What Size Generator Do I Need to Run a Camper?

by Anna

Camping is a beloved pastime for many, offering the opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with nature. However, modern conveniences often accompany campers on their adventures, necessitating a reliable power source. This is where generators come into play. Selecting the right size generator for your camper is crucial to ensure you have enough power for your needs without overloading the system or wasting fuel. This article will guide you through the factors to consider when choosing a generator for your camper and help you determine the appropriate size.

Understanding Your Power Needs

The first step in choosing the right generator size is understanding your power needs. This involves calculating the wattage requirements of the appliances and devices you plan to use in your camper. Here’s a breakdown of common appliances and their average wattage:

  • Air Conditioner: 1,500-2,000 watts
  • Refrigerator: 400-600 watts
  • Microwave: 800-1,500 watts
  • Coffee Maker: 600-1,200 watts
  • Television: 100-300 watts
  • Lights: 60-200 watts
  • Laptop: 50-100 watts
  • Water Heater: 1,000-1,500 watts

It’s important to note that some appliances, like air conditioners and refrigerators, have a higher starting wattage due to the surge power required to start the motor. For instance, an air conditioner that runs at 1,500 watts may require 2,000-2,500 watts to start.


Calculating Total Wattage

To determine the total wattage you need, list all the appliances you plan to use simultaneously and add up their wattages. Consider both the running watts and the starting watts to ensure your generator can handle the initial surge of power. Here’s an example calculation:

  • Air Conditioner: 2,000 starting watts, 1,500 running watts
  • Refrigerator: 600 starting watts, 400 running watts
  • Microwave: 1,200 watts
  • Television: 200 watts
  • Lights: 200 watts

Total starting watts: 2,000 (AC) + 600 (Refrigerator) = 2,600 watts


Total running watts: 1,500 (AC) + 400 (Refrigerator) + 1,200 (Microwave) + 200 (TV) + 200 (Lights) = 3,500 watts

In this example, you would need a generator that can handle at least 2,600 starting watts and 3,500 running watts.

Types of Generators

Generators come in various types and sizes, each suited for different needs. The three main types are:

Portable Generators: These are the most common type for camping. They are relatively compact, easy to transport, and provide sufficient power for most campers’ needs. Portable generators typically range from 1,000 to 4,000 watts.

Inverter Generators: Inverter generators are quieter, more fuel-efficient, and produce cleaner power than traditional portable generators. They are ideal for sensitive electronics like laptops and televisions. They usually range from 1,000 to 3,000 watts.

Standby Generators: These are larger, stationary units designed for home use and are generally overkill for camping. They provide a high wattage output but are not practical for most camping scenarios due to their size and lack of portability.

Choosing the Right Size Generator

When choosing the right size generator for your camper, consider the following factors:

Power Output: Ensure the generator provides enough power to meet your total wattage needs, including both running and starting watts.

Portability: The generator should be easy to transport and store. Consider the weight and dimensions, especially if you have limited storage space in your camper.

Noise Level: Generators can be noisy, which might disrupt the tranquility of your camping experience and annoy nearby campers. Look for a generator with a low noise level, ideally below 60 decibels.

Fuel Efficiency: Fuel efficiency is crucial, especially for extended camping trips. Inverter generators are typically more fuel-efficient than traditional portable generators.

Run Time: Check the generator’s run time on a full tank of fuel. A longer run time means fewer interruptions for refueling.

Additional Features: Some generators come with additional features such as electric start, multiple outlets, and parallel capability, allowing you to connect two generators for increased power output.

Popular Generator Models for Campers

Here are a few popular generator models that are well-suited for campers:

Honda EU2200i: This inverter generator is renowned for its reliability, quiet operation (48-57 decibels), and fuel efficiency. It provides 2,200 starting watts and 1,800 running watts, making it suitable for small to medium-sized campers.

Yamaha EF2000iSv2: Another top choice, this inverter generator offers 2,000 starting watts and 1,600 running watts. It’s lightweight, quiet (51.5 decibels), and fuel-efficient.

Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Generator: This versatile generator can run on both gasoline and propane, providing 3,400 starting watts and 3,100 running watts. It’s relatively quiet (59 decibels) and suitable for larger campers.

Westinghouse iGen 4500: With 4,500 starting watts and 3,700 running watts, this inverter generator is a powerhouse. It’s slightly heavier but offers a remote start and an impressive run time of up to 18 hours on a 3.4-gallon tank.

Safety Considerations

Safety should always be a priority when using a generator. Here are some essential safety tips:

Proper Ventilation: Always operate the generator in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. Never run it inside your camper or enclosed spaces.

Regular Maintenance: Keep your generator in good working condition by performing regular maintenance, such as changing the oil, cleaning the air filter, and checking the spark plug.

Secure Storage: Store fuel safely in approved containers and keep it away from the generator and any open flames.

Grounding: Ensure the generator is properly grounded to prevent electrical shock.

Follow Manufacturer Instructions: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operation and maintenance to ensure safe and efficient use.


Choosing the right size generator for your camper is essential to ensure you have a reliable power source for your camping needs. By understanding your power requirements, considering the types of generators available, and evaluating key factors such as portability, noise level, and fuel efficiency, you can select the best generator for your camper. Whether you opt for a popular model like the Honda EU2200i or a more powerful option like the Westinghouse iGen4500, the right generator will enhance your camping experience, allowing you to enjoy the great outdoors without sacrificing modern comforts. Always prioritize safety and proper maintenance to ensure your generator serves you well for many camping trips to come.

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