While generators may seem like a complicated piece of equipment, choosing the best camping generators should be an easy process. Unfortunately, since the market is flooded with this type of generator, it can take plenty of research to weed out the low-quality models that can end up quitting on you after just one season. Fortunately, I’ve done all the research for you, testing out many of the best-selling generators on the market, narrowing it down to the top seven models that have what it takes to provide all the power you need on your next camping trip. I’ve also created this buyer’s guide, which includes all of the information you need to know to choose a model that will meet your power needs and then some. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the generators that landed on my list, their rating, and other important information.
Camping Generators Comparison Chart
Jackery Portable Solar Generator
This model provides a green power solution for campers in search of a powerful, reliable generator that offers clean energy and a longer runtime. This model provides stable power to a wide range of small and larger electronics including blenders, TVs, projectors, coffee makers and more. It comes with a standard 12-volt 10A port and a USB port for smaller, delicate electronics, such as smartphones. The generator is designed to quickly recharge under the sun, using a one-hundred-watt solar panel. The total charge time is nine and a half hours. This model is perfect for RV users, campers, and outdoor events. The generator’s pure sine wave inverter ensures your delicate electronics will be safe from power surges.
- Pure sine wave energy protects delicate electronics
- Can handle larger electronics
- Long charging time
- High price tag
This model may take longer than average to charge, when compared to gas-powered models, but it offers plenty of juice if you allow it to charge outdoors during the day. Providing clean energy and plenty of it, this latest model by Jackery is designed to handle small and medium-sized electronics, including TVs, small AC units, and coffee makers, so you can enjoy some of the comforts of home and keep your important delicate electronics charged, so you can remain connected to the outside world.
Champion Power Equipment Portable Generator
This is a dual fuel portable generator that can run on either propane or gas. It operates on 3,800 watts and holds up to 0.6-quarts of oil. The generator comes equipped with a low oil shut off sensor, which is a much-have safety feature that many models in this price range lack. The generator’s electric start allows you to easily and instantly power up the generator with just a push of a button. It offers another important safety feature called Intelligauge. This feature will keep close tabs on the voltage and runtime hours to track maintenance intervals and monitor power output. In terms of outlets, it has:
- One-120-volt RV outlet
- One-120-volts locking outlet
- Two-120-volt household outlets
The generator’s built-in volt guard protects against surges, preventing overloads. This model is covered by free lifetime technical support and a limited three-year warranty.
- Dual fuel
- Three-year warranty
- Intelligauge technology
- Large oil tank
- Very loud
This dual fuel model can run on propane or gas, comes equipped with a safety fuel selector switch, and features a touch start power up, thanks to the push button electric start that makes firing up this generator a cinch, even on colder mornings. Durable, versatile, and tough enough to provide power to a few devices or appliances at once, this is a great buy for bigger outings and longer camping trips.
Honda EU2200i Portable Inverter Generator
This top-selling model by Honda can run several appliances at once, making it a great choice for camping, work use, and as a backup power source in the event of a blackout. It also features an impressively low noise decibel rating of just 48-57. This means, during use, the generator is as quiet as a normal conversation between two people. The generator’s Eco-Throttle system provides excellent fuel efficiency. The average runtime ranges from four to over nine and a half hours, depending on the load. This makes it perfect for long-time applications and overnight power use. The inverter technology provides plenty of clean, stable power in a compact package. The inverter technology ensures the generator produces a reliable power source, also making this model a great choice for long camping trips or as a backup power source in the event of a power outage in the home.
- Fuel efficient
- Quiet running
- Provides clean and stable power
- Long runtime
- Does not have a fuel gauge
This powerful, compact portable generator is quiet-running, easy to use and offers a longer than average runtime, depending on the load. This model provides pure, stable, and reliable energy, so it can be used with delicate electronics, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Unlike competing models, it also features a low maintenance design that includes a fuel shut off valve. The valve allows you to run the engine with the fuel supply shut off, preventing issues that are related to stale fuel. It also comes equipped with a large oil drain gutter and a large spout, for easier, cleaner, and faster oil changes. Low maintenance, powerful, and built tough, this is one camping generator you can depend on, season after season.
