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What Is A Camping Generator? Do You Need One?

Camping offers complete immersion in the great outdoors. Without the distraction of devices, it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of nature. But what if you still need a power source? If you’re a beginner or even a more experienced camper, you may therefore be wondering what a camping generator is.

A camping generator is a portable power source that runs on fuel. Most campers don’t need one, but they can be useful for charging electronics or running equipment. If having electricity is essential on your trip, you should get a camping generator.

Buying a camping generator is a big step. You need to know exactly how they can help and determine which one will best suit your needs. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about camping generators, so you can make your choice with confidence.

What Does A Camping Generator Do?

A camping generator provides electricity without needing to be hooked up to the grid. Some burn fuel, and others use solar power, but they can be used for a wide variety of purposes. From powering lights to charging devices, camping generators are very versatile.

A camping generator can charge up all your devices, allowing you to use your laptop, cell phone, portable speakers, and other appliances while you’re at the campground. You can use it to power lighting for your camp, or hook it up to your coffee pot for a fresh cup of joe in the morning!

If you want to get really fancy, you’ll need a bigger camping generator. These can help you power up a mini-fridge, portable air conditioning unit, or a television. Having access to all these things can make your trip much more comfortable, turning your backwoods campsite into a glamping paradise fit for royalty!

How It Works

At its core, a camping generator is simply a portable generator. All generators have an engine which runs on some type of fuel. This engine is connected to an alternator. As the engine runs it turns the alternator, producing alternating electric current – what we know as AC power.

Camping generators function the same way, albeit in a more compact version which usually produces less electricity. They used to be rather loud and cumbersome, but they’ve become more streamlined over the years. Nowadays, technology has advanced so that camping generators are smaller, quieter, and more powerful than ever before.

The best camping generators are quite efficient. Some are equipped with an inverter, and others even use solar energy. There’s a lot to learn about camping generators if you decide to get one. But first, it’s important to know why you might need one.

Do You Actually Need A Camping Generator?

Most people don’t need a camping generator, but they may find it enhances the camping experience overall. Electricity adds a certain level of convenience and comfort to any trip, and many campers have a much better time if they bring a generator.

You can also use other power sources besides a generator. For small devices like cell phones and cameras, a portable power station could be all you need. These don’t run on fuel, instead charging at your house right from the wall. They’re good for short trips of a day or two, but they won’t power larger devices and the charge won’t last that long.

On a longer camping trip, most people will want to charge their phones or laptops. But is a generator right for you? Below are outlined some common reasons to bring along a generator, so you can decide if it’s something you want to invest in before your next trip.

5 Reasons To Get A Camping Generator

1. Medical Conditions

If you have any medical conditions that require a power source, a camping generator is one of the best investments you can make. Having electricity available can mean the difference between being stuck at home and being free to head outside, exploring new horizons with confidence knowing you have everything you need to remain safe at the camp.

The advent of portable generators has made it possible for people to charge medical devices like power-operated wheelchairs while camping. You can run CPAP or other medical machines during the night with a generator, and you can use it to power a refrigerator and store required medications like insulin.

2. Inclement Weather

When the weather turns bad, you’ll want a backup plan. If you’re heading out into an area where you’re unsure of the weather conditions, there are many variables to consider. Flash floods, tornadoes, and lightning storms can get pretty dangerous. In instances like this you may need to call for assistance, so having your phone charged up is necessary.

Other times, inclement weather could just leave you stuck in your tent for the day. When campfire cooking is a no-go because of rain, you can run the generator to fire up an electric stove. If you get bored, having a charged laptop or tablet could really help you out, especially if you’re taking care of children.

3. Staying Comfortable

Some people just aren’t that good at regulating their temperature. If that sounds like you, having an electric fan or air conditioning unit inside can stave off dehydration and heatstroke. You can use a generator to power heated blankets or camping heaters in the wintertime as well.

Even if you’re not especially sensitive to temperature, tents can become uncomfortable and controlling the air inside can help. You won’t be focused on being too hot or cold, and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself no matter the weather.

4. Entertainment Value

Having the power to run laptops, tablets, or even a television can be a great source of entertainment for those rainy days when you’re stuck inside. Especially if you’re going on a longer camping adventure, there will most likely be times when you just don’t feel like heading outdoors.

You may want to lounge around during the day and watch a film. You could even bring a projector and make a big movie night, inviting everyone else to join you for some popcorn. Either way, having access to electricity can add some variety to your trip.

5. Setting The Mood

Whether you’re heading out with the boys on your yearly camping reunion or you’re packing up your sweetheart for a couples retreat, setting the mood can be very important. Setting up string lighting can provide a cozy atmosphere, and it can also illuminate your site to make camping go much more smoothly.

Furthermore, turning up some tunes can really get you in the spirit for an outdoor adventure. Whether you’re into heavy metal for hiking or crooning campfire love songs, bring along your portable speaker to set the tone you want, and charge it with your camping generator so the fun never stops!

What Should You Look For In A Camping Generator?

If you think a camping generator would improve your outdoor experience, then it’s a good investment to make. However, there’s a lot to think about when choosing your generator. You don’t want to head to the store and just pick up the first one you see.

