Tips on Purchasing Power Generators for Camping
When you’re camping in the beautiful wilderness, especially in a country like New Zealand, you don’t have to leave all the comforts of home behind. If you’re kitting out your own campervan or planning to stay in a tent, then a power generator is an essential appliance to pack! Without one, well, you won’t be able to run your appliances or charge your devices when you’re off the grid. So, if you don’t already have a generator built into your motorhome, or just want a trusty power backup, get stuck into this guide on how to choose a generator for your motorhome, campervan or tent.
Plus, for more tech items to pack for a road trip, check out the 13 Genius Travel Gadgets for New Zealand.
4 Things to Compare When Choosing a Generator for Camping
Generator products will often blow your mind with specifications, and not in a good way. For those who are buying a camping generator for the first time, there are only four specifications you really need to focus on:
- Power capacity
- Power input
- Output capabilities
We go into detail about each specification in the guide below. Of course, price is an important factor, so be sure to shop around to compare the price of generators available to you. We have linked to a couple of generator models that we find to provide the best value for money.
Power Capacity – What Will You Use Your Generator For?
First things first, when choosing a generator for your motorhome, campervan or tent, look for a generator with the power capacity you need. Power capacity is typically displayed on power generators in watts. Most camping generators put out between 1,000 to 4,000+ watts of electricity.
The Best Wattage for a Camping Generator
In short, the wattage required for different types of camping are as follows:
- 1,000 to 2,000W for camping tent, campervan, small motorhome or caravan
- 3,000W+ for motorhome running higher-wattage appliances, such as airconditioning/heater/microwave, etc.
- 4,000W+ for workshops or running a motorhome off-the-grid for long periods.
If you want to curate your research more specifically to your needs, you can check what wattage each of your appliances uses. Better yet, if you plan to run several appliances or charge multiple devices at the same time, combine their wattage to make sure this wouldn’t exceed the power capacity of the generator you are considering. Note that some appliances require more start-up power than their running power, so be sure to double-check that your chosen generator can handle your appliance’s start-up wattage.
A final note about the power capacity; make sure the generator you’re considering has inverter technology. This produces a clean sine wave of electricity which guarantees no power surges that could damage sensitive electronics like computers, phones, TVs, etc.
Power Input – How Will You Power Your Generator?
The power input of a generator is essentially what the generator uses to create power. For camping generators, you usually get the choice of electric or fuel (petrol or diesel).
There are many benefits to using electric generators. First, electric power outlets are much easier to come by to charge your generator compared to finding gas stations for fuel. For instance, there are power outlets in holiday parks and even through your cigarette lighter while driving. Some electric generators, like those from Bluetti, have solar adapters to generate clean energy, which leads to another advantage; electricity is the more eco-friendly option.
Fuel generators are your more traditional option. They can be easy enough to fill if you opt for a generator that requires the same fuel type as your car or camping vehicle. Diesel generators tend to be the most powerful types of generators for running equipment with very high outputs. However, fuel generators come with the extra expense of buying the fuel, are far less friendly to the environment, and generate something that you might not want in a quiet camping ground: noise.
Charging and Powering Outlets – Are Your Appliances and Devices Compatible?
What kind of power outlet do your appliances and devices need? Does the generator you are considering have all those outlets available?
Typically, generators have at least a couple of AC outlets (the same that you find in buildings to connect to mains power) and a couple of USB outlets. However, you may have some motorhome/campervan appliances with a 12V/10A DC car port or a 12V/25A DC outlet, so check for generators with these outlets if needed.
Also, consider a generator with enough outlets, if planning on powering multiple appliances and charging devices at the same time. Some power generators have it all, like the Bluetti AC200P with a whopping 17 outputs!
Weight and Size – How Portable is the Generator?
As any frequent camper or campervan-owner will know, size is a priority! You don’t want a generator that takes up too much precious space in your motorhome, campervan or tent. In addition, weight is important. Although you won’t be able to hike with a generator, you’ll at least want to be able to easily move it around your camping space.
The thing with generators is that they’re all heavy: if it’s not the fuel adding significant weight then it’s the lithium batteries. The weight and size of a generator are related to its power output. Fuel generators with 1,000-2,000W output typically weigh 10-25kg (22-55lbs) before the fuel is added. Those with 2,000-4,000+W can weigh an average of 25-40kg (22-88lbs) before fuel is added. These models typically have wheels and a handle to help you move the heavy load.
In comparison, electric generators include the battery weight in their specifications. For instance, the Bluetti AC200P weighs 25.8kg (57lbs), while smaller models like the Bluetti EB150 weigh only 17.19kg (37.9lbs). That’s light enough to carry around your camping space or to a power outlet to charge it without wheeling it around.