BUTURE Solar Outdoor Generator
This is a camping generator that comes with some great features, including two AC outlets, one 12-volt DC port, two USB-A ports, one quick charge USB-A port, and one 60-watt USB-C port. It has a power rating of three hundred watts, with a peak surge of three hundred and fifty watts. This model is specifically designed for charging delicate electronics including laptops, drones, and smartphones, in addition to powerful outdoor electronics. It can be fully recharged in just six to seven hours.
- Low maintenance
- Easy to use
- Long runtime
- Does not support three-prong plugs
This model is quiet-running, and offers pure sine wave power, which allows it to safely and quickly power up delicate devices. The built-in cooling fan automatically switches on to help prevent the generator from overheating, an important safety feature to have when using this model in hotter climates. This model is portable and quiet-running, easy to use, offers a low-maintenance design, and can supply all the power you need for long camping trips in the backcountry.
DuroMax XP12000EH Portable Generator
If you’re looking for a tough, versatile portable generator for your next camping trip, then this model by DuroMax is it. This is a dual fuel generator that is packing plenty of power, starting off with 12,000 watts and a total of 9,500 running watts. This generator is designed to handle heavier loads, from fridges and TVs to delicate electronics, such as tablets and smartphones. The generator will also get max power from each type of 120-volt receptacle, allowing the user to choose between running the generator at both 240-volts and 120-volts, simultaneously. Thanks to the included wheel kit, you can also easily haul and transport this generator anywhere. Perfect for camping trips and for use as emergency backup power in the event of a power outage, this generator is a true beast.
- Dual fuel options
- Wheel kit included
- Easy to use
- Very heavy
This dual fuel model can run on either propane or gas and offers the flexibility and freedom to use the fuel of your choice. While gas is a great and reliable fuel option, propane tends to last longer and it’s more affordable, so it’s a great choice for the camper on a tight budget. This versatile generator is also pretty tough, offering more than enough juice to fire up bigger appliances such as fridges, TVs, and AC units. If you’re looking for a generator that’s tough enough to handle plenty of wear and tear in the backcountry and provide enough power to keep your devices and appliances, and everyone in your camping party’s devices powered up, then this model by DuroMax is a solid choice.
WEN DF475T Portable Generator
This model by WEN can be used for camping trips or it can make the perfect generator for emergency power use at home. The voltage can easily go from 120-volts to 240-volts, and can be connected to a transfer switch, with pro installation from an electrician. This is also a dual fuel generator, so you can choose between either gas or propane. Propane can provide it with 4,350 watts surge watts and up to 3,500 running watts. When you use gas, you’ll have 4,750 surge watts and a total of 3,800 running watts. This model is built tough and can handle powering power tools, sump pumps, fridges, TVs, and more.
- Long runtime
- High wattage rating
- Carb compliant
- Large fuel tank
- Dual fuel
- Position of the oil tank makes oil changes difficult
This is a carb compliant generator that runs off of both propane and gas. The large fuel tank allows you to fill up the tank with up to four gallons of gas for an eleven-hour runtime, when the generator is running at half load capacity. This model is perfect for emergency power use, camping out, RVing, and outdoor events.
Durostar DS4000S Portable Generator
This camping generator by Durostar is powered by a 7 horsepower 208 CC OHV engine, complete with an automatic low oil shutoff safety feature. The large oil tank has a capacity of just under four gallons. In terms of noise, the generator has a 69-decibel rating, which is lower than average. The 4,000 peak watts and the 3,300 running watts provides a reliable power source for a wide range of appliances and devices. This model is perfect for camping, RV use, or as a backup power source at home. It features an eight-hour runtime, so it can easily provide enough power to get you through the night. The included steel frame is heavy-duty and comes with four-point motor mounts for quiet and smooth operation. It’s also equipped with a super quiet muffler and can easily be used in campsites that have a noise restriction.
- Quiet running
- Easy to use
- Powerful engine
- Low oil shutoff safety feature
- Large fuel tank
- Gas only
The generator is backed by a three-year limited warranty and comes loaded with all of the features you need and want to power up a wide variety of devices and appliances, such as a fridge, AC, heater, TV, power tools, or delicate electronics, such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets. This model is low maintenance, easy to use, and offers the type of safety features, and power that all campers are looking for in a model that can handle daily use during camping season.
