What Size Generator for Camping? Everything You Need to Know – Simplified

When it comes to sourcing a generator for camping, one of the most important things you need to know is what size generator for camping you require. This is because if you have the wrong size generator, it can lead to a lot of problems while you’re trying to enjoy your time outdoors. In this article, we will discuss what size generator for camping is right for you and what factors you need to consider when making your decision.

What is a Generator?

What Size Generator for Camping

A generator is a machine that transforms mechanical energy into electrical energy. This allows you to power a variety of devices and appliances, including lights, radios, and electric stoves, when you are camping. Asking yourself what size generator for camping is an important question to ask to ensure you make a good choice.

Running Watts vs Starting (Surge) Watts

It is also important to be aware of the difference between running watts and starting watts. Your generator will typically have a higher starting wattage rating than it does running wattage, as this refers to what is required to startup and run your appliances.

Running watts refer to the amount of power that a generator needs to remain running under normal operating conditions. This is what you will generally see when looking at generator specifications and what you will need to consider when choosing the right size for your needs.

Starting watts refers to the amount of power needed to get an electrical appliance started. It is usually higher than running watts since it takes more energy.

What Size Generator when Camping? A Deep Dive

Wattage Requirements of the Camping Gear to Supply Power to

If you plan on using any electrical appliances when camping, such as lighting, stereos, or cooking equipment, it is important to choose a generator that is large enough to power all of the necessary devices. This will typically depend on the size and wattage of each individual appliance.

Please see the table below for an estimate on wattage for common camping gear.

ItemRunning WattsStarting Watts
Electric Skillet1,000-1,5000
Hair Dryer1,000-1,8750
Space Heater750-1,5000
Phone Charger250
Outdoor Light String2500
RV Refrigerator (21.6 cu ft)1,1501,500
13,500 BTU RV Air Conditioner1,2502,750
Coffee Maker900 – 1,2000
Total Running Wattage6,625-9,125
Max Starting Wattage2,750
Maximum Wattage Required
Estimates based on typical models

These are only estimated wattages. You can usually find the actual wattage requirements for each of your devices in the manual, printed on the device, or try a quick Google search from a reputable source.

Scenario 1: You use all of the appliances above simultaneously.

Total Running Wattage9,125
Max Starting Wattage2,750
Maximum Wattage Required11,875

Scenario 2: You only use the Stereo, Phone Charger & Outdoor Light String simultaneously.

Phone Charger25
Outdoor Light String250
Maximum Wattage Required525

Scenario 3: You use You only use the Stereo, Phone Charger & Outdoor Light String all at different times.

Phone Charger25
Outdoor Light String250
Maximum Wattage Required250

When researching what size generator for camping. You should choose a generator for camping that can simultaneously run all of the devices for your camping trip and accommodate the starting wattage of your highest-wattage device.

The above scenarios should provide efficient understanding of the wattage required to supply power to your camping gear. Generally, a quiet generator delivering anything between 1,700 to 2,500 Watts should accommodate most campers. Generally speaking, a 2,000 watt generator can run almost any small household, RV or recreational appliances.

What are the Benefits of a Portable Generator when Camping?

  • Ability to power essential devices and appliances without relying on campground or other external power source
  • Freedom to camp wherever you want, without having to worry about finding an outlet
  • Peace of mind knowing that you have all the power you need to enjoy your time outdoors.

How do I choose what size generator for camping?

There are a few key factors that you need to consider when choosing the right size generator for your camping needs. These include:

  • what you will be using the generator for.
  • how many devices you need to power.
  • the wattage of your devices.
  • what type of camping you will be doing.

How do I care for my portable generator?

Some key tips for maintaining and caring for your portable generator when camping include:

  • Periodically cleaning and servicing the generator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Storing the generator in a dry, well-ventilated area.
  • Avoiding exposing the generator to extreme temperatures or moisture.
  • Refueling the generator outdoors, and only using high quality, non-ethanol fuel.

What are some common mistakes people make when using portable generators?

Some common mistakes that people make when using portable generators include:

  • Not taking the time to fully understand how the generator works and what size generator for camping.
  • Failing to keep the generator clean and well-maintained, which can cause performance issues and reduce its lifespan
  • Not fueling the generator properly, which can lead to fuel spills and other issues that may damage the generator or cause injury
  • Using household extension cords with their generator, which can put a strain on the electrical system and potentially damage the generator or cause fires or other accidents.

What are some safety tips I should follow when using a portable generator?

Some important safety tips to keep in mind when using a portable generator include:

  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular model
  • Never attempt to connect a portable generator directly to your home’s electrical system without using appropriate safety equipment, such as a transfer switch or surge protector
  • Maintain a safe distance from the generator while it is in use, and avoid storing fuel near any open flames or sources of heat
  • Never use a generator indoors, or near any doors or windows that might be open
  • Always have a fire extinguisher handy in the event of an emergency, and store your generator in a dry, well-vented area when not in use
  • Always take care to properly secure the generator, and never allow children or pets near it when it is in operation.​

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