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 24, 2021
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Here’s an important fact: you may be in need of an RV generator without even knowing it. Do you ever face power outages? What if something goes wrong with your house’s wiring? That makes this article relevant to all households and even businesses. Apart from being your emergency backup, you’ll enjoy having this during your next RV camping trip as an effortless solution to powering up your gear. In all these scenarios however, you need to match the right generator features with your needs. We’ll help you with that.
Below we share well researched data on some of the best RV generator options on the market. We looked at fuel consumption and output to help you find an affordable option. Next we identified details such as running time, noise levels and portability to help you determine a user-friendly solution.
Everything our group of camping experts (avid campers and hikers) found is summarized in the detailed reviews below. We also help you understand this niche better, so you can easily identify which one will be best for you: simply read through the comparison chart and the buying guide at the end of the article before you purchase yours.
Camping has never been this luxurious and you have never been so prepared for any eventuality at home…all you needed was an RV generator.
This ended up being our editor’s choice because it’s such a dynamic all rounder option. If you’re not sure what to get, there’s bound to be a feature or two on this model that will make it your perfect camping generator solution.
Let’s start with the design – you can see this is a durable, sturdy unit. It’s even easy to pull around the camp site thanks to the wheels and handle. Next you benefit from the high-tech features, such as having an automatic shut down if the oil levels drop too low. This prevents damage to your asset and creates a safe environment for everyone.
A bunch of user-friendly features will make your camping more enjoyable such as this one functioning at a low noise level. It’s not the quietest, but definitely acceptable if you see the power this one will provide. With 3,400 starting watt output (3,100 running watts) you can power quite a lot of appliances while out in nature.
The brand even cares for the environment, proven by its Economy mode which will save fuel and therefore emissions. Champion also gives you an option of using propane or gasoline, so customize usage according to what’s most easily available.
You may smell fuel, and we hope the brand puts more effort into adequately sealing each component in future.
Apart from that it’s a winner and thanks to the brand designing a user friendly layout, you can manage your camping area’s power from a clearly labeled panel, preventing unnecessary mistakes.
The user friendliness continues when you look at the outlets. You get multiple 120V as well as 12V connectivity, making it easy to connect your appliances without even adding an adaptor or a multiplug system if you don’t have one on hand. There’s also a dual USB adaptor for the ultimate in modern RV camping.
Enhanced portability through a compact design means there will only be limited fuel in this one, from which you’ll get just over seven hours of runtime. When you use this for camping you’ll have to refill daily probably, but as long as you take enough fuel with you, this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.
This one wins our vote as best portable generator for RV use, thanks to its sturdy and easy-to-use handle. It can collapse so it’s out of the way when the unit is stationary. The sturdy wheels are easy to navigate across almost any terrain, including thick grass or gravel. Add to this that it’s a comfortable weight to manage and you have an easy unit to carry or maneuver to where you’ll need it.
This unit has one of the impressive layouts that include USB port, so you can power up your favorite 12V devices straight from the generator. Along with thise port, you get multiple 120V outlets, making it easy to organize energy supply even if you don’t have an adaptor, multiplugs or electricity cable on hand.
While not the quietest on our list, you’ll still love the relatively low noise matched with a high power output. In addition, this one is available at an extremely good price, even less expensive than units with shorter warranty periods. Firman really did put together an exceptional package that benefits your pocket and your next RV outing.
Even at this low price you can enjoy fuel economy features that will adjust the running to your usage requirements.
Firman realizes you may require more power for some RV setups, especially if you want to turn on the aircon. The brand designed a connection kit with which you can combine two units and enjoy the higher output.
The run time on one tank is impressive: 9 hours 25% load run time will not require you to fill up regularly.
All in all, this is an extremely balanced design, with benefits in many categories.
Campers appreciate how quiet this 3000-watt inverter generator runs, so that’s the first reason to consider it. If you don’t put it under too much pressure it won’t disturb you or your neighbors’ conversations. This is in part because the designers added sound absorbing material in certain components. We love when manufacturers go the extra mile for added user friendliness.
Although it’s a 2,800 running watt unit, you can enjoy power equal to other 3,500-watt units thanks to the brand’s Boost technology. This will only be for a 10-second period, but it may be all you need to successfully start up certain appliances with high starting watts ratings.