Camping Generators Buyer’s Guide
Nothing is more exciting than planning a camping trip and spending some time enjoying mother nature. But even when you’re camped out in the middle of the backcountry, you still need some of the comforts of home. While some people think that having a generator on a camping trip can ruin the outdoor experience, having one on hand will allow you to keep your important electronics powered up, so you can stay connected on some level, to the outside world. Additionally, it will also allow you to power small appliances, such as a coffee maker, heating pad, or a radio.
If you’re not sure whether or not a generator will come in handy on your next camping trip, then read on to learn more about the benefits of camping generators and why having one is a must for any type of camping adventure.
Benefits of Camping Generators
- When you’re camped out in the middle of the backcountry, far away from the lights of the city, your campsite can get very dark. Intruders, both animals and humans, can take advantage of a dark campsite. However, with a generator, you can keep lights on for the entire night. This can keep both people and animals at bay and will allow you to keep a close eye on your belongings. Additionally, finding your way around a dark campsite can be potentially dangerous, since there are plenty of things you can trip over.
- While part of the fun of any camping trip is cooking over an open fire, it’s much easier to prepare some types of hot drinks and food using electric appliances.
- When you go camping, for the most part, you’ll do without many of the appliances you use at home, however, it can be critical to keep some of your gadgets charged, such as a cell phone. With a portable generator, you can ensure your devices, such as laptops, tablets, and phones will have enough juice in the event of an emergency.
- If you’re camping in a spot that doesn’t have energy hookups, then you can use a generator to power your camper, van, or RV.
A camping generator can allow you to enjoy some of the comforts of home, when you’re roughing it in the backcountry. You may only need one to power a phone or two, or to run a griddle, however, this type of portable power source will be invaluable in the event of an emergency. But many campers who have never used one of these machines often wonder if they actually need one, how they can be used, and how powerful they are.
- Generators will come in handy when you’re away from any other type of power source. The size of the generator you need will depend on the type and number of appliances you want to power. These generators are commonly used to power:
- Portable AC units
- Mini fridges
- Coffee maker
- Hair dryer
As long as the model you purchase provides enough wattage and comes equipped with the appropriate outlets, you can easily power and charge almost any type of small to medium-sized appliance or device.
When you’re shopping for a generator, the first factor you’ll want to consider is size.
The size of the generator you need will depend on how you plan to use it. If you want a model that can handle powering a mini fridge, you’ll need to look for a model that’s more powerful than one that you’d rely on to just power up a couple of smartphones.
Below, you’ll find some basic guidelines that you can follow that will help you choose the right size of generator, based on your power needs:
Mini fridge: Seven hundred running watts, with twenty-two hundred starting watts
Portable AC: Six hundred running watts with seventeen hundred starting watts
LCD TV: Fifty to one hundred watts
Laptop: Thirty watts
Smartphone: Six watts
These power requirements can vary from model to model, so make sure you check the energy requirements for each of your devices before you purchase a generator.
Obviously, larger appliances will need more power output. If you’re searching for a model you can use to power a small or medium sized device, then you can easily get away with a model that’s one hundred to five hundred watts. If you want a model that can power an AC or a fridge, then you’ll need a generator with a minimum of one thousand watts.
As I mentioned above, each model will give you its wattage specs. This can help you determine which model is right for you and your specific power needs. You’ll need to figure out some calculations in order to understand the wattage needed for the generator, which comes in the form of understanding which types of devices and appliances you’ll need to power up. Fortunately, many generator manufacturers have come up with wattage calculation charts that basically lay out the wattage needs for basic power sources.
To understand how to read a wattage chart, you need to know the distinction between running watts and surge watts. This can help you break down the total wattage numbers.
Surge watts involves the maximum power that’s required by an appliance or a device, mainly when the device or appliance is first fired up. Because the generator will be used to power the device or appliance, you’ll need to factor in the surge watts into the total wattage calculation.
