Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the convenience of electricity, right? Right!
Whether you enjoy solo adventures or your entire family goes camping, bringing some of the modernities from home can be a game-changer.
With the right small generator, you can enjoy a fresh pot of coffee in the morning from your favorite coffee pot, power your speakers to keep the mood right, keep your mobile devices charged, and more!
Here, you’ll find everything you need to know to select the perfect small generator for your next camping trip.
What To Look for When Buying a Generator for Camping
There are several factors to consider when comparing generators. Below, we’ll cover various aspects to look for so you can find the right generator for your outdoor adventures.
The first, and arguably most important, question to consider is what the generator will power.
Are you providing electricity to an entire RV? Or are you looking to run small appliances like a coffee maker or blender?
Once you have a good grasp on what you’re powering with your generator and the wattage of all your devices, you can estimate your usage to find the right generator capacity to fulfill your needs.
To calculate the energy usage of each device, multiply the wattage (W) by the run-time (h) —
Watt (W) x Hours (h) = WattHours (Wh)
If you’re powering multiple devices, add the energy usage of each to estimate the total energy consumption you require. It’s essential that the generator’s capacity, measured in watt-hours (Wh), should exceed your estimated energy consumption.
For example, if you’re only looking to charge small devices or electronics, the RIVER 2 + 110W solar panel. With a 256Wh capacity, it’s a great option. However, if you’re looking for something more heavy-duty, consider the RIVER Pro Portable Power Station, which has a 720Wh capacity and still only weighs 16.8 pounds (7.6kg).
AC Power Output
In addition to capacity, look at the generator’s power output. The output rating indicates the total amount of power a generator can supply simultaneously.
If you intend to power multiple devices simultaneously, add the total wattage of all the devices. If you don’t know the watts of a machine, you can calculate it by multiplying the voltage by the amps—
Voltage (V) x Amps (A) = Wattage (W)
Also, consider the generator’s surge/peak power. For example, the DELTA 2 + 220W Solar Panel has a storage capacity of 2048Wh and 2400W AC output (running watts), but it can reach a surge of 4800W starting watts using X-Boost.
The extra wattage (known as starting watts) accounts for many appliances taking up to three times more electricity to start up than to operate. It’s particularly crucial to pay attention to motor-driven appliances like fridges.
If your refrigerator requires 700W to operate, but 1800W to turn on, a generator with 800W running watts but only 1100W running watts (surge power) won’t be able to turn on your fridge in the first place.
Generators use different fuels to produce power. Here, we’ll cover standard options to help you understand what type of generator is best for your needs.
One of the most common types of generators, gasoline generators, are a good choice for most appliances and power tools. They can be more affordable, and the fuel is highly available. Compared to diesel generators, they’re also quieter.
On the other hand, gas can be a more expensive type of fuel, thanks to fluctuating fuel prices. Gasoline has a limited shelf life and isn’t the safest option since burning it emits carbon monoxide. It’s also a hazardous substance to handle since it’s explosive, which of course, increases fire hazards.
The CPSC has warned about carbon monoxide deaths due to using gas generators in enclosed or unventilated spaces. Never use a gasoline generator inside, not even in a tent.
Propane generators use fuel, specifically liquified petroleum gas (LPG). Propane is a cleaner fuel source than diesel or gasoline, emitting less greenhouse gasses and carbon monoxide. It also has a longer shelf life.
Unfortunately, these generators tend to be more expensive and need to reach higher ignition and combustion temperatures, resulting in a shorter lifespan for the unit.
EcoFlow’s Smart Generator (Dual Fuel) is a dual generator that uses gasoline and LPG. Many people opt for this type of generator on standby for their extended camping trips in case their solar generator fails.
Compared to gas generators, diesel generators are more efficient at providing power. Diesel generators are an excellent off-grid power or home backup power option, and are long-lasting and reliable.
But diesel generators come with downsides. These generators are extremely noisy, and diesel isn’t a clean energy option — even gasoline is cleaner. Large-capacity diesel generators also dominate the market, so finding a portable option suitable for camping is difficult.
Inverter generators operate differently compared to the generators mentioned above. Inverter generators throttle their engine speed according to the electricity demands instead of running at a consistent speed. Since they don’t consistently operate at peak capacity, they conserve energy.
They produce more stable and cleaner energy with less emissions. Additionally, they’re less noisy than their diesel and gas counterparts.
The downsides? They deliver a lower power output, so they aren’t practical for large appliances or RVs.
Inverters also produce carbon monoxide, meaning users should ensure there’s a CO shutoff option to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Solar generators operate using power generated from the sun. As an eco-friendly option, no pollutants or carbon monoxide are released from these generators, reducing the impact on outdoor air pollution. Because of this, users can also use them safely indoors.
The RIVER 2 Pro + 220W Solar Panel is an excellent example of a small solar generator that’s great for car camping since it can power most home appliances. It offers more than double the capacity of the standard RIVER 2 and only weighs 17.2 pounds (7.8kg).
You can also add more portable solar panels to compatible portable power stations to create something fine-tuned to fit your needs.
Weight & Size
Weight and size are a concern if you’re taking a generator on camping trips. You don’t want to be exhausted from lugging gear to your campsite before the fun begins.
On the other hand, you don’t want to go too small either, as you’ll likely be sacrificing power output capabilities. Research carefully to find the right balance between the weight and size of your devices and the right amount of power the unit provides.
The EcoFlow RIVER 2 + 110W Solar Panel is an excellent example of a lightweight and portable option that many people use for short trips when hiking or backpacking and is suitable to power all sorts of personal devices.
How long will your generator run? Inverter generators can often run between 7 to 8 hours on a single fuel tank. The more power the generator provides, the lower the runtime will be.
However, various factors impact efficiency. If you’re camping in high sun exposure areas and far away from fueling stations, consider the previously mentioned RIVER 2 Pro + 220W Solar Panel. It runs totally on solar energy, making it the ideal option for camping in hot, remote areas, and it’s an efficient option to power most devices.
Having a generator is usually not allowed when camping thanks to their noise. You don’t want your loud generator disturbing the experience of other people. Consider the decibels and try to land around 50-70 decibels for the noise output of your generator at a campsite.
Gas generators are louder than solar generators, which is worth considering if quiet operations are a priority for you.
Opt for a high-quality generator you can trust to get the job done. Going with a good model from a reputable brand can reduce the chances of being left without the power you planned on having in the middle of your camping trip.
A small but high-quality generator will take any camping excursion to the next level. With capacity, output, fuel type, and size to consider, finding a reliable and efficient solution may feel daunting, but we hope this article has given you the confidence to start your search. With EcoFlow, you can find the perfect solar generator for outdoor adventures. If you’re someone that wants a durable solution that’s kind to the environment, browse our website.