher upfront cost.
Even more expensive are battery-operated generators, prized for their sustainability and silent operating capabilities. Some can even be recharged using solar panels. However, the recharging process is very slow, and they’re not as powerful as their gas-powered counterparts—usually only about 1800 watts.
Product Review Guide
1. Yamaha EF2400iSHC
If you’re looking for the straight-up best portable generator out there, you can’t go wrong with the Yamaha EF2400iSHC. This is a gas-powered portable inverter unit with a starting wattage of 2,400 and a running wattage of 2,000. Unlike most 2,000-watt generators, however, it can power AC units of up to 13,500 BTUs. Since it runs at just 53 to 58 decibels, it’s also one of the quietest units you’ll find.
The one downside to the Yamaha EF2400 is the relatively high cost, but we think it’s worth it for the peace of mind it offers. If you can afford it, this is a super little generator.
2. Westinghouse WGen2000
The Westinghouse WGen2000 Portable Generator is inexpensive enough to suit just about any budget. Even if you don’t think you’ll need a generator, it might be worth investing in this one, just in case.
At its peak, the WGen2000 can run at 2,500 watts, but it’s rated at 2,000 watts. That’s powerful enough to suit most camping needs, and you can even use it for home backup during storms. Despite the low price tag, it’s durable enough to withstand the elements.
This unit runs quietly and efficiently, using up much less fuel than you might expect. Its diminutive size makes transportation and operation a snap. We’ve noticed that the paint tends to bubble and flake off after a while, but it doesn’t seem to affect the overall performance.
Best Runner Up
3. Champion 3100-Watt
If neither of those options sounds like a fit for you, consider the Champion 3100-Watt Portable Inverter Generator. This nifty device is RV-ready, so you won’t need to worry about finding an adapter. Because it operates at just 58 decibels, it’s like it was tailor-made for the woods.
With a starting wattage of 3,100 and 2,800 running watts, the Champion is powerful enough to run your AC unit, if desired. The company advertises an 8-hour run time, but there’s a shut-off sensor that activates whenever the fuel supply is running low. A quick-touch panel restricts all the controls to one area, making this one of the most user-friendly generators we’ve come across.
long engine life.
4. WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt
If you can’t find any of the options we’ve listed, check out the WEN 56200i. While it’s priced significantly lower than the competition, it’s one of the quietest portable generators out there, operating at just 53 decibels. At 48 pounds, it’s also fairly easy to transport. A built-in carry handle adds to the convenience, and the control panel is simple to operate, even for beginners.
Be aware that this unit runs at just 1,600 watts, so it might not be the best fit for everybody. If you aren’t planning to run an AC system or anything too complex, however, the WEN 56200i is a solid option.
5. Honda EU3000i Handi
Another viable option (if you can afford it) is the Honda EU3000i Handi. This nifty device is outfitted with a set of wheels for portability, so it can be easily maneuvered despite its 78-pound weight. With 3,000 running watts, it’s also the most powerful generator on our list.
Because it operates at 57 to 60 decibels, the EU3000i is perfectly suited for camping. The only drawback is the price tag, which is high even by Honda’s standards. Consider this unit only if you have a generous budget and an RV with amenities that require maximum wattage.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to camping, preparation is key. That’s why you’ve invested in a camper in the first place—to make sure you’ll have everything you need for your time on the road. When you back up your purchase with a high-quality portable generator, you’re paving the way to a smoother camping experience overall.
Best of luck, and happy camping!