Portable generators can be defined by those you can move around as necessary, whether carried by hand or rolled around on a frame. Some can be pulled out of the shed and connected to your home to provide power when a natural disaster disrupts the power gird. Others are so portable you can load them up on an RV or back of a truck and take them camping with you.
We recognize that people have different needs, whether price sensitivity or varying levels of power they need generated or the ability to use whatever fuel you have on hand. After all, you need to select a generator that supplies the load you want to run when there isn’t any other power source available.
Here are the best portable generators for camping, while some of them can be used for residential use as well. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each of these portable generators, all of which can be used when camping.
Portable generator Buying Guide
Are you planning to buy a portable generator?
If so, you will come across numerous options. If you do not know how to choose a portable generator, it will become really difficult for you to buy the right one.
We will today share with you a portable generator buying guide. The buying guide will cover the parameters that you should consider while choosing a portable generator. Once you consider these parameters, selecting the right one becomes easy.
The advantage of the generator will determine what it can power and what it can’t.
For example, a refrigerator needs 700W of power. The laptop will need 100W of power. Similarly, if you need to illuminate lights, you will need 250W of power cumulatively.
Ideally, when you need to buy a generator powering all these, it is good to go with the generator with a 2000 W rating.
Only once the wattage is sufficient will you be able to power the various gadgets and light sources.
It is the number 1 factor that you have to consider while choosing a portable generator.
The generator can be fuelled through different sources. It is crucial to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both and then choose one.
You can recharge the generator from the conventional electrical socket. If you choose the generator that needs to be recharged, you have to look at the time duration it takes to recharge it. Only then can you decide whether you can go ahead with an electric generator or not.
In case you do not have an electric outlet nearby, you can go with the gas-based portable generator as well. You can carry extra gas with you as well. It means that you can use the generator consistently.
If you’re buying a generator for use in remote areas, this fuel option is a great choice.
Want a generator that runs on renewable power?
If so, it is a good idea to go with the generator-powered through solar energy. Such a generator is easy to connect to the solar panels as well.
Thus, while choosing the generator, you have to look at the fuel type and the availability of that fuel. Once you do so, picking the right generator is convenient.
You might need to power various devices and gadgets from the generator. For the same, you have to look at the ports available.
Firstly, you have to look at the number of ports. After that, you have to look at the type of ports as well. Essentially, the generators should offer three types of ports. These include:
Firstly, it should include AC ports. With the help of AC ports, you can power the refrigerator, television, and so on. In that case, you will not need to use any special type of connector.
The generators should have DC ports as well. With the help of DC ports, you can power numerous gadgets as well.
Many devices like tablets, smartphones can be powered through USB ports. These days, gadgets can also be powered through USB ports. That is why the generator must have USB ports as well.
The number of each type of port can vary. However, the generator should have at least one port of each type. In that case, powering various gadgets and devices will become easy.
Since you are looking for a portable option, it is essential to look at the size of the generator as well.
You should be able to keep it in your RV or your car. Only, in that case, it is genuinely portable.
Ignoring the size as well as the weight of the portable generator is a great mistake.
Only when it is compact is it truly portable.
Nobody likes to fidget around with the generator’s settings when they need to power the devices urgently. That is why the control mechanism of the generator matters a lot.
Ideally, it should have two characteristics which we will highlight below.
It should have easy to understand Control Panel. The switches on the ports should be labeled as well. When that is the case, it becomes easy to use the generator.
Also, it should have an LCD as well. The LCD will let you know the leftover charge, output power, and so on. It becomes effortless to monitor the functioning of the generator with a display.
When the generator has these two characteristics, it will become really easy for you to use it.
When you want to use the generator conveniently, choosing one with an electric start is a good idea. Otherwise, you might have to use the crank mechanism, which takes a lot of effort. The pull cord mechanism also takes a lot of effort.
You have to consider the starting mechanism, and only after that can you make the right buying decision.
Of course, when you will be using the portable generator, it will be in your vicinity. In that case, if the noise output is too high, it will disturb everyone.
The noise output should be less than 80 DB. In that case, the noise will be bearable. Moreover, if you have long cables to connect your gadgets, you can keep the generator away, and you will not get disturbed by the noise at all.
Nevertheless, checking the noise output is a must when buying a portable generator.
It is essential to check the portability of the generator. Only when you can carry it around with you will it be really useful.
There are two aspects of the generator on which the portability depends. We will highlight both these factors below.
When choosing a portable generator, it is good to buy one that comes with at least two wheels. That way, you can hold it from one end and move it around with the help of the wheels on offer.
