This article may contain compensated links, please read our disclaimer for more information.
Traveling in an RV is freeing for sure, especially if you have an RV generator. You see, a camping generator gives you a way to recharge your batteries and run certain appliances that draw a lot of power, even when boondocking.
Yep, having a generator gives you the freedom to park absolutely anywhere without giving up the comforts provided by electricity. For most people that’s kind of a big deal, making an RV generator a must-have item for a huge number of RVers.
Of course, you will want to do some research before investing in something as expensive as a camping generator. Lucky for you, we’re here today to help you pick the best option for you.
Types of Generators
First, let’s discuss the various types of generators that people tend to use when RVing. This will help you decide which camping generator best suits your needs.
Portable generators are great because, as their name implies, they can be moved from one place to another easily. This means you can use your portable camping generator with your RV, while you’re camping in a tent, or even at your home.
These are also relatively affordable RV generators, and they tend to be more readily available than the built-in type, which we’ll get to below. There is also no installation required, so you can just plug and play.
When shopping for portable RV generators, we highly recommend sticking to inverter generators. These are more expensive than conventional options, but are also much quieter and lighter. They are also less prone to power surges.
Built-in (or onboard) generators are typically found in motorhomes, though some fifth wheels do have them. These are nice because they can be started from inside the rig and do not need to be set up outside. If you have a larger generator that offers a lot of power, this is especially nice, as it means you don’t have to lug an enormous piece of equipment in and out of storage.
The fact that they are built into the RV also means they are less likely to be stolen, and they tend to be pretty quiet, meaning happier neighbors.
Unfortunately, built-in RV generators are expensive and can be difficult to install. Additionally, if your RV didn’t come with one, finding a place to install one properly can be a problem.
Generator Fuel Types
Another thing to consider? What kind of fuel your RV generator will use. Most generators use either gasoline or diesel fuel, but a few run off of propane. It’s also possible to find solar generators out there, and in rare cases you might come across a wind generator for RV use.
Here are the pros and cons of each type.
As mentioned above, most generators run off of gasoline or diesel. Both work well and are pretty practical, as gas stations tend to be easy to find. In most cases, we recommend choosing a generator that uses the same type of fuel your motorhome or tow vehicle uses in order to avoid carrying two types of fuel.
Diesel generators tend to be more expensive than gas generators. That said, they also use less fuel and tend to last longer than their gasoline counterparts. It’s important to note that diesel generators do not use a spark plug. This means one less maintenance task, but it also means they can be difficult to start in cold weather conditions.
As mentioned above, propane generators are less common than diesel and gas options. Some generators will run off of both gasoline and propane, which is nice. We like propane generators because they are more eco-friendly than gas camping generators. They also tend to be quieter, and in some cases offer more power.
A solar generator for camping is a different beast entirely. It is essentially a battery and inverter contained in a box, which is charged by solar panels. It could be the ultimate option for those needing a silent generator for camping, but really, many RVers find it’s much better to install an inverter and solar panels on the RV directly.
Finally, there is the RV wind generator. Basically, these are just wind turbines installed on the top of the RV. As they spin they produce power, which is stored in the RV batteries and can be used in the 12-volt system or with an inverter.
The camping wind generator is not a very popular solution—likely because it is less reliable than other options and requires a lot of work to set up and take down—but it might be a good addition to an off-grid RV setup.
This video is a great place to start when learning how to install and use a wind generator on your RV.
Camping Generator FAQ
There are a few other things you’ll want to know when shopping for a camper. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about camping generators, along with answers that will help you narrow down your options and find the best way to power your RV on the go.
What size generator do I need for my camper?
Choosing the right size camping generator can be tricky. While a small generator is smaller, less expensive, and uses less fuel, it simply cannot run as many appliances as the larger generators out there.
Our suggestion is to carefully consider what you need to run while hooked up to the generator. Do you merely need to charge devices and recharge your RV battery? If so, a simple 2,000-watt generator will be sufficient. That said, if you want to run the A/C or a microwave, you will need at least 3,000 watts of power, and those who wish to run multiple high-power appliances simultaneously will need more.
Do I need to ground my generator when camping?
Wondering if your RV generator needs to be grounded? You are not alone, and there are many different opinions on this subject. The general consensus seems to be that as long as you are only running a single RV on a small generator, you do not need to ground the generator. That said, if you plan to run multiple RVs, a house, or any other building on a generator, you will need a good ground.
What is the best generator for RV air conditioner usage?
Many people want a camping generator purely because they wish to run their RV air conditioner while off-grid. If this is the case for you, you will want to ensure you purchase a generator that is capable of running the A/C.
Fortunately, this is easy enough. As mentioned above, a generator that offers at least 3,000 watts of output will be able to handle running a single RV air conditioner.
The Best RV Generator Options
Still not sure which generator is best for you? Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite RV generators. Choose one of these options and you’re sure to be happy with your pick as you roam the country in complete comfort.
Best Quiet Generator for Camping
If you’re looking for the quietest portable generator, we highly recommend one of Honda’s portable inverter generators. The Honda EU2200i is ideal for those looking for a 2,000-watt option, while the Honda EU3000iS1AN is perfect for those needing 3,000 watts.
The Best Built-in RV Generator
The size of the built-in generator you buy will depend on your power needs and the size of the bay you have set aside for the generator to live in. That said, we can say with complete confidence that the Onan series of RV generators ranks among the best options for anyone looking to purchase an onboard generator.
We love that these gensets are made with high quality parts and can be serviced in locations across the country.
The Best Budget Generator
On a tight budget? If so, we have to recommend the Predator inverter generators sold by Harbor Freight. These are surprisingly high quality budget generators that remind us very much of the Honda generators mentioned above. Those looking for a smaller option will like the Predator 2000. Meanwhile, those who need more power should look at the Predator 3500.
The Best Solar Generator for Camping
Hoping to use solar power? We really like this bundle from Jackery.
That said, it is important to realize that when relying on solar power, you do need to be somewhere sunny to stay charged up. Additionally, it’s good to know that you won’t be able to run everything off of this type of generator, so you will need to be prepared to pick and choose.
Still, we do like using solar power and definitely recommend adding some sort of solar power to your boondocking setup.
The Best Propane Generator for RV Usage
We recommend the Champion Dual Fuel Generator to those looking for an option that uses propane. We like that you can use either gasoline or propane in this generator. It’s also nice that it provides plenty of power for running a whole RV, is relatively inexpensive, and doesn’t require any special setup.
The Best Tent Camping Generator
Want a generator for pop-up camper or tent usage? Really, either the Predator or Honda generators listed above will serve this purpose well. The solar generator we mentioned might also be a good option if you are looking for something that is completely silent.
There you have it—everything you need to know to buy the right RV generator for you and your family. Start shopping today and pick up the perfect camping generator so you can explore off-grid in complete comfort from now on. We promise you’ll be glad you did!
Join Fulltime Families
Fulltime Families Members get access to the best resources, community and discounts.
Fulltime Families is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.