Running watts involves the number of watts a device or appliance needs to run steadily. Basically, this is the average wattage that a device or appliance needs, instead of the highest or lowest power requirement.
Consider everything that you’ll be connecting to the generator, including a small light, phone, radio, fridge, or hairdryer. Once you’ve made a list of all the things you’ll be powering with the generator, check out the manufacturer’s wattage guide to add up the running watts for each appliance or device, in addition to the highest surge watts. This should give you the total wattage, which will help you find the perfect generator for your power needs.
How long a generator can last will vary from model to model. Depending on the generator’s engine quality, you can expect the generator to last between one thousand to two thousand hours of total runtime. While this may not sound like much, if you only use the generator for one hundred or two hundred hours a year, it can last anywhere from ten to twenty years.
If you have a solar powered model, its lifespan can depend on the battery’s total charging cycles.
As far as a generator’s runtime, this will also vary from model to model.
Most models of propane or gas-powered generators have a runtime that varies from three to ten hours on one tank of fuel. A single tank may be as small as a gallon or as big as three gallons.
For a solar powered model, you can expect around thirty hours of runtime on a mini fridge or a larger appliance. If you’re using the generator to mainly charge devices, you can usually charge smartphones dozens of times without draining the battery.
Portability and Physical Size
Wattage capability will be just one spec to consider when you’re shopping for a new generator. Another will be the movability, size, and physical weight of the unit. Some models can weigh up to 250 pounds, which can make it very difficult to move.
Heavier, larger generators will be more durable and powerful, designed for stationary use. A portable generator with wheels can easily be moved from place to place.
There are a few main power options for generators, including propane, gas, and solar power. If possible, go with a solar-powered model since this type will eliminate the worry of noxious fumes, storage, and ventilation needs. Since a solar-powered model is very low maintenance and offers a near silent operation, it offers many advantages over a gas-powered model. However, they’re significantly more expensive compared to other types of generators.
Propane or Gas?
For gas-powered models, you’ll have a choice between natural gas or propane. Each type comes with its own pros and cons.
Some generators will operate on two types of fuel, so you can switch between natural gas and propane, when needed. This option can save you plenty of hassle when you’re running low on one certain type of fuel.
Models that operate via natural gas are very affordable, but they also require more maintenance and caution when storing and running them. The generator must be used in a well-ventilated area, can never be run indoors, and must be set up twenty yards from a building. Gas also requires a fuel stabilizer to prevent corrosion or rust, so the gas must be mixed in at a healthy ratio.
Gas is more fuel efficient compared to propane. However, propane burns cleaner, with lower emissions.
For many campers, a generator that’s quiet running will be a huge priority. You definitely don’t want to be the loudest group at a campground, with your generator roaring throughout the night. Additionally, some campsites may have a decibel limit that can prevent you from using certain types of loud pieces of equipment. Some models of portable generators can run as low as fifty decibels, which is about as loud as a normal conversation.
If you and your group have high power needs, then you can purchase a couple of models and run them together using parallel operation. Not all models have parallel running capability. However, those that do will allow you to connect two generators via a cable, so you can enjoy quiet operation, fuel efficiency, and increased power.
Not every generator will come with all the gear you need, although higher priced models often come with plenty of great extras. If you’ve decided to purchase a low-priced model, then you may need to purchase some additional accessories that will not be included in a generator package. This can include the following:
An automatic voltage regulator is a must have if you want to charge sensitive devices such as tablets, phones, and laptops. With some models, this accessory may not be necessary, however, as a generator ages, the power it provides tends to fluctuate. This device can help to ensure your sensitive electronics are not damaged due to a power surge.
Fortunately, most models of camping generators these days come with a wheel kit, which consists of sturdy rubber tires and a frame that the generator rests on. However, if the model you buy doesn’t come with one, you’ll definitely need to purchase one since it can make transporting your generator much easier. Models that come with a wheel kit already installed often have no-flat tires, which will be essential if you plan on using the generator in the backcountry, where the terrain is rugged and full of sticks and sharp rocks. If the wheels on the generator are not puncture resistant, then bringing along a patch repair kit and a small air pump will be wise.