Once your setup is active this unit will monitor your usage and drop the engine speed if less power is required. This will improve fuel efficiency and an even longer run time. Thanks to a large fuel tank on this one, you can run it during daylight hours without filling up once: a very practical option if you want to enjoy TV, laptops and other modern appliances during your vacation days.
It’s reasonably easy to move this around the camp site thanks to the wheels and handle design. Just note: it’s quite heavy so you may need help lifting it from storage.
It doesn’t have USB outlets like some high-end generators do, but it still gives you three different options, that are easily reachable on the side panel.
Take note that this isn’t ideal as a back up at home, simply because it’s not a double pole design. However, as an emergency option, you may still get good use out of it and powering hand tools at home when you’re working far away from the buildings is no problem now.
You can see Yamaha is a seasoned manufacturer, as it even focused on creating a user-friendly layout on the side. You only need that one side exposed and you can manage everything from there.
WEN generators have a rave going on among top reviewers and users because of their robustness and top-notch performance. The GN4500 is one of their best compact and portable models.
The powerhouse unit has an engine that generates up to 4500 surge watts and 3600 running watts of power. This is reliable power that any RV traveler, occasional participants of outdoor events or homeowners who need emergency back up when there are blackouts can bet on.
The generator features a digital data meter that clearly displays the voltage, session runtime, total runtime and frequency. This makes routine maintenance and monitoring a breeze.
Made with users always on the move in mind, this generator is compatible with the WEN GNA410 wheel and handle for easier portability and storage.
The open frame design also makes it easier for the generator to follow you and your power needs anywhere you take it.
The generator uses gasoline and can run for a whole 13 hours if the fuel tank is fully loaded. You can determine the fuel level very easily and conveniently with the built-in fuel level-gauge.
For safety purposes, the generator features an automatic low-oil shut-off and overload protection so you can enjoy the power at peace. The spark arrestor makes it ideal for use in forested areas when you go backpacking or camping.
Surprisingly, the generator runs quietly at a mere 65dB which is slightly louder than background music.
What we liked:
This is the best portable generator that money can buy. It is easy to transport, and safe to use on the go. It is also easy to use and runs quietly, thus perfect for the quiet outdoors when you go camping. Plus, it is eco-friendly as it is CARB-compliant and EPA-approved.
What could be better:
A few users have complained that the manufacturer’s warranty department is difficult.
The Pulsar PG4500iSR is another inverter generator unit that produces surprisingly high levels of power. Yes, this may be your best generator for RV air conditioner usage and you get that at a good price. It is one of the louder units on our list, but for the amount of power you get it may be worth it.
This one carries a three-year warranty, which is impressive. Despite our concerns we are aware of its CARB, EPA and CSA approval, so there’s no reason not to give this one a try.
Note that as with many other generators, you have to plan for a break in period. Don’t simply connect it during your first RV outing – test it out at home and make sure it runs a while before leaving for your journey.
As this is an inverter generator, remember that you can connect it in parallel. That makes for more possibilities in utilizing it. If your setup requires even more power, you only have to add another unit. This makes this practical for families who love traveling with all the luxuries of home such as heaters, hair dryers, TVs, fans, and kitchen appliances.
When it comes to user friendliness, we were impressed with the wheel design. You can use this on rough terrain too thanks to the never flats incorporated into the unit. The extendable handle not only makes pulling it easy, but when it’s time to place it in storage, just push the handle in so it doesn’t take up space. This method of pulling it along is effortless so setting up your campsite with a large generator won’t lead to back pain.
The brand incorporated the latest in high-tech features by adding a remote control start feature. You can position it far away so the noise bothers you less, and when you need power, simply push a button from where you’re lounging on your camping chair.
From Westinghouse you get one of the most powerful motorhome generator options on our list, but you won’t think it when you hear it run. Even though it gives you well over 3000 watts, it’s super quiet so you can power up multiple devices without sacrificing the tranquility of nature. Remember that most inverter generators are limited in power, but this one supplies more than most in this category.
The next thing that’s astounding is how light it is compared to some other units on our list.
It’s designed for outdoor usage, as can be seen from the sturdy wheels and durable handle with which you can pull it over grass, sand or other surfaces. Pull it to where you’ll need it and set up a comfortable camping area.
