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Portable Generators for RV and Camping

Updated on September 30, 2014

Portable generator buyer guide

If you've ever had to put up with a power outage, you know how bad it can be but the good news is: there all kinds of generators that are small and affordable that are specifically made to provide portable power.

It can also be a matter of security and having reliable backup power is something you will never regret. And of course if you are on long hauls in the RV or camping, life is certainly easier with some form of power source.

There are many different sizes and buying one can cost between a couple hundred dollars up to a 4-figure range. get one based on usage - a small one for camping and hobbies, and a larger one for hunting camps and as a household emergency power source.

Yamaha 2000 inverter generator

Yamaha EF-2000 portable generator

The EF2000iS is a bestseller! Use it by itself or hook it up to another unit and boost the output power.

The EF2000iS is popular because:

- Yamaha quality

- Carb-compliance

- having a good inverter which makes it usable with delicate electronics

- it has a spark arrestor

- it runs for over 10 hours without refueling

- very portable at 45 pounds

- it can charge 12 volt batteries directly

What To Look For In A Portable Power Source

  1. How much power can it crank out? Don't forget to add up the number of watts you will need if you're running your stove, A/C or heater, water system and the appliances and electronics around your house you use routinely. It should be able to crank out enough power to get your essentials turned back on without brownouts and power sags. Take a look at the constant running wattage along with the amount of power it can churn out in a spike. An AC unit often needs a massive peak power spike to kick start. If you for example have an AC in your camper or RV and the generator breaker keeps going off when you start the AC, then you know you need a generator that can handle AC startup spikes - meaning, a bigger generator. As a special note, be sure to watch out for the generator's harmonic distortion that can fry solid-state circuitry in certain appliances, although most portable generators these days have smooth sine wave modulation. Be careful if buying second-hand power sources that can kill your electronic devices.
  2. How long will it be able to run? Take a look at how many hours it can provide power with normal usage. While the exact time it will last will vary according to how many watts you're using, it will give you an idea of what to expect. If you buy a generator that is too weak it will be running at full power all the time, so overestimating power needs is not a bad thing to do.
  3. How often do you expect to use it? If you're one of those unfortunate people who live in an area with frequent power blackouts or you do a lot of camping with your RV and plan on using portable power, you should choose a model with proven durability and stay away from the cheapest models. Look at portable generator reviews and find one that has many ratings to base your decision on. Also look at fuel efficiency. The smallest versions are often not the most fuel efficient.
  4. Is noise going to be a problem? You do not want a power generator that is going to be so loud that the neighbors come knocking on your door. If you're anything like me, you'll also wince every time you think about having a loud motor running in the background. Many high-end models will include very effective mufflers that keep noise down to about 60db which is a level you can live with for hours at a stretch.
  5. What is your budget? Electric power generation units can cost up to $1000 or more, so it makes sense to compare a few models side by side to find the best bargain. You should also consider the costs of running and maintaining it. The price of gas these days can make frequent use prohibitive, so you should choose an efficient one that will give you the most use for the gallons you are putting in it. Look for one with a good warranty so you can get it repaired if it breaks down.
  6. What are other buyers saying about the brand and make you're considering? Reviewers on Amazon are pretty good at listing the pros and cons of any particular product. Good products will generally have a 4 or 4.5 star rating and get consistently positive reviews. Make a list of the "pros" you look for in portable generators and any "cons" that might be a deal-breaker and thumb through a few of the reviews on your short list before making your decision. The fast track though is to go with the crowd - if a lot of buyers have given a specific product good reviews then that is usually a better buy than gambling on a new brand or model.

DuroStar 4000 Watt Gas Portable Power Plant

DuroStar DS4000S, 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator
DuroStar DS4000S, 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator

The DuroStar DS4000S 4,000 Watt 7.0 HP OHV 4-Cycle Gas Powered Portable Generator can reliably pump out 3,300 watts of power with peaks of 4,000 watts.

It can power RVs and act as a backup power source at home. Choose from four models with tank sizes ranging from 3.83 to 7 gallons and a runtime of up to 8 hours.

 

Stay Safe While Using Your Portable Generator.

Burning fuel can be a fire hazard if used improperly. When choosing a portable generator for use in the wild, make sure it comes with a spark-arrestor. Set the Portable generator up in a well-ventilated area. Read the instruction manual and warnings.

2000 Watt Generators

When buying a portable generator do so with a firm understanding of what you will be using it for. Small models in the 2000 watt range are small and lightweight and a perfect power source for small camping sites, events and RV travel.

A 2000 watt power unit is suitable if you will only be running it for a while each day to power up radio, watch news on tv and a security backup should your car battery wind up dead in the morning. You can not power a AC unit with a generator this size.

A bestseller in this group is the Yamaha EF2000iS Generator which is Carb-compliant (ok for use in California).

