Phil has been working as a technical engineer since his graduation, and has never thought of changing his profession. Also, he’s an avid fisherman and camper, so it’s not only work which makes him deal with generators.
Last updated: March 20, 2021
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Tailgating is a ton of fun; there’s no denying that. We work hard to make sure that anything that can potentially inhibit our fun is eliminated. The cold, the drinks running out, and so on are not even issues anymore. However, to really make things fun, you’re going to need one of the best tailgating generators. These make sure you have power to your TV, radio, electric grill, or whatever you need!
We’ve done the research so you don’t have to, and spent weeks figuring out which ones were the very best. In the reviews below, we’ve highlighted important features. We looked at the rated/max output as this shows how powerful it is. We also looked into fuel tank capacity because this tells you how long it will last. Weight is very important, as you’re probably going to be lugging it around at some point in time. Finally, we looked at the noise level, because we want to hear the game and each other, not a generator!
For the last few weeks, we’ve rigorously worked to find out which generators are the cream of the crop. We used our first-hand experience, along with the experience of thousands of consumers out there to come up with the reviews below. The ones that made the top just simply could not be beaten in our eyes, and we’re excited to share them with you. Below, you’ll find a table where you can compare-and-contrast each item. Next up, you’ll find detailed reviews with product specs, and finally, our buying guide to make sure you pick the best model for you. Without further ado, we present to you the best portable tailgating generators!
We loved the Briggs & Stratton P2200 for so many reasons. Featuring inverter technology, it provides a very smooth power, perfect for using with sensitive devices like laptops, phones, and gaming systems. The USB port allows for charging your devices with ease so you’re always connected to the outside world. The quiet and fuel-efficient 111cc OHV engine works to put out 2,200 starting watts and 1,700 running watts. At 59 dB operating volume, it won’t interrupt any music-listening or conversations.
The sleek design is honestly almost sophisticated, if we dare say that. It is easy on the eyes, and you’ll actually feel good about having it around rather than it being an eyesore. As it’s made to be compact and easy-to-transport, it includes a user-friendly H-handle design that makes it easy to carry on your own, or with one other person.
It may seem like a small touch, but we appreciated that the oil fill had a drain off tray just in case there are any dribbles while filling it up. The filter in the gas cap is probably made with a positive in mind, but it makes it pretty hard to tell how much gas you’ve put in, so you may easily overflow. Overall, we found setup, starting it up, and transporting it to all be easy experiences. However, we did have a couple of “cons” that we should mention. First, was that the 12V outlet only delivered 5 amps, which charges batteries very slowly, so while they can charge your devices, you’re going to have to wait a while. Second, it doesn’t produce clean power like most others on our list, do.
What makes it special?
Quiet and fuel-efficient
Great for using with laptops, smartphones, etc.
Up to 8 hours of continuous operation
Convenient H-handle for one or two person carrying
We’ve all heard of Honda before. Whether it be their vehicles or other equipment, you can be assured it’s going to work well. The Honda EU2200i is no exception to this. Powered by the Honda GXR120 is smooth and quiet, while remaining great on fuel. It’s such a quiet generator, in fact, that it operates at just 48 to 57 dBa, which is actually quieter than your average conversation. This also makes it great for camping or other activities that require quiet operation.
We didn’t mind carrying this model around at all, as it was super compact and lightweight at under 47 pounds. That may not sound very light, but in comparison to other models, you’re going to be wishing you had something under 50 pounds! At 121cc, it’s one of the best (if not the best) on the market today. As the model is known for its durability thanks to the excellent construction, it’s very reliable and can take a beating. As far as fuel efficiency goes, our time varied, but we got up to around 8 hours every time due to the Eco Throttle System that Honda offers. This is less than some other generators on our list, but must be enough for most tailgate parties.
Another convenient feature is that you have the ability to hook up two identical models with a cable for up to 4400 watts of power. We also appreciated the “Fuel Off” function which lets the engine keep running until most fuel in the carburetor is used, and the engine turns off. With a whopping 2,200 starting watts, though, you’ll have more than enough power to keep your party going until everyone goes home!
If you’re looking for the most lightweight tailgating generator, look no further than the Westinghouse WH2200iXLT. The compact design makes it excellent for various adventures, such as camping, RVing, and obviously tailgating. Capable of putting out 1,800 watts (2,200 at its peak), the 4-stroke unit can run up to 13 hours, which is honestly impressive. We loved that it produces only clean power, with less than 3% THD. That makes it great for using with sensitive electronic devices like smartphones and laptops. You can also easily use it to power your refrigerator, lights, fans, and much more. The downside to this, is that you’ll have to turn on load circuit breakers, one at a time with a few seconds between, otherwise the line frequency will change and damage electronics.
All inverter generators are going to be quieter than traditional generators, and at only 52 decibels of noise output at 25% load, this one is definitely quiet. Like a couple of other models, you can connect another identical generator to this one to supply even more power.
