The Portable Generator Buying Guide

When shopping for a portable generator to use for camping, you’ll encounter a plethora of sizes, shapes, specifications, and more. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the possibilities on the market. You can easily narrow it down by figuring out what to look for in a portable generator. With these helpful tips listed below, you’ll be more informed when you begin shopping. Get the most out of your purchase by researching ahead of time. Check out these quick tips when thinking about what to look for in a portable generator used for camping.

Identify What You Want

Before you begin leafing through pages upon pages of links that just lead t o more links, find out what you really need. Think about different scenarios where you will use the generator—will you only use it for camping? Would it function as a back-up generator for your home during power outages? How will you transport it? What kind of fuel are you willing to buy for it? These are all questions that are important to ask before you begin looking. Answering these questions will allow you to narrow down the search. That way when you see another promising link, you can know whether or not it’s worth researching. Time is valuable, so don’t waste yours.

Things To Look For In A Portable Camping Generator

Marketers can be tricky about highlighting the good and minimizing the bad, so we’ve come up with a few basic things that you may want to consider before buying just any old generator. Here are the things we recommend considering when looking for a portable generator used for camping.

  • Price
  • Size
  • Noise Levels
  • Power / Wattage
  • Durability
  • Overall Usability & Features

Price

We all like to pretend we aren’t worried about the price, but money isn’t cheap! Save it where you can through diligence in research ahead of time. First, ask yourself what your price range is...what are you willing to pay for a camping generator? What can you afford?

Prices are going to range from a couple hundred dollars (possibly even cheaper if you’re looking for the bare minimum) all the way up to several thousand dollars. It’s all out there—you just have to decide what you’re willing to pay. Generally, the more efficient the machine, the more you’re going to pay. Or, the more output, the more you’ll pay. But if you’re looking for something really specific, maybe the price cut will be worth it if you aren’t looking for sheer power. It’s possible that something compact and lightweight would better suit your budget.

Size

It’s no lie that portable generators come in all shapes and sizes. One thing to consider is not only what kind of power you want to generate, but also how much room you have to haul and store your portable generator. Maybe you have amply trailer space to haul a larger generator, or maybe you want one that will fit into the back of your jeep.

Lightweight generators are really attractive to many campers who just want the basics—heat and light. Many of these are also built with a carrying handle to make packing up even easier. Ultimately, it comes down to what you need and what you have room for. Some even come with wheels to tote around, or a handle to pull it with. Usually if you’re looking for a heavier generator (100+ lbs.) you should probably make sure it comes with wheels, as this makes it much more convenient when it’s time to pack up!

Noise

Noise is probably one of the biggest factors you need to consider when purchasing a portable generator, especially for camping.  Generators can be quite loud. The last thing you want is to have a noisy generator pissing off your neighbors, disturbing other campers, or even damaging your hearing

Quiet generators are typically considered ones that are less than 74dB in volume.  Even though they are said to be quiet, that noise volume is still pretty loud. For instance, a typical conversation in restaurant is around 60dB, a garbage disposal is around 80dB and a motorcycle is around 100dB.  Generally anything over 85dB can be harmful to your hearing.

Power / Wattage

The power capacity of a generator is measured in wattage and will ultimately determine what you can power.   The higher the wattage, the more things you can operate at once.

There are two numbers you want to keep track of when looking at the power capacity of a portable generator, running wattage and peak wattage.

  • Running Wattage

    Running wattage is the wattage that the generator consistently produces.  Under normal operations, the running wattage is the average amount of power that the generator will put out.  This number is probably the most important thing to look at when buying a generator If your power requirements consistently go above the running wattage, it’s a sign that you need a more powerful generator.

  • Peak Wattage

    Peak Wattage is the maximum power output the generator is capable.  Typically, a generator will only hit its peak wattage during startup or if there is a large power draw.

When shopping for a generator, you should have an idea of your wattage requirements.  To figure out the required power you might need, add up all rated wattage of the appliances that you would want to use at once.

Durability

Ask yourself what you want again—something to last a couple years or something to last a lifetime. Something bigger, heavier, and more durable will last much longer. If you’re fine going with something cheaper, remember that depending on how much you use it, you may have to replace it after a few years’ use.

We don’t just mean how many years you think you’ll get out of the machine, but also how long it lasts with each charge or tank of gas. Some portable generators sustain a better output than others, but they’re usually a bit more expensive.

Again, depending on what you need, you can filter through some of the internet’s many options to find what will suit your needs best. If you’re the basic camper, a smaller generator will do—one that doesn’t have as large of a gas/oil tank. But if you’re wanting the flat screen TV to work on your RV, as well as the AC, water, and heating/cooling devices, you’re going to need one with a larger tank.

If you’re interested in a specific generator, be sure to check the approximate number of hours it will last if completely charged/filled up. At the very minimum, a generator should be able to last a few (like 5 or more) hours with continuous power. You don’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night to fill up again! Also, check the wattage and voltage. A pretty standard voltage falls right around 120, while typical wattage hangs around 2,000-3,500, but you may be looking for a bit more or less.

Overall Usability/Features

Portable camping generators come with a variety of different features, depending on the brand and the size and purpose of the machine. Some come with easy start-up options, while others come on wheels and in cool colors (or even camouflage). Some have mufflers for added protection from noise, while others come along with cables and other accessories. You may only want a generator that runs on gasoline, as opposed to one that’s electrically charged or one that also needs a gas/oil combination. One isn’t necessarily better than the other—it’s just in what you want.

One important thing to look for before making a purchase is warranty. A good brand will offer warranty for at least a year, if not more. Given that this is a significant purchase that could cost you anywhere from a few hundred dollars to even a few thousand, you want to make sure your investment is a lasting one. So, don’t forget to check on the warranty before taking the plunge!

We hope this has been something beneficial for your research in finding a few things to consider when making a purchase on a portable generator used for camping purposes. Happy generating!