This is an advanced design in every sense of the word, since the clear display gives you all the information you need to use and look after your generator. That includes run hours, fuel level and more, so you know exactly when it’s time for filling up or booking a service.
Thanks to the large (but manageable) design you benefit from a large fuel tank. You can run it for 18 hours straight before it will require a top up.
This is one of the units you can feel comfortable using at home, as it will be safe enough to power up various appliances.
There is a concern about longevity, however. Despite the long warranty period, some users have found it malfunctioning shortly after purchase and the brand doesn’t always provide you with a solution. You may have to wait for a complete replacement and their customer service isn’t the best on the market.
This is definitely a winning design but we hope the brand can improve on dependability in future.
At first glance, this resembles the old fashioned generators, but don’t be fooled. This one is packed with modern features inside that sturdy framework that makes it easy to handle when carrying it around a camp or job site.
Generac gives you most of the desired features expert campers require, such as it being surprisingly lightweight. Although we would have loved to see wheels incorporated into the framework, at least this one is one of the lighter models on our list. Lifting it out of an RV or moving it to an ideal spot should be easy, even easier when you and a family member work together.
The brand understands the requirements during camping, with many appliances requiring more power just to get started. For those start up moments, you’ll use the impressive PowerRush technology which will add up to 50% more power.
Another feature that campers appreciate is the large capacity tank. With over 2 gallons of fuel, it will power your campsite for almost 12 hours.
The unit is easily managed from a side panel with the help of knobs and switches – one dial controls various functions, so you’ll quickly become used to operating your new favorite appliance.
How advanced and modern this model is proven by the USB outlets incorporated into the control panel. This isn’t found on all generators and will make your life much easier. Even when using it around the house working with tools, or during an emergency you know you have an easy answer to power up the devices most of us can’t live without, our phones.
Although it’s reported to be less noisy than other models, the brand doesn’t provide a specific dB level. While this is concerning, our test group found it reasonably quiet so this is a winner in that category, too. Hopefully the brand will be more upfront about the specs in future.
Buy from leading brands and you get the benefit of paying less but still accessing exceptional features. This one is our budget pick for a camping generator, but you’ll be astounded at the value it adds to your camping experiences.
For starters, enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a 3-year warranty period. You know you’re buying quality and if hard handling leads to problems there is a chance Champion will sort it out for you.
A unique feature is that this one stays dynamic even if the weather turns. Thanks to Cold Start Technology your generator will start up quickly in low temperatures.
This is one of the few dual fuel units on our list, making it easy to customize usage to your preferences or fuel availability. We also appreciate the sensor which will monitor oil levels and shut the machine down if it gets too low. That’s a safety feature for everyone around, but also for your generator since it won’t get damaged because it’s not lubricated. An additional safety feature is the built in surge protector so you don’t have to be concerned about overloads ever again.
Note that this is quite a heavy unit, so carrying it around on your own will be difficult. Luckily this one has wheels unlike the Generac model that’s also on our list. These wheels are quite sturdy so pushing or pulling it over rough terrain will be fairly easy.
One thing you’ll love about this budget pick: It runs for a long time! Especially on propane. With fewer top ups you’ll enjoy the leisure of RV camping even more.
What we liked:
More powerful than most inverter generators
Wheels make it portable
Will start in cold temperatures
Safety features prevent overloads
What could be better:
No USB outlets
Noisy compared to inverter generators
Things to Consider
Over the years these generators have evolved, resulting in advanced pieces of equipment. Manufacturers have designed generators for various needs; You can see that from looking at the differences between the products above. How do you know which one will really suit your needs? Our guide below explains each aspect so you can match it to your home or RV camping requirements.
An RV generator: Critical features to consider
We list the most important features below. It’s important you prepare by knowing what scenario your generator will be used in. Now simply see how these features will help you in that specific setting.
How much power do you need?
All generators are not the same as each one will have a specific power output, based on its design. You need to pick one that will supply the amount of power you need for your appliances. This power level is measured in W(Watts).
You can imagine the need for power is quite different when you compare powering a few lights and mobile phones, vs supporting an entire RV’s air conditioning, a TV and a microwave.
In short, the more luxurious you want your camping to be, the more power you need. If you have gadgets – make sure your generator can handle it.