If you’re on a budget, you’ll find this one may suit you. It doesn’t have the most features, but despite being so affordable, we did appreciate that it had some like the low oil shutoff for safety reasons. However, it isn’t perfect. We did find that some units ended up having issues because of faulty internal fuel cuff-off valves. Keep in mind that this didn’t happen to everyone, and it’s still an excellent unit!
What makes it stand out?
Very clean power output
Low oil shutoff
Quiet and efficient operation
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Some units developed issues with fuel cuff-off valves not working
Weighing in at just 46.2 pounds, the iQ2000 Portable Inverter Generator from Generac is easy to carry to a tailgating event, camping, and more. As it easily fits in a trunk, bed of a truck, RV, etc., you won’t have issues finding how to transport it from one place to the next.
This model prides themselves on being quieter than Honda, which we found to generally be true. Run time isn’t the highest, at 5.7 hours at a half-load (and 7.7 hours at 25% load), but it will work for most situations. The fuel capacity is 1.06 gallons, and the AC rated output running watts is 1,600. You can also select between Economy, Standard, or Turbo modes of operation which can save you fuel and also lower the noise level. The PowerDial is easy to use, and has all start/run/stop functions built into one user-friendly dial.
One of our favorite features here is the ability to connect two identical generators to provide you with two times the power. With this setup, you can power heavy appliances like air conditioners or an electric range. The run-time display lets you see how much time you have left before you need to fuel up again, which is always good to know. The PowerBar isn’t an energy snack, but rather shows you the available wattage you’re currently using, and how much you can still use. Status lights will also alert you if you’re low on fuel or oil, and also does so if there’s a risk of overloading or overheating.
The only real complaint we had with this model, is that switching between different modes was not smooth. We found it to run a bit rough until it got “used to” operating in that mode.
No matter where you are, the Ryobi RYI2300BTA is always a good choice for clean and quiet power. The Bluetooth-capable 2,000-watt inverter generator isn’t the most attractive out there, but it functions wonderfully. It’s not as quiet as some others on our list, but it’s still quiet enough that you probably won’t notice it’s running. The Idle-Down technology boosts fuel efficiency, so that you aren’t wasting a ton when you need it most.
It also works well with sensitive electronics. Speaking of electronics, it even lets you use a GENControl app on your Apple or Android smartphone to manage various operations. You’ll be able to monitor power consumption, fuel level, run time remaining, and to shut off the generator remotely all from the convenience of your phone. This is wonderful if you’re sick of having to walk over and check it all the time, or if you’re in a warm car or RV and don’t want to go outside.
If you’re looking to power heavier appliances, then you can easily do so through its parallel link capabilities, letting you hook up two Ryobi generators together for twice the power. If you’re worried about how to carry it, don’t. In fact, you may not even have to carry it, thanks to an extended handle and rear wheels. All you have to do is roll it along the ground!
Now, let’s talk a bit about the not-so-good parts. The first is that the Bluetooth connection doesn’t work very far – perhaps only till around 30 feet, so if you’re going to be running off to get more drinks, know that it will disconnect. Also, you will have to pay for these extra features. The generator is one of the most expensive out there.
The Yamaha EF2200iS inverter generator is one of the most lightweight and quiet models we’ve tried out. Despite being so portable (weighing about 55 pounds), it’s quite powerful and able to generate up to an impressive 2,200 watts of clean AC power. The pure sine wave is actually as clean, if not cleaner, than public utilities power! The Smart Throttle technology not only allows for excellent fuel efficiency, but for ultra-quiet operation. We were pleasantly surprised that it also ran almost up to 11 hours on 25% load, without any refueling necessary.
The design is one of the most visually-attractive that we’ve seen with its almost retro look. In addition, it comes in a gorgeous deep blue.
Incorporating a brand new controller with advanced programming, you’ll be surprised at the number of applications you can use this unit with. Light indicators shows you if the oil level is too low and the generator is overloaded ensuring that no engine damage will take place due to low oil or overload, which can cost a lot of money – not to mention the time you wouldn’t be able to use it. The fuel gauge is nice and convenient, as you can simply glance over to see how much fuel you have remaining. The gas petcock allows for gas shut-off to run the carburetor dry for ideal storage and prevent any gumminess. The closable vent cap to prevent any potential fuel drips.
The one real downside for us was the fact that the generator has no USB charging ports. This isn’t a huge deal for many, however, as it does have the basic set of outlets you’ll need for tailgating.
This generator might be just the best option is you’re on a budget. The lightweight design makes it easy to transport, while the one-gallon tank gives you more than 6 hours of half-load run time, which is impressive for such a small and affordable generator. And remember, you can always boost fuel economy by putting it into the Eco-Mode. This lets the generator’s motor automatically adjust its fuel consumption. If you need more energy, simply link up two identical generators with the Parallel Connection Kit to share wattage between the two units.