Secondly, you have to look at the handle as well. When it has a handle on top or the side, carrying it around or pulling or pushing it around indeed becomes easy.
The handle should be ergonomic and easy to hold.
If it excels in these two aspects, it becomes easy for you to take it with you wherever you go.
While comparing different portable generator options, these are the parameters on which you should compare them. Once you do so, it will be easier to pick the right portable generator.
Best Portable Generators Review
Atima Portable Generator Model AY2000I
This Atima brand portable generator is a small quiet inverter generator. It provides a whopping 2000 watts at initial startup and 1600 watts running power, allowing you to run a number of devices or several small appliances in an RV. Or you can run a camping fridge and TV in addition to lights. If there’s a power outage in your home, it is good enough to run an energy efficient refrigerator, TV or several other, small devices. It is powerful enough to handle a high starting load, that initial surge of power needed to start up the small refrigerator or RV AC.
The major benefit of the inverter is that it makes the generator very quiet; it only generates about 52 decibels when running at a quarter of its peak load.
The Atima portable generator is built around an ultra-reliable Yamaha motor. One of the benefits of using a Yamaha motor is that there are so many affordable, compatible parts for it. It is also relatively easy to find servicing mechanics for this type of generator.
It is easy to operate. The recoil starting system isn’t hard to start up. It gives you an alarm when it has low oil, and it uses the commonly available SAE 10W-30.
You can plug in standard outlets to it. It has one 12 volt DC output socket and two 120 volt AC output sockets. It comes with a circuit breaker and overload protection. You get one free cable for charging 12 volt batteries and the basic tools needed to maintain it, such as items needed to change the oil.
The unit is about 12” across by 20” by 20”. The compact case lets you store it in a storage rack or closet and bring it out when you need it. The generator has a built-in carry handle so you can move it to where you need it. Note that this is only an option if you’re able to carry fifty pounds. You can connect it with most other Atima generators.
The unit has a one gallon fuel tank. It accepts regular gasoline.
What are the problems with this generator? One of the few issues with this model is that the company doesn’t have good quality control; they sometimes ship junkers and make you jump through hoops to return it.
Champion Brand 2000 Watt Generator
This inverter generator isn’t just portable but stackable. You can carry them individually and then stack them one on top of each other, assuming you can carry fifty pounds. Some retailers will sell you a pair of these generators at a discount with the connecting hardware, though that isn’t available everywhere.
The generator is made to support connecting two generators together for a peak 2000 watt generator by the same manufacturer to put out 4000 watts peak load. Its puts out 1700 running watts. Note that you have to buy the parallel kit for linking two of these generators separately from the generators.
This generator is very quiet. It puts out 53 decibels if you’ve put it twenty feet away from your campsite. Just realize that you’re not going to sleep well if it is sitting right by the back of the RV.
One of the benefits of this unit is that it has very “clean” power for electronics. It puts out less than 3% total harmonic deviation, so it is safe to use to power your laptop, server or big screen TV. It comes with two 120 volt 20 amp outlets for running conventional appliances. You can also use it to keep your RV battery charged.
The unit is smart enough to adjust its speed to reduce the electrical load it creates and save fuel; this means it can run for up to nine hours. It automatically shuts down if the oil is too low. It comes with overload protection. It has a built-in spark arrestor, minimizing fire hazards associated with a running generators.
This generator comes with a three year limited warranty. And you get free lifetime tech support from Champion. This is the best generator for those who want complete manufacturer support.
This generator runs on standard fuel and has a one gallon gas tank. This model has a recoil start, whereas some of the higher wattage models by this manufacturer have a remote control for starting them on demand.
So while some of its siblings have a remote control so you can start it while sitting by the campfire, this one doesn’t. One issue with this generator is iffy customer service. When a new generator turns out to be a dud, customer service is not always helpful when you need to return it. If they can argue it was damaged during shipping, they may not be able or willing to help you much. If you’ve used it for a while, they’ll say the problem is due to improper maintenance.
DuroMax Generator Model XP10000E
If you’re looking for a high power portable generator, the DuroMax generator model XP10000E puts out a whopping 10,000 starting watts and 8000 running watts. This is the portable generator you need to run a refrigerator, freezer and AC in your cabin or everything in your RV during a tailgating party. If you want to use it to run an air conditioner and refrigerator and a few other small appliances during rolling brown outs, it can handle that load, too. The unit has a switch that lets you literally switch from 120 volts or 120 volts and 240 volts put out at the same time, a must have for RV owners.
This is an expensive gas powered generator, but that’s the price you literally pay for the power. Note that the related model XP10000EH runs on both gas and propane. Covers for the generator are sold separately. However, this isn’t essential.