Let’s list a few appliances to give you an idea of what you’ll need.
13500btu air conditioner requires 2000W
RV fridge needs 180W
Small TV needs 200W
A laptop usually requires 250W
Heaters can require up to 1300W
A hair dryer is quite difficult to power and needs 1800W
Microwaves need 1000W (but check your user manual for details)
You’ll also need power for lights, but the required power level depends on the globe.
Identify the items you want to take along. Now add together the wattage of the items that will be switched on at the same time. That tells you what your power level should be.
Bigger may be better in most cases, but it’s not necessary to spend money on a large high powered unit if a compact kit with minimal features will be enough.
Important note: Some appliances have higher starting watts than running watts. Make sure you don’t damage your generator or the device by buying one that’s too weak to handle these starting watts.
Is it a conventional or inverter generator?
There is no clear winner, as once again you have to discern which type aligns with your needs. To help you understand this aspect better, we’ll summarize:
Conventional generator: This is a power source connected with an alternator. It usually produces 120V AC which makes it practical for most modern appliances. However, the frequency can fluctuate if the machine falters, so it’s not 100% consistent and the surges could damage certain appliances. These generators can provide a high output, as there’s no real limit to how big we can build them. They are noisier than the alternative option discussed below.
Inverter generator: This is a combination of an inverter and usually a 3-phase generator. The inverter converts AC current to DC current and then back to AC current. This is a more modern, high tech approach and results in stable output. If you want to power computers that are sensitive to power surges, this is a safer option. They also operate less noisy than large conventional generators, but note their maximum power output is limited. You can connect them parallel thought, which comes in handy if you need more power. Unfortunately, this high tech approach is much more expensive than conventional options.
It’s up to you to consider your budget, your needs, the devices you want to power and the space available to determine which one will be best for you.
Does it run on gasoline or propane, or both?
This is an important question because it’s likely you’ll have easier access to certain fuels, but perhaps not all. It’s wise to pick the one you know you’ll be able to get supplies for, simply to make life (and your holiday) a little more effortless. Of course, the ideal is if your generator can function on either, so you’re not limited in your options when you travel far from home where you’re not sure what fuel will be available.
Apart from this, also consider that propane doesn’t easily degrade over time. If your generator will be put in storage often, this is a smarter choice. However, gasoline is more fuel efficient.
Once again you have to weigh your priorities such as managing your budget vs making life easy for yourself.
How long will it run on one tank?
This question is vital to ensure an effortless holiday with your RV. You don’t want to journey to a store every day, simply to fill up your generator. If this is a priority for you, compare how long each generator runs on a tank of fuel and pick the one with the longest run time. This is based on its size and fuel efficiency. You may have to sacrifice fuel tank size if you want a compact unit, though.
The generators we reviewed run anything between 4 and 18 hours on a tank.
A handy feature is when your generator will utilize fuel economy technology, such as powering down during the times when you don’t draw much power. This will help make the fuel last longer overall.
If you do purchase a unit that doesn’t run long on a tank, simply use the specs to plan effectively so you take enough fuel with you on the trip.
Is it noisy?
You don’t want to ruin the serene atmosphere of a camping area by causing noise for your family or other campers.
Some large generators – especially conventional ones – can make noise as loud as street traffic. If you want to avoid this, you may want to opt for an inverter generator. Some modern models have noise levels similar to normal conversation so your holiday – or your sleep if you use it at night – doesn’t have to be spoiled simply to add some luxury to your RV experience.
If you plan on using your camping generator at home, also make sure it won’t anger the neighbors.
On average you can expect a noise level of around 50 dB, with 60 dB becoming slightly annoying for many users.
What outlets are available?
Make sure your new generator makes it easy to get your appliances plugged in and ready to use. If its design contains the wrong outlets or not enough, it requires an adaptor. You may have camp oriented appliances with 12V ratings, while your generator produces 120V power levels. An adaptor will help solve this problem.
Most units provide various types of 120V outlets and the impressive ones have USB ports, too. Charge your mobile phone or tablet easily, straight from the generator. Note that for these sensitive devices it’s best to draw power from an inverter generator, which guarantees stable power levels and fewer surges.
Is it easy to move around?