The fully-packed panel comes loaded with three-prong 120V receptacles, one 12V DC receptacle, and one 5V USB port. This makes the number of applications you can use it with endless. You’ll also find it has low-oil and low-fuel shutdown with indicator lights and overload protection to make sure your generator and electronics are always safe.
The only complaint we had, was the height and weight of the model. It’s quite tall and heavy in comparison to others, and that can make it a bit difficult when it comes to transportation.
We know that picking the best tailgating generator can be a hassle. There are so many options, and if you’ve never used one before, you may not even know what to get. That’s why we’ve decided to go ahead and create the user-friendly buying guide below!
Things you need to take into account before making a purchase
An ideal tailgating generator: what should it be like? It’s going to be all about convenience and good operation. You want it to be easy to carry around, operate quietly, make sure it’s powerful enough to do what you need it to, parallel capable in case you need more power, and more. Let’s take a look at all of the features you should take into account before making the final decision.
Quite possibly the most important factor in choosing a generator is to know how much power it has. Generators are actually sold by power output, as measured in watts. The amount of power they produce determines how many things you can run at once, be it a blender, a microwave, a TV, and so on. The quality and consistency of said power determine how well these appliances will run. 5,000 watts is a good rule, but may be too powerful for a tailgate party, so we focused on less powerful but efficient generators, best 2000 watt generators, like Honda EU2200i or Westinghouse WH2200iXLT.
An easy way to figure out how much you’re going to need is to make a list of what you absolutely want to have when there isn’t power around. Then, add up the watts of those items. For example, a portable heater is going to take up 1,500 watts, lights are anywhere from 60 to 600 watts, and refrigerators are 600 watts.
Fuel tank and runtime
Another huge factor when selecting your generator is the size of the fuel tank and its runtime. Of course, if you’re only going to be using it for a couple of hours at a time, this won’t be as big of an issue. But if you’re going to be using it overnight or on extended trips, this becomes increasingly important. The run time also depends on how much power you draw from your generator – full-load and 25% load figures of the same generator vary greatly.
The lowest runtime we recommend is 6 hours. There are some that have less than that, but the majority of the products on our list have more.
If you can get up to 10 hours, that’s even better. You don’t want to have to keep refilling your fuel tank, and of course, a longer run time means that there’s less of a chance you’re stuck without power.
The noise level of your generator is going to determine whether or not you can relax and enjoy the game or music, or have to listen to an annoying hum of the machine. Due to the fact that inverter generators are much quieter than conventional ones, just about every single machine on our list is very quiet. There’s not one that’s louder than your average conversation, so you probably won’t even notice it’s there, powering your devices. The quietest generator on our list is Honda EU2200i, which is also considered to be the best portable generator. But if you want something even quieter than that, then you should opt for portable power station.
No matter what model you’re looking at, you want to make sure it comes loaded with safety features. When you start adding things like fuel and oil into the mix, it can quickly become dangerous. That’s why it’s important to have features such as low-oil shutoff and overload prevention. If the oil falls below minimum levels, your generator should shut down to prevent engine damage. Overload prevention makes sure you’re not overloading your generator. This is when you have too many appliances plugged into your generator that exceed the total running watts, and the system will overheat.
As you’re going to be taking your generator tailgating, you’re most likely going to end up carrying it at some point. Generators can be quite heavy, so you’ll want one that’s on the lighter end of the spectrum. In addition, find one with convenient handles. An H-handle, like the one on the Briggs & Stratton P2200, is our favorite, as it lets you carry it on your own or with another person to make the load more bearable, and it is also one of the best Briggs & Stratton generators as the budget pick.
Tips and tricks
Always make sure your unit is placed outdoors in some kind of protective enclosure, here sufficient air is coming through for cooling and ventilation purposes. You always want it to be on a level surface, and make sure this surface is neither combustible nor conducting. Even better, if you can put it up above the ground a bit so no water from the ground gets on it.
Inverter generators are typically going to be much quieter than your traditional ones. They also operate to produce much “cleaner” power, which is important for sensitive electronics. In addition, inverters are going to be more lightweight and smaller, which mean they’re easier to transport and carry.
If it’s under 60 dB, you can be assured that it’s not going to be a disturbance to you and your guests. Some of our generators are even in the 40 dB range, and are ultra-quiet. You won’t have one that’s louder than your normal conversation or a washing machine.
Generators should be, at minimum, 15 feet away from your car. You’ll want to make sure that you have an extension cord that can accommodate this, and make sure the exhaust is pointing away from the people at your tailgate party.
We hope that you got some benefit out of our article and have chosen the best for you. Our personal favorites were the Yamaha, Honda, Generac, and Westinghouse. The Briggs & Stratton P2200 was our top pick thanks to its fuel-efficient, quiet, and safe operation overall, paired with its cool design and great price. The Honda EU2200i was so incredibly lightweight and quiet, and produced clean energy which we loved. The Westinghouse WH2200iXLT was also very quiet, has a long run time and a user-friendly design. So, which one will be the best tailgating generator for you?