There are tons of choices when it comes to generator sets for camping, but there are only a few that we can qualify as the best for camping. Will you be trying to power a 15,000 BTU air conditioner, or is noise level most important? Luckily, we have actually tested (our noise test video below) most of the top rated generators and in this post we will be addressing portable camping generators as opposed to the larger RV generators.
You have to consider the noise level that your generator emits. You do not want other campers in the area kicking you out of the campsite because of a noisy generator. Also, it is important to note that many National Park Service Campgrounds limit generator noise to less than 60 decibels at 50 feet. This is why many are favoring a portable inverter generator as opposed to an open farm “portable.”
2. Small, compact, portable
Lightweight & Easy To Carry
You also have to consider bringing a small portable generator for camping and not those heavy home generators. Honda, Yamaha and other manufacturers have designed compact inverter generator sets which are ideal for camping. Most of these can be run in parallel if additional power is needed. Most importantly the smaller generator are significantly more fuel efficient.
3. Run time
The number of hours your generator set should be able to provide should be at least 8 hours. With a full tank of fuel, you should be able to rely on steady power that will keep running the whole night. You wouldn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night just to fill the tank with gas and then go back to sleep. You should be able to rely on a generator set that can run through the night. To expand on the point above, many open farm generators burn 2-3 times as much fuel as an inverter generator. This is because inverter generators can vary throttle speeds based on power demand, thus increasing efficiency.
What should you look for when buying a camping generator?
When buying a new generator set for camping you should consider the factors above plus these:
Price is usually the biggest factor when purchasing anything, and when it comes to generators, price can vary significantly. There are cheaper generator sets available which are just a couple hundred dollars but the generators which are more desirable and reliable, are mid range priced. This is not to discount cheaper generators, as some manufacturer provide great value for their product.
When it comes to price much depends on added features and the motor. Take Honda for example, they can command a larger price tag because of their presence and desirability in the motor and power industry. However, this is not to say that a Champion or Westinghouse (about half the cost of Honda) cannot easily accomplish the same tasks as Honda or Yamaha.
RELIABILITY AND DURABILITY
Pick A Reliable Generator- Capable Of Running In All Environments.
These two should go hand in hand. You do not want repairing your generator set in the middle of nowhere without the proper tools. Instead of enjoying a night outdoors camping you are repairing a cheap generator at 3 am. On this point we have to mention Customer Service. Many issues that arise with generators are due to not regularly running/maintaining the generator. One of the biggest mistakes people make with their generator is running it as soon as they get it, then put it away until the next storm or tailgate party which may be a year or more away. This leads to bad fuel which can then lead to many other issues. For other issues, this is where Customer Support comes in. Does the generator your buying offering Phone Support, is it domestic or overseas, is it in house or third party support? These are important considerations when picking a manufacturer.
You also want your generator set to have long term warranty especially if you do not want to tinker with your generator if it bogs down. A generator with longer warranty usually are the generators that are reliable and durable. Some would say, “you get what you pay for.” This is true to a certain extent. The take away is to buy a generator with a reliable warranty a reputable customer service department.
Generators Noise Test Results
Below we have listed the generators in order based on decibel rating at 20′ while the generators were under a load. We used a 1500 Watt heat gun to apply a silent, yet high demand load. The table below is sortable based on idle, under load, price etc. You’ll notice that just because one generator was the quietest under a load, did NOT mean they were the quietest while idling.
The Yamaha Inverter Generator is one of the best generator sets for camping because it is super quiet. You can practically keep this generator next to your tent and not hear it. It only produces 51.5 dBA which is really quietfor a generator set. It is a bit expensive though for a generator, leaving this at the upper end of the inverter generator scale (up there with Honda). The money is well worth it though, as this is one of the most desirable and durable machines available. This unit can also be run in parallel with another unit to produce even more power.
The Honda EU2000i is also ideal for camping because of the run time it provides on a full tank of gas. The advanced inverter technology in this Honda generator makes it more fuel efficient thereby providing you with more run time and less re-fueling time. Because the Honda generators have an eco mode, they will throttle based on demand. This increases runtime and decreases noise levels as well as fuel consumption. The Honda is easily one of the most popular generators for camping, RVs or tailgating. If 2000 watts is not enough power to crank your Air Conditioner in the travel trailer or you have greater power needs, you can always run the EU2000 in parallel with another unit.
In our testing, we tested the Champion 3500 Dual Fuel. However, this model is not yet available to the public, but the 3400 is. The 3,400 is practically the same unit. This is a larger unit compared to the Honda and Yamaha, but if you can handle the weight it is definitely worth the consideration. This, along with the Westinghouse (for the price) impressed us the most. Because the 3500 can power most 15000BTU air conditioners in travel trailers or smaller RVs, it has to be considered as one of the top choices for a camping generator. What surprised us the most about this unit is the sound. As you can see from the chart above, the Champion was the quietest generator we tested when under a load. The largest inverter generator in the test was actually the quietest when under load. Not only was it the quietest, but it actually experienced the smallest voltage drop when the load was initiated. You can see how minor the voltage drop was and increase in sound in the ultimate decibel video.
What makes this model even more appealing is the price. The 3400 is priced higher end when compared to Westinghouse or Energizer, but is about the same price as the Honda or Yamaha. The catch is, this unit is 50% larger than both the Honda EU2000i or Yamaha AND is RV ready. As you’ll see in our video review here, the Champion comes with the appropriate RV/Travel Trailer Plug. Needless to say, this unit really impressed us for the features it offers and the price.
The Champion 3100 is a popular choice because of its price point. Usually priced at about 50% compared to Honda or Yamaha, this makes it the most economical unit. This generator set also should be considered because it is super easy to transport. Not only does it look sleek, but it is lightweight and the built in wheels and carry handle make moving the generator a breeze. It only weighs 80 lbs, which is more than Honda or Yamaha but again the wheels makes for easier maneuverability during transport. It is relatively quiet, only about 5 or 6 decibels louder than the other two. Lastly the Champion offers a 2 year warranty.