Portability is a key feature in determining the value of a generator for travel trailer. You must be able to carry or steer it around the camping grounds if it doesn’t have a fixed spot in or on your RV structure. Ideally, make sure it’s manageable especially if you’re camping alone so you’ll have not trouble moving it in case of emergency.
These days, manufacturers respond to client requirements by adding frameworks and wheels, as can be seen on the Generac GP3500iO and Westinghouse iGen4500 respectively. A frame or handle makes gripping and carrying easier, while wheels allow you to pull it anywhere it’s needed.
If you prefer a larger, permanent unit, portability won’t feature high on your priority list, but if you would like to get something even more portable and less noisy, then you should consider a portable power station.
Does it come with a warranty?
You’ll spend a pretty penny acquiring this for your next camping experience, so make sure you’ll enjoy it for a long time. A long warranty is a good sign that you’re purchasing a quality item. High end units such as the Yamaha EF3000iSEB will be covered for up to 3 years, making it a smart long term investment. If you buy low quality generator, you may end up replacing it every few months.
Remember: A motorhome generator may experience some heavy handling as you’ll move it often. You need gear that will keep working despite being moved, bumped and used often.
How to use a generator with an RV?
Understanding the setup and effective maintenance are two important features generator owners need to grasp. We’ll discuss in short.
Connecting your generator: Start by picking the perfect location for the unit. Make sure the fumes won’t affect you or blow across your camping area the whole time. If it’s mounted on your RV, make sure the fumes won’t end up inside the living area. Check that the unit is level and secure so it won’t tip or fall when the vibrations start. Also make sure it’s not where someone will easily trip over it when walking around at night. Just remember you need easy access to check fuel levels and cabling. Your generator will be connected to a battery’s corresponding (positive and negative) terminals with cables. Your appliances or the RV itself will then connect to the battery via cabling. Depending on the power level and the appliances you have, you may add an RV adaptor to the setup, though it’s not always necessary.
Maintenance: Generators do require regular care, though some models will need less maintenance than others. When you’re using your unit, always make sure it’s clean, especially the battery. Also check fuel and oil levels – you need to keep the generator lubricated. Even when it’s not in use it requires your attention. Make sure your storage area is clean and dry for starters. Before putting it away it’s best to drain the fuel, or have a fuel stabilizer ready when you want to use it again. Once in a while you need to take it out and let it run for about an hour. You also need to get it serviced every four months.
How much does an RV generator cost?
Prices range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars and you’re bound to pay more as size, features and quality improve.
However, our list of camping generator models proves that there is an option in almost every price range. Therefore, it’s possible to keep to your budget and still get quality. Our impressive budget pick from Champion is an excellent example.
Best gasoline and best diesel generator will last longer compared to propane. Note that you can improve fuel efficiency if your generator can adjust its engine speed based on the required load at a specific time.
An electric start feature is extremely handy as it makes for easy starting: Instead of struggling with a pull starter you simply push a button. The pull starter can be really challenging for people with back problems or with too little arm strength. In those cases, the slightly more expensive electric start option is ideal. Good news is you can have one installed in most cases, even of your generator doesn’t have one.
Adaptors can come in handy in two scenarios: When your appliances’ cords can’t reach the power source you can use an adaptor to modify & customize your setup. It’s important to maintain the same power rating throughout the infrastructure.
Secondly your outlet plugs may not match your appliances’ designs. A type 5 outlet, 3 prong receptacles or twist lock L type adaptor will then help you incorporate more appliances into your camping site layout.
So, why did our top three impress our testing group the most? All of them showcase benefits in various categories, making them valuable assets for any camper or even for home use.
In first place, you can’t go wrong with the Champion 100263. It’s compact, extremely portable and has a user friendly panel. It offers multiple outlets and comes with a long warranty. You’re covered in all areas.
The model from Firman is another well balanced design as the brand succeeded in providing great power at an affordable price. The handle makes it easy to pull so you can effortlessly maneuver it, even over long distances on difficult terrain. It’s the ideal item for camping grounds and it even has USB outlet!
Our budget pick from Champion also made it onto our favorites list because of the super low price that’s paired with a long warranty period and it will run a long time on one tank.
You can see: when you invest in one of the best RV generator products, all your expectations can be met. Ready for the ultimate in RV camping now?