The Best Portable Generators for RVs: Guest Post from Jim Taylor

If you like taking your RV out for camping trips or tailgating weekends, you probably already know that a great generator is a must.  With quality portable models starting at a few hundred dollars and going up to well over $1,000, there’s no such thing as a really cheap generator, but given all they do, it’s understandable that they should be considered investments that deserve thoughtful consideration.

On the higher end, you can find generators designed to power your entire home.  These units typically start at $3,000 (plus installation).  You can find models that run on gasoline, diesel, or propane as well as models that connect directly to an existing natural-gas supply.  While whole-home backup generators can, indeed, power everything in your house, you probably won’t want to run everything unless you have a nearly unlimited fuel supply or are certain that the power won’t be off long.  You also have to make sure that you’re aware of any limitations of the generator.  Some advertised as whole-home generators can run everything, but not necessarily all at once.  Whatever type of generator you get for your home, it’s always a good idea to turn off (or better yet–unplug) anything you can live without to avoid the possibility of an overload, or on the less problematic side, increase fuel efficiency by eliminating the vampire draw of items plugged in but not being used.  Visit this page for reviews and buying info on whole-home generators if you want to be able to keep your entire home powered during a blackout.


Portable generators are definitely less expensive because they’re not as powerful as their whole-home counterparts.  They’re designed to power critical items in your home or make camping and tailgating less “rustic.”  If you’re shopping for a generator for your RV, your first task should be to determine your minimum power requirements.  The AC is a great place to start since it’s almost certainly going to draw the most power.  Add in kitchen appliances and then decide how many gadgets (like phones and laptops) you’ll want to be able to plug in at once.  Underestimating your power needs is a great way to either overload the generator or run out of fuel way too early.


Once you’ve got your power needs squared away, consider how much noise is tolerable to you.  Many campgrounds and tailgating venues actually have rules about how loud generators can be, so make sure you know what, if any, such rules might apply to you.  To give you an idea of what different decibel (dB) levels mean, a typical conversation comes in at around 60 to 70 dB, while a jackhammer clocks in closer to 100 dB.  A good exhaust kit can help with the noise by acting as a muffler.  An exhaust kit also helps keep your gathering safer by making sure that harmful exhaust fumes are driven up and away.  Again, some venues require exhaust kits, so don’t forget to take this added expense into account if you opt for a generator that doesn’t come with its own exhaust kit.  

Though gasoline isn’t the cleanest or safest fuel there is, it’s still the most common source of generator power.  Gasoline-powered generators are still the least expensive.  You can find models that run on propane and, less common still, diesel.  If you opt for any of these, make sure you get a good estimate of your fuel burn rate so that you know how much fuel needs to make the trip with you.  There are more and more solar-powered generators available these days.  Solar power is great in that there’s no flammable, heavy, or expensive fuel to mess with.  Generally, solar models are among the more expensive ones out there, so you’ll need to decide if the long-term savings on fuel is worth the added up-front cost.
If a portable generator is on the list of what to put in your camping kit, check out this page for reviews of several top small and portable generators in addition to some whole-home options, including solar-powered versions.  You’ll find pros and cons as well as additional shopping considerations.