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Camping with Power: Taking Electricity to the Woods

Updated on March 29, 2013
Electricity can come in handy in the middle of nowhere.
Electricity can come in handy in the middle of nowhere. | Source

I grew up with a family that loved camping. My old man used to take my brother and I camping in the woods once a summer, and we'd spend one glorious week roughing it away from the creature comforts of home. Cold nights, cooking over a campfire and not having to listen to mom's terrible radio choices!

Now that I'm an old man (and I don't care to reveal just how old), I still love camping, but I prefer taking the creature comforts along with me. I haven't gone soft or anything—I just appreciate modern conveniences! And I know I'm not the only one, like me, plenty of outdoors enthusiasts have used generator sets to power their camping trips. I've been thinking about the next camping season a lot lately, so I wanted to share some of my best tips for how generator sets can be used when you're away from home—and an electrical outlet.

Recharge Those Devices

I really wish that I'd had half of my gizmos when I was a kid—don't you? If I'd had a smartphone back then, I could have taken so many photos and videos on my adventures (and I'd be so good at "Fruit Ninja" by now). Your smartphone is invaluable for recording and sharing big events like a camping trip, but only if you charge the thing—and you're not going to find a USB port in a tree.

The last time I went camping, I used my generator set to set up a portable charging station for all of my devices, like my cell phone, my GPS device and my tablet. I even kept rechargeable batteries hooked up to it, to power things like flashlights and a radio. That way, I never had to worry about finding a place to plug in after a day of snapping photos of wildlife and recording hilarious videos of my wife trying to gut a fish. I highly recommend it!

Simplifying Outdoor Cooking

My old man would tan my hide if he knew what I'm going to recommend here, but so be it: I've used generator sets to cook while I'm camping. It's true. He always insisted that everything be made over an open flame, be it chicken and rice in the Dutch oven or hot dogs and marshmallows roasted on sticks. He even made coffee over the campfire, and while I'm not exactly sure how he did it, I know that it tasted almost as good as the murky water of the creek where we camped—yikes.

While doing things the old-fashioned way is fun and all, I much prefer to simplify things, which is why on more than one occasion I've used generators sets to speed up the outdoor cooking. I take a miniature coffee maker from home, a toaster and a hot plate, and bam—I'm like Emeril Lagasse and Grizzly Adams combined (at least, that's what I tell myself). If you want to spend less time putting out flaming hot dogs and more time chowing down around the morning campfire, I definitely recommend packing a few small appliances to streamline the cooking process.

Playing It Safe

Generators and generator sets can be used for making your campsite safer, too, so don't forget to be practical! For example, my dad used to wrap us up in sleeping bags like little mummies to keep us warm at night, but that look doesn't work for me so much anymore—I much prefer staving off hypothermia with a ceramic space heater. Proper electric lighting around your campsite can also help you avoid undesirable company like possums and raccoons.

While taking a generator with you when you go camping can make the experience a lot more enjoyable, this is also serious equipment we're talking about—after all, on a larger scale, generators can be used to power entire buildings for extended periods of time. To make sure that you're using equipment responsibly, you need to plan ahead.

If you've never used generator sets (or even just one generator) at your campsite, you definitely need to do your homework beforehand. Generators come in all different sizes and energy capacities, and if you choose the wrong one, it might not be a good fit. You risk running out of juice, burning through fuel too quickly or even just dealing with too much noise—generators can be loud little things!

Always plan on what devices and appliances you want to take before you choose a generator or generator set, and determine how much power you need (you might have to do a little amp-to-watt conversion, but that's OK). That way, you don't risk running into trouble when you're miles away from civilization. It may be a little more technological than the way we used to do things, but certainly not in a bad way.

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