While extreme camping can involve as little as a backpack of the essentials, many of us enjoy the comfort of shelter, food, and a bit of electricity.
Unfortunately, we've checked a lot of trees and have yet to find an electrical plugin.
While we have the technology to grasp the power of the sun, moving water, or wind, these methods are all dependent on nature working in our favor. For a reliable power source that will keep producing energy in any weather, a generator is the go-to option for most.
Generators In Camping
Generators are best described as a small engine that uses a fuel, such as diesel, gasoline, or propane, and converts this energy into electricity. Generators can be found in a large range of sizes, but a small generator will do just fine for camping.
These smaller generators are known as “portable generators” since they can be moved around, don’t be fooled. They still are quite heavy and should be moved with caution.
Before you can choose the best generator, you should answer a few questions.
- How will you be transporting your generator?
- What kind of fuel works best for you?
- How much energy will you need?
You should also keep a few factors in mind.
There are typically three ways to transport your generator: either mounted, carried, or wheels.
Mounted generators are bolted to a portable surface, such as a vehicle, RV, or trailer. This style is more likely to have a large separate fuel tank and is designed for extensive use. Since you won’t be moving them around a site, these generators are often larger.
Smaller carry style generators are typically set directly on the ground. These are designed to be lifted and moved around a site and produce less power due to size but are quiet and versatile.
Wheel-mounted generators are often the same king of generators, except with built-in fuel sources and the option to move them around a site.
When considering fuel, you want to consider availability and use. Generators can run on gasoline, diesel, kerosene, propane, or natural gas.
While each one of these fuels has its advantages and disadvantages, the key focus should be availability. Many consumers chose gasoline or diesel that match their vehicle, so they can fill up each piece of equipment in one stop, and spare fuel cans can be used for anything in an emergency.
Kerosene, propane, and natural gas are considered clean-burning fuels and great choices. If you are already purchasing one of these gases for something like the RV heating system, these could be a great option. Some generators will even accept secondary fuels, such as gasoline with propane, to give you more options.
To determine how large of a generator you will need, you will need to better understand what you’ll be doing and how much power each item requires.
Examples of common items.
- Phone charger 4-6 watts
- Computer charger 29-31 watts
- LED lights 12 watts / light
- Microwave 1200 watts
- Electric Stoves 2000-4000 watts
- Hot plates 750-1800 watts
- AC unit 2000 watts surge, 700 watts rated
- Heaters 1500 watts
Evaluate your setup to get a rough estimate of what you’ll need. If you are setting up tents and mainly want a generator to keep your electronics charged and lights running, you can use a smaller generator. If you’re hooking up your camper and trying to heat the living area, keep the area lit, charge your electronics, and cook dinner, you’re going to need a larger generator.
Surge watts refer to a kick of energy needed by some devices such as refrigerators or AC units to get the pumps started, while rated waters are the watts needed to keep something turned on.
Most camper and RV items will state the wattage use when purchased. Items such as LED lighting or low consumption items can reduce your overall need and save on fuel costs.
Noise remains a major factor to many campers. You’ve just set up your site in a beautiful spot, and as you fire up your generator, the animals go running, and the peaceful sounds are covered in a roar. The lower the decibels (dBA), the quieter your generator will be.
For mounted generators, use rubber mats under before bolting it down, and be sure all metal seams are sealed. If not, the vibrations will use your rig as an amplifier.
Both rolled and leg generators sit on the ground. Sit them on soft dirt to reduce noise. Placing them behind your vehicle or another obstacle will reduce noise. Sheet wood can also be used to create a sound barrier.
Weight plays a major factor in bringing your generator. Will you ALWAYS have someone with you to unload a generator? Does it need to be unloaded, or can it be used while still loaded up (outdoors only, such as a truck bed)?
Understand how your generator will operate. Many utilize a pull cord that can be difficult for some individuals to operate. Key and button style generators are simple to use but require a battery hookup for the starter.
Each generator will come with certain limitations, from size to power output. What are your generator’s limitations, and will you ever exceed them?
Best Options For Camping
When buying a generator for camping, it’s important to purchase above what your minimum requirements are. When calculating your power needs, if you know you need 2300 watts to run heating, food, and lighting, consider buying 2800watts or more so you never run over your generator's potential.
This 2000 surge watts and 1600 rated watts carry style generator weighs just 48 pounds, allowing it to be carried around a site. This gasoline generator is extremely quiet at only 53 dBH (which is quieter than some conversations) and is known for its great fuel efficiency. Two thousand watts is generally considered ideal for outdoor camping or simple setups.
Looking at larger generators, the Champion 201052 is a wheel mounted generator that produces 4750 surge watts and 3800 rated watts, making this a great option for medium to large electrical needs. This 68 dBH generator can run a dual fuel source, accepting both gasoline or propane. At a weight of 119 pounds with an odd shape, you may not want to lift this generator in and out of a truck by yourself.
Small generators remain a great choice for those that love sleeping under the stars or in a tent. The iGen1200 weighs just 33 pounds and can easily be moved around a campsite, producing just 1200 surge watts and 1000 rated watts.
This generator is extremely fuel-efficient, consuming just .8 gallons per 9 hours, making this a great option for more minimized packing. Expect to continue enjoying the sounds of nature with just 52 dBH.
When you need the extra power to run your RV, outdoor equipment, and much more, the Generac 6864 has a massive 5500 surge watts and 5000 rated watts. This mounted generator is towards the larger side for camping generators. At 254 pounds, it is best operated mounted.
This diesel generator has a 12-gallon tank allowing you to produce power for up to 32.4 hours.
Focused on the idea of running your entire group’s campsite, the Champion 100111 is a 330-pound v-twin gasoline engine producing 15,000 surge watts and 12,000 rated watts. Common for home emergency power sources, these generators are designed to burn 5.9 gallons of fuel every 10 hours, creating a need for a large fuel tank or spare fuel jugs.
This generator is wheel-mounted and utilizes its own battery mounted on the frame to electric start this large engine. Not only can you plug standard 120v cable into this generator, but you can also plug in your 120v 30amp RV straight plug into this generator and operate your entire rig similar to if you were using a standard power source.
Understanding your power needs and options for generators will keep you in nature, doing what you enjoy. With so many possibilities on the market, you may feel overwhelmed about what you really need. Understanding your limitations and requirements, and keeping your considerations in mind, you can choose the perfect generator to keep you powered up in the great outdoors.
It’s important to be packed for your plan while being prepared for the worst. A friendly camping trip can become a serious situation in the blink of an eye. Gaining a deeper understanding of where you’re going and the potential environmental hazards that could occur will allow you to be prepared.
Allow Judy.co to help you become prepared for what you can’t predict.
If you have additional questions, send them our way!