People are drawn to RV camping to enjoy time off the grid, but even in the middle of nowhere, you may still need access to the benefits of electricity. If boondocking or dry camping appeals to you, then an additional source of power is a must. While some RVers use solar power as their electrical source, the easiest, and usually least expensive, way to achieve this is with a generator.
Some RVs come conveniently equipped with a built-in generator, or pre-prepped for an installed generator, but if your rig doesn’t already have one, a portable generator will work just as well. While they might seem intimidating, generators are similar to operating a lawn mower or other gas-powered equipment.
How to Use a Portable Generator for Your RV
Using a generator to camp in your RV is similar to the way you’d operate one for residential usage. You’ll need a power cord (the one that came with your RV will work), a surge protector, and access to gasoline. If you’re camping for longer periods of time, it’s a good idea to bring an extra tank of gas with you.
Not all generators supply an RV-type receptacle. You may require an electrical adapter to plug your RV into the generator.
You’ll also want to make sure you place the generator 5 to 10 feet away from your rig for safety since it emits carbon monoxide (CO). If you plan to use a generator for your RV, you should always install a CO detector.
Consider your fellow campers when using your RV generator, since noise and exhaust fumes are not welcome when camping in close quarters. Many campgrounds will have restrictions on when you can use your generators, typically referred to as quiet hours.
How Much Power Can a Generator Supply?
A 2,000- to 2,500-watt generator can take care of most power needs like charging electronics, TVs, kitchen appliances, and more. Generators with higher wattages can run A/C units and larger RVs. To understand how much power your rig will need while camping, you should run an energy audit. Simply add together the running wattage on all of the appliances and electronics you use when camping in your RV. That number will help determine what size generator you’ll need.
You should always be aware of your power usage so you don’t overload your generator by using multiple high power devices at once—this will force it to shut down or trip a fuse. It’s a good idea to keep extra fuses with you just in case this occurs.
Don’t forget to count all of the appliances you use, like hairdryers, fans, and more. Generally, all of these things won’t be used at the same time, but it’s important to be mindful of your total power usage.
Common Questions About RV Generators
You don’t need a special RV generator, you simply need one that has enough wattage for your power needs.
In a 30-amp RV, a 2,000- to 2,500-watt generator will run everything but an A/C unit. Consider a 3,000-watt or higher-powered generator if running your A/C unit is essential when you’re dry camping, especially in the summer.
A 50-amp RV requires more power to run and typically has two A/C units, so a 4,000- to 5,500-watt generator would be recommended. Some generators allow you to parallel two portable generators together to get double the output, versus one large generator that’s heavy and cumbersome to move. If you go this route, you’ll need a parallel cable.
Your personal and RV power needs will determine how many watts you need your generator to supply. Generally, a 2,000-watt generator will suffice if you have moderate power usage.
Although there are several options for quiet generators that operate at 48 to 57 dBA (decibels A), the Honda EU2200i is one of the quietest and has great overall features compared to other generators.
Inverter generators are a type of portable generator that can be great for RV use. They can include a built-in sensor that detects CO and will automatically shut off if needed. Because of the type of energy conversion used, inverter generators are more fuel-efficient and quieter, but also more expensive on average than other portable generators.
What to Know When Purchasing an RV Generator
You can expect to spend between $300 and $1,500 on a portable gas-powered generator depending on the wattage needed to power your camping experience. Additional features to consider include automatic start buttons, number of outlets, fuel tank capacity, and more.
You should also keep in mind that state and national parks typically have quiet hours to help limit generator noise levels. If you plan to frequently camp at such destinations, you should consider purchasing a generator that operates with a lower dBA rating.
Popular RV Generators
Here are a few RV generator options that are popular among RVers.
If you’re looking for a generator that has a lower decibel rating, this lightweight unit is known for its quietness with a 48 to 57 dBA. It also has an “eco throttle” for fuel efficiency and includes an automatic CO safety shutoff.
Longer Power Option
This generator is a good option if you’re planning to camp for longer periods of time as it can supply up to 20 hours of power. With 3,000 watts and advanced inverter technology, you can power everyday appliances and electronics as well as your RV’s A/C unit.
Priced under $500, this is a great option for campers looking for a less expensive power supply. This unit comes with a larger fuel tank, covered outlets, and wheels for easy portability.
Most Expensive Option
Designed with a remote starter, LED panel display, 4,500 watts of power, a telescoping handle, and wheels for portability, this generator has a higher price tag but includes several add-on features that most don’t. It’s also quiet, fuel-efficient, and lightweight.
Whether the most important feature is price, noise level, or fuel efficiency, the generator that works best for you is out there. Having the right generator for your rig can help you experience new camping and boondocking destinations, and make life easier on the road.
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