A camping generator can cost as little as $130 up to $500. The price will depend on the generator’s power capability, and the overall quality of the generator and the engine. Many lower priced models are nowhere near as powerful as higher priced generators. Additionally, they won’t have a very long runtime or as many outlets. Of course, if you don’t need much power, then you can easily get by with a low-powered model. However, if you have high power needs and need to power large appliances, then you’ll be looking at a higher priced generator.
Fortunately, maintaining these generators is much easier than the level of care required for larger stationary generators. If you take care of them properly, they can easily last for several years. At the end of the season, when you store the generator for good, make sure you drain the fuel. Leaving gas sitting in the fuel lines can eventually kill an engine. Gas will evaporate eventually and will leave behind residue that can gum up the carb and the fuel lines. To drain the fuel, start by adding a quality gas stabilizer to the fuel tank, then allow the engine to run for approximately fifteen minutes. Allow the engine to cool down, then begin to run it until it runs out of gas on its own and shuts down. If there’s plenty of gas left in the tank, then you can siphon it out.
You’ll also need to check out the oil. These generators need to have the oil changed periodically, depending on the manufacturer’s care instructions. Changing the oil is a major factor in proper maintenance. Most generators will need to have their first oil change after about thirty hours of use. After you’ve completed the first oil change, then you’ll only need to worry about changing the oil after every hundred hours of use, or at the start of each season.
Spark plugs and the air filter should be changed after every two hundred hours of use or at the start of each season. A new spark plug, and a clean air filter can ensure proper fuel/air mixture, which will help the generator’s engine to run more efficiently. This will help to extend the life of your generator.
Not all models of camping generators will have a battery, but models that feature an electric start will need to be fully charged before storing. If possible, plug the battery into a trickle charger, which will keep the generator ready to go whenever you need it.
During the off-season, you should also start the generator up once a month and allow it to run for a few minutes. This will keep all of the components lubricated by circulating the oil through the engine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Make My Generator Quieter?
One option is to replace the muffler. Installing a larger replacement muffler can do a better job of muffling the amount of sound that comes out of a generator’s exhaust pipe, which is attached to the motor.
What is the Difference Between Inverter Generator and Regular Generator?
The biggest differences between these two types of generators is the type of electricity that’s produced. A conventional generator will produce AC electricity. Inverter generators will produce electricity in three different phases.
Is an Inverter Generator Worth it?
An inverter generator is considered more fuel efficient than a conventional generator that’s fuel powered. This means that an inverter generator doesn’t require as much fuel and can run for the same amount of time as a conventional generator. This is why most models of inverter generators have a very small fuel tank.
Can You Cover a Generator While it’s Running?
You can cover a generator if it’s sitting in the rain, as long as you use a special type of cover to shelter it from the rain. However, you must be extremely careful with how the generator is covered and ensure there’s proper airflow.
Can You Leave a Generator Running in the Rain?
No. The generator must be sheltered from the rain and any other type of moisture. It should be placed on a dry surface under a canopy-like structure that’s open. Never run a generator in a shed, garage, or indoors.
What is Considered High Hours on a Generator?
Between ten thousand and twenty thousand run hours. This can depend on run hours and average use.
How Long will an Inverter Generator Last?
This can heavily depend on the quality of the engine, how much its used, and how well the generator is maintained. On average, this type of generator can last between one thousand to two thousand hours. If the generator is used one hundred hours a year it can last ten to twenty years with proper care and maintenance.
Can You Run a Generator 24/7?
Most portable generators are not able to run for a twenty-four-hour period non-stop. The reason for this is the fact that their fuel tank is not large enough to accommodate enough fuel. However, some models can run for a day and will not need a break, if the generator is running at half load capacity.
The best camping generators can provide you with all the power you need for your next camping trip. Whether you need a generator to keep your mini fridge going, you want to keep all of your sensitive electronics charged, or you want a model you can use so you can enjoy a fresh pot of coffee as you enjoy a morning in the backcountry, you can easily find a model that’s durable, reliable, and able to meet your power needs. The key is knowing exactly what those power needs are before you choose a new model. This buyer’s guide and the products I’ve recommended will help you choose a generator that can meet those needs, at a price that’s affordable.