There is a wide variety of options for a camping generator. Depending on your needs and personal preferences, some might be better than others. Below, we’ve outlined some important things to consider when choosing your equipment, so you can enter the shop or search online prepared to make the right purchase.

Generator Type

There are so many different kinds of generators that it can be hard to make sense of them all. While standard generators are good for larger household appliances, your smaller devices are more delicate and require a cleaner power source. With that in mind, there’s really only one type of generator you should be buying – an inverter generator.

An inverter generator is equipped with a power inverter that converts unstable A/C power into D/C power before converting it once more back to A/C. Inverter generators produce “clean” electricity that stabilizes the power source and prevents surges from frying your equipment.

An inverter generator makes charging your devices safer and much more efficient. They can throttle up and down automatically, so they give off more or less power as needed. This means they don’t waste as much electricity as a regular generator. This is a boon for campers, saving them money on fuel and saving them time running back to civilization for gas refills.

Your Power Needs

Generators come in many different capacities. To make the best purchase, you need to determine just how much power you really need. A generator’s power output is measured in watts (W), and you’ll find portable generators commonly range from 1,000 to 4,000 watts.

You definitely don’t want to buy a 4,000-watt generator if you only need 1,000 watts. To figure out your exact needs, check the necessary wattage on all the devices you’ll need to charge up during your trip. Laptops need around 250W, while your mini-fridge can require over 600W.

Add up the wattage of all your different devices, then upsize it by around 20 percent. You don’t want to run a generator at full capacity all the time, and upsizing it will give you some wiggle room. For example, let’s say you need to charge up a 300W computer and a 700W A/C unit. Factoring in the 20% upsize, you’ll need a 1200W generator.

Type Of Fuel

Another important thing to decide on is how you’ll be powering your generator. Every generator requires a fuel source, and you’ll want to choose one that will maximize convenience and economy. Camping generators usually run off regular gasoline, propane, or solar power, but you can also find diesel-powered ones.

For the most economical choice, a solar-powered generator is obviously best, assolar power is free. All you have to do is put up the panels. This can be a good choice for charging phones and cameras, but it isn’t ideal for larger devices. Solar generators require planning and rationing your power, and it can be unreliable. Cloudy days can mean you get no power at all!

For the safest bet, gasoline or propane is the way to go. You can pick up both gas and propane at most gas stations, and storage is easy enough in specialized canisters. Before buying your generator, check prices for both propane and gas in your area and go with the most economic option.

You can get a dual-fuel generator if you want to have the option to use a combination of different fuel sources. Dual-fuel generators are great because they provide you with the flexibility to switch fuels in case you run out of one kind. You can get generators that take both gas and propane, or get one with added solar panels for dual-fuel with solar electricity.

How Loud Is It?

You want a generator to add a bit of convenience into your life, not create another annoyance, and some generators can end up being more trouble than they’re worth. Camping generators can be incredibly loud, so much so that some campsites don’t even allow them. However, modern technology has advanced pretty far when it comes to generator noise output.

Especially on inverter generators, the noise can be kept at a minimum so you and all your neighbors stay happy during the trip. Look for a generator with a built-in noise enclosure, and make sure it’s an inverter generator that controls power output. This will keep it quiet during times of low usage.

Before you buy a generator, it’s also a smart move to check the exact decibel level on the machine. Often, you’ll find it listed as dB or Operating Noise. The dB can go as high as 100, which will make you some enemies on the campground! That’s around the same level as a lawn mower.

The decibel level can also run as low as 52. This is around the level of a conversation, and optimal as far as noise is concerned. Many campgrounds require running generators to be under 60 dB. Importantly, your generator should only be used during the day, especially if it’s on the loud side.

Price & Economy

Price is an important factor when making any purchase, and a camping generator is no exception. You’re going to want to buy the best unit you can with the money you have, while also making sure to get the correct size for your power needs.

When deciding on a generator, research its price and fuel economy. Inverter generators will have much better fuel economy, since they can ramp the power output up or down depending on what you’re charging. This can save you a ton of money in the long run.

Expect to pay around $150-$500 for a 1,000W generator and up to $3,000 for 3,000W or more. Higher capacity generators and dual-fuel generators may cost more, as will extra bells and whistles like solar charging add-ons. These things are great if you’ll use them, but make sure you’re only paying for what you really need.

Weight & Size

It’s important to consider the weight and size of your generator. You’ll need to haul it to the campsite in your car, so people with smaller vehicles will need a smaller generator. Not only that, but maneuvering it and handling it can also present a problem if it’s too heavy or bulky. Choose a generator you feel comfortable carrying.

The weight and size of your camping generator will depend largely on how much power it uses. Units that provide a higher wattage are usually bigger and heavier. As always, an inverter generator is the best choice for size. Smaller inverter units can have a pretty good capacity and be easy on your back!

Final Thoughts

A camping generator is a machine that can provide a portable power supply without needing access to the grid. If you want to charge your devices or run climate control you will need a camping generator, but they are not essential for a pleasant trip.