It has a built in battery you can use to recharge devices like smart phones. You can use the 30 amp outlet for running power tools. The single 12 volt lead can recharge your batteries.
This generator is CARB approved and EPA approved, so it is allowed in National Parks; the XP10000E-CA version is approved for sale in California with its very strict emissions guidelines. This means it is ultra-efficient. It comes with an 8.3 gallon gas tank.
The unit weighs about 250 pounds but has a rolling frame so you can push it where you need it. Depending on where you get it, you may need to assemble the wheels that come with the wheel kit before you can move it. The ten inch “never flat” wheels never need to be inflated or re-inflated, and they roll smoothly across almost any terrain.
It has a low oil shut off switch. It has a built in spark arrestor, so you don’t have to worry about the generator running your lights causing a fire. The circuit breaker shuts it down rather than risk damaging critical electronics when it is overloaded.
What are the problems with this generator? One issue with this generator is that it is hard to find service for this model. It is also hard to find replacement parts online. If the unit turns out to be defective, getting it replaced under the warranty is a challenge. Getting the wheel kit assembled is a challenge given how heavy the unit is.
Easy Focus Brand 500 Watt Generator
This generator is designed to put out 500 watts at peak load; do not try to have a total load that exceeds 500 watts. Furthermore, it doubles as a 500 watt UPS.
This is an affordable little generator with pure sine wave power, ideal for charging your cell phones and other small electronics. It can charge four items via USB chargers. It has 4 12 volt DC ports. And it has 3 100 volt AC ports.
One of the stand-out benefits of this unit is that it can receive power from solar arrays and act like a battery, and it can connect to your car and provide power from that power source filtered for your sensitive electronics. A side benefit of this model is that it has a built in flash light, whether you want to see what you’re doing before starting a campfire or want a major source of light for your campsite.
This model is incredibly light. It weighs about ten pounds, so it can be carried by hikers who want to recharge smart phones and cameras. It comes with surge protection and short circuit protection, so it can safely carry power from your car and recharge sensitive electronics. And it can interface with the portable 100 watt to 250 watt solar panels some campers take with them when “roughing” it.
The manufacturer recommends using solar panels that have an optimum operating voltage of 18 volts. Or you can charge it via a wall outlet when you’re in civilization and then take it with you so you can recharge your devices. Charge it overnight at home, and you can use it to charge your phones and other small electronics the next night.
The unit comes with a wall adapter, MC4 cord, DC cable and car charging cord intended to be plugged in the cigarette lighter. It can operate in temperatures as low as -14 degree F and as high as 104 degree F.
It has a basic eighteen month warranty.
What are the problems with this camping generator? Because it is essentially a rechargeable battery, you run into the same problems as other rechargeable batteries. It slowly loses its ability to hold a full charge.
And if you constantly partially charge it, it will lose its ability to fully charge. The problem is compounded by a battery meter that may say it is out of battery though the unit is partially charged, not letting you charge anything at all.
Generac 6826 Model XC8000E Generator
Generac is probably better known for the massive backup generators that it installs in people’s homes to provide power off of the gas line when the power goes out. The Generac 6826 generator, model XC8000E, puts out a whopping 8000 running watts and 10,000 starting watts; it can handle that heavy start up load when you turn on an air conditioner and refrigerator and other heavy appliances before they settle into their operating rhythm.
It comes with a wheel kit that you can assemble so you can pull it as necessary or load it with a crane into a trailer for power generation wherever you need it.
On one hand, it is expensive. On the other hand, it is a portable generator you can wheel out of the garage or storage building and use to run key appliances in your home while costing a fraction of the price of a full backup generator installed in your backyard. Or use it to run several appliances at a cabin off the grid. Another option is using it to run power tools. It is so durable and reliable it gets used at construction sites regularly.This model is CSA complaint. It comes with its first oil supply and a maintenance kit.
What are the problems with this model? Generac doesn’t always ship these in a crate, so you can get a generator with a bent up cage or damaged generator. You have to go through customer service to get repairs in most areas, and that takes time you may not have. The warranty process is painful.
If you want a good mid-power generator that is easy to maintain and keep running for years, the Atima generator is the best choice for you. The Champion generator is a good choice for those who want to be able to take the generator anywhere at any time. If you need a high power generator, the DuroMax XP10000E is ideal.
If you want something to give you an extra few minutes to finish up your work when the power dies or the ability to charge all of your mobile devices while on the move, you want the Easy Focus model generator. The Generac generator is a good choice for running multiple appliances in your home or cabin.