Camping is a great way of getting back to nature, but it doesn’t have to be hard. With the advanced technologies that have gone into camping generator manufacture in recent years, the average camping generator is lighter, smaller, and quieter than ever before. You can now enjoy some of the comforts that electricity brings without having to heave a noisy, gas-guzzling generator around with you.
But what should you look for in a camping generator? Keep reading, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Are Inverter Generators Worth the Money?
Whether or not an inverter generator is worth the heftier price tag over a conventional generator will primarily come down to your personal circumstances. If you will not be using the generator much, or you are only buying just it in case of emergencies, the cost-savings from buying a conventional generator may well be worth it. If, on the other hand, this generator will see plenty of use, it is hard to find a reason not to go with an inverter generator.
For one thing, inverter generators are considerably more efficient, and with enough use, you will likely make back the difference in cost on fuel savings in a relatively short time. They are also much lighter, making them easier to take on the road, and considerably quieter, so you won’t upset fellow campers by deafening them with the constant roar of your power usage.
Finally, it is much easier to run multiple inverter generators in parallel than it is with conventional generators, increasing your power output.
What are the Top 3 Generators for Camping?
Finding the best generator for camping can be a tricky task, so we’ve put together our top three picks to save you a little time.
Honda EU1000i Inverter Generator Super Quiet 1000 Watts
The EU1000i is an exceptionally quiet generator, even by the high standards of inverter generators. As the name suggests, you can expect to pull as much as a 1,000 Watts from this generator, which may not seem like a lot when compared to some of the other generators on the market, but the lightness and compact size nicely offset the lack of power. If you need portability most of all, or your power needs aren’t particularly significant, this is an excellent generator.
Westinghouse 2200 Watt Inverter Generator, Model WH2200iXLT
If, on the other hand, you need a bit more juice from your genny, the WH2200iXLT has you covered. With 1,800 Watts of continuous power, and 2,200 Watts peak output, it is not the lightest or quietest option available, but you will always have to make tradeoffs.
WEN Model 56200i 4-Stroke Gas Powered 2000 Watt Inverter Generator
With 1,600 Watts of continuous power and 2,000 peak, the 56200i occupies a nice middle ground between our previous two picks. What is special about this generator is the low distortion it produces, making it an excellent choice for charging sensitive electronics.
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Can You Run a Generator Overnight?
Not all generators are created equal, so the answer to this question is yes if the generator is rated for that much continual use. However, a question like this is not merely about whether the generator can run through the night, but whether it would be right or wise to do so.
For example, if your generator is a little on the loud side and you are camping in a relatively small campsite, you probably won’t make any friends if you have it running all night.
Another factor is fuel, and how much of it you want to use. If you are running something essential through the night, such as a heater while camping in an especially cold part of the world, you may deem it necessary. But if you are leaving it running just in case you need to get up in the middle of the night and want to be able to turn a light on, it might be more practical to have a torch to hand and leave the genny off through the night.
What are the Quietest Generators on the Market?
Before we give you our top picks for quietest generators, remember that, for the volume level to be lower, you will unavoidably have to sacrifice some power.
WEN 56125i Super Quiet 1250 Watt Generator
At just over 50 decibels, the 56125i is barely louder than conversation. It features an Eco-Mode for those times when you don’t need as much juice and is rated safe for electronics.
Yamaha EF2000iSv2 Portable Inverter Generator
A little louder than the 56125i (though not much), the EF2000iSv2 packs a considerable amount of power for such a small generator, offering up 1,600 Watts. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in incredible fuel-efficiency.
Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200
Moving further up the power scale to 1,700 Watts, you can expect more noise from the 30651, though still very quiet by generator standards. This is more of a brute force offering in the world of quiet generators, as there is no control over the fuel consumption and, as a result, emissions. But if you need maximum power without adding too much noise, this generator might be for you.
Understanding and Calculating how to Measure Decibels
Properly explaining how to measure sound would require an entire post of its own, so we won’t go into too much detail here. Simply put, sound is measured in decibels, but decibels are not a fixed unit of measurement in the way that, say, degrees celsius is. Instead, they progress logarithmically, so that every three decibels represents a doubling in sound.
This system, while it has good reasons for its existence, can be a little confusing at first. For example, perfect silence, as you’d expect, is 0 dB, whereas a whisper is 15 dB. That’s easy enough to understand, right? But let’s jump up the scale a little way. A crying baby is approximately 110 dB, but the sound of a jet engine is around 120 dB! That means that, in terms of decibels, a jet engine is closer to a crying baby than a whisper is to silence!
So how does this relate to camping generators? When you see a seemingly small difference in noise levels between one generator and another, it can actually be quite substantial. Specifically, when a generator says it is 40-50 dB, that means the loudest it will run is over three times the quietest it runs at.
Understanding Wattages and Camping Power Needs
Electricity can be a bit hard to grasp, mainly due to there being several different measurements to factor in. There is voltage, amperage, and wattage. Much as with decibels, a proper explanation would require a post of its own, but we will try to fashion a simple explanation.
Imagine electrical wires as pipes of water. Voltage would represent the pressure at which the water flows through pipes, and thus how much force the water is capable of exerting. Amps represent the volume of water in the pipe, which is why there is still amperage when the current is switched off. In our water analogy, the water does not drain from the pipe when the power is turned off. Finally, wattage is analogous to the speed at which the water is flowing. Insufficient wattage means your generator will not be able to deliver the electricity fast enough to power everything, so always check the combined wattage of your appliances before buying a generator.
What are the Different Ways to Generate Power While Camping?
We’ve talked about generators as a means of generating power while camping, but there are other options. Of course, we’re assuming you are not staying at a campsite or other location with an electrical hookup.
Solar power is always an excellent option when possible. If you are camping in an RV or trailer, you could invest in permanent panels that would be fixed to the roof. However, this is not a small investment, and may not be worth it to you if you don’t camp that often. You can also get smaller, portable solar panels that can be set up beside your pitch. It’s important to remember that you will need some kind of storage setup to hold the power you generate throughout the day; otherwise, you will not have any energy during the night.
Any car or van can be a perfectly serviceable generator if needed. As long as you either have an inverter or gadgets and appliances that run off of the DC voltage your vehicle puts out, you should be good to go. And, though a little bulkier than your average portable generator, it does have the advantage of being able to store energy, meaning you don’t have to keep the motor running whenever you need some juice.
Just be sure not to let the battery run flat!
On the subject of storing electricity, merely charging up a power bank can be enough sometimes. If it is a small camping trip—most likely in a tent—and there is not much that will require electricity, a beefy power bank may be more than enough. True, it’s not technically generating power while camping, but it is providing it.