Here is a good presentation by Yamaha which shows why this specific model is the NR.1 bestselling portable generator:

4000 Watt Generators

A 4000 watt generator is a excellent recreational power source but it also packs enough power to be a good emergency generator for home use. 4000 watts is also ok to power lights and PA systems for small events.

These mid-sized generators tend to have around 7HP engines and weigh in at a bit over 100 pounds. I suggest you get a wheeled model or make sure it can accept a wheel accessory kit.

There are many brands competing for customers looking to buy a 4000 watt portable power source with Champion Power and Durostar leading the bestseller lists on Amazon. Yamaha, Briggs and Stratton and Sportsman are other brands that have high quality generators in this range.

Who needs a midsized portable watt generator?

If you only need a generator to power your TV or computer then you don't need 4000 watts. In fact, you should not buy this kind of generator and instead go for a 2000 watt inverter generator which is safe to use with delicate electronics (inverter provides smooth sine wave power).

Get a 4000 range generator if you have a RV and want to power fridge, AC, stove, water heating, etc. The same applies to hunting cabins etc where a 4000 watt generator can make a lot of difference on comfort for longer duration stays.

In this group I would choose to buy the Champion 4,000 Watt Portable Generator because it has everything you need in this category plus a wireless remote starter that lets you power up from the comfort of your porch. Complete with wheel kit, the "Champion 46561" 4,000 Watt generator is rated for 3,500 watts continuous and 4,000 watt surges.

This generator comes with a 2 year warranty.

The midsized generators in this group are perfect power sources to take along to smaller jobsites and most have durable crash frames that protect the engine and fuel tank.

A 4000 watt generator is also adequate as a temporary emergency generator for home, although you may want to consider something in the 8 - 10,000 watt range for a bigger household.

7,000 - 10,000 Watt Generators

Heavy Duty Power Sources

If you know you may be running multiple appliances at the same time you need a portable generator in the 7 - 10,000 watt range. These are heavy duty generators with 10 - 16 HP engines. Although they are portable and have fitted wheels, they are not something you simply pop into the trunk of your car.

Weighing in at +200 pounds the main function is as a generator for home use that provides a reliable emergency power source.

The wattage advertised is always peak power and continuous power is normally about 20% less. If you need to maintain a 7,000 output you should buy at lest a 9,000 watt generator.

My choice would be the DuroMax XP10000E 10,000 Watt Generator because of the many positive reviews it has gotten and because it has a pretty good price tag.

Muffler includes a spark arrestor and keeps the noise level at 41 decibels on idle which is a very low sound level. (Expect higher noise levels at about 70db from a generator of this size when under load).

Other features include 10 hour run time, 120 and 240 volt 50 amp current, 12 volt connections and a solid construction that can handle jobsite conditions. As most models of this size, the Duromax includes electric and manual start methods just in case.

Specs, price and buyer ratings make this model my choice.

A generator of this size and power will be fitted with a control panel that gives you several power connections, circuit breakers and easy to read volt meter.

Power panel of the DuroMax XP10000E

Experienced power outage? Got a generator? Comments welcome

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    • espressoman lm profile image

      espressoman lm 

      6 years ago

      I really like that Yamaha generator. It would be perfect for when we go camping.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Our Roadtrek campervan comes with a generator, but other campers should consider getting one. They are so useful to have.

    • kindoak profile imageAUTHOR

      kindoak 

      6 years ago

      @anonymous: That sounds a lot like where I live! Winter tends to bring storms which tumble trees over the power lines and cuts our mains for several days :)

    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 

      6 years ago

      We don't experience power outages often...but I keep thinking we should get one of these.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Glad you asked...I live in northern British Columbia and power outages are quite common. We have 2 generators and we also heat with wood. Thanks for the great lens...Lots of great infomation!

    • profile image

      DebMartin 

      6 years ago

      Really useful info. I'm looking for a new generator and here you are. Love all the things I can find on Squidoo. Thanks. d

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      My dad always had a generator on hand for power outages. Great information here.

    • jed78 profile image

      jed78 

      6 years ago

      Nice Lens, always good info with the crazy weather we've been having lately!

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 

      6 years ago

      I have been wanting to get a generator and this list helps me make a selection, thanks. The small ones are great.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Never seen some of these so small before, *blessed by a squid angel* for telling others to be prepared!

    • kindoak profile imageAUTHOR

      kindoak 

      6 years ago

      @pcgamehardware: Yep. I just highlighted gas generators but if you have propane stove etc, there are equally good propane generators one can use.

    • pcgamehardware profile image

      pcgamehardware 

      6 years ago

      Very informative lens... I don't have a generator yet, but consdering getting one in the near future, if the grid ever goes down, we are all going to wish we had one.

      Nice lens, I learned a lot.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 

      6 years ago

      Excellent info!

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